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Best spa hotels in London: Where to stay to chill out in style

Seek sanctuary from the city streets in one of London’s best spa hotels

Kate Hilpern
Tuesday 07 March 2023 18:19 GMT
Discover a serene side to the Big Smoke
Discover a serene side to the Big Smoke (istock)

You might not think that London offers a very relaxing break – but you’d be wrong. The capital has some of the ritziest spa hotels around, offering top-notch treatments and gorgeous pools, which make the ideal antidote to a day exploring the city.

Summer is right around the corner, and if you’re planning a trip to London once the weather warms up, then you’ll be pleased to know that the city never fails to pull out all the stops for travellers coming from both near and far. There are outdoor markets, new rooftop bars and even beach clubs (along the river Thames, no less) to celebrate what looks like a summer like no other.

If that all sounds a bit too hectic, no matter. A spa hotel offers the best of both world: a jammy location, but with a guaranteed morning pool swim, if you’re into that.

Whether you’re in the mood for a relaxing treatment at the end of a long day, or fancy an early morning swim in a deluxe pool, London has a spa hotel to suit every traveller.

Best for rooftop views: The Berkeley

Neighbourhood: Knightsbridge

The seventh floor rooftop pool at The Berkeley (The Berkeley)

The seventh floor rooftop pool and garden (the latter is transformed to cinema in winter) is the big pull at The Berkeley – the whole scene practically begs you to order a glass of fizz and invite all your besties to share the spectacular views over Hyde Park. And because of the central location (which feels implausible once you’re in the spa), you can tie in a trip with some Knightsbridge retail therapy. All treatments are Bamford, except for facials which use Oskia. The signature 90-minute massage had us practically floating home. If you’re staying the night, check out the buzzy Blue Bar, with its all-new cocktail menu, and the Michelin star restaurant, Marcus (of Marcus Wareing fame). The hotel also serves the iconic Pret-a-Portea afternoon tea.

Best for post-massage cocktails: Intercontinental London

Neighbourhood: The O2, Greenwich Peninsula

Soothing gig-weary limbs at the Intercontinental London (Intercontinental London)

Right next to the O2 (less than 10 minutes door-to-door under the special walkway), this 18-floor hotel is popular among concert-goers but we think the spa alone should entice you. With a 17-metre pool, relaxation pool and lounge, sauna, steam room and gym, the spa also has eight treatment rooms, including one for couples. The hotel nods to the maritime trading history of the location, plus there are rugs, silks, mosaic tiles and die-cut pendant lighting galore – the ideal setting for a tranquil treat. The signature treatment is the Meridian Time Ritual – a 105-minute body brush, wrap, massage and facial. Rooms are on the corporate side, but well-appointed with outstanding views, and the Peninsula Restaurant serves delicious modern European cuisine with great wine matching options. Don’t miss the top-floor Eighteen Sky Bar, a glam hangout for cocktails.

Best for zen: The Beaumont

Neighbourhood: Mayfair

A zen vibe permeates throughout the Beaumont's spa (The Beaumont)

Although this privately owned hotel only opened in 2014, the lavish combo of the magnificent 1926 Grade II-listed building and snazzy American Art Deco interiors whisk you back to the sophistication of pre-war Mayfair. For us, the standout points were the attention to detail and heavily customised hospitality, yet the hotel remains charmingly understated and lacks the imperious vibe of some of the other posh London hotels. What the bijou white spa loses in square footage, it makes up for in elegance and zen, making this heaven-on-earth for tired souls who need some R&R. We tried the traditional hamman treatment on its heated marble table – a house speciality involving cleansing, exfoliating and a Deep Sea mud wrap, the perfect precursor to the deep tissue massage that followed. Facilities include a sauna, steam room and plunge pool.

Best for celebrity treatments: W London

Neighbourhood: Soho

W Hotel's VIP treatment menu is overseen by a team of celebrity therapists (W Hotel)

Escape from the hustle and bustle of London’s Leicester Square at the tranquil Away spa on the sixth floor of the W. Redesigned in 2017, the spa, although not large, includes a sauna and steam room and continues the hotel’s dedication to all things bold and glamorous. The VIP treatment menu is overseen by a team of celebrity therapists including Su-Man, whose facials are widely known as a non-evasive alternative to botox; and James Harknett, known for his spray-tans. The hotel itself, known for its quirky sophistication, opened in 2010 and has 192 guest rooms including nine suites, two ‘WOW’ suites and one ‘Extreme WOW’ suite. For something cool, contemporary and different, the W gets two thumbs up from us although the bar and restaurant were disappointingly quiet and lacking in buzz when we visited (although it was a Sunday).

Best for ancient Chinese medicine: The Langham London

Neighbourhood: Marylebone

The sunken swimming pool used to be a bank vault (The Langham)

Opened in 1865 as Europe’s first "grand hotel", the Langham remains a London grande dame, with an award-winning bar and to-die-for food, especially in Roux at the Landau (top tip: try the imaginative tasting menu with wines to match – the cellar has over 500 wines, all available by the glass). The spa, tucked away beneath the hotel in a building that was once a bank, has a focus on Traditional Chinese medicine, with signature treatments incorporating the five elemental forces of wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The small but upscale facilities, which were refurbished in 2017, include a sunken 16-metre swimming pool in what was the bank’s vault (residents joke about swimming in gold), steam rooms, saunas and an all-singing-all-dancing gym. Just a seven-minute walk from Oxford Circus tube, the location is handy for shopping too.

