Review: Hammam Al Ándalus (Madrid)****

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Date visited: April 24, 2019
Address: C/Atocha 14, Madrid, Spain
Website: Hammam Al Ándalus
Hours: 9:30am-11:30pm daily
Cost: ranging from 35€ (bath access 90 mins) to 105€ (bath access + 60 mins massage)
Reservations required: yes (online booking available)
Attire: swimsuit mandatory (available for sale if you forgot), long hair must be tied up
Mixed sex: yes
Kids: no
The crowd: couples, girlfriends, mix of locals and tourists
Indoor/outdoor: indoor only
Water therapies: warm bath (36°), hot bath (40°)
Cold plunge: cold bath (18°)
Steam room: yes
Saunas: no
Special features: relaxation area with mint tea (sweetened and unsweetened), water, and chess. Promotions offered on weekday mornings. “Quiet hammam” special Monday to Thursday evening at 10pm. Packages available including dinner and/or a flamenco show.
Amenities: 1 hammam towel, lockers, showers, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, combs, blow dryers, straightening irons

Review: Liquidrom (Berlin) ****

That float pool though…
Photo courtesy of Liquidrom

Date visited: Friday February 8, 2019
Address: Möckernstraße 10, 10963 Berlin, Germany
Website: Liquidrom
Hours: 9am-12am (Sunday to Thursday), 9am-1am (Friday, Saturday) 
Cost: ranges from 20€ (weekday 2 hours access to thermal baths) to 32.50€ (weekend day pass for thermal baths + saunas)
Reservations required: no (but reservations for treatments are recommended)
Attire: “textile-free” (clothing not permitted) in sauna area, bathing suit required for the large salt water pool, bathing suit optional for outdoor baths
Mixed sex: yes
Kids: allowed; children under 1 year old are free (!)
The crowd: families with well behaved kids, couples, friends and the odd tourist
Indoor/outdoor: both
Water therapies: liquidrom salt water musical pool, “omm sound pool”, hot water onsen pool
Cold plunge: yes
Steam room: 1 steam room (40-45°C). 
Saunas: 3 saunas – Finnish sauna (90°C/10% humidity), Himalaya salt sauna (65°C/40% humidity), Kelo panorama sauna (80°C/15% humidity)
Special features: massages (including shiatsu massage under water), under water dance class, snack bar, special events with live acoustic or electronic music, tuesday “ladies special” (see website for details)
Amenities: lockers, robe + slippers + towel rental (€), showers, soap (no shampoo/conditioner)

Review: Vabali Spa (Berlin) *****


Date visited: Monday February 4, 2019
Address: Seydlitzstraße 6, 10557 Berlin, Germany
Website: Vabali Spa
Hours: 9am-12am daily
Cost: ranges from 21.50 euros (weekday 2 hour ticket) to 39.50 euros (weekend/holiday day ticket)
Reservations required: no (but reservations for treatments are recommended)
Attire: “textile-free”, robes can be worn in lounge areas/between saunas or you can cover yourself with a towel. Robes are mandatory in the restaurant.
Mixed sex: yes
Kids: age 7+
The crowd: locals, solo spa goers, couples, groups
Indoor/outdoor: both
Water therapies: outdoor pool, indoor pool, mineral hot tubs
Cold plunge: yes
Steam room: 2 steam rooms, ~5o°C + 1 “laconium”, ~45°C.
Sauna: 10 different saunas (including 1 women-only sauna), ranging from 55 to 95°C
Special features: massages, spa day suite, tanning beds, full service restaurant and bar, outdoor smoking area
Amenities: lockers, robe + slippers + towel rental ($), showers, shower gel/shampoo

Welcome!

Thank you for visiting my blog! The idea to start this blog began when I was preparing for a trip to Germany and researching different spas to visit. As a Canadian, I quickly learned that sauna culture in Germany is quite different from what I have been exposed to (pardon the pun). It is quite typical in that part of the world for saunas to be mixed or co-ed AND “textile-free”. The idea of being naked around strangers, not to mention a bunch of men was somewhat daunting to say the least. I also learned there are all kinds of sauna etiquette guidelines to abide by. I wanted to know what they were to avoid any spa faux pas while traveling! I found some helpful reviews on tripadvisor, yelp and google (sometimes things were lost in translation via google translate though), but I could not find detailed information in English for foreigners visiting these spas.

I love to travel and wherever I go, I try to experience the local spa culture. I find it fascinating that so many countries, especially cold countries, have a vibrant spa culture. Here in North America, going to a spa is thought of as a luxury and the prices reflect that. Going to a spa usually requires making an appointment, spending a lot of money, and keeping a silent or quiet atmosphere. It is more of a treat, rather than a regular part of one’s social life. Yet in so many other cultures, the spa (or sauna or banya or hammam etc.) is part of a regular social ritual. It is where people gather to catch up with their friends, or spend time with their kids, parents or grandparents. These places may not be as fancy as typical North American spas, but they are affordable and reflect a different luxury — a time and place devoted solely to relaxation, health and wellness. I can get behind that!

Through this blog, I plan to share my experiences visiting different spas around the world. The focus will be on communal spa experiences like hot springs or saunas, rather than treatments (massages, facials, etc.). Hopefully it will help other travellers like me who love to experience this part of other places and cultures. I will also try to cover some spas closer to home (Toronto) that fit in this category.

For now I will leave you with a list of my favourite spas that I have visited and my spa bucket list (always growing and I’d love to hear your recommendations!).

My favourite spas (in no particular order):

  1. Spa Nordik – Chelsea, Quebec, Canada (https://chelsea.lenordik.com/en/)
  2. Vabali Spa – Berlin, Germany (https://www.vabali.de/online/en/)
  3. Szechenyi Baths – Budapest, Hungary (http://szechenyispabaths.com/)
  4. Dragon Hill Spa – Seoul, South Korea (http://www.dragonhillspa.com/)
  5. Blue Lagoon – Grindavík, Iceland (https://www.bluelagoon.com/)
  6. Hammam Al Andalus – Granada, Spain (http://granada.hammamalandalus.com/en/)

My spa bucket list:

  1. Sanduny Bath House – Moscow, Russia (http://eng.sanduny.ru/)
  2. Dogo Onsen – Matsuyama, Japan (https://dogo.jp/en/)
  3. Loyly Sauna – Helsinki, Finland (http://www.loylyhelsinki.fi/en/front-page/)