In 1906, the Division Street Russian and Turkish Baths opened their doors as one of the city's first bathhouse, offering separate bathing facilities for men and women. Completely remodeled and renamed in 2013, today's Red Square Spa still offers guests the chance to soak and steam away their worries in their Russian-style spa.
Check into this indulgent spa, located in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, and you'll receive a fresh towel, comfy robe, slippers and the magical opportunity to escape from the everyday for a few hours. The locker rooms will transport you to Russia via Chicago, thanks to the rustic wood elements and telephones that allow you to call up the bartender and order a shot of vodka as you lounge in your bathrobe. Head to the baths and proceed to steam out all the toxic elements in your life.
The most popular feature here is the traditional Russian banya, a.k.a. sauna, or schvitz. Inside each of the original brick sauna ovens you'll spot giant granite boulders inside, which are heated to 800 degrees F every night with gas jets, maintaining their heat throughout the following day.
For a spa treatment to remember, book a traditional platza and you'll be lightly whipped with birch, eucalyptus, or oak branches by an esthetician as you lie flat on a wooden bench in the banya; she'll also dump icy cold water on your body, undoubtedly to improve your circulation and test your readiness for the next Polar Plunge.
Upstairs, the restaurant and bar resembles an elegant, 19th-century train dining car and features all your Russian favorites on their new food menu: borscht both hot and cold, beef stroganoff, blintzes and chebureki (deep-fried turnovers filled with ground veal and onions). Perhaps best of all, you can dine in your waist-friendly bathrobe as you won't find any low carb or low-cal spa bites: The Cherry Vereniki — sweet cherry-filled dumplings — are especially indulgent. If you're lucky, you also might run into a famous person or two saddled up to the restaurant's bar: Mobster Sam Giancana was said to be a frequent visitor, and if you start spa-ing here on a regular basis, you're bound to bump into spa regular Reverend Jesse Jackson. Autographed photos of celebrity visitors line the first-floor hallway.
"Our body's biggest organ is the skin," explains Red Square Spa general manager Nemanja Milosavljevic. "Taking time to care for your skin at the spa — to exfoliate and detoxify — will no doubt have a positive effect on your health. We are happy to share a unique part of our Russian culture. It makes for the perfect spa getaway — without having to leave the city."
Chicago's Red Square Spa is located at 1914 W. Division Street. Book your next spa date at (773) 227-2284 or visit redsquarechicago.com for more information.
Photos courtesy of Red Square Spa