From "Spa Wars: Korea vs. Russia," March 2014. photography by Daniel Baum and Dan Sellers

Spa Wars: Korea vs. Russia

Two local bathhouses offer international experiences, quirks and all.

King Spa & Sauna

Russian Banya Family Spa & Cafe

The Korean-inspired bathhouse is not for the faint of heart. Split into wet (unclothed, single sex) and dry (clothed, unisex) areas, the 33,000-square-foot facility offers purifying jasmine-scented whirlpools and nine sauna rooms, ranging from the Fire Sudatorium, which lives up to its name with temperatures reaching 180 degrees, to a polar-vortex-worthy Ice Room.

The European bathhouse is a bit rough around the edges, but you don’t partake for its aesthetic pleasures. You go for the glow. A sweaty, detoxifying, pink-cheeked, shot-of-vodka-after-a-plate-of-potato-dumplings glow. Spend the afternoon sweating among three saunas, wrapped in a bathrobe, eating Russian food, and relaxing. BYOV—Bring Your Own Vodka.
Freshly laundered, scrubs-like uniform Swimsuit, bathrobe, Turkish towels, and sandals (bring your own or rent the towels and slippers)

In addition to the wet and dry areas, the spa boasts a lounge with free wi-fi, a restaurant, and a movie theater.

Two saunas, one steam room, one plunge pool
$30 day pass

$25 day pass
Full menu of massages and body scrubs, including the 40-minute Vital Scrub for $70, the 90-minute Swedish massage for $125, and a 40-minute foot massage for $45

One-hour full-body massage for $60 or 30-minute targeted-area massage for $35; by appointment only
The 90-minute Aroma Ceremony Scrub ($120) is a life changer. After a (required) whirlpool soak and follow-up shower, a no-frills Korean woman clad in black bra and underwear will lead you to a massage table and proceed to rub so much dead skin off your body that you’ll swear you just emerged from the womb.

Claim a plastic picnic table and chairs for your group, make several visits to the Russian sauna, and follow it up with a cold plunge, a relaxing Russian meal, and a shot (or two).
Admission allows visitors to rejuvenate overnight, so you might spy an extremely relaxed guest (or two) snoozing in one of the oversized leather recliners in the common area.

If you really feel like getting authentic, order a platza treatment, during which you are slapped with venik, a bundle of birch, oak, or eucalyptus branches soaked in cold and then hot water.
A variety of Asian soups, noodles and rice dishes, bento boxes, fresh juice, yogurt, and fruit It’s BYOB. We recommend bringing a bottle of vodka (it’s a Russian banya, after all) and ordering a platter of vareniki (Ukrainian potato-stuffed dumplings).