Keeping Fit and Healthy
- Jun. 09 2015 00:00
In St. Petersburg
The northern capital has plenty of fitness centers and sports halls, and far more public bathhouses than Moscow. But life in the far north, where the sun barely rises for half the year and the damp cold coming off the Neva River wreak havoc on your appearance, requires special care and a bit of indulgence. Here are a few places to help you restore your health and good spirits.
The main reason to go to the Bliss Spa in the W St. Petersburg Hotel is not the champagne and brownie you enjoy as you decompress and get ready for your treatment. And it's not the pool; or the cool, modern décor; or the Bliss Products on sale (so you don't have to fill your suitcase with them on your next trip abroad). And it's not even the fact that the staff makes you feel like a movie star no matter how bad your Russian is and no matter how little you look like a fashion model. The main reason to go is that the specialists do an excellent job, be it a massage, a facial, a manicure or a waxing. And you leave feeling like a billion rubles.
Crystal Spa and Lounge
In the center of St Petersburg is the Crystal Spa and Lounge, the city's first East-meets-West spa and wellness center. With décor that is light and luxurious with hints of 19th century Russian palaces — and a bit of Morocco and the Orient in some of the treatment areas — it offers a full health assessment and an array of treatments: hydrotherapy, massage and manual therapy; a fitness room for individual use; cosmetology and hair salon; a thermal suite with a steam room and heated marble table. Unlike other spas, the lounge isn't just a place to sit and wait for your treatment, but a restaurant where light and nourishing cuisine can be sampled. You can sign up on your own or through the concierges at the nearby Corinthia Hotel and Trezzini Palace Hotel.
Luceo Spa, Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace
For an elegant spa experience that verges on decadent, consider an afternoon at the Luceo Spa in the Four Seasons Hotel. The hotel is housed in the "Lion Palace" — so called because of the stone lions guarding the entrance — built in 1820. It has been both meticulously restored and glamorously updated, with the spa area on four floors in the triangular courtyard within the palace walls. The spa is both modern, with spacious rooms and clean lines, and luxurious, with gold damask armchairs and silken throws. All the treatments are sumptuous — a gold facial, an amber body wrap — and performed impeccably. Be sure to come well before your appointment to enjoy the pool, sauna, steam room and fitness center.
The Kazachy bathhouse is the oldest in the city — built in 1879 by a merchant on four principles: luxury, convenience, hygiene and cleanliness. These four qualities have kept this early health center in good stead to this day. The banya has six floors of steam rooms, pools, relaxation rooms, banquet halls, showers, and baths, from large public steam rooms to intimate deluxe halls for you and your close friends. You can get a massage, have your nails done, sing karaoke, get a haircut, watch TV, and† even have your pants altered. If it's healthy, useful or relaxing — you can do at the Kazachy Banya. This must-do-once place may easily become a weekly ritual.
According to locals, one of the best medical services for expats — and not only expats — in the northern capital is Euromed. Founded in 1999 by a doctor with both Russian and American education and medical licenses, it has been the city's ever-expanding place to go for medical care for over a decade. Euromed has emergency services, a special pediatric clinic, and a 24/7 multiple-purpose medical center — all operating by international standards of care and treatment. Euromed has English speakers and access to interpreters working with dozens of languages, and extensive experience dealing with insurance companies and the bureaucracy associated with a medical emergency for a business or tourist traveler.
Not long ago joggers in Moscow were a rarity, bicycles were used only at the dacha, and exercise was performed in factory or business-owned sports facilities on equipment that was manufactured when miniskirts were first in style.
Now there are hundreds of modern fitness centers, thousands of trained sports and fitness experts, bikes for rent all over the city, and lots of spaces for exercise and fitness, from yoga in the parks to parkour routes. We figure our readers already know how to get and stay fit. So here are some suggestions for where to go when you need some extra help, from the medical to the metaphysical.
Entering the Mandara Spa at the Lotte Hotel is a bit like entering a luxurious grotto: the loud and jagged city disappears in the comfort of curved stone walls, warm wood, and soft linen. The spa, which was named Best Luxury Hotel Spa in Russia by World Luxury Spa Awards for 2015, combines Asian and European traditions, mixing science with the metaphysical to cleanse, firm, and rejuvenate. You leave feeling like you've been on a very healthy, pampered vacation.
You're in Russia. You must go to the banya (bath house) at least once. But your friends tell you that it has to be the real thing, preferably made of rough-hewn wood, with a wood-burning stove. And you need experienced attendants who know how to produce the perfect steam and which branches should be used to increase your circulation and clean out your lymphatic system without hurting your skin. If you think you need to leave the city, think again. There is a real Siberian-style banya smack in the center of the city right off one its most expensive and elite shopping streets, Stoleshnikov pereulok. Sessions are individual and private, lasting from about 90 minutes to over three hours.
Thai Pattera Spa
When Russian tourists discovered package tours of Thailand, they brought back with them cotton T-shirts, carved wooden elephants, and an obsession with Thai massage. Slowly but surely, Moscow became filled with Thai massage spas and Thai massage specialists. Today one of the best Thai spas in the capital is the Pattera Spa, managed and staffed by entirely by Thais. It is surprisingly affordable, absolutely genuine, and offers nothing extraneous or distracting. They import or make their products, and even ship in fresh mangoes for after-massage enjoyment.
Hair For Ever
While Moscow's women — and a few men — fret over cellulite and ageing skin, some of Moscow's men — and a few women — have a different worry: alopecia (hair loss). In the past, people had to leave the country for treatments, which were expensive, painful, and not always successful. But the HFE clinic in Moscow uses a modern method that is much less invasive, hardly uncomfortable, and extremely successful. The staff, which includes English and French speaking assistants, are discreet and helpful to clients of every age and situation.
Medsi was founded in 1996 and is now the country's largest private medical service provider, with over 20 clinics and centers in Moscow alone, including an International Clinic (formerly the American Medical Clinic) that especially caters to the city's expat community. The clinics provide clean, modern facilities; computerized information systems; well-trained and experienced doctors, nurses and other medical staff; international-standard techniques and services; and a support staff that understands and can deal with the variety of insurance policies patients bring in the door.
Near the Moscow University on Sparrow Hills, tucked away in a new housing and business complex is the Kerala Center for Yoga, Ayruveda and Restorative Medicine. Founded and staffed by doctors and specialists from India who have been in Moscow for nearly 15 years, the center provides very non-invasive aid that has been adapted to the Russian climate and diet. Massage, special teas, natural treatments, yoga and other techniques have helped thousands of Muscovites control and diminish the effect of chronic illnesses and psychological distress.