Sandunovsky Banya: The Most Spectacular Bath House in Moscow

Historic Interiors at Sanduny bath house
Historic Interiors at Sanduny bath house | © Courtesy of Sanduny | Historic Interiors at Sanduny bath house| © | Courtesy of Sanduny
Dasha Fomina

The oldest functioning bath house in Moscow, Sandunovsky banya or simply Sanduny is a blend of centuries-old banya traditions and museum-style interiors. Read on to find out how after more that two centuries Sanduny still remains Russia’s most famous banya.

Royal blessing

Historic Interiors at Sanduny bath house

It all began with a love story: at the time of Empress Catherine the Great, celebrated actor of her majesty’s court theater, Sila Sandunov, fell for fellow actress and Empress’s protégé Elizabeth Uranova. Unfortunately their mutual affection was jeopardised by the Grand Chancellor of Russia himself – Prince Alexander Andreyevich Bezborodko, who wanted Elizabeth as his mistress. Lucky for the forbidden lovers, Catherine the Great took the matter in hand: not only did she blessed their marriage, the Empress gave Elizabeth diamonds as a part of her trousseau.

Pool at Sanduny bath house
Orient Interiors at Sanduny bath house

A pioneering bathhouse

In 1890s Sanduny underwent a profound transformation, when the new owners – millionaire heiress Vera Firsanova and her husband A.N. Gonetskiy – decided to turn the worn out banya into a bathing palace. Gonetskiy spent several years travelling the world and studying bath traditions in different countries: from architecture to technologies. He returned to Moscow with the most ambitious banya project in Russia’s history and invited Boris Freidenberg, one of the best Viennese architects at the time, to to help him implement it.

Historic Interiors at Sanduny bath house

Finished in 1896, the refurbished banya was not just a visual stunner, but a technological marvel as well. Interiors of the electrically-lit three-storied palace combined elements of baroque, rococo, gothic, classicism and industrial style. To ensure there was enough water, Gonetskiy had built an aqueduct and set up expensive water filters. Also the new Sanduny offered their services to both rich and poor, and the cheaper rooms were cleaned as thoroughly as the expensive ones.

Historic Interiors at Sanduny bath house

Tsar banya

Sandunovsky banya has survived three wars, a revolution, multiple government changes and still remains Russia’s most spectacular bathhouse. Sanduny’s walls remember Pushkin, Chekhov and opera singer Shalyapin – the latter used to call the place “Tsar banya” – and have recently seen celebrities like John Travolta and Naomi Campbell.

Bath area at Sanduny bath house

Today Sandunovsky banya comprises three male and two female bath departments, private rooms and a spa-center, being the perfect place for aesthetically-pleasing banya experience.

Sandunovsky banya,Neglinnaya St, 14, стр.3-7, Moskva, Russia, 107031

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