While a good soak in the city might conjure images of torrential downpours and curbside puddles, I have an altogether more inviting proposition. Having recently discovered — on my very own Manhattan doorstep, no less — that there is such a thing as a civilized manner of public bathing, I realize that once you’ve dipped your toes into spa waters, there’s no going back.
The new Aire Ancient Baths in Tribeca are a cavernous, modern masterpiece any ancient Roman bather would have felt right at home in. Aire offers a myriad of soaking options — salt water pools, steam rooms, cold pools, propeller jet pools — which one can combine with a number of massages and elixirs. For those who can't do without a bit of bling, there is the more perplexing cava wine soak and caviar facial cleanse.
Tucked into the Swiss mountain bedrock lies the Therme Vals Spa complex and hotel designed by starchitecht Peter Zumthor. With its healing mineral waters in use since about 1300 BC, this specialized well-being destination combines hydrotherapy, alternative medicine and advanced cosmetic treatments using the purest natural alpine ingredients. Massages can even take place inside the baths; you are stretched and manipulated while floating weightlessly in the warm spring waters.
No bathhouse roundup would be complete without mentioning a traditional hammam. The Cagaloglu Hammam in Istanbul dates back to 1714 and has hosted many an illustrious bather, including Omar Sharif, among its palatial bathing chambers.