By Melissa Sorge
Tucked away in a 18th century textile factory in lower Manhattan, a subterranean sanctuary beckons visitors seeking old world relaxation and a place to hit the pause button the city that never sleeps. Aire Ancient Baths’ Tribeca location is a refuge from out bust lives–a place to unplug from the modern world and lean into the ancient ritual of bathing. Appropriately located in an old, historical building, Aire transports guests to ancient times when bathing was much more than a means of cleansing the body.
Long before baths were private rituals and citizens had tubs in their own homes, many civilizations such as the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Ottomans utilized communal baths. As the body was cleansed, so too was the soul; the ancient thermal baths were places to soak, release tension, and socialize with friends and neighbors. Bathers would begin their experience in the apodyterium (a small room to undress and store belongings), and then move on to a time-tested progression of warm to cold bathing—a soak in a warm bath followed by a dip in hotter waters, a steam session, and finally, an icy cold submersion.
A stone’s throw from an ancient cathedral in the historical neighborhood of Santa Cruz, Aire’s original location is in Seville, Spain and serves as a recourse of relaxation and rejuvenation amidst a busy Spanish city. Cofounder of Aire Ancient Baths, Armando Prados, grew up in the south of Spain and wanted to recreate the ancient rituals of his homeland, where hundreds of communal baths once united the local community through traditions of relaxation and restoration for the mind and body. With the success of the Seville location, Aire opened up several more establishments across Spain and eventually traveled overseas to the United States, where they now have spas in both New York City and Chicago.
At Aire’s Tribeca location, illuminated by candlelight and reminiscent of an ancient cavern, guests have everything they need to experience the ritual of ancient bathing. Visitors can move at their own pace through the circuit of thermal pools ranging from hot to cold. For a traditional ancient bath experience, guests can make their way through the tubs of varying temperatures, visit the aromatic Laconium (steam room), the Flotarium (salt water pool), and the jetted pools, while stopping for breaks on a heated marble bench and sipping fresh-pressed juices or aromatic teas made to order.
In addition to the traditional thermal bath experience, guests at Aire can choose from a wide variety of enhancements to complement their bathing circuit. Visitors can add a 30, 45, or 60-minute full-body massage to their day of relaxation. If visiting with a special someone, they can try a couples massage infused with Aire’s signature scent of orange blossom for a romantic escape. Some other popular enhancements at Aire are the exfoliating rituals. The Olive Essence Ritual is an 80-minute experience that includes a full-body scrub using ground olive pits followed by a head-to-toe massage with olive essence oil. The Himalayan Salt Experience is a detoxifying, rejuvenating ritual that combines a Himalayan salt exfoliation with a full-body massage using hot Himalayan stones.
Another extraordinary enhancement, exclusive to Aire Baths, is The Wine Bath Experience, designed for either one or two. As guests submerge in a Venetian well full of antioxidant-rich Tempranillo grapes, they can enjoy a five-minute facial and scalp massage followed by a 60-minute full-body massage using grapeseed oil. As the body takes in the health benefits of fragrant Spanish wine and a restorative massage, the mind will wander back to ancient Seville, where these traditions all began.
A day at Aire is the perfect escape from the crowds of New York City’s streets and the stress of everyday urban life. Guests can step in for a traditional ancient bathing ritual or linger for a full spa day complete with soaking, steaming, scrubbing, and massaging. A true mind and body experience, a trip to Aire Baths transports guests to a simpler time when almost all ailments were cured with a nice hot bath.