Friday, June 21, 2024

    The best spas in London

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    Looking for a bit of a reboot? Or just fancy a bit of well-deserved pampering somewhere warm, lush and full of deferential attendants bringing you nice things? Course you do. Nothing makes you feel better than beauty treatments, detoxes and a spell in a sauna or hot tub.

    We’ve rounded up the very best spas in London right now – from gloriously atmospheric stone baths to the best science-y spots for high-tech facials. We’ve chosen them to suit a range of budgets and tastes – but we guarantee that they’re all sure to deliver a lovely relaxing time. 

    The best spas in London

    1. AIRE Ancient Baths

    Best for: Beautiful surroundings.

    Inspired by the tradition of baths from the ancient Roman, Greek and Ottoman civilisations, AIRE Ancient Baths are like entering an otherworldly space. You’re guided through a series of stone-walled, mood-lit, bergamot-scented corridors to caverns featuring different bathing spaces: salt baths you can float in, super-hot pools, super-cold pools, basically every iteration of pool you can imagine as well as a steam room and sauna. Plus, the treatments are brilliant here too. The massages are individualised and ultra-relaxing.

    Montcalm East

    2. Bokeh at Montcalm East

    Best for: Getting the basics right

    Less than a three-minute walk from Old Street station, Montcalm East is a work of art. Quite literally. Its exterior is a diamond-shaped optical illusion, based on the artwork by abstract artist, Bridget Riley. But inside, you know exactly what you’re getting. Found in the depths of the 5* hotel, Bokeh is a subterranean spa where you’ll spot all the usual suspects, from a 10m pool tp steam room and sauna.  Recognisable treatments such as hot stone massages are on the menu as well as more left-field choices such as CBD reflexology and mud facials. There’s also a ‘chill room’, which has been designed to help guests unwind, whether that be via a cheeky nap, reading an old school comic or listening to the latest episode of Table Manners. Bliss.

    3. Como Shambhala

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Mayfair

    Best for: Specialist treatments.

    The second floor of Park Lane’s Metropolitan hotel, owned by luxury group COMO, is where you’ll find the small but delightful Shambhala spa. Calm, warm and with wonderfully welcoming staff, COMO Shambhala offers a huge range of beautifying treatments and specialist therapies. For the body, the Detoxifying Skin Treatment, which can be booked with a luxurious bath and massage to follow, is a heavenly indulgence; while the reflexology and acupuncture appointments are just the remedy for aching souls. If it’s your mind that could do with a little TLC instead, the spa can arrange sessions with experts in intuitive counselling and energy healing too.

    4. Cowshed

    • Shopping
    • Primrose Hill

    Best for: Temporarily escaping the city.

    At this cosy north London branch of Cowshed, the countryside-themed day spas brought to us by the Babington House bunch, guests are immediately welcomed into a rustic kitchen, where homemade cakes, herbal teas and glasses of bubbly (for proper pampering) are all up for grabs. Once fed and watered, there are six leather chairs, each with individual TV screens, for those in for a manicure or pedicure, while downstairs there are seven cream, wooden-clad treatment rooms ready to accommodate body cleanses, reflexology, massages and anti-ageing facials. 

    5. ESPA Life at Corinthia

    • Shopping
    • Whitehall

    Best for: Unrivalled spa facilities.

    Located in the basement of the five-star Corinthia hotel, just a moment from Trafalgar Square, the ESPA Life spa is a monochrome cocoon of sheer relaxation. Book in here and you’ll get to enjoy the vast Thermal Suite, which is a black-marbled sanctuary home to a large steam room, plunge pool, jet pool, ice fountain, heated loungers and, the pièce de résistance, a glass-walled sauna amphitheatre as its centrepiece. If you opt for a treatment on your visit too (which are absolutely worth splashing out on – they’re up there with the capital’s best), we recommend either a personalised massage, or a back, face and scalp treatment.

    6. Four Seasons Spa

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Park Lane

    Best for: Treatments with a view.

