Russian steam bathing, or banyaRussian: баня, has been an integral part of the Russian culture for centuries. Mentions of the banya are preserved in chronicles dating back to the 12th century, e.g. in the Primary ChronicleRussian: Povest vremennykh let or Повесть временных лет (The Tale of Past Years) and other ancient literary texts. Public and private baths were developed to serve not only a hygienic function but also to strengthen, heal and provide a social outlet as early as in the Middle Ages.
Although it has changed over the years, the banya has preserved the most important thing that distinguishes it from other types of bathing; its special atmosphere of body rejuvenation through the contrast of heat and cold, specific scents, foaming soap and bathing brooms. Russian banya experts and fans believe that not only does it help cleanse your body and regain strength but it also increases energy levels. Russians often go to a banya with their friends and family to spend time together and enjoy the comforting warmth.
There are many public steam baths in Moscow. Sandunovskie Baths, or SandunyRussian: Сандуновские бани, Сандуны (Bld. 3–7, 14 Neglinnaya StreetRussian: Neglinnaya ulitsa or Неглинная улица), is the oldest. Sanduny is located in the historical heart of the capital. This bath dates back to the 19th century; it was named after its founder Sila Sandunov, who built his first bath at the corner of Neglinnaya Street and what is now Sandunovsky LaneRussian: Sandunovskiy pereulok or Сандуновский переулок in 1808. The baths were later extended with new buildings and finally occupied a whole city block. Today, Sandunovskie Baths are located in a massive building with incredible architecture. Its large rooms with high ceilings are decorated with mouldings, marbles, gold-plated sculptures, and myriads of elegant small details.
Sanduny has always been popular with Muscovites and tourists. According to historical records, it was frequented by such famous people as Chekhov, Gilyarovskya Russian writer and newspaper journalist, best known for his reminiscences of life in pre-Revolutionary Moscow, Chaliapina Russian opera singer, and others. Rumour has it that Napoleon Bonaparte, the unwelcome guest of the capital, ‘washed away’ his sins here in 1812. Hundreds of customers visit Sanduny daily, just as they have done for years. The bathhouse includes three men’s baths and two women’s baths with resting rooms, swimming pools and steam rooms, eight private baths with Russian ovens and Jacuzzis, beauty salons, a spa centre and restaurants with Russian, Uzbek and Chinese cuisine.
The luxurious interior of Sanduny has been used as a shooting location for several films. Among foreign movie stars who have been to Sanduny are Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, Dolph Lundgren, Asia Argento, Naomi Campbell, and many others. Since Sandunovskie Baths are known as a cultural and historical treasure, they have become a real tourist attraction. Ninety-minute guided tours are available on Tuesdays. During these tours, you will have the opportunity to:
— Examine the ‘bath palace’ from the outside as well as its neighbourhood
— Hear an interesting lecture about the origins and history of the baths as well as the business of their owners in the magnificent hall of the Male Top Class BathhouseRussian: holl Vysshego muzhskogo razryada or холл Высшего мужского разряда;
— Examine the interior of Sanduny Public Bath House and learn about the style and function of all of its rooms, as well as get to know the history of filmmaking at Sanduny and the biographies of its famous visitors.
You will pay 1,800 RUB for three hours at Sanduny, while a private bath for two hours will cost you 4,000–13,000 RUB. Extra fees are charged for towels, sheets, brooms and hot-room attendant services. Children under 7 years of age are admitted free of charge.
Krasnopresnenskie BathsRussian: Krasnopresnenskie bani or Краснопресненские бани at 7/1 Stolyarny LaneRussian: Stolyarnyi pereulok or Столярный переулок are considered to be the number one competitor of Sanduny. Built in 1977–1980, this two-storey redbrick building styled in the early 20th-century modernist fashion was granted the Gosstroy State Prize. The baths offer Russian, Finnish and Turkish steam rooms, swimming pools, Jacuzzi hot tubs, private luxury suites, massage and hot stone massage parlours, beauty and spa salons, an indoor tanning salon, a gym, a bar, a café, buffets, karaoke, and billiards.
Rumour has it that Krasnopresnenskie Baths are frequented by members of criminal organisations due to their affordability. However, no one is scared away, and thousands of people visit the baths every day. Along with participating in social city programmes, Krasnopresnenskie Baths are included in the price of many travel agent deals when touring the city of Moscow.
Prices are slightly lower here than at Sanduny. You will pay 1,700 RUB for 90 minutes on weekdays and 1,900 RUB on weekends and holidays. Resting rooms cost from 5,500 to 1,1000 RUB per 90 minutes. Extra fees are charged for towels, sheets, brooms and hot-room attendant services. Children under 7 years of age are admitted free of charge.
Warsaw BathsRussian: Varshavskie bani or Варшавские бани are a modern version of a banya designed in a regal style with a lot of interesting innovations in services. This simple three-storey building at 34 Varshavskoe HighwayRussian: Varshavskoe shosse or Варшавское шоссе, built in 1938 and renovated in 2012, is great for groups of friends. Bath premises consist of a two-storey steam room, swimming pools and plunge tubs, various country-specific saunas upstairs, private rooms, spa and beauty salons, and massage parlours. The baths offer unlimited access monthly memberships, promotions, gifts and social benefits.
Three hours at Warsaw Baths cost 1,600 RUB on weekdays and 1,900 RUB on holidays. An evening discount is applied to this price after 9 p.m. Private rooms cost from 8,000 to 19,000 RUB, depending on the number of customers. Extra fees are charged for towels, sheets, brooms and hot-room attendant services. Children under 7 years of age are admitted free of charge.
Apart from these three bathhouses, there are several others available; they include VorontsovskieRussian: Воронцовские, SeleznyovskieRussian: Селезнёвские, UsachyovskieRussian: Усачёвские, AstrakhanskieRussian: Астраханские and PokrovskieRussian: Покровские public baths. There are also ‘intimate’ public baths for small groups: KalitnikovskayaRussian: Калитниковская, LefortovskayaRussian: Лефортовская, IzmaylovskayaRussian: Измайловская, RzhevskayaRussian: Ржевская, and a lot of in-house and private institutions of this kind. Their prices are often more competitive than the major baths in the city centre.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com