As summer turns to autumn in Spain, visitors to the Iberian Peninsula might be less inclined to bathe in the cold waters of the sea and instead may fancy a warm, relaxing bath! As luck would have it, Spain is home to several public Arab baths, thanks to the legacy left behind by the Moors who occupied the country for eight centuries.
These public baths, known as baños arabes in Spanish, are particularly common in the south. The ruins of ancient baths are open to tourists in many places, while other baths continue to offer guests a warm escape from their troubles.
Ancient Arab baths
In ancient Islamic culture, bathing was a religious obligation to be completed before each of the five daily prayers. Most people could not afford to have bathrooms in their own homes, however, so public baths, or hammams, were important for personal hygiene as well as for socializing. The baths usually had various pools of different temperatures as well as relaxation rooms.
Not far from luxury hotel Parador de Jaen lie the remains of some impressive thermal baths known as el Baño del niño, or the boy’s bath. These are some of the largest Arab baths in Spain, covering an area of more than 450 metres squared. Built in the 11th century, they are located in the basement of the 16th century Villardompardo Palace and receive about 55,000 visitors every year.
The ancient Arab baths in Ronda, a stone’s throw away from the Parador de Ronda, are some of the best preserved. Within these 13th century baths, large arches support a ceiling dotted with star-shaped skylights. It’s easy to imagine how relaxing these baths were in their day.
Modern Arab baths
If you want to enjoy the baths yourself, stay at Parador de Granada and you will be a stone’s throw away from the Hammam Al Andalus. Sitting at the feet of the Alhambra, the modern bath Hamman Al Andalus is housed in a 13th century building on what are believed to be the remains of an ancient Arab bath.
Parador de Cordoba and Parador de Malaga are also near Arab baths that are open to the public. Step into these warm and gently lit baths for a dip or a massage, and you’ll be taken back in time to the days when the Moors reined Spain.