Five splurgeworthy London spa treatments to gift this season

This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s guide to London

Bamboo & Silk Ritual at Claridge’s Spa

Brook Street, London W1K 4HR

  • Good for: A great escape and relieving serious muscle tension

  • Not so good for: Pre-spa swim — the pool is tiny

  • Cost: £295 for 1.5 hours

  • FYI: Hairdresser to the stars Josh Wood has a salon in the spa, so you can get your highlights done too. High-tech Face Gym treatments are also on offer

  • Website; Directions

Floral kimonos await you in the changing rooms of Claridge’s Spa

The swimming pool in Claridge’s Spa
The swimming pool in the spa is the first in Claridge’s history

The divine new spa at Claridge’s is the fruit of a seven-year project to burrow underneath the hotel to create five new floors, including a wine shop and a new chef’s table restaurant, L’Epicerie. Once you descend to the third floor below street level, you enter a sort of subterranean cocoon — the Art Deco glitz and buzz of the hotel’s marble-flagstoned lobby suddenly a world away. Designed by Hong Kong-born interior architect Andre Fu, the 7,000 sq ft wellness space has the feel of a luxurious Japanese bath house, with an emphasis on calming wood and water features, and floral kimonos in the changing rooms. It also houses the hotel’s first pool — a (disappointingly short) 8m-long warm bath to pootle up and down in before your treatment, and some comfy cabanas to lounge in.

Fingers whose tips are covered in silk thimbles massaging a woman’s face at Claridge’s Spa
Silk thimbles are used in the Bamboo & Silk Ritual’s facial massage . . .

Hot rice poultices being applied to the back of a client at Claridge’s Spa
 . . . as well as hot rice poultices

I handed myself over to my therapist for the spa’s signature Bamboo & Silk Ritual, not really knowing what was in store other than that I had been promised transportive levels of relaxation. “You are going on a journey,” said Yanina as she scrubbed my feet with fragrant salt. The 90 minutes began with hot rice poultices and a proper deep-tissue pummel (I had requested firm pressure, and boy, did I get it) to ease the muscles before tackling the really knotty bits, which she proceeded to roll and knead with warm bamboo sticks. Then she donned some little white silk thimbles and began to massage my face with small circular movements, gently exfoliating and touching on pressure points around the brow and temples. At this point, I was on my way to drifting off, but couldn’t quite shake that niggling feeling that time was running out, and that at some point, all this would inevitably have to come to an end.

I came to over a cup of rooibos tea, and was extremely reluctant to remove my kimono and get dressed, knowing that real life and a Tube journey home lay ahead. This is a costly and indulgent treatment to gift by anyone’s standards, but one that, I can confirm, will transform a frazzled friend or partner, at least for a day or two. Rebecca Rose

Gold Hydralifting Facial with Rose Quartz at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah

1 Cadogan Place, London SW1X 9PY

  • Good for: Deep hydration and anti-ageing with palpable results

  • Not so good for: Shoehorning the facial in on a busy day. You’ll want to take advantage of the spa amenities beforehand, so as not get your face wet while the products are still on it (and you’ll be too relaxed afterwards to even contemplate doing any work or chores)

  • FYI: The results will be visible, so I would recommend having the treatment on the day before any parties or public commitments

  • Cost: £205 for 1.5 hours

  • Website; Directions

When I set foot in the Peak Fitness Club and Spa at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah in the middle of a stressful day, I thought of Dante reaching paradise after a vexing journey through hell and purgatory: “and thence we came forth to see again the stars”.

The 20m pool in the Peak Fitness Club and Spa at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, with its curved glass roof
A curved glass roof covers the 20m pool in the Peak Fitness Club and Spa at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah

London’s first tower hotel and once its tallest, The Carlton Tower beautifully preserves its original modernist features, with noticeable newfound glitz following a £100mn renovation completed in 2021. Unlike most other luxury spas, it is above ground: the light-filled space, laid out across three floors, is home to a 20m swimming pool, cupped by a monumental double-height skylight in curved glass. Terraced rows of oversized loungers overlook the pool, divided by sheer white curtains for privacy. I loved relaxing in the Jacuzzi, perched slightly higher above the pool, with frequent breaks to visit the steam room and sauna with Himalayan salt walls.

