Luxuriating in AIRE Ancient Baths London
Mark Bibby Jackson checks into the recently opened AIRE Ancient Baths London and emerges two hours later feeling like a completely different man.
There will be a time when international travel fully opens its doors to us once more but for the time being most of us will have to content to travel coming to us. The recently opened AIRE Ancient Baths London brings the ultimate holiday pampering experience to the heart of London.
As soon as you check into the central London spa and are invited to sit in the room adjoining the reception that resembles a library, you know that you are in for a special occasion. I could almost literally feel the stress of Covid lift from my shoulders as time appeared to stand still while I waited for my AIRE spa experience to commence.
AIRE Ancient Baths Philosophy
AIRE Covent Garden is the latest branch of the international luxury wellness brand, which initially started in Seville, and now has spas around the world including New York, Barcelona and now London.
Inspired by the ancient ritual of thermal bathing as practised by Greeks, Romans and Ottomans, AIRE reimagines this tradition for the modern day. AIRE experiences take place in restored historical buildings.
AIRE London Covent Garden
AIRE Ancient Baths London is located just off the Strand, behind The Savoy hotel in 2-3 Robert Street. The 18th century building was the home of Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. However, the spa itself is located beneath the house in the cellars where perhaps Barrie kept his wine.
The designers have created 1,300m2 of cavernous, brickwork that makes you feel as if you have been transformed back to Ancient Rome.
AIRE Ancient Baths London has modernised the classic bathing ritual, reimaging the experience for a contemporary audience with water as the focal element.
The London AIRE Ancient Baths Experience
After I change into my swimming shorts and shower, I am led to the underground chamber where a series of thermal baths awaits.
First is the Tepidarium which at 36ºC has a temperature closest to our own body temperature. After that comes the Vaporium, or steam bath, where I manage to release some of my toxins, interspersed with occasional dips into the Frigidaria, cold water baths that start my heart to race.
This is followed by some hard relaxation in the Caldarium hot water bath (40ºC) while I wait for the staff to inform me that my massage is ready.
Part of the charm of AIRE Ancient Baths London is the timelessness of the place – not just in the long history of the treatments but in the sense that at no time do you feel hurried. Illuminated by candlelight the ambience is tranquillity itself, the strong brickwork and vibrant blue of the pools standing out, chanting music lulls me into repose. This truly is a sensory journey back in time.
The last two pools are the Balneum, or bath of a thousand jets, which acts likes a Jacuzzi on steroids, followed by the Flotarium, a warm salt bath that transforms me to the Dead Sea I was fortunate enough to visit a few years ago, albeit without the pungent smell of sulphur.
AIRE London Massage
At some indistinct point my illusionary journey is interrupted by a member of staff who informs me that my massage treatment is ready.
AIRE Ancient Baths has a range of massages from 30 to 75 minutes including The Himalayan Salt Experience and Wine Ritual. However I have a 30-minute massage that has been magically transformed into a 45-minute massage by the time I take the lift up to my room.
The massage was expertly given by a practitioner who clearly knew what he was doing. I drift off into my own world, only disturbed by the rolling thunder outside. Afterwards it was explained to me that all the masseuses are constantly developing their skills through training. Mine really had already perfected his art.
Cava and Truffles
Once completed, I returned to the thermal baths where a glass of cava and two wonderful truffles awaited me. After all this hard work clearly I was in need for a treat.
I still had sufficient time for another dip in the Balneum before my two hours were up.
Afterwards one of the excellent staff asked which was my favourite part – in truth it all was. The only downside was having to emerge to the wet London weather at the end of my experience. Perhaps like Peter Pan I am not quite yet ready to return to the real world. Fortunately for me AIRE Ancient Baths London is not just a dream.
AIRE Ancient Baths London Experience
Starts from £150 for single guests and £320 for couples. Thisincludes a two-hour journey to the thermal baths with a 30-minute relaxing massage.
AIRE Ancient Baths London
2-3 Robert St, WC2N 6RL Covent Garden, London.