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Hopping off the tourist trail, Claire Mason reveals one of Paris's secrets not picked up by the guidebooks and travel apps yet...

More than 27 million people visit the French capital every year.  Who can resist it?  The beautiful architecture, world famous food and romantic atmosphere all conspire to allure visitors from the moment they step off of the plane.  Yet there is more to Paris than the well-trodden path most travellers know. The hot hammams of Paris are just waiting to be discovered and there is one for every type of visitor...

They keep a vital link alive for the North African community in this city and the last thing you’ll find here is a clinical spa experience.  Instead you’ll stumble upon a vibrant place where brides come to get their hands henna-tattooed and matriarchs come to unwind.   The word “hamm” means hot and all hammams have a steam room on the premises.  Above all, the hammam is a place of relaxation and time stands still within its walls. 

Before you head off, it’s worthwhile to remember that the hammams are deeply embedded in Arabic culture and a strict etiquette between the genders is followed.  Men and women are welcome, but are often catered for on different days.  Check to see which day is which before you go. 

For the culture vulture

For those who like to immerse themselves in cultural experiences while travelling, the Hammam de la Mosquee du Paris is an ideal destination.  Visitors can respectfully spend time in the mosque and book a massage in the hammamfor afterwards.  There are additional attractions to enjoy with the wonderful architecture of the mosque, and the salon de thè, which serves honey pastries and North African tea. 

For the fashionista

Les Bains du Marais (pictured), to be found in the fashionable district of the Marais in Paris, is the place to head to for those who live, eat and breathe fashion.  Those in the know tell me that during Paris Fashion Week it is nigh on impossible to get an appointment here as models, designers and editors all descend on the hammam for some R&R.  The prices may be on the steep side but you can get your money’s worth by spending as long as you want to in the steam room, after your chosen massage.  Many of the masseurs come from Morocco and their skill, coupled with the luxurious surroundings, will ensure you have an experience you’ll be thinking of for a long time to come.

For the budget traveller

Travellers watching their pennies do not have to miss out.  The Hammam Medina Centre, which is located in north-eastern Paris, offers great value.  Customers can book packages, consisting of a treatment, or treatments, and time in the steam room.  This hammam is a little unusual in that it offers more of a spa menu than the other hammams,as their therapists also provide facials and waxing treatments.  Delicious delicacies after the treatment can be bought and are served with a complimentary glass of sweet tea. 

For a girls weekend

Just 15 minutes from the Champs-Elysées, HammamPacha is a treat for ladies spending a girls’ weekend together.  The hammam is beautifully laid out with striking features, such as marble floors and bright, airy spaces.  A robe, towel and slippers are provided on entrance and hair dryers are also at guests’ disposal in the change rooms.  HammamPacha also offer packages and they run special promotions throughout the year. 

For lovers of the Orient

For an immersive sensory experience, Les Bains du Orient is an ideal place visit.  Both men and women can visit at the same time at this hammam on Thursdays from 11am to 10pm.  Parisians treat Les Bains du Orient as an integral part of their grooming routine, with twice-yearly visits to get ready for the summer and winter seasons.  The décor and atmosphere is undoubtedly Eastern and Oriental waxing is on offer here too! 

 


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