A weekend of peace and quiet doesn't mean a three-hour train journey to the countryside. Whether you make a day of it or splash out and book a suite, find yourself a little slice of heaven at one of London's most lavish hotel spas.
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London's best hotel spas
It may be just a few seconds walk from that noted oasis of calm, Piccadilly Circus, but once you’ve dodged the crowds to retreat inside Akasha’s heavy wooden doors, you really wouldn’t know it. Everything about Akasha is really rather magnificent, from the wood-panelled reception to the clean lines of the changing rooms. After navigating the labyrinth of cool marble walkways, you soon reach the centrepiece – a gorgeously lit 18-metre pool flanked by a sauna, hammam and Jacuzzi. It’s also home to the capital’s only dedicated Watsu pool, where you can opt for a 50-minute session (£120) that encompasses hydrotherapy, meditation and Shiatsu massage.
Eleven years after it opened in 2000, the Agua Spa at The Sanderson is still at the top of its game, delivering excellent treatments against a dreamy backdrop of swishing white curtains. On a recent visit, we sampled the Mother Nature Pregnancy Massage which involved lying on a warm water bed, being slathered in heavenly Aromatherapy Associates oils and being gently massaged all over from scalp to toes. Ultra-soothing. We can also recommend the Eve Lom Experience facial, hot stone massage and fabulous manicures using Rococo polishes.
While located beneath the Connaught Hotel in less-than-relaxing Mayfair, once you’re being massaged in oils from the continent of your choice in the heavenly Aman Spa, ensconced in hot towels on a heated bed, and being murmured to in hushed tones by your barefoot therapist, you won’t believe you’re not in a Malaysian beach spa. The spa also features what must be London’s nicest swimming pool, black tiled and complete with waterfall. A half-hour treatment costs around £70.
Located on the sixth floor of the W Hotel, the ultra modern Away Spa overlooks bustling Leicester Square. Open to the hotel's residents and to visitors with a bigger-than-average budget to spend on a little 'me time', the dinky Away Spa isn't a destination for a full day of lazing around, it's somewhere to indulge in a five-star treatment and then a quick sweat session. Sandwiched between two dark corridors of hotel rooms, the sleek reception-come-lounge area, which stems five stylish treatment rooms, is filled with scented candles and pale leather sofas shrouded with white drapes. Beyond this, there is both a small steam room and sauna, and a handful of changing rooms. There's a light and airy gym next door too.
The running 1920s theme at the new Beaumont Hotel starts in a sleek babershop, extends to the small but comprehensive gym and then into the main spa and changing rooms. Here a compact space hosts a steam room and sauna, relaxation area and a couple of treatment rooms, as well as its calling-card: a Moroccan-inspired, Art Deco-outfitted hammam. A rare find in London, this traditional set-up means therapists can offer an affordable (£65), updated version of a Turkish bath – in this case, that means laying on a heated marble slab while Moroccan black soap, together with a coarse mit, is vigorously used to scrub down your body.
There are a lot of reasons to visit the Bamford Haybarn Spa nestled on top of the five star Knightsbridge hotel. Unlike the more ornate décor of the lobby and bars, the vibe at the 7th floor spa is chic and minimal, decked out in clean white and greys, decorated with ‘natural’ ephemera like tidy hay bails and twig coat hooks. Similarly to the interior, the treatments are simple and well considered, using Oskia London products, which pride themselves on being organic, pure and natural. They offer the classic range of body and face treatments with a few wild cards thrown in, including the Gold Fine Body Wrap, which uses champagne (for your skin, not to drink sadly).
Oxford Circus is not usually a place for rest and relaxation. But somehow Chuan Spa just up on Regent Street manages to be that very rare thing, an urban oasis. As soon as you walk in through the doors, tucked discreetly next to the grand Langham Hotel, you're already far from the maddening crowds. The philosophy of the spa is based on traditional Chinese medicine and the whole experience, from the décor and ambience to the treatments themselves, is meant to rebalance and recharge you. If you book in for a treatment, make sure you have an extra two hours to spare before or after to make the most of the rest of the stunning spa facilities, including a sunken swimming pool and a Finnish sauna.
Nothing very bad could ever happen in The Dorchester Spa. So acutely drilled are the staff and so invisible are the processes that keep the oasis running like a well oiled machine, that you can literally relax to the point of regression. Every need will be taken care of, and obliging therapists with mollifying tones will hold your hand every step of the way, from showing you where to hang your robe to rustling up a hairband because you were too disorganised to bring one. In terms of treatments, The Dorchester is king of the complete body experience, including full mud wraps, mineral cleanses and the luxurious rose cocoon.
Situated on the mezzanine level of the five-star Corinthia Hotel, just off Trafalgar Square, is the ESPA Life day spa. A shiny, monochrome labyrinth of treatment rooms, steam rooms and pools, the spa is thoroughly lavish, modern, low-lit and windowless. It's the ideal place to shut the door on reality. The spa's main area, the Thermal Suite, is a black-marbled oasis which houses a large steam room, swimming pool, jet pool, ice fountain, heated loungers and, most stunning of all, a glass-walled sauna amphitheatre as its centre piece.
An impressive wet room, great (if expensive) treatments and striking middle-Eastern statues make this one of central London’s most tranquil hotel spas. If you're after some serious pampering, opt for the indulgent Golden Caviar Facial and Cashmere and Silk Body wrap. Spa-goers are encouraged to lounge in the relaxation area post treatments as well as indulging in the sauna and steam chamber featuring fibre optic lights on the ceiling, to similate a night’s sky.