Back in Paris and seriously in need of a detox, my charming American friend Emily invited me into the secret world of the Parisian girl downtime hotspot that is the hammam at the Grand Mosquée de Paris. This was my first sauna experience in years and I didn’t know quite what to expect from a steam room in Paris, where pretty much anything goes. So, there I was waiting outside the hammam entrance for Emily, wondering whether I’d look like a total prude in my black swimming costume while surrounded by skinny naked French girls, when a waiter invited me in and offered me a cup of mint tea. Flashback to Cairo, inside I encountered a quaint café, decked out in Oriental filigree woodwork and metalware, like something out of Disney’s Aladdin. My friend arrived, and after sipping on mint tea, in we went for our first Paris hammam experience.
€20 at the door bought me an entrance to the steam rooms and a squidgy packet of savon noir. Cheap plastic slippers on and clothes shoved into the lockers (a further €2), we made our way through a rather confusing series of doors into the dark and dingy main sauna room. I cannot stress the terms dark and dingy here, as turquoise blue paint dripped off of the walls, the place looked like it hadn’t had a revamp since the 80’s. Regardless of its appearance, the warm air invited us in and we relaxed into the zone in no time.
Having spent God only knows how much time lazing around the main steam room, we decided to take the heat up a notch and headed to the back of the chamber into a smaller, darker and steamier room where the heat was intense. We spent a couple of minutes readjusting our breath and sweating like bitches before refreshing ourselves in a near-freezing circular pool, gazing over at a robust older lady who had been lying in the sweltering heat for what felt like hours, what a trooper! Time passed and we began feeling somewhat disorientated, so we headed back into the main steam room to scrub ourselves down with our stick black soap substance. Post-scrub and cleanse, we hung out like well oiled harem goddesses until reality crept its face around the corner, just how much time had actually passed since we arrived at the sauna? Towels on and off we headed to the changing rooms.
I must say, considering the mere €20 charge, I feel fantastic. This was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had. With absolutely no distractions, it was easy to switch off and let my pores do all the hard work for a change. I’ll definitely be going back for a monthly skin fix.
A little bit of advice for first comers and tourists visiting Paris:
- Bring essentials, otherwise you will get charged. This includes packing your own towels and an exfoliating loofah/sponge. €2 was a bit dear for a small packet of savon noir, so if you can get your hands on some black soap then by all means do so.
- Nudity is a big no. Most of the women were topless, which is totally fine, but bear in mind that this is a steam room attached to a mosque, so no fannying around (see what I did there?).
- There are set price packages, including a full body exfoliation by a very serious looking Moroccan lady and massages ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, which you can check out here.
- Grab yourself a pair of plastic slippers at the entrance
- Gradually build yourself up for the warmer steam room
- When applying your savon noir, spread it all over your body, leave for 10 minutes and scrub off with a loofah for maximum baby-soft skin effect.
How to get there:
The Hamam de la Grand Mosquée de Paris in located on the south bank in the 5éme at 39 Rue Saint-Hilaire. The nearest metro stations are Jusseu (line 10), Place Monge (line 7) and Censier-Daubenton (line 7). The hammam is closed on Tuesdays and be sure to check out their website for specific women/men only days.