One of the spa’s treatment rooms
One of the treatment rooms in The Carlton Tower Jumeirah’s Peak Fitness Club and Spa . . .

The spa’s pool, with a chair at its edge and spherical artwork on its wall
 . . . a light-filled space laid out over three floors at the top of the hotel

If you plan on popping in for a quick facial, abandon all hope. The gold hydrating treatment will have you so relaxed you’ll feel unable to move after.

I was introduced to the benefits of Omorovicza products’ natural ingredients during the double application of Hungarian moor mud, which Ruth explained would cleanse my skin from any traces of make-up and pollution. The rose-scented gold mask’s aromatherapeutic effects were just as strong as its three different forms of potent hyaluronic acid. A final touch of sparkling gold oil gave my arms and décolletage a lovely shimmer.

By the end of the treatment, 90 minutes later, my skin looked so rejuvenated and fresh that I was sorry I had nowhere to go. Apart from the Jacuzzi, of course. Marianna Giusti

Chuan Immune Booster at The Langham

1c Portland Place, London W1B 1JA

The pool in The Langham hotel’s spa
The pool in The Langham hotel’s Chuan Spa
  • Good for: Deep relaxation, digestion, general health

  • Not so good for: Those who prefer intense or deep-tissue treatments

  • FYI: The facilities include a pool, sauna and steam room, so plan to stick around after your treatment

  • Cost: £365 for 2.5 hours

  • Website; Directions

As a wellness sceptic, my expectations for the Chuan Immune Booster treatment, conducted in the hushed, tonal-hued spa of The Langham hotel, were low. But what’s not to like about a 2.5-hour treatment, even if it doesn’t boost your immunity to Covid-19?

Let’s just say I sorely underestimated Felicia, my therapist. The session began with a light, front-to-back lymphatic drainage massage that moved into foot reflexology, the latter a treatment that I usually find too painful to bear but Felicia managed to make feel wonderful. This was followed by a half-hour of reiki healing — probably the only part of the session I didn’t feel I got much out of (there’s the wellness sceptic speaking again), though it was perfectly relaxing.

The Langham’s 2.5-hour Chuan Immune Booster may well prove so relaxing that you’ll be tempted to stay in the treatment room for a kip

A row of stools at a counter, behind which is a fridge filled with water and shelves stacked with fruit and teas
Post-treatment refreshments are at hand

Did my immune system feel “boosted”? After 11 hours of sleep — the longest I’ve had in years — it’s fair to say I felt better equipped to fight a bout of flu than previously. The next day I felt straighter and taller, and my stomach was notably flatter. My partner was so intrigued he asked me to book him a session as his Christmas present — so that’s his gift sorted. Lauren Indvik

The Augustinus Bader Exclusive Bulgari Facial at the Bulgari Hotel London

171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW

  • Good for: Serious skincare that yields results. All skin types

  • Not so good for: Going out after. It is advised to leave all of the products to soak in overnight (and your hair will be very oily from a scalp massage)

  • FYI: Head to your appointment a few hours early to take full advantage of the spa facilities. Booking a treatment at Bulgari of at least £250 grants visitors access to the 25m swimming pool, gold-tiled vitality pool, gym, steam room and sauna. (Spa memberships are also available.)

  • Cost: £350 for 1.5 hours

  • Website; Directions

It’s possible you already worship at the altar of Augustinus Bader. The German professor and stem-cell expert has become a sort of god-like figure in the world of skincare, having catapulted to fame after applying the science of non-surgical burn recovery to creating an anti-ageing face cream. Thousands of column inches and allegedly wrinkle-relieved faces later, Bader, with his business partner Charles Rosier, developed from the cult favourite cream an entire range of skin and haircare products that exceeded $120mn in sales last year.

A gua sha massage tool being applied to a woman’s face during the Augustinus Bader Exclusive Bulgari Facial
Gua sha massage tools and jade rollers are deployed in the Augustinus Bader Exclusive Bulgari Facial

A row of the Augustinus Bader products used in the Bulgari Hotel’s facial on a rable, as well as a gua sha massage tool and a jade roller
The Augustinus Bader products used in the Bulgari Hotel’s facial

His dedicated following now have a temple in the heart of London: Bader’s award-winning beauty brand has created a facial treatment exclusively for the Bulgari Spa, which combines an assortment of scientific skincare with facial-massage techniques. As somewhat of a cynic who has remained curious about the brand (I wasn’t particularly impressed after trying the infamous hydrator), one session turned me into a convert.

