01 of 06
Hammam Pacha: From Paris to Marrakesh by Metro?
Hammam signifies "hot bath" in Arabic, and across the Middle East and in Turkey, the tradition of taking a steambath followed by a vigorous exfoliating scrub, dip in a cold pool and a relaxing nap are an integral part of the culture. The tradition has gained increasing popularity in France, and in Paris, hammams provide a welcome retreat to stressed city-dwellers who need to unplug from the speed of daily life for a few hours.
Read related feature: Best and Most Relaxing Hammam Spas in Paris
Stepping into Hammam Pacha, a spa and beauty center exclusively reserved for women and located near Montparnasse in Paris, you feel as if you've been transported to North Africa. Turquoise, yellow and burnt red mosaics pattern the walls, as the scents of mint tea and black soap saturate your senses. At the entrance, you’ll meet one of the friendly staff members, who will explain to you the various beauty plans Hammam Pacha has in store for you. Packages range from the most basic – which includes full access to the bath, sauna and steam room – to the most extravagant, complete with body scrub, massage, facial, seaweed wrap, and a meal when you’re finished bathing and lounging.
- All essentials are provided: towel, sandals and robe
- Clean and hygienic
- Helpful staff
- Women-only: pro if you're a woman who feels uncomfortable in "mixed" spa environments
- Slight assembly line effect during beauty treatments such as massage and facial
- No bathrooms in the locker room, meaning you must go back into the bathing area after dressing
- Women-only: con if you're a man and a spa fan
- Gets boisterous and loud on weekends-- try mornings during the week if you're chatter-averse
Practical Information and Contacts:
Address: 17 Rue Mayet, 6th arrondissement
Telephone: +33 (0)1 43 06 55 55
Opening Times and Hours: Monday through Wed, 11am-8pm; Thurs-Fri 11am-11pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-8pm.
Visit the official website
Price range: Check current rates for packages at this page
What to Bring:
- Swimsuit (two piece, preferably)
- Hair tie, if you don’t want to get your hair wet
- Shampoo and conditioner, if you plan to wash your hair at any point
What to Leave at Home (Provided by the Spa):
Continue to 2 of 6 below.
- Body soap
02 of 06
The Hammam Experience: Preparing the Skin and Senses
Before heading into the hammam itself, you're given a wristband with your locker number and key. You're also provided with a robe and sandals, a small bottle of traditional black soap (made from olive kernel) and a rough mit used for the exfoliating scrub later on. For those receiving a facial, a complementary Argan oil cream is provided.
Read related: More Relaxing Hammams in Paris
In the locker room, I was instructed to leave all my belongings except for my towel and the scrubbing washcloth and black soap. After changing, and with my wristband in hand, staff member Fathi led me through double doors into the mysterious depths of the hammam. The air became foggy, the black soap smells grew stronger, and an air of tranquility relaxed my shoulders almost immediately. While many hammams suggest that you go topless or even nude, most of the women at Hammam Pacha wore their bathing suits. If you choose to wear one, a two-piece is recommended, since some of the treatments require you to remove your top.
Inside the main bathing area are showers, a rectangular pool with tepid water and massaging water vents, a large steam room and a sauna. Laying out my towel on the octagonal marble platform in the center, I was instructed to rub the black soap over myself and let it soak for a few minutes before rinsing. From there, the hammam is your oyster. You are free to wander between the different rooms and pool, or to simply hang out on the marble centerpiece relaxing in the humid calm.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
The Exfoliating Scrub
Before long, my name was called for the traditional exfoliating body scrub. I was led by one of the swimsuit-clad staff before hoisting myself up onto a white-tiled table. From there, I winced as the intense washcloth ripped through my dead skin, leaving me baby-soft. After a good rinse and a soak in the pool, I spent as much time as I could physically stand in the steam room and sauna. Be sure you know your physical limits before entering these rooms – for some, the humid heat will be impossible to bear, for others the dry heat will be difficult. A good plan is to spend five minutes in each until you know what you can handle. If you’re feeling faint, return to the pool, where the cool water will refresh you, or to the adjoining resting area.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
In another room, I was given my 15-minute massage. Here, assuming you opted for the pricier package which includes the massage, you will have the choice between orange flower or argan oil-- the latter has a nutty odor. Make sure you choose well, because your skin will likely hold onto this scent for at least two days. From the tips of my toes to my cheeks and head, I was put into a completely zen state.
However, don’t even think about being greedy time-wise. Your masseuse will remind you frankly that you only have 15 minutes in heaven, and not a minute more. There is something oddly "assembly line" about the additional Hammam services here, which will be checked off a clipboard or on your wristband when provided. However, the staff are very friendly and will help you find your way around, especially if, like me, you’ve taken off your glasses and can’t see much through the fog.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
The Argan Oil-Facial and Resting Room Experience
After another round in the bathing area, I was ready for my facial in the resting area, where you can lounge on tatami mats and white pillows for as long as you like.
A rather slippery argan oil was used on my face, upper body and hair to relax me even further. While I appreciated the oily massage, I didn’t necessarily enjoy so much oil in my face and hair. After lying around for 20 minutes following the facial (and even falling asleep at one point, in my serene state) I ultimately decided to go back inside the bathing area and wash off some of the oil. If you need the restroom at this point, you’ll need to go back into the hammam, or into the restaurant area near the lobby, which is rather inconvenient since there isn’t one in the locker room.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
The Restaurant - and My Bottom Line
Another brief rest rounded out my hammam experience before dressing and heading to the dining area in the lobby. I chose a chicken tajine, among the fish or vegetarian options, and there is also a salad on offer. A drink came with my meal, as did a choice of desserts : honey-coated pastries, fruit, cream pudding or a chocolate muffin. The sweet mint tea is definitely recommended to polish off your meal.
My Bottom Line?
All in all, this was a lovely hammam experience in central Paris. However, don’t be fooled into thinking of this as solely relaxing. Traditionally, hammams are places where women come together to talk and laugh. Coming on the weekend promises to be a much more rowdy experience than mid-day, mid-week. Plan to spend at least two hours here, if not more, depending on which beauty package you choose. And you’ll be happy to know that your scrub cloth, soaps and creams are yours to take home, along with all those pleasant memories. A final piece of advice : keep your post-hammam plans subdued. You’ll probably find that simply staying awake until bedtime will be a challenge after such a truly calming experience.