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An Urban Bathhouse Joins the SF Spa Scene

Archimedes Banya

Photo courtesy of Archimedes Banya

From natural hot springs to Kabuki Springs to posh Burke Williams spa, San Franciscans love to prune their digits in hot tubs, sweat out stress in a dry sauna, and melt away worries in a steam bath. Now, there’s another addition to the spa scene, but it’s definitely unlike any other spa you have experienced in the Bay.

Spend a few hours at the Archimedes Banya and you’ll be transported across the world. The four-story “thinking person’s gathering place” in Hunter’s Point houses one part Russian sauna, one part Turkish Hammam, one part Finnish dry sauna, one part Japanese furo soaking tubs, two roof decks, relaxation rooms, and traditional spa services including massages and facials. 

If you’ve experienced a venik platza before, then you’re probably an anomaly (and certainly must have a good story behind it). This Russian body treatment is not for the weak of heart. An experienced practitioner (who just may happen to be a young 6’6” former Olympic decathlete from Belarus) uses “veniks,” i.e. tree branches, to massage you while lying on the top shelf of a massive steam room with 16-foot high ceilings. It’s hot. And yes, I said tree branches. You’re really just going to have to see this for yourself.

Don’t fear though, because an icy, heart-stopping cold plunge pool is nearby and absolutely necessary after the venik platza. A relaxing next step is to partake in the traditional Turkish hamam. It may sound bizarre, but having somebody scrub you down with an exfoliating loofah mitt followed by a full body wash is a pretty sublime 30 minutes or so (and that somebody may or may not be a young 6’6” former Olympic decathlete from Belarus).

Clothing is optional for the hammam, and the spa also offers both clothed and clothing-optional areas, so you can strip down during your spa frolicking or choose to stay far away from the naked.  Check the website for their various men- and women-only clothing-optional times.

In between soaking and sweating, patrons can take advantage of two fabulous roof decks with sweeping views of San Francisco and the Bay. The wide leather armchairs in the relaxation rooms are ideal for naps, and private VIP rooms and Jacuzzis are available for an hourly rental. The Banya is definitely not a bad spot for occasions like a bridal shower, bachelor party, or retreat of some sort.

Not surprisingly, there is a huge array of standard spa services available. Massages, facials, waxing, body scrubs, aromatherapy, herbal baths, mineral extract baths, and body wraps are on the menu and can be booked for an additional fee. 

There’s also a restaurant on site that serves up organic, seasonal, international cuisine including specialties like fresh juices, Borscht (a rich magenta beet soup), smoked meats and fish, and a must-try Russian specialty soup of olives and three types of meat. As they await a liquor license, the Banya is strictly BYOB and they are more than happy to chill your booze while you soak.

The jovial mastermind behind the spa is a mathematician boasting two Ph.D’s and was a former statistics professor at Berkeley. The Banya was his dream and he spent over a decade making it a reality. His passion for the place is obvious; it’s impossible not to notice the ornate tile work and detailed murals, the international staff’s calm interaction with guests, and how meticulously clean, airy, and friendly the Banya is without being intrusive.

There is certainly no place like the Archimedes Banya in Northern California. It’s well worth your while to give it a try. Your skin, body, and mind will be grateful.

First-time patrons - $20 for a three-hour pass. $35 regularly. Open Weds-Thurs, 12 p.m. – midnight. Fri-Sat 12 p.m.- 2 a.m., Sun 10 a.m. – midnight. Closed Mon and Tues. 748 Innes Ave, (415) 206-9000, info@banyasf.com.