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What it’s like inside Banya No 2, Toronto’s Russian spa

Visiting the second location of Toronto’s Russian spa in Richmond Hill

When I talk to other spa enthusiasts about Toronto’s best saunas, they will inevitably ask one question: sure, but…. have you been to the banya?

The Toronto Banya, aka The Russian Banya, aka the South Western Bathhouse, is a traditional spa located in a strip mall in Mississauga, just 20km west of downtown Toronto. Since 2012, it has been a semi-secret amongst Russians and others who appreciate its sauna and steam facilities and excellent dining room serving Eastern European comfort food.

I have in fact been to this banya and found it a most excellent way to relax. Unlike most downtown spas, it has a cozy, cottage-like feel, stays open late, and encourages you to eat! So I was excited to learn about a new second location of Toronto’s Russian spa.

Banya No 2 — that’s its actual name – is a sister spa north of the city in Richmond Hill. A friend and I made the hour-long drive from downtown one weekday after work to indulge in some hot steam and cold plunges. I discovered Banya No 2 in Richmond Hill has all the things I loved about the O.G. Banya, plus more.

Just need the facts? Jump to the hours, prices, etc.

This review of Banya No 2 is part of my series 100 Baths, my search for the world’s best spas and public bathing rituals.

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Banya No 2 in Richmond Hill is the second location of Toronto's Russian spa.

What is a Banya?

According to the Banya No 2 website, “banya” translates to “cleansing of a body with the help of steam.”

In short, a banya is the Russian version of a Finnish sauna, Indigenous sweat lodge, or Turkish hammam: a communal bathing ritual designed for cleansing and socialization. They’ve existed in that part of the world since before Russia was a country, across the Slavic peoples.

Traditionally, banya consists of a wet steam bath fed by a wood stove, which produces a very high heat. Like a sauna, most banya rooms have wide wooden benches stacked against the wall for you to sit on or lay down. The higher you sit, the hotter the air is.

After a certain period of time—usually when the heat becomes unbearable—you leave the steam room and cool down, by means of a cold plunge pool or bucket. Or, if you are outside, jumping in the lake or some snow.

In Russia and Eastern Europe, most modern public banyas are gendered, and participants are nude. Both of Toronto’s Russian spas require you to wear a swimsuit, and often feature other water therapy or treatment services.

Himalayan salt room to relax inside Banya No 2, Toronto's 
Russian spa.
Himalayan Salt Room

What facilities do they have?

The Richmond Hill Banya No 2 has everything you need for your hot-cold-relax hydrotherapy circuit:

  • Traditional banya steam room
  • Finnish-style dry sauna
  • Cold plunge pool and traditional cold water bucket
  • Tea room with complimentary teas and a darkened lounge with big comfy couches to relax in.
  • Turkish-style steam room and a hammam-style room for resting or treatments
  • Himalaysan salt room with Muskoka chairs, and a hot tub!
  • For food and drink a restaurant with a hearty menu and lots of vodka.

First impressions at the Richmond Hill Russian spa

Like the original Toronto Banya, Banya no 2 has an unassuming entrance in a strip mall. From the parking lot out front you wouldn’t know it’s a spa but for the red sign reading “sauna, hammam, tea shop, restaurant.” All good things!

This place doesn’t take reservations, it’s all walk-ups. I like that. Easy to decide at the last minute and no stress about getting stuck in traffic trying to make a specific timeslot.

We arrived to no queue. A friendly receptionist gave us the run-down of the space and our wristbands to use the electronic lockers. We each purchased an aromatic body scrub, which they sell in small individual containers for one-time use during your visit. Then made our way inside to change and explore our options.

English 300*250

Exploring the steam rooms and saunas

Banya No 2 is a small space compared to many spas but feels bigger than the original Toronto Russian spa. The décor is a mix of rustic wood, dark brick and light coloured tiles, with dimmed lighting. There’s a large elephant statue in the middle for some reason.

A few other small groups were mingling around so we decide to poke our heads into the actual banya room first, because it was empty. Holy hot! They say this room is usually 60-80C and that you can make it even hotter by opening the oven door and adding more water. We declined!

We decided to find an easier entry into the circuit. The wet steam room was perfect. I think another couple was in there already but you know it’s a good steam room when you can’t see anyone else when you walk in.

I could feel my pores opening and my pulse slow down as I lay on the warm tiles, deeply breathing in the hot steam. This is one of my favourite things to do for my body. And while I can’t say exactly how many toxins get released on a given sweat session, it certainly feels like a rejuvenation.

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For the next hour we rotated between this steam room, the banya (which we did eventually acclimatize to but is indeed very hot!) and the cold water.

