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Mystery shop
Aire Ancient Baths, New York

Our three mystery shoppers compare notes on a Roman bathhouse-style spa, built by a Spanish company, in New York City


Aire Ancient Baths opened in New York City in 2012, offering a modern take on the ancient bathhouses of the Roman, Greek and Ottoman empires and a concept which stands out from the ubiquitous USA urban day spa.

A subterranean oasis in the stylish Tribeca district, the 16,000sq ft (1,486sq m) spa is built in the basement of a former textile factory and features a circuit of pools which, like the traditional public baths of centuries ago, enable people to ‘take the waters’ to unwind and soothe the body. Visitors can choose from a warm tepidarium pool, which at 36?C is just below body temperature, float in salt water and listen to underwater music, relax in a 350-jet whirlpool or large pool of a similar temperature and sweat it out in a eucalyptus-scented steamroom before moving onto a 39?C hot caldarium bath and quickly dipping into one of two cold plunges. There’s also a relaxation room with heated marble beds. The idea is create a circuit and repeat it three to four times to relax the muscles, improve circulation, aid digestion and enhance overall wellbeing.

Numbers are limited to 20 people at a time, who book the spa in two-hour slots. A basic two-hour bathing experience in the week starts at US$75 (there’s a supplement at the weekend). Massages can be added on top of that in 15, 30, 45 or 60-minute increments (US$99-US$174). Four-handed massages and rituals are also offered – the most expensive of which is a US$500 Red Wine Ritual where guests soak in a red-wine infused bath before a 90-minute four-hand massage and another 90 minutes soaking in the pools.

Spa Business sent three mystery shoppers along to experience and compare notes and perspectives…

Sign up here to get the Spa Business and Spa Business insider weekly ezines and every issue of Spa Business and Spa Business insider magazines free on digital.

Vital statistics
Address: 88 Franklin Street,
New York, NY 10013, USA
Times: 9am–11pm every day
Web: www.ancientbathsny.com
Twitter: @ancientbathsNY



Jak Phillips Head of News Leisure Media

 

Jak Phillips
 

Despite New York City’s stunning skyline, it’s fair to say that after navigating its famously feeble infrastructure and traipsing around the shabby sidewalks that characterise parts of the city, there’s an urge to seek solace – even in trendy Tribeca. Thankfully, Aire Ancient Baths is on hand to offer a welcome respite.

On entering the candle-lit welcome area, you’re met with walls that feature Greco-Roman pillars sandwiched by panels of dark wood, while flashes of exposed brickwork lend a pleasantly modern Williamsburg finish. Down in the communal bathing area, the salubrious surroundings of marble and more stone columns evoke an air of Alexandrian opulence, complemented by the soft sounds of Hellenic strings.

First port of call is the spacious steamroom in the centre. Fabulously fashioned – with the glass panels offering panoramic views of the surrounding baths – the room is somewhat lacking in terms of function. The steam vents are inexplicably aimed straight into the air, meaning occupants need to stand upright on the bench and waft the hot air back down with their arms if they want to work up a sweat.

After a baptism of lukewarm steam, it’s on to the floatation pool for the first of six bathing experiences. The high salinity makes buoyancy easy and though males should take care if they’ve recently shaved – the salt leaves a slight sting on a shorn face – it’s altogether an enjoyable experience.

Guests are then free to meander through a jet bath, caldarium, two plunge pools and finally an extended chillout pool – offering neatly chiselled alcoves in which to retreat. As well as offering diversity to the user, the array of pools provide plenty of sparsely-populated sections in which to bask, even though our bathing session was fully booked.

For those who want more than just a soak, the spa offers a number of upsell treatments and I enjoyed a reassuringly assertive 45-minute full-body massage and exfoliation. The only drawback was that the unisex (and not just couples’) treatment room leads to a few awkward moments as you change from your swimsuit into a towel – behind a hastily drawn curtain in my case – but this doesn’t distract from the overall experience. For me at least, Aire Ancient Baths provides a much needed slice of serenity in the core of the Big Apple.


"A welcome respite"

 


PHOTOS: ©AIRE ANCIENT BATHS NY

The trendy Tribeca bathhouse is the first international property for Spain’s Aire Group


Tom Anstey Journalist Leisure Media

 

Tom Anstey
 

I should start by saying I am, in every sense of the word, a spa newbie. If I want to relax, I’d opt to sit on the sofa and play Call of Duty. So for my first spa experience to be the Aire Ancient Baths was taking a plunge into the deep end.

I had no idea of what was to come and hoped for an explanation of how to ‘take the waters’. As it was, I received a brief orientation and knew I’d been booked for a massage, but beyond that I was left to fend for myself.

Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed was the smell of chlorine – obviously there for hygiene purposes – but heightened in the warm environment. Next was the steamroom. When you don’t know what to expect, the hot vapours really hit you and breathing is hindered – not the most relaxing start for me.

