I was in awe on many occasions of the rich history and tranquility of Sevilla. My visit to the ancient baths was no exception. I had this on my list of “things to do” while visiting the city last year with my flamenco group, but the trip was nearly over by the time a few of us scrambled to make an online reservation.
First, a little history to put the ambiance in perspective. Aire de Sevilla is housed in a 16th century casa palacio, restored 15 years ago by a wealthy viceroy to the Indies. The mansion is built on the foundation of a Roman ruin from the first century AD. Public baths were a customary Arabic tradition inherited from the Byzantine and Romans and were used for hygiene and socializing. With the Christian reconquista, most baths were destroyed, however, the custom remained in Andalucia.
MY EXPERIENCE: Down a narrow alley in Sevilla’s Barrio Santa Cruz, behind the walls of an unassuming sign, lies a place that transports you back in time. Walking in the door to the scent of orange blossom and spice, being served aromatic Arab tea and escorted into a candlelit grotto of connecting rooms, I knew the next 1 1/2 hours was going to be the perfect relaxation I needed at the end of a busy and physically demanding week.
The setting was breathtaking. The various thermal baths and salt pool were surrounded by ancient Roman vaults, mudejar carved ceilings and dark walls lined with small candles and lanterns.
Once we donned our swimsuits, we set about on our route through the thermal springs. We stepped first into a warm water bath and I soon wondered why I needed to move at all. The dimly lit room with the prominent silencio sign was all I needed to close my eyes and relax. But there was more. The hot and cold baths were surprisingly invigorating. A few minutes in the hot water followed by a dip in the ice cold pool made my skin tingle and feel alive. Our next stop was the Thousand Jet Stream room, a hydrotherapy pool filled with pockets of carved-out concrete perfectly sized for sitting in while the jets pulsated against your neck, back and legs. I dare say we lingered here the longest. The jets just felt so good massaging our sore bodies. When we finally decided to continue on, we made our way to the steam bath or Hammam.
It was super relaxing and I was beginning to feel the contrast of all the treatments thus far. The final stop on the thermal bath tour was the underground salt pool. It was encased by an ancient style brick wall and you really felt you were below the earths surface with the temperature of the room and faint lighting. Floating through the salted water brought me to a state of mental and physical bliss.
To round out the spa-like adventure, we indulged in a 15 minute massage of our back, legs, arms, feet and head. Ok, now THIS was heaven! I am not a massage connoisseur but this ranks up there as the best I’ve ever had. For only 15 minutes, it was thorough and not at all rushed as we lay in a separate massage room that held the same ancient tranquility as the other rooms.
The icing on the cake? This 90 minute session was only 54 euros! (There are numerous packages available for different price ranges). I am so glad we did not miss this opportunity. The therapeutic and respiratory health benefits are reason enough to visit this hidden escape in Sevilla. The staff was courteous, the experience was calming and luxurious and they thought of everything with the amenities – after your session, you’ll find a fully stocked bathroom with all the items needed to shower and dress for your next unique adventure in Sevilla. Next time, I will enjoy the rooftop infinity pool and wine bath!
(photos courtesy of Aire de Sevilla http://www.airedesevilla.com/en/)