Indulge in the relaxing luxury of some of France’s top spas and hammams as recommended by an expat in Paris
A steamy hot craze that has taken Paris by storm over the past few years is hammams. Beyond your basic spa, the hammam is a Turkish style bath that can be an extremely enjoyable two to three hour break from reality and unbelievably helpful for a jet-lagged body.
Hammams: Steam and scrub
You begin with a shower, and then you parade from one steam room to another, taking time to cool off when necessary. You then go for a gommage, during which attendants use a special black lava soap to give you an intense scrub down. Next, you shower and shampoo, and then cool down via a pool or a colder (not steamy) room. There are often lounge chairs available, as the steam heat is very relaxing and rest is often in order. Finally, if you aren’t relaxed enough, you might go for a massage, then sip sweetened mint tea while nibbling on Turkish or North African sweets made with almonds and honey.
Recommended hammams in Paris
Some hammams that I recommend in Paris are:
– O’Kari Hammam, because it’s for ladies only and I know the darling owner, Karima. They gently guide you through the process and you’ll come out so relaxed that you might want to stay and take a nap in their small relaxation room.
– La Mosquée de Paris is the original steam room, and probably the most beautiful and authentic, complete with original Moroccan tiles from the 1920s, and located in the historic Mosquee de Paris. This can be an all day experience because after your hammam you can drink tea in the tea salon, smoke a hooka, dine on couscous or shop in the boutique. This is also the most affordable hammam in town.
– Hammam Medina Center has an enormous pool and is much more contemporary than most, although it is located a bit far from the centre of town in the 19th arrondissement. Monday to Friday is for ladies only, and on Saturdays it’s mixed, for the more daring and open among us. They also offer facials, waxing, manicures and have a restaurant.
– Les Bains du Marais is more fashionable than most of the hammams, and it’s located in a very central part of the Marais quarter. They have excellent masseuses and also a coiffure on the premises for hair styling services.
Recommended spas in France
Of course spas in France continue to inspire as each year we see new openings, each one trying to outdo what has been seen before.
– The Dior Institute at the Plaza Athenee has been the gold standard since it opened with a dramatic calming pool visible from the entrance and a bevy of single and double treatment rooms. Complete with steam rooms, sauna, fitness rooms and a huge menu of treatments, this spa spells luxury and tranquil relaxation.
– L’Espace Payot is a health club and spa located just off the Champs-Elysées, on the right bank. They offer facials, massages, aromatherapy and exfoliation treatments. The health club is outfitted with a swimming pool, an equipment room and private training rooms for pilates, yoga and calisthenics. It’s open daily to members and non-members.
– L’Appartement 217 is Stéphane Jaulin’s salon, as well as an organic spa. This place is tres kool and offers an incredibly creative and beautiful space to relax in.
– L’Ecappe Spa and Salon Is an entirely unique spa in what looks like a New York loft. Their indoor pool is sublime and they even have a little café on the premises. One can imagine spending an entire day at this enchanting place.
– Voted the best spa in France in 2011, the Evian resort is a destination spa for a weekend or longer. Located between the lakes and the mountains in the Haute Savoie region of south-eastern France, right in the town of Evian-les-Bains. This area has long been known as a place to go for spectacular waters and cures. Plus, there is golf nearby to keep the men in the group happy.
– There is nothing quite like Caudalie on the Smith Haut Lafitte wine property near Bordeaux. The daughter of the owner started the spa, and alongside her husband invented the now-popular idea of vinotherapy, using the skins and fruit of the grape for treatments. A more charming hotel and spa cannot be found with an indoor and outdoor pool, indoor and outdoor treatments, a charming Michelin starred restaurant, La Grand Vigne and its own wine Chateau that produces a stellar white wine on a plot of land that’s been producing wine as far back as 1365. You’ll pay through the nose to stay here but it’s worth every penny.