I spent most of my time pre-massage in the warm waters (chickening out on the cold plunge pools) and these were my favourite part of the experience. The long L-shaped pool was great for a gentle, casual swim and this also kept my mind stimulated: I have a hyperactive brain. And although the facility restricts the level of talking, it’s not (thankfully) strictly enforced and I was able speak with my friend without disturbing anyone.

After an hour, I went for my massage and I can’t fault the quality of it. My brain, however, came into play 45 seconds in and said ‘oh boy your nose is itchy’. As I wasn’t in a position to scratch it, I found it difficult to switch off. It didn’t help that I was lying there with wet hair and trunks: not a pleasant feeling.

Did it relax me? Physically yes, I could feel it was doing my body good. Mentally, not really. Having an option to change the music to occupy my mind would have been a nice addition.

If I was to go again, I’d want someone to describe each experience to me beforehand and what I might expect as a beginner. Instead I felt unprepared and out of my comfort zone. While I can’t fault the facility itself, I just don’t think the spa world is really for me.


"In every sense a spa newbie"

 



Having never been to a spa, Anstey would have liked more details about how to ‘take the waters’


Alice Davis
Managing Editor Leisure Media

 

Alice Davis
 

We arrived in New York on the coat tails of snowstorms. Manhattan, despite its bright blue skies, was freezing. What better way then to spend a Sunday morning than to soak in Aire’s thermal baths?

The reception area is stylish with comfortable seating and the beginning of the experience is well-managed with detailed instruction and orientation. You’re given some strange-looking fabric socks to wear to prevent slipping, which isn’t the nicest feeling on your feet, but it’s understandable for safety reasons.

We were given a quick briefing on the different pools, but weren’t told anything about their benefits, which would have been interesting to know.

The staff said they’d find me when it was time for my massage. That was OK, but I would have rather been told a specific time.

Then you’re left to your own devices – namely, soaking in the baths and enjoying the surroundings. The whole experience is quite sociable. You’re not allowed to be too noisy, but you can chat quietly which adds to the enjoyment.

The baths hit a note of urban cool. The pools look bright and inviting against the dimly lit backdrop of subterranean brick chambers – it’s moody and atmospheric. I thought it was the kind of place you’d shoot a movie or a music video.

I’m not one for a weak massage and my therapist was great. She explained she likes to start off quite firmly and then ease off if you ask and she was happy to customise the treatment around my needs.

It was an invigorating massage. The only downside is that you have to put your wet swimwear and socks back on if you want to go back in the pools.

Aire Ancient Baths is a relaxing, social and pretty cool thing to do – especially on a winter’s day or night when New York is biting cold.

A few weeks later I watched a film. In one part, Russian gangsters partied with beautiful models until Keanu Reeves burst in and started shooting… Can you guess where they filmed that scene?


"A note of urban cool"

 



A few weeks after visiting, Davis recognised the stylish facility in a film featuring Keanu Reeves

The people behind Aire
Aire Ancient Baths New York City is the first international property for the Spanish-based Aire Group. The company began 15 years ago when a number of investors and friends pooled together resources to restore a 16th century palace in Seville which was built of the ruins of a Roman bathhouse.

Co-founder Armando Prados, who grew up in an area in southern Spain, which once boasted hundreds of public baths, wanted to revive the traditional ritual of relaxation and rejuvenation through water. The group’s vision was to create an “oasis of calm that drinks from history, the one that shows us how ancient civilisations made public baths an art for our senses”.

Two more Aire bathhouses opened in Spain in Barcelona (2008) and Almeria (2011) before the concept headed overseas. Each facility is located in “an old building full of history and personality”.

Next on the list is Aire de Vallromanes just outside Barcelona, although there’s no indication of when it will open yet. But it is confirmed that Spanish architects Alonso Balaguer – the studio behind two previous Aire bathhouses and which is also working on the Olympic Village for the Rio de Janerio Games – will be designing the new facility.


RIGHT TO REPLY:

 

Armando Prados
 
Armando Prados Co-Founder Aire Ancient Baths

“We work very hard to create a unique experience in every sense and nothing makes me more happy than hearing that clients enjoy it. The entire setting is designed for people to let go and relax and part of that is having your massage happen at any moment rather than clock-watching. That’s also why there’s no set circuit: we give a tour explaining the different baths, but think it’s important to allow each client to listen to their body and move freely – some want to spend 30 minutes floating in the salt pool, while others love the hot-cold alternation. We do have a brief explanation of the health benefits of our pools on the website, but we’re working to add more details.”


