A Breath of Fresh AIRE in Chicago

by Cathy Demetropoulos
Editor-at-Large, Chicago Bride

Are you ready to experience a unique, relaxing and intimate experience with your spouse-to-be? Or perhaps you're planning a pre-honeymoon excursion or looking for a weekend getaway before the big day?

Welcome to the AIRE Ancient Baths experience.

Chicago recently became the host recipient of AIRE Ancient Baths, a European bath house experience, and I couldn't be more excited. So, I booked a visit with my significant other and off we went to experience the allure of ancient bath houses. Here's what to expect if you go...

The entrance to AIRE Ancient Baths Chicago
AIRE Ancient Baths began in Spain with locations in Barcelona, Sevilla and Almeria and has now moved into New York, Chicago and London with upcoming locations planned for 2019 in Paris and Copenhagen.

Since bath houses are more of a thing of yesteryear, the intrigue here is that you are going back in time and experiencing something that began in ancient civilizations yet sorely needed in today's fast-pace, harried lifestyle. As the brochure describes, "Each AIRE is unique and adapts to the context in which it is located, but always sharing a common foundation: to recuperate the ancient tradition of baths as places to relax [with] sensory experiences inspired by ancient civilizations."

AIRE aims to make the experience as authentic as possible, starting with carefully choosing and designing the buildings the baths are housed in. In Chicago, it happens to be a restored factory from the late 19th century, located near the intersection of Halsted Street and Chicago Avenue. It has been restored to reveal all-exposed brick walls and columns, original ceiling beams and other historical elements.

Stone fountain from 16th century Andalucia, Spain
Main entrance

After doing my research on their website (www.https://beaire.com/en/aire-ancient-baths-chicago/experiencias/) I chose to experience AIRE with my husband as the ambiance and service is exceptionally designed to experience as a couple.

Upon arrival and signing a standard health disclosure, we were each ushered into our locker rooms where a staff member was awaiting to assign me a personal locker complete with a luxurious robe and water slippers that I was told needed to remain on at all times while in the baths - even in the water. I was also told that cell phones were not allowed inside - which I was secretly happy about. After all, I was here to relax.

I had been told via my email booking confirmation that the only thing we needed to bring was a swimsuit; everything else would be provided for us. In fact, in the women's locker room, a beauty prep counter with large oversized mirrors contained Q-tips, hair dryers, straightening irons, hairspray, deodorant, individually wrapped razors and hair brushes, makeup wipes (because you don't want to go into the baths with makeup and come out smear-faced) and the locker room hostess even offered to dry my bathing suit in a little spinning device, wrap it into a plastic Ziploc bag and present it to me at my locker. Showers and counters are also stocked with L'Occitane shampoo, conditioner and body lotions.

After slipping into my suit, robe and water slippers complete with non-skid grips, I was ushered in through another door and onto a walkway that connected the men's and women's locker rooms, where I met my husband and together, we took in the bird's eye view of the bath house and immersed ourselves in the multi-sensory ambiance.

View from the top - The Flotarium and Indoor-Outdoor pool

Your senses are immediately greeted with calming scents and meditative music emanating throughout the dimly lit interior, lit only by hundreds of candles and the soft lighting coming from the steam rooms and windows that are carefully placed high enough for privacy and so not to disturb the experience.

We descended down the candle-lit steps to the baths, where we were greeted by another staff member who, in an expected soothing voice, gave us a tour of the various baths and steam rooms. She informed us that all guests are required to shower before entering the baths, but this is not just any shower; we were encouraged to grab generous handfuls of sea salt off a heaping tabletop mound and rub it into our skin before rinsing off. This left my skin feelings soft, moisturized and ready to indulge.

There is no particular order for how you use the various pools, so we decided to start with the Thousand Jet pool, which hydro-massaged the knots out and relaxed our bodies for the overall relaxing experience to follow. We alternated between The Tepidarium (warm pool), The Calderium (hot pool) and The Frigidarium (a 57 degrees cold pool). The latter pool comes in handy after a good steam in one of the two Laconicums (a lavender or eucalyptus infused steam room). The most popular and my personal favorite was The Flotarium (salt-water pool) which has the same density of the Dead Sea that lifts your body into floatation position and induces effortless mental relaxation. In this pool, the zen music is also piped in via underwater speakers that allow you to hear while emerged and floating! The warm Indoor-Outdoor pool allows you to transition outside near a beautiful waterfall as you gaze up into the Chicago sky.  Finally, the relaxation area allows you to hydrate with lemon-infused water or herbal tea or choose one of three juices which are made fresh to order for $12.

The number of guests are limited to only a few couples at a time to ensure a quiet, non-chaotic experience. As such, SILENCE signs placed throughout the massive brick interior, reminding guests that this is a multi-sensory relaxation experience. The baths experience lasts for two hours. A staff member rings a soft chiming bell every hour to remind you of the time. Guests can also choose to incorporate 30, 45 or 60-minute massages (for which you'll be taken to a separate room) or their choose between three AIRE signature experiences: the Four Handed exfoliation and massage,  the Wine Bath soak and full body massage and the Himalayan Salt Experience exfoliation and massage.

AIRE Ancient Baths, 800 W. Superior St., Chicago. | 312-945-7414


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