We Got Hit With Twigs And We Liked It! What Went Down At London’s Finest Russian Spa

What do Justin Bieber, Kate Moss, Bridget Jones and Jamie Laing all have in common? They’ve all enjoyed getting hit with hot birch, oak and eucalyptus twigs by a lovely semi-naked Russian man at the Banya No.1 Russian Bath Club near Old Street.

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We were greeted with towels and an extremely flattering felt hat and, once we’d changed into something (or nothing… but we chose ‘something’) we were then shown around the spa. We soon came to realise this is so much more than an average London watering place. First of all, everyone is Russian, including all the other guests. Second, this Central London sanctuary is not only an authentic retreat made of real wood and exposed brick, but it is also a magical place where you can order both vodka and pancakes with red caviar…

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After three rounds of the famous Banya sauna, a reluctant (but surprisingly reinvigorating) plunge in the ice-cold pool and a rest (i.e. a well-needed rehydration break) with sparkling beetroot juice and herbal tea… our sweet Russian man came to collect us for the main event, the Parenie. 

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Nothing could prepare us for the pressure of extremely hot twigs on our bare skin while lying on a structure that brings to mind Aslan’s Stone Table from The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. Nothing could interrupt the steady stream of splashes of fluids and hot brush strokes (except maybe the occasional visit from a woman who ladled cold water into the 700 degree cast iron and authentic brick furnace). The sound of steam intensified our boosted blood circulation and the release of tension and stress that quickly occurred… 

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Once the bizarre love-it-or-hate-it hitting was over (we loved it, by the way), we were told to stand underneath a large bucket of freezing cold water, and had it poured over our entire bodies. Twice. We were then directed to plop into the plunge pool and put our heads underwater before sitting on a stone step wrapped in a towel for a few minutes. To relax…


Finally, we returned to our well-deserved tea and sparkling beetroot juice, feeling so intensely chilled that we might have mistakenly gotten on the wrong tube home. Maybe… 

(Feature Image: Instagram)

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