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News   Products   Magazine
Mystery shop
Aire Ancient Baths, New York

Our three mystery shoppers compare notes on a Roman bathhouse-style spa, built by a Spanish company, in New York City


Aire Ancient Baths opened in New York City in 2012, offering a modern take on the ancient bathhouses of the Roman, Greek and Ottoman empires and a concept which stands out from the ubiquitous USA urban day spa.

A subterranean oasis in the stylish Tribeca district, the 16,000sq ft (1,486sq m) spa is built in the basement of a former textile factory and features a circuit of pools which, like the traditional public baths of centuries ago, enable people to ‘take the waters’ to unwind and soothe the body. Visitors can choose from a warm tepidarium pool, which at 36?C is just below body temperature, float in salt water and listen to underwater music, relax in a 350-jet whirlpool or large pool of a similar temperature and sweat it out in a eucalyptus-scented steamroom before moving onto a 39?C hot caldarium bath and quickly dipping into one of two cold plunges. There’s also a relaxation room with heated marble beds. The idea is create a circuit and repeat it three to four times to relax the muscles, improve circulation, aid digestion and enhance overall wellbeing.

Numbers are limited to 20 people at a time, who book the spa in two-hour slots. A basic two-hour bathing experience in the week starts at US$75 (there’s a supplement at the weekend). Massages can be added on top of that in 15, 30, 45 or 60-minute increments (US$99-US$174). Four-handed massages and rituals are also offered – the most expensive of which is a US$500 Red Wine Ritual where guests soak in a red-wine infused bath before a 90-minute four-hand massage and another 90 minutes soaking in the pools.

Spa Business sent three mystery shoppers along to experience and compare notes and perspectives…

Sign up here to get the Spa Business and Spa Business insider weekly ezines and every issue of Spa Business and Spa Business insider magazines free on digital.

Vital statistics
Address: 88 Franklin Street,
New York, NY 10013, USA
Times: 9am–11pm every day
Web: www.ancientbathsny.com
Twitter: @ancientbathsNY



Jak Phillips Head of News Leisure Media

 

Jak Phillips
 

Despite New York City’s stunning skyline, it’s fair to say that after navigating its famously feeble infrastructure and traipsing around the shabby sidewalks that characterise parts of the city, there’s an urge to seek solace – even in trendy Tribeca. Thankfully, Aire Ancient Baths is on hand to offer a welcome respite.

On entering the candle-lit welcome area, you’re met with walls that feature Greco-Roman pillars sandwiched by panels of dark wood, while flashes of exposed brickwork lend a pleasantly modern Williamsburg finish. Down in the communal bathing area, the salubrious surroundings of marble and more stone columns evoke an air of Alexandrian opulence, complemented by the soft sounds of Hellenic strings.

First port of call is the spacious steamroom in the centre. Fabulously fashioned – with the glass panels offering panoramic views of the surrounding baths – the room is somewhat lacking in terms of function. The steam vents are inexplicably aimed straight into the air, meaning occupants need to stand upright on the bench and waft the hot air back down with their arms if they want to work up a sweat.

After a baptism of lukewarm steam, it’s on to the floatation pool for the first of six bathing experiences. The high salinity makes buoyancy easy and though males should take care if they’ve recently shaved – the salt leaves a slight sting on a shorn face – it’s altogether an enjoyable experience.

Guests are then free to meander through a jet bath, caldarium, two plunge pools and finally an extended chillout pool – offering neatly chiselled alcoves in which to retreat. As well as offering diversity to the user, the array of pools provide plenty of sparsely-populated sections in which to bask, even though our bathing session was fully booked.

For those who want more than just a soak, the spa offers a number of upsell treatments and I enjoyed a reassuringly assertive 45-minute full-body massage and exfoliation. The only drawback was that the unisex (and not just couples’) treatment room leads to a few awkward moments as you change from your swimsuit into a towel – behind a hastily drawn curtain in my case – but this doesn’t distract from the overall experience. For me at least, Aire Ancient Baths provides a much needed slice of serenity in the core of the Big Apple.


"A welcome respite"

 


PHOTOS: ©AIRE ANCIENT BATHS NY

The trendy Tribeca bathhouse is the first international property for Spain’s Aire Group


Tom Anstey Journalist Leisure Media

 

Tom Anstey
 

I should start by saying I am, in every sense of the word, a spa newbie. If I want to relax, I’d opt to sit on the sofa and play Call of Duty. So for my first spa experience to be the Aire Ancient Baths was taking a plunge into the deep end.

I had no idea of what was to come and hoped for an explanation of how to ‘take the waters’. As it was, I received a brief orientation and knew I’d been booked for a massage, but beyond that I was left to fend for myself.

Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed was the smell of chlorine – obviously there for hygiene purposes – but heightened in the warm environment. Next was the steamroom. When you don’t know what to expect, the hot vapours really hit you and breathing is hindered – not the most relaxing start for me.

