Winter is closing in on Paris so it’s time to find places to get warm. For an authentic Parisian experience off the tourist beat and very relaxing, head to the Paris Mosque. This place is an oasis. There’s a lovely café with mint tea and cushioned sofas to relax on. In summer, there’s a little garden to sit in under the shady fig trees. If you can get past the pastries at the café counter, you’ll find the door to the hammam.
Head inside and you’ll find the real people of Paris in a hidden paradise of mosaics and stained glass and lanterns. Here you won’t be judged for the label on your clothes or, when you shed them, the size and shape of your body. Here everyone is equal and everyone is worthy of a good steam, scrub and pummeling to get the blood flowing and the skin breathing.
Hammams are well-known to eastern cultures as a place to socialize, gossip, arrange marriages and cleanse. The idea is to soap yourself with the traditional black soap, to steam, to relax on hot marble benches, to be scrubbed by one of the attendants. If this is your first hamman visit be prepared to give yourself over to the experience.
There’s not a lot of English spoken so you’ll need a dictionary and/or good sign language, but my French is very limited and there was no problem with communication at all. Especially if you remember to tip. Take along your bikini and they’ll provide robe and towels. Men and women have separate days: Tuesday and Sunday for men, all others are women’s days.
39 rue Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris, near Le Jardin des Plantes.