Experiencing a Russian Banya should be at the top of your travel itinerary for Russia, especially if you’re visiting during winter! For this post, I’ll explain what a banya is, what to expect when visiting one and share some funny videos and photos from our experience! (I’m jumping into a frozen lake in one video, haha.) Enjoy!

*This experience is highlighting Put-in Tours’ “Moscow Day Tour to Sergiev Posad with Banya & Dinner.” We did this when my brother-in-law, Ryan, visited us over the holidays. I will explain more about this at the end of the post + there is a fun, giveaway with GPSmyCity at the end of this post!

What is a Russian Banya?

In short, a banya is similar to a sauna. The biggest difference, though, is that a “banya” has high levels of humidity in it, while a sauna will have dry air. They’ve been a part of Russian life for over a thousand years!

What to Expect When Visiting a Russian Banya

Note: Unless otherwise stated by the facility, it is a good idea to bring your own flip flops, towels, water bottles, shampoo, soap and any other toiletries you may wish to use after.

Wearing a Felt Hat

Russian Banya Experience – A Must-Do On Your Trip to Russia

Our sweet hats!

You’ll wear these funny, felt hats to protect your hair and ears from the heat in the banya. This also helps to regulate your body temperature, so you are able to sit in the banya for a longer period of time. (I could usually sit for about 10 minutes at a time – however, I am VERY sensitive to heat. Most people can sit much longer.)

Flogging with Venik

Another interesting aspect of the Russian Banya is flogging using birch twigs (venik). This is supposed to benefit your health and improve your immune system, and honestly, if you have someone who knows what they are doing, it does feel really good!

Below is a Snapchat my husband took of me during my flogging. (Sorry for the vertical video – Snapchat is the only footage I have of this!)

Jumping into Something Cold…

After you’ve gone in and out of the banya a couple times…you’re supposed to cool yourself off. You could do this by taking a quick, cold shower, jumping into a cold pool or tub (some banyas do have these), jump in a snow bank (seriously) or…you can just jump in a frozen lake! We opted for “jump in a frozen lake” for this experience, haha.

They literally had to chainsaw a hole for us to jump in – there was that thick of ice! Needless to say, it was cold. Ryan and my husband loved it! They said they felt incredibly refreshed and actually jumped in multiple times. I only went in once. I personally didn’t like the way I felt after it…this is likely because I moved at turtle speed into the water and didn’t dunk myself…whereas Ryan and my husband jumped right in.

We are the worst at videos – sorry! But they are still funny to watch! I’m responsible for Ryan’s video (no idea why I lowered the camera when he jumped in), and my husband is responsible for taking my video. I’m still working on teaching him to take horizontal videos when he’s using his phone, haha. Oh, and I didn’t even film my husband’s jump…I managed to just take about 100 photos on the burst mode using his phone. (Seriously, we should never do videos!) Nonetheless, enjoy!

Ryan’s Polar Plunge!

My Polar Plunge!

*Click here to shop my swimsuit top, and click here for the bottoms.

Private, Semi-Private or Public Banya?

Unless you have a friend who has their own banya, you’ll have to pay to visit either a private banya, semi-private (will explain that in a moment) or a public banya. These will all be slightly different experiences. I’ll explain each one below.

Siberian Banya

My private banya experience in Moscow

Private banya

I had visited a private banya while in Moscow for my birthday. There are quite a few throughout the city. You can rent them for your own use, and you can bring friends or family with you. You can also purchase “spa” treatments, such as massages, floggings by a professional, etc. We had visited this one (Banya Stoleshniki) as my birthday present and had a couple different floggings and massages done while we were there. It was pure heaven! They also can adjust the heat depending on your tolerance to it. (So, I could sit forever during this banya experience.)

*For this experience, you are naked, except for a little towel you can wrap around yourself if you want.

Public banya

Visiting a public, Russian banya obviously means there will be more people there than just yourselves! It will be a similar experience, though, in the sense you still wear the felt hats, there will be venik and there will be various ways to cool off (likely not a frozen lake, though). Each sex will have their own side to use in the banya. (Girls will go one way and boys will go another way.) It will also be VERY hot in public banyas, so be prepared.