I spent most of my time pre-massage in the warm waters (chickening out on the cold plunge pools) and these were my favourite part of the experience. The long L-shaped pool was great for a gentle, casual swim and this also kept my mind stimulated: I have a hyperactive brain. And although the facility restricts the level of talking, it’s not (thankfully) strictly enforced and I was able speak with my friend without disturbing anyone.

After an hour, I went for my massage and I can’t fault the quality of it. My brain, however, came into play 45 seconds in and said ‘oh boy your nose is itchy’. As I wasn’t in a position to scratch it, I found it difficult to switch off. It didn’t help that I was lying there with wet hair and trunks: not a pleasant feeling.

Did it relax me? Physically yes, I could feel it was doing my body good. Mentally, not really. Having an option to change the music to occupy my mind would have been a nice addition.

If I was to go again, I’d want someone to describe each experience to me beforehand and what I might expect as a beginner. Instead I felt unprepared and out of my comfort zone. While I can’t fault the facility itself, I just don’t think the spa world is really for me.


"In every sense a spa newbie"

 



Having never been to a spa, Anstey would have liked more details about how to ‘take the waters’


Alice Davis
Managing Editor Leisure Media

 

Alice Davis
 

We arrived in New York on the coat tails of snowstorms. Manhattan, despite its bright blue skies, was freezing. What better way then to spend a Sunday morning than to soak in Aire’s thermal baths?

The reception area is stylish with comfortable seating and the beginning of the experience is well-managed with detailed instruction and orientation. You’re given some strange-looking fabric socks to wear to prevent slipping, which isn’t the nicest feeling on your feet, but it’s understandable for safety reasons.

We were given a quick briefing on the different pools, but weren’t told anything about their benefits, which would have been interesting to know.

The staff said they’d find me when it was time for my massage. That was OK, but I would have rather been told a specific time.

Then you’re left to your own devices – namely, soaking in the baths and enjoying the surroundings. The whole experience is quite sociable. You’re not allowed to be too noisy, but you can chat quietly which adds to the enjoyment.

The baths hit a note of urban cool. The pools look bright and inviting against the dimly lit backdrop of subterranean brick chambers – it’s moody and atmospheric. I thought it was the kind of place you’d shoot a movie or a music video.

I’m not one for a weak massage and my therapist was great. She explained she likes to start off quite firmly and then ease off if you ask and she was happy to customise the treatment around my needs.

It was an invigorating massage. The only downside is that you have to put your wet swimwear and socks back on if you want to go back in the pools.

Aire Ancient Baths is a relaxing, social and pretty cool thing to do – especially on a winter’s day or night when New York is biting cold.

A few weeks later I watched a film. In one part, Russian gangsters partied with beautiful models until Keanu Reeves burst in and started shooting… Can you guess where they filmed that scene?


"A note of urban cool"

 



A few weeks after visiting, Davis recognised the stylish facility in a film featuring Keanu Reeves

The people behind Aire
Aire Ancient Baths New York City is the first international property for the Spanish-based Aire Group. The company began 15 years ago when a number of investors and friends pooled together resources to restore a 16th century palace in Seville which was built of the ruins of a Roman bathhouse.

Co-founder Armando Prados, who grew up in an area in southern Spain, which once boasted hundreds of public baths, wanted to revive the traditional ritual of relaxation and rejuvenation through water. The group’s vision was to create an “oasis of calm that drinks from history, the one that shows us how ancient civilisations made public baths an art for our senses”.

Two more Aire bathhouses opened in Spain in Barcelona (2008) and Almeria (2011) before the concept headed overseas. Each facility is located in “an old building full of history and personality”.

Next on the list is Aire de Vallromanes just outside Barcelona, although there’s no indication of when it will open yet. But it is confirmed that Spanish architects Alonso Balaguer – the studio behind two previous Aire bathhouses and which is also working on the Olympic Village for the Rio de Janerio Games – will be designing the new facility.


RIGHT TO REPLY:

 

Armando Prados
 
Armando Prados Co-Founder Aire Ancient Baths

“We work very hard to create a unique experience in every sense and nothing makes me more happy than hearing that clients enjoy it. The entire setting is designed for people to let go and relax and part of that is having your massage happen at any moment rather than clock-watching. That’s also why there’s no set circuit: we give a tour explaining the different baths, but think it’s important to allow each client to listen to their body and move freely – some want to spend 30 minutes floating in the salt pool, while others love the hot-cold alternation. We do have a brief explanation of the health benefits of our pools on the website, but we’re working to add more details.”


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To inspire and inform: ISPA gears up for 2022 conference in Las Vegas
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DIARY

 

01-03 Feb 2022

Spatex 2022

Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
01 Mar 2022

Well Defined Women in Leadership Summit

Live Love Spa HQ, Tustin, United States
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2022

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
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