When I first moved to Brooklyn, friends coming from Manhattan would breathe deeply and say that coming to Brooklyn was a Zen experience. The air is clean, the green spaces and beaches offer a refuge from midtown and the pace is ever so slightly more relaxed.
For even more of a Zen vibe, try out Brooklyn’s best spas. Wellness centers in Brooklyn include spa experiences from Brooklyn Heights to Williamsburg, to Coney Island, and more.
You can experience them the way I do – at a day spa practicing self-care. Or you can spend the night in Brooklyn for the full Zen experience.
The newest spa in Brooklyn is also the biggest. World Spa in Midwood boasts 50,000 square feet of space, sprawling over three floors and featuring every kind of hot, cold, wet, or dry situation you are seeking. That makes it the biggest NYC spa.
If you are fond of the hot/dry routine, you are in luck. You can relax in a sauna, then jump in a cold plunge pool. Even better, you can pop into the snow room, which is definitely cold, but not as big a shock to the system as jumping into a frigid pool.
Japanese onsen saltwater pools have a backdrop of cherry blossoms and temples. The onsens range from cool to hot to warm, and the idea is to circulate among the three to get your body flowing.
There are also two large swimming pools if you need to get your body moving, with a traditional hot tub next to them. I practiced my breaststroke and flutter kicks and did yoga poses in the pool.
Bring your bathing suit but no footwear is needed. World Spa is impeccably clean, though most guests were wearing flip-flops or slides. And everyone wears comfy robes, provided by the spa.
How it Works
When you enter, you get a wristband that opens your assigned locker – no worries about forgetting the code when you go to retrieve your street clothes. The wristband also serves as payment for any food or services you order.
Admission is $125 on weekdays, and $145 for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and allows you to stay for up to four hours. If you are coming for a massage, an hour of using the different saunas and pools is included in the price. The private treatment rooms offer body scrubs, couples massages, and a Turkish Bath Ceremony with black soap and steam bath, body scrub, massage, and foot treatment.
If you don’t mind being partly on display, less expensive semi-private cabanas have bodywork that includes massages, facials, and an hour-long foot therapy that is on my holiday gift list.
The restaurant at World Spa serves the classic NYC breakfast, lox, and bagel, along with avocado toast, vegan Chia pudding, or eggs on brioche. Late in the day, enjoy raw oysters, shrimp cocktails, salads, or sushi. There is a Kosher menu and plenty of vegan options. And Cherry Vareniki, (aka cherry pierogi) chicken and mushroom dumplings, and decadent grilled cheese with truffles. To drink there are cocktails, beer, wine, champagne, and kombucha.
World Spa is 18 and up. If you’ve never heard of Midwood, don’t worry. It’s only 8 miles from TriBeCa and has valet parking (for bicycles, too). It is also just steps from the F train.
Where to Stay
There are no hotels in the immediate area, but The Rockaway Hotel, a boutique hotel, has a beach and long boardwalk nearby, as well as its own spa. The hotel also has a seasonal outdoor pool.
The Spa at the Rockaway Hotel offers reflexology, body treatments like an aloe and seaweed wrap, a CBD body scrub, and massage therapists with a full array of massages.
Read More: The Best Rockaway Beach Hotels
The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Heights has a day spa, Bamford Wellness Spa, open to the public and hotel guests. The holistic approach emphasizes natural and organic products. Bamford Wellness has couples massages as well as couples facials, hot stone and deep tissue massages, pregnancy massages, and a pampering spa day that could be followed by drinks at the rooftop bar.
My husband had a full-body massage here that he said was top-notch. This was his Father’s Day present and he appreciated the ambiance, which was relaxing but not frilly, and the massage therapist who targeted the right muscles to unknot.
If you want to go full Brooklyn (NOT the full Brazilian hair removal) stay the night and watch the sunset from the roof. An overnight getaway, just over the Brooklyn Bridge, promises relaxation and the opportunity to use that rooftop pool.
Bring the wellness routine home with the organic skincare line and scented candles that let you practice self-care even if your only Zen is a bench in Central Park.
Bathhouse, in a converted factory in Williamsburg, has body treatments like a Hammam scrub with full-body exfoliation followed by a CBD moisturizer. Bathhouse caters to hipsters and hipster wannabees, particularly those on a smaller budget. It differentiates itself from a spa, saying it is “focused on functionality over luxury.”
Body treatments include the use of the facilities, or you can buy a day pass.
You bring your own bathing suit. The bathhouse provides slippers and robes.
The unique starlight steam room has stars on the ceiling.
Bathhouse serves breakfast, including vegan Chia pudding or a more decadent French toast. For the rest of the day, you can have healthy bites like borscht, roasted sweet potato with tahini and zhug, chicken skewer with harissa and az’atar or cashew spinach dip with crudite. There are also homemade vodka infusions, beer, wine and champagne.
You can detox at Bathhouse after early evening debauchery; it is open till midnight.
And if schlepping back to Manhattan seems too onerous, make it an overnight getaway with a room at The William Vale. Swim in the longest pool in New York City, get drinks at Brooklyn Brewery or catch a live show at Brooklyn Bowl, all steps away.
Brooklyn Banya has a dry sauna, heated to over 200 degrees, a wet sauna heated to the same temperature, where you cool off by dumping cold water on yourself, and a cold plunge pool so you can alternate hot and cold. There is also a Jacuzzi and a steam room.
But what sets Brooklyn Banya apart is the traditional “Platza” spa treatment. Someone beats you with oak leaves, called venik, which increases circulation. There are no couples massages, but you and your partner or friend can buy your own leaves to smack each other with, or ‘leave’ it up to a professional.
You can have your “shvits” or sweat in a male-only time on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
This Russian bathhouse suggests you bring slippers or flip-flops in addition to your bathing suit. Spa services include Swedish massage, deep tissue, hot stone massages, aromatherapy and sugar scrub massage.
Brooklyn Banya is close to two of the most Zen places in Brooklyn: Green-wood Cemetery and Prospect Park.
Another Russian banya, Mermaid Spa has three steam rooms, a wooden Finnish sauna, a Turkish bath (another steam room, with eucalyptus and mint), two plunge pools dotted with chopped ice, and a huge round Jacuzzi. You can also get beaten with venik here.
There is a large outdoor area, but note that smoking is allowed here, and since many of the clientele are from Eastern Europe, expect them to be smoking.
The authentic Russian experience includes icy cold vodka and dishes like beef tongue salad, Ukrainian borsch (spelled authentically without the ‘t’), and meat or potato dumplings.
Admission includes using the facilities for up to four hours; if you want to extend your spa day, you can buy another hour or two.
You are required to wear anti-slip footwear, which is sold here, and to bring a bathing suit. You can wear that bathing suit later at the beach at Coney Island. Or head a little further to Brighton Beach, for more Russian food.
Travel to Manhattan
The Mandarin Oriental, right near Central Park, has some of the best body treatments in NYC. The day spa, available to hotel guests and the public, as long as you are over age 18, has a jet lag cure for those who just flew in from Los Angeles or Gstaad, and a detox wrap that energizes you. Thai food therapy, for those who just completed the NYC marathon or walked too far in Central Park or the restorative digital wellness escape also looks appealing.
The wellness journey continues with a 75-foot-long swimming pool, a luxurious fitness ‘centre’ (and no, that is not an oxymoron), and an Oriental tea lounge.
Or treat yourself to afternoon tea, a luxe self-care experience that includes a glass of champagne, truffle egg salad, and a riff on the NYC deli experience with salmon pastrami on rye.
Wellness never felt so good.