One of the biggest perks of being a beauty editor? That I get invited to review spas and hotels on a regular basis. One of the downsides? That I rarely go back to places twice… but when I do – that means I REALLY loved it there!
One of those magical places is definitely right in my home town of Zurich, Switzerland: A few months ago, I finally got around to visiting a relatively new spa – or rather, a Hammam! If you’re not familiar with the term: A «hamam» (or «hammam») is traditionally a turkish bath house where you spend a few hours being scrubbed and washed and steamed-up from head to toe… and, traditionally, a great place for women to gossip for hours on end!
As I was kind of unfamiliar with the whole process (wait! getting naked in front of a bunch of strangers? no waaaay!), I was very glad that the Hammam Basar in Zurich has a whole section on their website dedicated to the ritual of Hamam, and what a visit at their beautiful new location entails.
But enough talk… let’s go check it out together, okay? And don’t worry: You don’t even need to undress!
As a hamam visit should be a social experience, I grabbed my partner-in-beauty-crime, Katrin of The Beauty Experience blog… fittingly, on a very chilly winter’s day…
The Hammam Basar is set in Zurich’s Seefeld district, about ten minutes from Bellevue and about 15 minutes by tram (Number 4) from the main train station Hauptbahnhof. The building itself really stands out, architecturally speaking, and is set in the beautiful (public) Patumba Park. It was built according to a very strict set of environmentally sustainable rules, wherein every detail was inspired by the Maghreb tribe of Morocco, as an oasis of calm, «for purification and regeneration».
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE «HAMMAM BASAR»:
Once you step inside, you can either head directly to the reception desk, or off to the left: The in-house café and restaurant (the «Salon») serves excellent tea and a lovely selection of food, all prepared according to Ayurvedic principles – and truly delicious! Katrin and I had a pot of fresh mint tea, yum!
By the way, the Basar, right next to the café, sells a great selection of organic skincare products, arts and crafts from Morocco, lamps and various decorative objects. We kind of tried to stall, but there was no more avoiding the fact that we were here to get naked and Hammam!
For 48 Swiss Francs (roughly 50 US$), you get full access to a «round tour» of the Hammam process, including all the stuff you’ll need for your stay (as in: a bathrobe, specially disinfected wooden clogs, peeling mud and all towels), which is pretty cool, as you can also stop by on a whim. Or, as they say on their website: «All you need for your visit is some time.»
After getting changed, you click-clack your way upstairs to the Hammam itself. And yes, you’re naked, but wrapped up in a beautiful, huge Foutah (traditional 100% cotton towels). They recommend that you have at least two hours of free time to enjoy the whole experience, which includes relaxing and cooling off in the beautiful Quiet Room. Which isn’t hard at ALL… I mean, LOOK!
And then, to our relief, we’re greeted by a lovely employee, who explains the entire Hammam process first!
Among the utensils you’re given, there is a piece of Savon Noir, a kind of soap paste, which you apply (yourself!) all over your body in the first room of the Hammam, the «warmth room» – your starting point. You quickly shower it off, either by using the big rubber bucket supplied in huge gushes of warm water, or in the shower area. And yes, you can use cold water, if you want
After you’ve washed yourself and chilled out a bit in the Warm Room (it’s very warm, but not «hot»), you head into the «Heissraum», the hot room, to sweat and detoxify.
After a maximum of ten minutes, it’s back to the Warm Room for a lie-down (you can wrap yourself in your Fouta, if you want) and a chat… it’s really not at all a problem if you want to talk in here… you can wash yourself again. And then you scrub your body with a special glove, kind of like a loofah (also supplied and then thrown away)… and then it’s time for the highlight of a Hammam visit, and my own personal nightmare.
Ta DAAAAA, it’s MUD!
Okay, it’s not actually mud. And it’s not chocolate pudding either… it’s Rhassoul!
In the first Hammam room, there’s a small metal bowl, filled with this special clay paste, which is applied all over the body (and even hair, if you want!). It should stay on the skin for about ten minutes, basically to pull out the rest of the toxins out of the body.
Fun fact: It looks pretty silly. And if you spread the Rhassoul on your face, too*, maybe you shouldn’t talk as much as Katrin and I did (ewww!). But I swear, your skin is so crazy soft after you shower it off! As off-putting as I found applying it – and sitting around covered in it – I absolutely loved my soft, tight skin afterwards!
*Don’t do this if you have sensitive skin, as the essential oils in the Rhassoul can be a bit much for it!
This is the closest I will ever come to posting a nude photo of myself online. Just sayin’!
We’re almost done with our Hammam circuit. After the whole Heat-Steam-Sweat-Cleansing experience, you wrap yourself in another oversized, blissfully dry cotton towel (your foutah is covered in mud by now!) and head back to the Quiet Room for a last «just-lie-here-and-don’t-think-at-ALL» session, during which I very nearly fell asleep.
Good thing they came to get me, as Katrin and I had previously booked a 50-minute massage, which really was the perfect way to top the whole relaxing experience. I was already so chilled out and «clean», and was then thoroughly «kneaded through» for nearly an hour. My massage therapist Ricardo used a beautifully scented organic almond oil and a combination of Thai, Lomi Lomi and various other massage techniques. All in all, it turned out to be one of the best massages I’ve ever had!
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF MY FIRST HAMMAM VISIT:
On one hand, it was the architechture of the entire building, which really omits a total sense of peace, and plays beautifully with light and shadow throughout. The other surprise was the «Salon» – a really fabulous café and restaurant that I previously hadn’t even been aware of and that is a really lovely place to meet up for an afternoon tea, a lunch or (hey, they’re open daily until 10 PM!) even a dinner date!
I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical whether I would enjoy this whole experience, as I’m totally not a sauna or steam room person, but I really loved the whole experience – and have since even been back TWICE. I can really recommend the Hammam Basar in Zurich for a very luxurious treat for yourself on dreary day!
Hammam Basar, Mühlebachstrasse 157-159, 8008 Zurich.
Open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM, but it’s for women only from Tuesday to Friday and Sunday, men are welcome on Saturdays and Mondays. Enquiries and reservations on the website or by phone at (+41) 044 382 90 60.