They have a deep cold pool that fits about four people and we challenged ourselves to stay in it longer each time. Sometimes it was full so we used the traditional bucket—it swings from the ceiling and you pull a rope to dump out the ice water on you. I may need a countdown from a friend to muster my courage but I’ve to come to love this ritual.

The only space that was crowded when we were there was the small hot tub. Because who doesn’t want to sit in a hot tub? And when there is a group of friends just hanging out in there, it can take a while to rotate. So to relax we used the salt room. Not a hot tub, but still pretty nice. And when we eventually did get a hot tub spot, it was so great.

Tea room at Banya No 2, Toronto's Russian spa in Richmond Hill
Traditional Tea Room

Does the banya have food?

One thing that sets the both of Toronto’s Russian spas apart from other public bathing experiences in the GTA is food!

The restaurant at Banya No 2. has a full menu of European dishes—plus a full bar.

It’s pretty meat-based (no surprise) but as a vegetarian I happily ate delicious pierogis and potato pancakes. Yes, there’s borsch. And these are proper, generous portion sizes you can share. Not in that “tapas-style” tiny sharing plates way. In the “this is too much food for me to eat right now” way.

For drinks they can do fancy cocktails, and stock beers and non-alcoholic kombucha and traditional kombot. And of course, there is vodka.

You don’t need to change back into your clothes to visit the restaurant. Just wear your robe and slippers! Most everyone else is.

Relaxing at Russian Banya No 2 in Richmond Hill

Tea and conversation

I recommend planning to eat dinner here during your visit. But if you’re not up for a meal, there is a separate tearoom with an extensive selection of loose leaf teas. You can choose your own small teapot and fill with herbal teas like peppermint and hibiscus or go for a strong black tea.

We took our teas to the lounge area. This is like a step back in time. Large brown leather sofas, back issues of National Geographic for browsing, nature shows on the big screen TV. Don’t forget: hydrotherapy’s hot-cold-relax includes relax!

Self-care and indulgence can take many difference forms. We came to steam our bodies. But sitting in the lounge and having a long conversation over tea about life and careers was equally good for the soul. There’s even a deck of cards if that’s your thing. And because there is no time limit on your visit, you can linger as long as you like.

This banya is like a social club. Talking (at a reasonable volume) is expected and even encouraged. You can come solo for quiet time but I think it’s best experienced with friends or family with you. Children are welcome. We didn’t see any but be aware.

But what about getting beaten with the leaves?

Ah, the Venik treatment! This traditional Slavic spa treatment involves a bundle of dried and soaked oak twigs used to “massage” the body while laying down in the hot wet sauna. The Banya website says this is a “gentle tapping” but I’ve also seen it described as a beating. Benefits include exfoliation, increased blood flow, and further heating up the body.

I’ve wanted to try a Venik massage for a while but unfortunately when we arrived it was not available. It’s not something you can book in advance, you take your chances that the attendant who does the treatment is working. Same with their Turkish Hammam scrub treatment. Both of these are offered at additional cost.  The Banya staff recommend calling in advance if you are interested to confirm.

We stayed until closing time. Taking another leisurely round of the banya, steam room and pools and soaking up all the relaxation before heading back into the city.

I love that there is a public bath that’s open until almost midnight. Because after a good steam or sweat session I often just want to float into bed. While I wish it was located closer to me in the city, I also say it’s well worth the drive.

Toronto's Russian spa Banya No 2 review

Know Before You Go

My last visit was June 2023. Info updated January 2024. Always check the website for the latest intel.

Where: The Banya has two locations. This review is of Banya No 2 13110 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill. The original is located at 2200 Dundas St. East, Mississauga. Neither of them are particularly transit accessible but have free parking.

When: Open Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Monday. Tuesday to Fridays it’s evenings only, 4pm to 11:30pm. On weekends they open noon to 11:30pm. All days are co-ed/all genders (they call this “Family Day”). No reservations required or available. Walk-in only.

What to bring: Your swimsuit! Sauna hat if you have one. Locker, bathrobe, slippers, and towels are provided.You can bring your own sandals if you prefer. Swimsuits and sauna hats are on sale if you don’t have one.

How much: Adult admission is $60.00, at any time. Children under 10 pay $30. A pass for ten-visits is $480. Add-on Venik when available for $40 (10 minutes) or $60 (20 minutes). Turkish bath treatment $120.

Recommended: A Sauna Hat

Want to upgrade your sauna experience? The Finns will tell you to wear a sauna hat. These simple felt hats help regulate the temperature of your head so you can sweat harder, longer. This style has the traditional grey felt and is stylish for all genders.

Banya No 2 in Richmond Hill is the newest Toronto Russian spa
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