Both women and men in North Africa and Turkey have long enjoyed the ritual steambath or hammam: a term which now designates not only the hot steam room itself, but the haven of calm that also generally includes cold and tepid pools, a separate area for sloughing of dead skin with the aid of a rough mitt and black soap, and a dimly lit room filled with cushions where you can take a nap or sip mint tea after bathing.
In part due to France's former colonial presence in North Africa, the hammam tradition has since become a staple of French urban "bien être" (well-being). These are among the best Paris has to offer.
This remains my favorite hammam in Paris. Located in a nondescript corner in the city's northeast, the Hammam Medina Center looks unassuming, but as soon as you walk in, the colorful tile mosaics, heady smell of argan oil and mint tea, and friendly service whisk you into a realm of relaxation and warmth. I've also found this hammam has the best price-quality ratio: for less than 40 Euros, indulge in steambath and (dry) sauna, swimming pool, exfoliating treatment, tea and oriental pastry. You can stay for hours, and amenities are clean and spacious.
- Address:43-45 rue Petit, 19th arrondissement
- Metro: Ourcq
- Tel: +33 (0)1 42 02 31 05
- Open: Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sun 9am-7pm (women-only); men and women Sat 10am-9pm (bathing suit required)
2. Hammam Pacha
The Hammam Pacha was a popular spot in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis-- so much so that the owner recently opened a second location near Montparnasse in Paris. About.com Paris Travel Contributor Colette Davidson and I spent an afternoon indulging our senses at this newer address, which is a notch or two up in luxury but also more expensive than the Hammam Medina. Overall, an excellent retreat from daily stresses, or a great "day trip" for those of you on vacation in Paris. It's women only, though, so unfortunately for the men among you looking for a hammam experience in Paris, you'll have to look elsewhere (read further on for more suggestions).
Perhaps the best-known of the Paris hammams and open to both women and men (albeit at different times), the hammam at the Mosquee de Paris features beautiful tile mosaics, marble, and porphyry fountain. The bright, airy and colorful adjoining tearoom is very pleasant, and often visited by birds. The prices are reasonable and you can stay as long as you like, but there are fewer frills here.
- Address: 39 rue Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, 5th arrond.
- Metro: Gare d'Austerlitz
- Tel: +33 (0)1 43 31 38 20
- Open: Women- Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sat, 10am-9pm; Men- Tues 2pm-9pm; Sun 10am-9pm.
Nestled in a courtyard off of bustling Rue St. Lazare near Paris' department stores district is a luxurious getaway aimed at couples or friends wishing to share a moment of relaxation together. Dominated by teal and aubergine shades, the Escale Orientale hammam and institute is small but very elegant and discreet, and offers several high-end treatments. If you want the hammam experience but prefer intimacy and quiet to the more public setting of other hammams, or are looking for a higher calibre when it comes to beauty treatments, this is an excellent place to try, as I discovered soon after the concept opened in 2007.
- Address: 94 rue St Lazare, 9th arrondissement (Metro St Lazare)
- Tel: +33 (0) 148 78 20 69
- Open: By appointment only