The best spas in London
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.
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. Their 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 pods where you can have a steaming cup of tea and some nibbles, while you slip on a pair of headphones and let the calming effects of your treatment really sink in.
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 Akahsa are its Watsu hydrotherapy rituals, however. Home to London's first Watsu pool, here you can enjoy a Shiatsu massage whilst floating in your own private 35 degree-heated pool.
Best for: Specialist treatments.
The second floor of Park Lane’s Metropolitan hotel, owned by luxury hotel group COMO, is where you'll find the small but delightful Shambala 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.
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 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 for longer than a loo break, treatments in the spa include exfoliations, massages, hot and cold stone therapy, and men’s sprucing sessions too.
Best for: Temporarily escaping the city.
At this cosy north London branch of Cowshed, the country-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, six leather chairs each with individual TV screens are for those in for a manicure or pedicure, while downstairs there are seven cream, wooden-clad treatment rooms are ready to accommodate body cleanses, reflexology, massages and anti-aging facials.
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 a few hours 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.
Best for: Botanical hair therapies.
This hub of all-natural hair and beauty on High Holborn is light, airy and always packed out. 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.
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).
Best for: Pure luxury.
The place 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.
Best for: Turkish-style saunas.
A short amble from Royal Oak tube station, this leisure centre dating to back to 1929 (which still has its original green and white tiling intact) is a huge hit with locals looking for a cheap way to unwind. For those with any interest in being active, there’s a 30m swimming pool. But for loafing loungers, there are two steam rooms, three Turkish hot rooms, a sauna, plunge pool and relaxation area. Just under £30 will get you into to all of the above for three hours, while added indulgences like a Moroccan body scrub and an Indian head massage will cost you from £20 upwards.
Best for: Men’s grooming.
With rich decor (think rich silks, gold finishes and wood-carved 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 fifty smackers visitors can enjoy the spa’s Sen Space for an hour, which includes a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and ice fountains. Treatment-wise, £70 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 too such as a collagen facial and hot towel facial.
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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 Cetnre), 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 after that, Elemis massages start at £37, while a 50-minute milk and honey ritual, which includes body, hair and scalp treatments as well as a massage, will leave you feeling like Cleopatra for a reasonable £70.
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. Instead, 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 spas’ 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.
Best for: Potent anti-aging 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-aging 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.
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