    Hint: if your therapist asks how you’d like the curtains at the Four Seasons Hotel spa, the correct answer is ‘open’. As well as a posh Park Lane postcode, each treatment room offers floor-to-ceiling windows with killer views over Hyde Park. Of course, what’s inside counts too. Don a fluffy robe and squishy flip-flops, then pad toward the heat therapy rooms complete with sauna and pool. Its wide range of treatments includes massages, facials, wraps, scrubs and nail treatments, each using high-end products from brands like ESPA and The Organic Pharmacy. Afterwards, head to a dimly lit relaxation pod, where you can have a steaming cup of tea and some nibbles, while you stick on a pair of headphones and let the calming effects of your treatment really sink in.

    7. Sense

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Holborn

    Best for: Privacy

    Compared to the cavernous ‘wellbeing centres’ found in many of London’s high-end hotels, the Rosewood’s Sense spa, tucked neatly into the hotel basement, is definitely on the teenier end of the spectrum. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. This relative compactness makes for an intimate, relaxed atmosphere; as does the understated, Eastern-inspired décor, the soporifically soft lighting and the softly rippling water that winds its way around the central relaxation room. Across the spa’s seven private rooms, there’s an impressive array of treatments on offer, from targeted facials (which use ethically sourced high-performance Sodashi products) to luxurious massages and an array of traditional beauty services.

    8. Spa at Mandarin Oriental

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Knightsbridge

    Best for: Potent anti-ageing facials

    The regal façade of the Mandarin Oriental hotel looks out over Harrods, and with its location just a stone’s throw from Knightsbridge tube, this is well and truly the posh part of town. Serene, dimly lit and beautiful, this place feels a world away from London. You’ll find all the facilities you’d expect at a luxury hotel spa – pool, relaxation area and fitness centre. There’s also a full menu of luxurious treatments, ranging from those taking advantage of traditional Chinese medicine to a range of potent Nescens anti-ageing facials. After 50 minutes with my attentive therapist – and an acid peel, lymphatic drainage and a facial massage to boot – I emerged with actual cheekbones, a Kardashian-worthy jawline and a glow that lasted all week.

    9. Akasha Spa

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Regent Street

    Best for: Heavenly hydrotherapy.

    Another basement oasis in the centre of town, Akasha sits underneath the Hotel Café Royal in Piccadilly Circus. This labyrinth of marbled walkways leads visitors to all sorts of sensational spa facilities including a sauna, jacuzzi, steam room and an 18-metre swimming pool, while there are also nine private treatment rooms offering everything from a ‘Four Elements’ body journey to a rebalancing Indian massage. An even bigger draw to Akasha is its watsu hydrotherapy rituals, however. Home to London’s first watsu treatments, you can enjoy a shiatsu massage whilst floating in your own private 35C-heated pool.

    10. Thai Square Spa

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Charing Cross

    Best for: Men’s grooming.

    With rich decor (silks, gold finishes and sculptures) this day spa on Northumberland Avenue is an opulent oasis of calm just a (hot) stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square. For less than 50 smackers visitors can enjoy the spa’s Sen Space for an hour, which includes a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and ice fountains. Treatment-wise, £75 will get you a signature body scrub, whilst top-dollar treatments cost well over £200. Besides a long list of beauty therapies, Thai Square has a solid selection of male-specific treatments, such as a collagen facial and hot towel facial.

    11. Aveda Institute

    • Shopping
    • Covent Garden

    Best for: Botanical hair therapies.

    This hub of all-natural hair and beauty on High Holborn is light, airy and always packed. One of the original purveyors of herbal products, Aveda’s flagship spa and salon provides Londoners with a huge range of therapies and grooming services. For untamed talons, manicures and pedicure are available, tucked away in swish nail booths, while downstairs a handful of treatment rooms lend themselves to stress-beating body wraps and chakra-balancing massages. Back on ground level, lacklustre locks can benefit from either a stylish chop or one Aveda’s intensive botanical hair and scalp treatments as well.

    12. Bamford Haybarn Spa at The Berkeley

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Knightsbridge

    Best for: Rooftop lounging.

    A country-styled sanctuary overlooking the lush greenery of Hyde Park, the health club and spa located on the seventh floor of The Berkeley hotel is decked out with white wooden panels, whilst soft grey cushions, potted herbs and bales of wicker are added decoration. Undoubtedly the star of show is the rooftop pool, which has a retractable roof for London’s sunny days and offers incredible views over the city. If you can tear yourself away from being poolside, treatments in the spa include exfoliations, massages, hot and cold stone therapy, and men’s sprucing sessions too.

