Enjoy the ancient Roman practice of “taking to the waters” at this luxurious space in Chicago, Illinois, that is dedicated to tranquility and relaxation. 

Candlelit Roman bath at Aire Ancient Baths in Chicago, Illinois (photo courtesy of Aire Ancient Baths)

In ancient Rome, “taking the waters” wasn’t just an opportunity to clean up in communal bathhouses sustained by geothermal spring-fed aqueducts. It was also a chance to socialize, convalesce and conduct business.

This tradition of communing with others in serenity has been revived at Chicago’s Aire Ancient Baths. Located on the lower level of a gorgeously restored early 1900s River West industrial building, the concept has been updated for the modern era with six pools of varying temperatures set against a candlelit backdrop of exposed brick and soaring-high ceilings framed by metal columns and wood beams.

Steam rooms fragrant with lavender and mint, an exfoliating salt scrub station and a menu of add-on massages and spa rituals accentuate the bathing experience. Noise levels throughout the facility never rise above a whisper, ensuring rest and relaxation.

Start by checking in at the lounge, furnished with plush couches and a flickering wall of flameless candles, setting the stage for what’s to come. After a stop in the locker rooms to change into swimsuits, guests receive robes, nonskid slippers and a short, guided orientation from staff members. For the 90 minutes that follow, you’re free to explore the collection of pools at your own pace. Hang out in the saltwater Flotarium for a while, or soak in the 102-degree Caldarium (the hottest option of the bunch) to soothe aching muscles. Heated marble slabs invite lounging in between dips, and customers are free to help themselves to cucumber water and tea from self-serve carafes located throughout the baths.

Be forewarned, it will be hard to leave when you hear the chimes indicating your session is nearing its end. For the brave of heart, a quick dunk in the 50-degree cold plunge Frigidarium can serve as a pleasantly chilling wake-up call, followed by a few last deep breaths of steamy air and a luxurious shower before reentering the real world. 800 W. Superior St., Chicago, Illinois 60642, 312/312-9610, beaire.com