Best for stylish interiors: Sea Containers

Neighbourhood: Southbank

Follow a culture fix at the Tate Modern with some R&R at Sea Containers (Sea Containers)

A skip, hop and a jump (although you’ll feel like doing none of these things once you’ve chilled out in the spa) from the Tate Modern, this classy Southbank hotel is kitted out with Tom Dixon styled interiors. This also stretches to the striking spa, complete with floor-to-ceiling copper teardrop installation in the subterranean spa lounge that apparently reflects Roman water vessels. There are six roomy treatment suites and a wow-factor treatment menu, with exclusive collaborations with experts and brands including Made For Life, Natura Bisse, SOVERAL, Dr Jackson's Natural Products, De Mamiel and Lola’s Apothecary. If you arrive early, book a "SPA on Arrival" package: Jet Lag Remedy, Big Meeting Prep or Morning Motivation, all available from 8am. And if you’re staying over, catch a movie in the 56-seat Curzon screening room.

Best for a relaxing swim: Bulgari Hotel London

Neighbourhood: Knightsbridge

London's largest spa pool can be found at Bvlgari Hotel (Bvlgari Hotel)

The 25-metre swimming pool – the biggest of all spa pools in London, complete with glistening green floor and surrounded by Vicenza stone and Italian glass, not to mention the deluxe cabanas – forms the centrepiece of this indulgent, two-storey spa, which itself is the pièce de résistance of this fancy Knightsbridge hotel. At 2,000 square metres, the spa is huge by London standards and includes 11 treatment rooms, one of which is the private spa suite complete with twin steam shower, relaxation area and hydro massage tub. There’s also a sauna, steam room, ice fountain, rain showers and exceptional relaxation and fitness areas – we tried the Celestial Black Diamond Facial and reckon we lost a few years in just two hours. The new Sette restaurant offers stupendous Italian fare and the rooms are chic, modern and spacious. It’s obscenely expensive, though.

Best for treatments from around the globe: St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

Neighbourhood: King’s Cross

Float away in Victorian splendor at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (St Pancras)

This Victorian-inspired 245-room railway hotel, with dramatic Neo-Gothic façade, is grand on every scale and very accessible – right above the St Pancras station concourse, in fact. Closed in 1935 because it cost a bomb to maintain, it re-opened to great fanfare in 2011, meticulously restored, including majestic features such as gold-leaf ceilings, hand-stencilled wall designs and the legendary spiral grand staircase. The peacock-themed spa – located in the original underground kitchens – is a triumph. The 11-metre pool has dramatic brick arches and tiling, while the hydro loungers, sauna and therapeutic steam room are all heavenly hang-outs for weary souls. We love the spa journey series – Indonesia, Africa, and English Garden among them – carried out by friendly, professional therapists in the six treatment rooms, including a couple’s suite. There’s also a fitness centre.

Best for Oriental luxury: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London

Neighbourhood: Knightsbridge

The emphasis at the Mandarin Oriental is on traditional Chinese medicine (Mandarin Oriental)

If you thought this hotel was opulent before, you should see it now that it’s completed the most extensive renovation in its 117-year history – including out-of-this-world Hyde Park (which it overlooks) themed suites and new penthouses designed by Hong Kong designer Joyce Wang – guaranteed to be a magnet for the rich and famous. The new-look spa provides chic Asian sumptuousness, including amethyst crystal steam rooms, 13 marble-surround treatment rooms and an Oriental suite with two massage beds and Rasul water temple. For the more active, there’s a 17-metre pool. With treatments, the emphasis is holistic, including Traditional Chinese medicine with specialists who have undergone three years of training – and it shows. We tried its signature Oriental Qi treatment, 110-minutes of tension-relieving bliss including work on key pressure points. Absolutely next level stuff, but it costs a bomb – our treatment would set you back £200.

Best for outdoor space: The Grove

Neighbourhood: Chandler’s Cross

The atmospheric pool at The Grove (The Grove)

For a spa hotel with a country retreat feel that’s still on the Tube, this former home of the Earl of Clarendon is just the ticket. The Sequoia spa is breathtaking, with a 22m black mosaic-tiled pool, vitality pool and Jacuzzi, heat experience rooms, steam room, sauna, outdoor terrace (a real sun trap), gym and fitness studio among the facilities. We tried the Mindful Touch Massage from Natura Bissé, which uses virtual reality at the start and gentle contemplative talking for a meditative feel – a great concept, although unfortunately there were a few technical problems with our goggles. Give yourself time for a round of golf or a walk in the 300 acres, relax in the seemingly endless hotel lounges or check out the Walled Garden with outdoor pool. We dined in the revamped Glasshouse – top-notch food with buffet-style eating. A funky hotel with a laid-back, family-friendly vibe and second-to-none service.

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