Again, there are many different public banyas to choose from throughout Moscow and St. Petersburg. Moscow’s most famous is Sanduny. It’s really beautiful and has quite the story behind it (a love story involving Catherine the Great had something to do with this place being built!). You will simply show up to Sanduny to purchase your entrance or you can book a tour.

*For this experience, you are naked, except for a little towel you can wrap around yourself if you want.

Put-in Tours Banya Experience (Semi-Private)

This is a group guided tour of a traditional wooden banya just outside of Moscow. It’s “semi” private because you will be with whomever else books the tour for that day. When we went, there was only one other person with, and he was a friend of the guide and was there to get drone footage of the experience.

*Bring your swimsuits for this banya experience!

Regardless, it’ll be a small group no matter what! That’s because only so many people can fit in these private, traditional banyas (6 or 7 is comfortable) and you get picked up in a classic, Soviet Van!

Put-in Tours Soviet Van

Put-in tours!

Put-in Tours Soviet Van

Inside the van!

This experience also includes a trip to the Sergiyev Posad, where you will visit the famous Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius monastery. It’s simply breathtaking! (It’s a very short distance from where the banya is.) Click here to learn even more about this tour.

Sergiyev Posad

I highly recommend using Put-in Tours for any of your touring needs while in Moscow. Simon and Sergey are fantastic! You will feel like family when you book a tour with them. Click here to see more tour options, and click here for their website.

*Click here to see all of my blog posts featuring Russia.

My husband and I have loved each of our Russian banya experiences so far! And Ryan said the banya experience with Put-in tours was his favorite part of his trip to Russia! If you’re visiting Russia, you should visit a banya one way or another.

And now I’m curious, did this post terrify of you Russian banyas? Or would you want to experience one? Let me know in the comments!

GPSmyCity Giveaway!

I’m hosting another giveaway with GPSmyCity! This time, I will be giving away my article about Pavlovsk Palace in St. Petersburg.

And a reminder of how this works:

I have been creating walking tours that feature my travel articles for the app GPSmyCity! So, the travel articles I have written, that are city-specific, are available for download on iTunes or Google Play via the GPSmyCity app. You have the ability to read my travel articles at times when you may not have cell phone reception, as they can be downloaded and read offline. (Great reading material for a plane ride!) You also have the option to upgrade the article for a fee of $1.99 to get all the GPS coordinates and take your own walking tour of the sites, restaurants, museums, etc. I mention in my articles! But for this week only you can get my upgraded article for free! Check out the instructions, below.

How to Download:

Click here to download the GPSmyCity app for iTunes, and click here for Google. After clicking on the link, you will be re-directed to the app store. Please proceed to download the GPSmyCity app on your device. When the app is launched, you will enter the article title in the search bar at the top. (Russia, St. Petersburg Guide (B): Pavlovsk Palace – Is it Worth Visiting?)

Once you have downloaded the article, simply click the Upgrade button to upgrade it for FREE. You can get this article for free from, now until March 11. Anytime after that, it will cost you $1.99 to upgrade.

Russian Banya Experience – A Must-Do On Your Trip to Russia

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16 thoughts on “Russian Banya Experience – A Must-Do On Your Trip to Russia

  1. Jodie

    Talk about an interesting experience, Lindsey!! I’m not sure I’d be jumping in the cold water like that, but…..who knows!!!
    What a cool idea of creating walking tours…you’d be the best at this.
    XOOX
    Jodie

    Reply

  2. Courtney Byers

    What a neat experience. I don’t know if I could do it, but your blog post convinces me to want to try.

    Reply

  3. Mireille

    What a neat experience! How fun! If I ever travel to Russia, I will put it on my list. Next time in the republic of Georgia, I need to go to the Turkish baths! The hotel we stay at is a 2 minute walk from them.

    Reply

  4. Farrah

    This sounds like such a cool experience! (I’m not sure I’d be able to convince myself to jump into freezing water like that though, haha. I’m a total wimp when it comes to the cold!

    Reply

  5. Gracia Harrison

    This was so interesting to read! I’d love to visit Russia one day! I’ll definitely be putting visiting a banya on my list of must-do’s in Russia! That’s so wild about jumping in to that cold water! LOL, I think I would probably skip that part! Hahaha

    Reply

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