The treatment begins with a thorough double cleansing (a silky balm followed by a gentle gel cleanse) to prepare the skin for the array of products meant to activate its stem cells and boost repair cycles. An essence is followed by facial massage and a dry, papery mask, which was dampened with serum and left to work its magic while I enjoyed a scalp, hand and arm massage. Jade rollers and gua sha massage tools, which were kept on ice, were used at various points in the treatment to increase circulation, hydrate and contour. After the mask was removed, more serums landed and, finally, a facial oil was applied to lock everything in (my facialist said that all of the products are applied in order of molecule size to maximise absorption). 

The Bulgari Hotel Spa’s 25m swimming pool
The Bulgari Spa’s 25m swimming pool © Edmund Dabney

Nothing burned, nothing tingled and the treatment was free of claustrophobia-inducing tech. It was entirely product-driven — and critically, the products seemed to work, and were very agreeable with my sensitive skin. After I returned to the serene, wood-panelled dressing room, I took embarrassing mirror selfies like a smug influencer. Bright, glowing and evenly toned, I looked positively angelic. #Blessed.

A treatment at the Knightsbridge hotel also includes access to all of the spa facilities, housed five floors underground, which include an excellent gym, steam room, sauna and a bubbly whirlpool tiled with gold glass. The 25m swimming pool attracted both serious swimmers and loungers reading in private cabanas, with a buzzer at hand to order provisions. It is worth taking full advantage. This is a real treat. Niki Blasina

The Modern Alchemy Harmonising Ritual at ESPA Life at Corinthia

Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD

  • Good for: Switching off swirling thoughts and deep relaxation

  • Not so good for: Targeted results such as muscle aches

  • FYI: The cost includes use of the facilities in the four-floor spa before and after the treatment

  • Cost: £300 for 1.5 hours

  • Website; Directions

Launched this year, the Corinthia London’s Modern Alchemy rituals are intended to combine “ancient ancestral wisdom and powerful ingredients for a whole body experience”. Purists might question how authentically this ancient wisdom of unspecified provenance translates to a luxury hotel in central London, with chauffeur-driven cars charging outside, and quiet tinkling of china cups emanating from a tea room dubbed the Crystal Moon Lounge. However, if you lean in (or rather lie down) to the quasi-spiritual agenda, relaxation awaits.

A tarot-like deck of cards
Pick a card: consulting a tarot-like deck is part of the Modern Alchemy Harmonising Ritual . . .

A leg being massaged with a Kansa wand, a traditional Indian wooden tool
 . . . as is being massaged with a Kansa wand, a traditional Indian wooden tool

The Harmonising Ritual is apparently influenced by the “power and symbolism of the full moon”. Fortunately, I didn’t start howling or sprout any werewolf-like fur afterwards. Instead, the treatment started with a foot-bathing ceremony, whereby the therapist washed my feet in a bronze bowl filled with petals, using ESPA’s The Grounding Crystals, followed by a leg and hand massage with aromatic oil. Next I was asked to choose a tarot-like card with a semi-precious stone on it; I opted for amethyst, which apparently represents growth.

The main event is a full-body massage using a Kansa wand, a traditional Indian wooden tool with a domed end and roots in Ayurvedic medicine. The therapist glided the tool over the skin creating a calming rhythm that truly zoned me out, and eliminated the usual swirling to-do-list thoughts. There’s deep inhalation of essential oils, and pressure applied to the third eye — the concept of a gateway to higher consciousness positioned on the forehead. Normally I favour a deep-pressure massage to tackle tight muscles, but actually this gentler approach was more soothing.

The black-marble-walled decor of ESPA Life at Corinthia
The decor at ESPA Life at Corinthia feels ‘somewhere between Art Deco and “international luxury”’ © Richard Powers

Afterwards I explored the four-floor spa, with its decor that feels somewhere between Art Deco and “international luxury”: black marble walls, gas fires, and ridged pillars in the changing rooms. The Thermal Floor features a (small) indoor pool, vitality pool (a large Jacuzzi), amphitheatre sauna (a large sauna with beds at different heights), ice fountain, marble heated loungers and sleep pods. I defy anyone not to chill out. Carola Long

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