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New York City Bathhouse Guide

Travel Guide: Checkout Some Of Our Favorite Bathhouses in New York City

There’s no shortage of unique experiences to embark on in the Big Apple! If you’re like us, then you know that no travel itinerary is truly complete without a wellness experience to recharge and relax. From centuries-old bathhouses steeped in history to 50,000-square-foot luxury concept spas, NYC’s bathing culture is as diverse as the city itself. Whether you're seeking the ultimate pampering, an old-world sauna with a storied past, or the best affordable-yet-rejuvenating bathhouse, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite spots to soak and sweat in New York.

A short history of New York’s original public bathhouses

New York is one of the oldest cities in the US, and has a rich bathing history to match. Public bathhouses became an important part of the city in the early 20th century when clean running water wasn’t yet accessible to most parts of the city. Early 1900s plumbing left a lot to be desired. As with most public health issues, unsanitary pipes and poor water quality disproportionately affected poorer neighborhoods. In the late 19th century, there was only “one bathtub for every 79 families living on the Lower East Side” [1]. Yikes.

In 1895, then-Mayor William Strong made public bathing access a priority by doing what all government officials do: authorizing a sub-committee. The Sub-Committee on Baths and Lavatories was born and reported that “New York City was lagging far behind European and other American cities in the building of baths and urged that the city begin immediately to remedy the situation.” [2] A state law was soon passed making public baths mandatory for cities exceeding 50,000 people.

New York kicked off the 20th century with its very first publicly funded bathhouse: Rivington Street municipal bath, built in 1900 at a cost of over $100,000. Factoring in inflation, that’s about $4 million in 2024 dollars. With 67 showers, the bathhouse accommodated almost a quarter of a million bathers in its first five months alone.

Public bathhouses like Rivington Street served the working class as both public health spaces and as social hubs, becoming a (literal) melting pot in the rapidly industrializing landscape of New York where people could come together for a rare opportunity to relax. Fast forward to today: housing now includes bathing amenities, making state-subsidized bathhouses a thing of the past. But NYC’s love for bathing culture is still alive and thriving. This deeply embedded part of the city has become a thriving industry, with tons of amazing spots to slow down, come together in community, and sweat it out.

What are the best bathhouses in NYC?

With so many cool bathhouses in the city, whittling down a list of our top picks was hard to do. Our selection is by no means exhaustive – think of it more like a sampler platter of the wide range of experiences available. We’ve got something for all types of bathers with all types of budgets.

Russian and Turkish Baths outdoor lounge area

1. Russian & Turkish Baths

Nestled in the East Village, the Russian & Turkish Baths stand as a venerable institution. Established in 1892, this historic space offers a unique blend of old-world charm and rejuvenating experiences, making it a beloved destination for both locals and visitors alike.

Rustic and unpretentious, it offers a classic Russian banya with high heat and humidity, Turkish Hamman, an aromatherapy room, a steam room, and a large plunge pool. You can also book a massage, lounge on the sun deck, or try a traditional Platza treatment: being hit with fresh oak leaves sopping with olive oil soap. There’s a restaurant with traditional post-sauna staples like Borsht (beat soup), beer, and herring with potatoes.

Admission is $60 with massages ranging from $65 for 30 mins to $110 for 60 mins.

World Spa sauna room

2. World Spa

This expansive, elegantly designed space is a celebration of global bathing. Each area within the spa is thoughtfully designed around a different cultural bathing tradition, allowing guests to experience relaxation from around the world without leaving the city.

World Spa’s main floor plan includes over 13 different experiences, including Japanese-inspired onsen pools, Moroccan & Turkish Hammans, cabanas, a snow room, salt room, a grand banya, cold plunges, as well as jacuzzi and heated pools.

Unlimited passes Monday - Thursday range from $90 - $95 with weekend 4-hour passes costing $115. For those who want the full experience, a 12-month membership costs $5,000 and includes valet parking as well as an exclusive robe, slippers, hat, and tote bag.

AIRE Bath

3. AIRE Ancient Baths

Used as a backdrop for films like John Wick and TV shows like Homeland, Gotham, and Billions, AIRE is an experience like no other. The spa is housed in a beautifully restored historic building, with original brick walls and arches that give it an elegant timelessness. Dim lighting, flickering candles, and ambient music create an atmosphere that’s as relaxing as it is luxurious. Located in Tribeca, AIRE is inspired by ancient Roman, Greek, and Ottoman bathing traditions, marrying the old-world charm with contemporary elegance.

A series of thermal baths with varying temperatures invites guests to embark on the traditional hot-to-cold bathing ritual. Float weightlessly in the mineral-rich saltwater pool or give your body a reset in the aromatic steam room. Between baths, guests can lounge on heated marble stones, sip herbal tea, and fully absorb the tranquility of the space.

90-minute thermal baths cost $182 per person and there are numerous massage packages available that range from $266 up to $1,358 for a Wedding Signature Wine Experience.

City Well salt scrub service

4. City Well

For the budget-conscious, City Well is a great spot to unwind in style without breaking the bank. Located in Gowanus, Brooklyn, City Well’s mission is to provide an affordable and accessible wellness space for lifestyle, not luxury. The thoughtful design (much of the facility is outdoors!) and carefully chosen treatments make this unpretentious bathhouse an oasis of wellbeing.

Amenities include: rain showers, an aromatherapy steam room, a heated soaking tub, an outdoor dry cedar sauna, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, and an outdoor pergola that serves as a unique setting for massages and body treatments.

90 mins of hydrotherapy - steam, soak & sauna - cost $45.

Pool at Bathhouse Flatiron

5. Bathhouse Flatiron

One of the newest facilities in NYC, this multimillion-dollar bathhouse is otherworldly. Located in a former parking garage, it offers 3 stories worth of wellness experiences, entirely underground. Bathhouse co-founder, Travis Talmadge, wanted visitors to feel like they were “going into another world and having them forget where they came from for a little bit” [3]. With dramatic interior architecture and moody lighting, it’s an aesthetic experience as much as it’s a wellness experience.

Bathhouse Flatiron features six pools, three saunas, one steam room, marble Hammans, and 27 tables for different services. It also includes a full-service bar and restaurant.

Day passes include unlimited access to amenities and cost $70.

Prefer the Blue Ridge to the Big Apple? Book a staycation

Sources:

  1. Curbed (July 7, 2014) “What Became of New York City's Ubiquitous Public Bathhouses?” in New York Curbed
  2. Young, Greg (March 19, 2018) Scenes from New York’s public baths: How tenement dwellers got clean and cool” In. Bowery Boys History
  3. Hannah Frishberg (October 27, 2023). “Take a sneak peek inside Manhattan’s new bathhouse” In New York Post
February 05, 2024
By: Sauna House