A Hammam Spa Experience in Barcelona

This is a guest post by Calla Blaney Martin. 

Living the past six years in Minneapolis, Minnesota has taught me how to get through winter. One of my favorite ways to beat the cold is the spa. In Minneapolis, I had access to a public sauna, hot tub, and steam room. Soaking in the warmth as it unknotted my muscles, increased my circulation, and hydrated my skin was essential to keeping sane through five long dark months of cold.

I arrived in Barcelona at the beginning of January: my host, friend-since-childhood, Christy, had warned me that the apartment did not have central heating and that it might get down to 50 or even 40ºF in the house.

I wasn’t worried. A few months previous, I’d slept in a camper without heat at 7 degrees Fahrenheit, but that’s another story.

I do know from (bitter) experience that sitting in 40-60ºF temperatures is the hardest on my hands and feet—my circulation isn’t great, and I’m not getting any younger. I can, however, suck it up long-term if I know there is a warm reprieve available, so I asked Christy if there were any good spas in Barcelona.

She didn’t know, so we decided to do some research on self-care experiences for visitors to Barcelona. One that stood out to us was Aire de Barcelona.

Some Background

Aire de Barcelona is an upscale spa and Hammam experience housed in a reconditioned warehouse in the Born neighborhood.

For those unfamiliar (as I was), hammams are places of ritual bathing that are often connected to Mosques in the Mediterranean and Middle East. First coming to existence in ancient times, they were inspired by the ancient Roman baths, which were a very common type of public space where people went for health, business, and socializing. Hammams and various other types of public baths are precursors to modern “spas.” People have been soaking, cleansing, getting massages, etc. for thousands of years for a variety of reasons.

Located on the edges of the ancient quarter, Aire de Barcelona has an ambiance and patina of history. The feeling of being in an ancient space combines seamlessly with clean, luxurious modern updates. The baths themselves are marble infinity pools. What are referred to as “treatments” in many spas are called “rituals” at Spa Aire.

Our Aire de Barcelona Experience

We arrived on foot to Aire de Barcelona on a winter day in the 40s(F), passing many a bundled pedestrian. As we went through the grand entrance doors, the temperature was immediately warmer. The low-lit reception area smelled of Moroccan cinnamon, warm and inviting. For me, rather than just a reprieve from a chilly day, it represented shedding the stresses of the past year, and stepping into the next stage in my life’s journey.

First Impressions

The attendant at the front desk slipped yellow and green bands on our wrists and ushered us to the women’s dressing rooms where we were allotted a private space with its own lockers and (handicap accessible) toilet and shower. Plush white bathrobes were provided for us to wear over our suits on the way down to the baths.

A flight of stairs led us down into a candlelit underground space, where attendants stood at the ready in black uniforms. A young woman with a sleek brown ponytail led us on a brief tour. Our guide gave us an overview of the space: Tepidarium, Frigidarium, Caldarium, salt bath, jet pool, steam room, and showers. Central to the Hammam were heated marble benches where guests could rest between treatments or immersions and drink Moroccan mint tea or grapefruit infused water, softly illuminated with light filtered through Arabic screens and flickering candles.

Treatments 

After our tour, we were led to a series of heated marble beds. Another young woman explained the Al-Andalus ritual, which consisted of an exfoliation treatment, followed by a hydrating full body massage with aromatic oils.

The hot stone surface, covered by a gauzy paper, melted my weariness away and started to relax all the tight muscles I’d acquired travelling with two heavy carry-ons. Warm oil, lightly scented with essential oils, was massaged over my skin in combination with exfoliating granules. I literally shed my old skin, exposing the new.

Already loosened up by the exfoliation, we were next treated to 45-minute full-body massages. My massage was calming and thorough. The experienced masseuse got into the knots and helped unwind all the tension I normally carry in my shoulders that had been worsened by overseas travel. Christy and I were under the same translucent pagoda for our massages, listening to the water and sounds of the bathers. After the massage, the concierge brought a flute of cava (Catalonian sparkling wine) for Christy and a glass of fresh pear and apple juice for me as well as kebabs of fruit for both of us.

The Spa Circuit

For the next hour and a half, we did the circuit of pools and steam room. My favorite station, the steam room, was made better by aromatherapeutic sweet mint. At the end of our visit, we left with luminous skin, and relaxed muscles, warmed to the core.

A visit to this spa is something I would consider as an occasional treat. In my opinion, it is a great option for a romantic outing, an afternoon with a best friend, or a relaxing break before a big event. The public using the baths ranged from families (with children over age 16) to libidinous couples in teeny bathing suits.

Silence is encouraged, but the water, background music, and the low lighting seemed to have the opposite effect on us as well as the other visitors. The “ritual” treatments are divine, though Americans should take note that we were in a public, co-ed space while we were in states of undress for the duration of our massages and exfoliations.

The dressing rooms are sleek and spotless—the lighting is warm, flattering, and the space is well equipped with hair dryers and everything you need to look your best. Overall, we departed from Aire de Barcelona Spa feeling warm, happy, relaxed and radiant.

My rating: 4/5

Recommended For: Couples, Friends in groups of 2-3

How to get there: 22 Passeig Picasso, across from Parc Ciutadella is in Born, an area that is lovely to walk through, and is also close to metro stops Urquinaona, Jaume 1, and Ciutadella.

Cost Range: A bit pricey, but worth it. $$

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