    13. Chuan Body+Soul Spa

    • Shopping
    • Marylebone

    Best for: Personalised treatments.

    A day on Oxford Street might be brilliant for shopping, but it’s hardly good for the soul. Luckily, tucked away on a quiet-ish street nearby is the calming haven of Chuan Body+Soul – a luxurious subterranean spa perfectly positioned as an alternative to the mayhem on the streets above. It’s a cosy haven of remedies and relaxation, underpinned by traditional Chinese medicine of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. There’s a small but well-curated selection of treatments available. Go for a signature Chuan session to get a taste of the Chinese medicine influence – and be sure to keep some time spare for a lengthy session in the luxurious changing rooms where you’ll find a single-sex steam room and sauna. Delay the inevitable return to reality further with a few laps in the 16-metre pool, flanked by chillout areas and a dramatic spiral staircase.

    14. Lush

    • Shopping
    • Cosmetics
    • Oxford Street

    Best for: Fun and quirky treatments.

    Meander past the towers of delicious smelling, neon-coloured cosmetics which fill this Oxford Street store and you’ll find one of Lush’s seven in-store spas. Sure, Europe’s busiest boulevard hardly seems like the location for a day of relaxation; however, as soon as you step into the quaint, country kitchen-styled spa, where you can experience a mineral bath, a multi-sensory massage or a reflexology session all to a tailor-made soundtrack, the street’s shuffling tourists and tooting buses are forgotten. For the ultimate muscle untangler, we recommend stopping by for ‘The Good Hour’ (£110).

    15. The Porchester Spa

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Bayswater

    Best for: Turkish-style saunas.

    This old-school spa is a hit with the locals, but it’s worth making the trek for too. Not just for its affordability, but also its history. Opened in 1929, the place still has all its original features, including the green-and-white tiles. A reasonable £30 will gain you access to the two steam rooms, three Turkish hot rooms, a sauna, relaxation area and cold plunge pool, as well as a 30m swimming pool. Any extras, like a 30-minute back, neck and shoulder massage, will cost upwards of £33 per treatment.

    Andrew Beasley

    16. The Retreat

    Best for: Ultimate escapism

    Four floors underground inside London’s first iceberg hotel (also known as The Londoner) The Retreat is a luxury spa hidden beneath the hubbub of Leicester Square. The spa offers a range of holistic treatments with a twist, including facials that use diamond, gold and silver as key ingredients and massage treatments that champion balms over oils. There’s also a hydropool, sauna, steam room, nail bar, hairdresser, and a superfood and wellness clinic on-site. But the real brownie points go to the micro touches dotted across the space, from the cushy poolside cabanas that make you feel like you’re in Cancun instead of under M&M World to the heated toilet seats that ensure your cheeks get pampered too.

    17. Spa Experience

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Bethnal Green

    Best for: Bargain wellness.

    For a steal of a spa experience, Spa Experience is your spot. At the London branches of the UK-wide leisure chain (Ironmonger Row Baths in Old Street, York Hall in Bethnal Green, New Kensington Leisure Centre, Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, New Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre and Wimbledon Leisure Centre), a three-hour day package grants visitors use of saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools and relaxation beds for just £26. If you’ve got a few more pounds to play with, Elemis massages start at £30, while a 50-minute milk and argan oil body pumice will leave you feeling like Cleopatra for a reasonable £49-£61.

    18. Ushvani

    • Health and beauty
    • Spas
    • Belgravia

    Best for: Pure luxury.

    The place in London for total, utter and complete indulgence, Knightsbridge’s Ushvani should be on every spa-lover’s bucket list. Founded by Usha Arumugam with the aim of bringing an authentic Malaysian-style spa to London, Ushvani offers weary city dwellers an exotic retreat. Decked out with swirling cream marble and dark wood furnishings, facilities include a hydrotherapy pool, steam room, couple’s suite and hibiscus tea lounge. The treatment menu is Asian-inspired and features a nutmeg flower ritual, warming herbal ritual and a divine Malay massage.

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