An honest review of the Bains du Marais new location in Paris
Les Bains du Marais is a spa with hammam in Paris—and an institution amongst local women. It was also the very first place I ever heard of hammam, a kind of communal steam bath often called a Turkish bath common around the Muslim world and, increasingly, in Western hotels and spas.
This was more than 10 years ago now, back when I ran away to Paris alone for a birthday. I had decided to treat myself and Les Bain du Marais was, at that time, just steps from where I was staying in the Marais. So, not even knowing its longstanding reputation, I booked myself in.
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This Bains du Marais hammam in Paris review is part of the series 100 Baths, my search for the world’s best spas and public bathing rituals.
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One of the best spas in Paris
I still remember the excitement of walking into what felt like a secret space all those years back. How fancy it seemed. Just how much steam was in that steam room, that I could barely make out the other people through the fog, or my attendant who came to fetch me for the scrub down I signed up for. How I floated out of there feeling blissful.
Of course, I wanted to return one day.
So the last time I found myself alone in Paris, I looked up Les Bains du Marais. They still exist! They had moved though, away from their namesake neighbourhood in the 3rd and are now located closer to Montmartre. I decided to check out the new space with full vigour—booking myself a package they call “Rituel Supreme,” which includes access to their hammam facilities, a traditional scrub-down as before (French word: “gommage”), plus a full-body oil massage.
Visiting the new location
Now, one of the best things to do in Paris is wander the streets, even if you get lost. But this is not a great thing to do when trying to make an appointment. I arrived late and a bit flustered having turned myself around a few times too many while walking from the metro.
Thankfully, Les Bains du Maris specializes in customer service and relaxation. Entering the lobby, I immediately felt calmer, and the reception staff reassured me I wasn’t too late for my treatments.
I did, however, have one of the most hilarious verbal exchanges while signing in. An employee commented on my last name, Ladouceur. “Jolie nom.” I agreed, because it is. (It translates to “softness” or “sweetness” in English.) Then she said (in French) “Do you know what it means?” Um, do I know what my own name means in French?
Welcome to visiting France as a French-Canadian. Despite speaking in French since walking in the door, (and my entire life) I’m still clocked Not French Enough to Know My Own Name. I mention this not in anger, but as a way to explain that Les Bains du Marais is very French.
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A traditional Hammam in Paris
Walking into the change room area, I found the new space to be warm and welcoming in that minimalist way of most modern spas, with dark natural wood and plants. It’s also updated for the Instagram Age, with self-affirming messages in neon signs such as “prends soin de moi” (“take care of me”).
The hammam is downstairs (there is an elevator for those who can’t do stairs) so I headed quickly there to start my experience.
Hammam traditionally starts with a hot steam, to open up your pores and prepare the skin for the scrubbing. Here, the steam room was much like I remember – lots of steam! Your eyes do take a few moments to adjust. The room was basic in its design, with dark coloured benches to sit or lay down on. From what I recall, it was more plain, less ornamental than the old location. Never mind, I sat back and let the steam do its work.
Whenever the door opens you wonder if it’s your attendant because you can’t see anything. Ha. Sometimes it’s another client. And then it’s your person, calling out your jolie nom. I was given a small container of product to use on my body while in the steam room, and warned not to get it in my eyes. Once that sinks in, you’re taken to your treatment room.
This kind of hammam service involves laying down flat on a marble slab while the attendant uses a rough glove to apply a “black soap” – a thick dark paste made from olives. If they are good, they will get to all your body parts, and you will see flakes and pearls of dead skin appearing. The room is like a bathroom or shower in that they douse you with water to clean you off.
My attendant was thorough, and thoroughly pleasant. We had some chit chat but mostly I just laid back and enjoyed the exfoliation process. There is a second phase to this treatment that involves a foam-like soap and a pillow. I will leave it to imagination and surprise but it’s fun and makes you feel like you are wrapped in a cloud.
The new facilities
This is the first time I’d ever booked a hammam plus massage combo. And I admit I didn’t really think it through because after the hammam, you are wet. Like, completely wet. I kept my swimsuit bottoms on, top off, which meant I had completely wet swimsuit bottoms, and nothing to change into for the massage.
It also meant I was sitting in wet bottoms and a damp robe while waiting for my massage appointment in their relaxation area. So it might be my fault a bit that I didn’t find this space very relaxing.
The new Bain du Marais relax area is quite small, and narrow. It reminds me of those useless Toronto condo entranceways. The couches and pillows were comfy, but the layout is just not designed for bliss. I had two choices to look at – a blank wall in front, a blank wall to the side, or a snuggling couple at the other end of the space. Disappointing. I could and probably should have sought out the sauna to dry off in but it didn’t occur to me until too late.
The massage rooms are upstairs so I was invited to go back up and prepare. I was handed a disposable thong. I tried not to laugh aloud. Because there is no way a paper thong made for Parisian-sized women is going to fit me. I asked if I had to wear it and while that was awkward the answer was no so I peeled off my wet bottoms and settled in.
As with the gommage, my massage was of excellent quality, in a very nice room with a professional attendant. I rarely get massages at spas to be honest it’s a service I consider more of a medical or physical therapy treatment reserved for my regular RMT at home. But it was quite nice as a treat and Les Bains du Marais does it probably as well as any spa, anywhere.
In the end, I walked out of Les Bains du Marais feeling calm and soft, having enjoyed my hammam. It didn’t quite have the magic of my first visit, and I think that has much to do with the new space.
If you’re looking for a hamman gommage experience in Paris, this is a solid recommend. But I probably wouldn’t advise a solo person just go to chill out for hours like a hydrotherapy spa—even though you can just pay for access to the space without a treatment, 40Euro is quite a lot of money just to sit in a steam room in a basement, imo.
Something they do offer that’s unique is a family or mother-daughter experience, with child-friendly services like manicures that could be a fun date for little ones.
With so much to see and do in Paris, overall Les Bains du Marais is something to consider for a longer visit or if you are living here.
What To Know Before You Go
My last visit was November 2022. Always check their website for latest info.
Where: 14 Saint Fiacre Street in the 2nd arrondisement, not too far from the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann shopping or the Palais Garnier Opera. The closest metro stop is Metro Bonne Nouvelle.
When: Open every day but different days are reserved for different genders. Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday the space is mixed. Women only on Wednesday. Reserved for men on Thursdays from 4pm to close. Weekdays 11am to 9pm and weekends from 10am to 9pm.
What to Bring: Not much! They provide robes, water stations, etc. Pack your swimsuit.
How much: The signature Hamman treatment starts at 70 Euro on weekdays (more on weekends). The Ritual Supreme I got was 150 Euro, for two hours. There are many more services including facials, thai massage, etc.
Want more spa inspiration? Lonely Planet’s Wellness Escapes is a lovely hardcover filled with eye candy photos of hot springs, saunas, spas and other wellness resorts from around the world. These are expensive and often remote destinations, but even if you never get there, you can use this as a starting point for researching dream trips.