cityWell is a Hidden Brooklyn Bathhouse Gem

As I sit down to write this review, I almost want to stop and keep this spa secret to myself, because I’ve found a true Brooklyn hidden gem.

The humble front and foyer of cityWell give way to a space that is both luscious and compact. In a true Brooklyn space-savvy move, the boutique spa takes up the ground floor and large backyard of a three-story walk-up.

Each component of the space has been thoughtfully and lovingly put together. From the choice of cork floors in the dressing room to the eucalyptus hanging in the beautiful deep-blue tiled shower area, cityWell incorporates each of the five elements prevalent in traditional Chinese medicine–wood, fire, earth, metal, and water–into every corner of the spa.

I met the owner and Licensed Massage Therapist of this jewel, Liz Tortolani, on this visit, and she showcased her good-natured generosity, extensive knowledge of spas around the world, and the healthiest glow I’ve ever seen throughout my stay.

I must confess, I’ve visited cityWell before for it’s incredibly affordable, yet completely luxurious, community hours. A few times a week, the spa opens its doors for a 2-hour session of sauna, hydrotherapy, and steam room for the low price of $25 (the regular price of entry for a 2-hour session is only $40).

Space is very limited, in order to give each guest ample use of its services, cityWell caps attendance to 4-5 per session.

Besides having an entire spa practically to yourself, there are so many other ways cityWell makes you feel right at home. Some of the highlights are the small touches. The selection of shower products and amenities are amazing: delicious-smelling and locally-sourced Apotheke shampoo and conditioner, Aesop face oil and hand cream, clementines, almonds and coloring books in the rest area, etc.The list goes on!

When visiting cityWell for the first time, always make use of the hydrotherapy. Yes, it’s a jet jacuzzi in the backyard, but on a wintry day in March, it felt amazing to massage my calves, back, and even my wrists! The rest of the backyard is well-designed with space for lounging, yoga, and outdoor massage in the summer.

The dry sauna is also located in the courtyard and is based on Finnish design. After steaming in the indoor steam room and soaking in hydrotherapy, the dry sauna felt very relaxing. Whilstresting, I received the star treatment of a three-clay face mask, more tangerines, tea, lemon-lime water, and stories from Liz about her travels and thoughts on international spa culture. We lamented the U.S.’s lack of community spa culture prevalent in cultures the world over.

With any luck, it does look like Brooklyn is getting just that.

I wrapped up my 2-hour visit with a 30 minute rejuvenation oil massage. At the end of this tricky winter, filled with barometric ups and downs, I really felt the need to treat my skin. By the end of my light oil massage (with a few minutes of hot stones thrown in just for fun), I was truly blissed out.

I loved the smell and calming effect of cityWell’s signature brand of aromatherapy mists (Restore) mixed with the cinnamon of the Aba Love Apothecary body tonic.

I left feeling light, as if I had shed all of the labors of the week, and had been born this shiny being of bliss.

If you’re looking for a tranquil, thoughtful restoration in the heart of bustling Brooklyn, be sure to visit cityWell and enjoy.

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Review by: Genevieve Wollenbecker
Spa it Girl NYC Contributor 

Photo Credit: JessicaMiller Photo

An earlier version of this article named Liz Tortolani as the lead designer of cityWell. The chief designer and architect of cityWell’s magical space is Deborah Mariotti. 



Categories: Spa