Bringing Korea’s bracing bathhouse culture to Manhattan’s Little Seoul, Athena Spa is not about subtlety. Its clientele is mainly non-Koreans seeking more elbow grease than is typically expended in more demure spas.
The women’s dressing areas, showers, and wet treatment rooms are communal, and nudity is the norm during body services. The spa features pretty touches like iridescent green tiling, but gallon jugs of cleanser are in plain sight, and the ladies’ room is located past a row of urinals. (The downstairs floor is for men.)
Athena’s signature treatment is a body scrub that features a brawny, swimsuit-clad masseuse tirelessly burnishing the client from scalp to sole with rough cotton gloves. (The expression “where the sun don’t shine” has no currency here.)
Performed in a steamy, semi-public room, the scrub also involves a soothing cucumber-scented facial mask, shampoo, and periodic dousings with hot water. It’s definitely not your usual candle-lit exfoliation, and intrepid spa-goers should find it quite winning. Brisk massages, anti-aging facials, mani-pedis, aromatherapy soaks, waxing, airbrush tanning, and lash and brow tinting round out the menu.
The spa’s hushed Hwangto Igloo sauna, hand-built from Korean clay, is said to be detoxifying, with positive-energy jade and amethyst pressed into the walls to amp up good vibrations.