Aire Ancient Baths: Underground Environment lit by flickering lights, with weird patterns formed by shadows on the bare brick walls and water lapping all about me.
AIRE Ancient Baths London, London’s newest holistic health facility, is a tranquil haven situated behind the Strand.
This may be a scene from Victorian London in the gloomy light, but it’s actually a fresh way for the city’s urban spa world and a completely different concept than anything else you’ve seen before.
Aire Ancient Baths is a Landon Transport
AIRE Ancient Baths London, inspired by the ancient tradition of Roman baths, reimagines the classic activity of bathing in thermal waters, but with a twist. AIRE’s approach is all about updating the concept of ‘water for wellness’ for a modern audience – marrying age-old traditions within cutting-edge spaces – and is already found in New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, and Spain (where there are four outposts – in Seville, two in Barcelona, and one in Almeria).
In London, for example, the new opening is housed in a historic mansion. The traditional exterior gives way to newly restored and recast interiors. The property is located at 2-3 Robert Street in London’s ‘Adelphi’ district, which is the legacy of the Adam brothers, the most renowned architect siblings of the 18th century.
Their exquisite, neoclassical-inspired projects, which were inspired by Robert Adam’s Grand Tour trips, helped to establish this riverbank region in central London.
2-3 Robert Street later became the home of J.M. Barrie, the Scottish novelist and dramatist well known for writing Peter Pan (check out the first edition in the lobby area).
Rather of the typical pastel-hued palette found in most spas, the décor here is unique. With stripped-back walls left unfinished, worn-torn books utilised as décor, and bare floorboards underfoot, this is all about portraying a ‘faded grandeur’ of a bygone era.
With brown leather chesterfield sofas juxtaposed against ancient terracotta pots, wooden chests ornamented with lanterns, and French linen armchairs sitting next to enormous pillar candles, it’s more in the style of a boho country house than a traditional day spa. Speaking of candles, there are hundreds of them all over the place, glittering and giving a beautiful glow over everything.
The building’s vaulted cellars, which have been cut out to make room for a variety of baths – some large enough to be more comparable to swimming pools – and leisure areas, took almost five years to remodel.
The large area has an industrial look, with raw brick walls and exposed pipes, while the under-lit shimmer of water, a calming melodic soundtrack, and low lighting all contribute to an ethereal effect, almost like being in church.
Your time at AIRE usually begins with you worshipping at the altar of rest. You take the lift down, and after changing into swimsuit, you can enjoy the thermal baths, which are set at different temperatures and provide different sensations.
The Tepidarium (36°C) has a warm water bath, the Caldarium (40°C) is slightly hotter, the Frigidarium (14°C) is frigid, and the Vaporium has steamy surrounds. There’s the bubbling Balneum, also known as the ‘bath of a thousand jets’ (as if conjured up from an ancient fairy tale), and the Flotarium, a salt bath where you can completely relax and surrender to the beautiful sensation of floating unassisted.
The goal is to gradually work your way through the various baths, establishing a circuit of relaxation and quiet for yourself, with the goal of rebalancing both body and mind. Furthermore, there is an upper floor of treatment rooms where you may add on a variety of massages and rituals to your bath experience.
For example, the Himalayan Salt Experience is a three-hour treatment that includes a bath circuit, a Himalayan body scrub, and a 60-minute body massage with hot Himalayan salt stones. The Wine Ritual, which captures the antioxidant compounds of grapes, is possibly the most unique.
This treatment involves submerging yourself in an old stone bath filled with red wine – specifically, the Spanish Ribera del Duero kind – and then receiving a grape seed oil massage. (Warning: it may cause you to lose your mind.)
Next, AIRE’s development aspirations continue apace, with Toronto the next city on the horizon (coming in 2022), despite the fact that the company’s roots are in Spain. The company’s initial facility was in Seville (in 2004), and Amadeo Serra, CEO of AIRE Ancient Baths, claims the business strives to keep guests connected to their Spanish heritage. Andalusian elements, such as fret-work lamps and rooms fragrant with orange blossom, are used to remind visitors of the building’s origins.
“The idea for AIRE Ancient Baths was conceived about 20 years ago in Sevilla, with the goal of reviving an ancient tradition that had been lost over the centuries,” explains Amadeo. “The new AIRE Ancient Baths London will provide a unique experience for London residents and visitors, and will become a destination for people seeking luxurious indulgence, rest, and relaxation.”
The Argan Oil Ritual, which includes a full-body massage with Argan Oil – rich in Vitamin E – to nourish and relax, is one of AIRE’s signature services. Your body is slowly drizzled with oil all over it in a darkened room — a lovely sensation. There is melancholy, transportive music playing, which also serves to transport you to another realm.
The full-body massage is gradual and rhythmic, employing age-old stretching and pummeling techniques while remaining blissfully soothing. Finally, a head and facial massage (the latter with cooling jade stones) will allow you to focus on yourself and drift away to your own personal version of ‘Neverland.’ “Dreams do come true, if only we hope hard enough,” Peter Pan stated.