AIRE Ancient Baths have several outposts around the world and opened their London offering in Summer 2021. With the goal of providing city dwellers with the chance to escape the noise and pace, AIRE have chosen an impressively large townhouse (previously the home of the writer J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan while he lived there) which is tucked behind the bustling Strand and right beside the Thames.
Upon entering you quickly forget that you’re in a City at all – calming music floats from the subterranean baths below and attentive staff show you the way in hushed tones. Once ensconced in the changing room, you’re given a locker with a robe to wear over your swimwear and slip-on shoes made from wetsuit material (side note: the latter wasn’t our favourite aspect of the AIRE experience as they stay damp once wet but they are hygienic and more slip proof that flip flops enabling you to wear them throughout the bathing experience). You’re also instructed to leave your phone in your locker because AIRE is a strictly phone-free affair (whoever you are), which is why you may not have been bombarded by your favourite Instagrammers storying their way around it (phew)!
The cellar, which is on the floor below the changing rooms is home to the baths themselves – a series of 7 cavernous, brick rooms all housing a different temperature pool based on the ancient Roman ritual of bathing. There’s the Tepidarium (36ºc), Caldarium (40°c), Frigidarium (14ºC and 10ºC), Vaporium (a steam room scented with Peppermint), Balneum (a “Thousand Jet” bath) – and finally the Flotarium, containing salt water akin to the Dead Sea, allowing you to float in peace. All of it is dimly lit with lanterns and Romanesque-style music, making it almost impossible not to switch off. Selfishly – and albeit against the traditional Roman style of bathing, we missed the presence of a sauna but if steam rooms are your thing you can still flit between warm and cold (there are also showers to refresh in too) and you emerge feeling detoxed and renewed. They always limit the number of people so that you’re also likely to have most of the baths to yourself, which adds an extra layer of luxury and relaxation.
Upstairs are the treatment rooms, where you can choose from an array of massages and scrubs. While you can book to just use the baths, it’s definitely worth booking a treatment too as they all include 2 hours worth of access to the baths. We tried a 60 minute massage that was amazingly blissful.
For emerging back into the real world, the locker rooms are equipped with shampoo and conditioner, body lotion, GHD dryers and handy free hairbrushes and combs, so you can leave feeling and looking renewed.