by Vivian Holding
Winter is the time of year that the many spas and hammams in and around Geneva, truly come into their own.
Whether you’re on a budget or you enjoy a luxury experience with all the trimmings, you’ll find a warm, steamy spot of TLC to suit your taste. After over 13 years of living here, I would like to share some of my favourites with you.
LA RESERVE – The luxury option
(lareserve.ch) 301 route de Lausanne, Bellevue, 1293 Genève
Certainly not in the budget bracket, but well worth a visit. This was my birthday treat recently and I loved every minute of it. The hotel is a 10-minute drive from the centre of Geneva and has a very laid back, country club feel to it. On the day of my visit in late September, I experienced their ‘Escape Day’ package. This included a sauna or hammam, a 20-minute balneotherapy session, a 30-minute body scrub with Bora Bora sand, an hour Maori body wrap with mango butter, followed by a one hour all over body massage. Once I’d surfaced from this absolute bliss, I was ready for lunch.
We were lucky to still be able to enjoy lunch alfresco in the Café Lauren, attached to the spa. With just 25 covers, it offers a calm, intimate environment (we were still in our towelling robes!). Our lunch was freshly prepared by their chef, who uses healthy, light and perfumed ingredients to create a deliciously healthy and creative menu.
We enjoyed the most delicious starter of gazpacho with a light mustard mousse, followed by a mains of pan fried fish with a risotto of vegetables and topped off by a dessert which was a light chocolate mousse with fresh red fruits. After lunch, we took a moment to relax by their beautiful pool, followed by a swim and the final two treatments – a manicure and pedicure. I walked out feeling as if I was floating on air, my skin felt silky and soft and I felt well and truly pampered. So, to score serious brownie points, book your loved one in for a spa day or treat yourself to a day of luxury.
Try not to wince at the cost: 680chf for the full day, including lunch.
BAINBLEU – The mid-budget option
(bain-bleu.ch) Port Noir, Cologny, 1223 Genève
This is a newbie in town (opened in November 2015). Once you enter through the glass sliding doors, you’ll find yourself in a haven of peace and tranquillity. There are three separate areas – bains (pools), hammam and spa.
Entrance to the BAINS (pool areas) is very reasonable, considering there are no time limits. 28chf per adult, 14chf per child (6-15), free for children under 6 years old (if you like your spa experience without kids, opt for the adult only times).
There are five areas to explore within the BAINS – in the basement closest to the changing rooms, is the Bain Mythique, my personal favourite area. It has super high ceilings and Moroccan lamps reflecting a mystical light onto the water and around the walls, hidden corners and niches, massaging water jets, jacuzzis and a rain shower. The Bain Vapeur (steam room) is scented with aromatic herbs that purify your skin. The Bain sur le Toit (rooftop pool) overlooks Genève Plage. Jacuzzis, Bubble Beds and powerful massaging water jets allow you to completely immerse yourself in the fresh air, whilst enjoying the view of the lake and mountains. The Bistro/Lounge offers a delicious selection of sandwiches, quiches, salads, desserts and drinks in either their indoor café overlooking the rooftop pool or in summer time, on their decked area next to the rooftop pool. The Espaces Détente (relaxing areas) have sun loungers in both their solarium area (indoors) or on their terrace next to the rooftop pool.
The HAMMAM area costs 42chf (which includes access to the pool areas) and offers a hammam towel, dressing gown, Kessa (a massaging glove) and a refreshing tea. There are six different areas to explore on a circuit lasting a minimum of 1½ hours (15 minutes in each area). Again you are not time limited, so you can spend as little or as long as you want in each area.
The first stage in the humid zone is a warm steam room with aromatic herbs, which prepares you for the second stage, the gommage (scrub) area. Using the Kessa (glove) that you have been given, you are free to use either the unisex or ladies only rooms to remove any dead skin you may have. For an additional few chfs, you can purchase a block of black soap (a 100% vegetable paste made of olive oil, eucalyptus essential oil and salt) which when applied to your skin in circular motions, leaves your skin smooth and glowing. At this point, you can pre-reserve a 25 or 50 minute traditional scrub massage, otherwise continue onto the third stage which is relaxing in the large main hammam pool, surrounded by candlelight and then take the time to relax on the adjacent heated floored area. The fourth stage is a steam room, scented with essential oils, which aids detoxification. Following on from this is the fifth stage, which is relaxing in the main central pool or lying on the heated flooring area. An option to enjoy a DIY Oriental Rhassoul body wrap at this point is available (pre-reservation needed). A room is reserved for this treatment which you do yourself. The body wrap helps detoxify your skin and leaves your skin feeling soft and radiant. Time recommended for this treatment is 25 minutes.
The last stage of the hammam involves relaxing in the dry area on the second floor. A bathrobe is available for you to rest in the oriental lounge, on mattresses covered with rugs and cushions. Traditional tea and flavoured water is made available at this point, as well the the option of purchasing something from their Café which serves both sweet and savoury Mediterranean style food and snacks.
Access to Genève Plage is available for an additional 2chf (May to September). Adult time only daily from 6.00pm-9.30pm. Ladies only hammam every Tuesday (over 16s). Special After Work Evenings as well as special events such as beauty days take place, see their website for further details.
BAINS DE PAQUIS – The budget option
The SAUNA, HAMMAM and TURKISH BATH of the Bains de Paquis offers two mixed saunas, one mixed Turkish bath, one mixed hammam and one female-only hammam.
Winter tariffs (September to the end of May – Monday to Saturday 9am-9.30pm, Sunday 8am-9.30pm). Last entrance at 8.30pm. Adults 20chf. Reduced price on Monday night 13chf. Special offer of 11 entrances for 150chf.
Remember to bring two large towels with you, or alternatively you can rent them for 5chf each. The hammams are open also during summer from 10am-7pm, the 10chf entrance price includes the rental of a towel. Tuesdays are reserved exclusively for women.
If you’re brave enough you can enjoy a dip into the freezing lake after warming up in the sauna or hammam.
MASSAGES are available via the association Mains de Bains, which was established in 1994. It brings together 15 independent male and female professionals to offer you reasonably priced massages (50 minutes 65chf. Payment in cash only).
Massages available include:
- Classic Massage/Sport Massage To relieve tension and to balance body functions.
- Reflexology Mainly feet but sometimes hands are massaged to give a stimulating or calming effect on the various organs, systems or joints.
- Baby Massage (please specify clearly when booking) For young parents to learn how to massage their child. This massage helps to relieve tension, colic, sleep disturbances or ailments related to teething. Helps promote parent-child relationship.
- Lymphatic Drainage A gentle movement on the whole body or a specific part, to stimulate the lymphatic circulation. Strengthens the immune system, improves the elimination of toxins, sleep quality and provides mental relaxation. Is suitable for pregnant women from the third month of pregnancy.
- Shiatsu Japanese massage that involves pressure on the meridians, by movements and stretching. Improves energy balance and allows you to feel a sense of deep relaxation and wellness.
Massages available from 1st January to 31 December from 9.30am-9pm (please try to book one week in advance). Gift vouchers available. Reservations by telephone only on 022 731 41 34 (Monday to Friday 9am-1pm). Additional 2chf entrance fee to the Bains in the summer season. On Fridays from 1pm a notice on the board of the Rotonde shows any spaces that are available for massages that day or for available weekend massages, as well as times available on the following Monday morning. You can sign up for them, leaving a 20chf deposit.
Food is available at the café, which serves reasonably priced lunches, snacks and drinks as well as delicious fondues in Winter (11.30am-11pm).