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London Calling

by Yvonne Yorke

Checking in on some of the most luxurious and longstanding hotel spas in the capital of cool.

During my years as a journalist and commentator covering major royal events, the Corinthia London had been my hotel of choice for its refined elegance, impeccable service, and proximity to both Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. I stayed there while I reported on the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton for CNN and BBC World, and again for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This past May, I was back in its luxurious surroundings during a hectic week culminating in King Charles’ coronation, and ready for much needed relaxation and rejuvenation. (At press time, The Peninsula London and Raffles London at The OWO hadn’t yet opened.)

From my first visit in 2011, when the ESPA Life at the Corinthia first opened, I’ve been a devotee. At the forefront of the city’s wellness landscape, this 36,000-square-foot, four-story spa is the largest, and certainly has long been one of the best in the British capital. From the curved hallways with champagne lacquer-paneled walls, to the polished chrome artwork, and the white leather loungers, it’s as high on style as it is on hedonistic pampering.

The Thermal Floor area with black Italian-marble walls offers heated loungers in front of ambient fireplaces, private sleep pods, a glass-walled amphitheater sauna, an ice fountain, a hydrotherapy pool with massaging jets, and a stunning pool lit with atmospheric mood lighting. The word that comes to mind is: sexy. It’s where you’d imagine James Bond to unwind before his next mission. Incidentally, the Corinthia is in a landmark building that once housed the British Ministry of Defense, and the hotel held the press conference to officially announce the Bond film, Skyfall.

If I’m seduced by the spa’s glamorous, aesthetic appeal, I’m even more enthralled by its extensive repertoire of treatments for men and women that utilize the latest technology in health, beauty and fitness, as well as ancient holistic therapies. In addition to massage and facial specialists, its wellness team comprises of globally renowned naturopaths, physiotherapists, traditional Chinese medicine acupuncturists, osteopaths and personal trainers. What’s more, the Corinthia has partnered with the London Regenerative Institute (LRI), founded by pioneering plastic surgeons, to offer a range of noninvasive services such as mini facelift procedures utilizing fat-derived stem cells, and injections of platelet-rich plasma to assist in wound recovery.

I looked forward to experiencing the ESPA Immune Fortifying Ritual in one of the spa’s 17 oval treatment pods. The ritual began with breathwork and a visualization session before a lymphatic drainage massage inside a spacesuit-like Body Ballancer compression garment that inflates, applying rhythmic pressure to the legs to improve circulation. After getting out of the suit, I was treated to a light tapping of my thymus gland to facilitate the elimination of toxins, followed by an out-of-this-world, fortifying body massage with a choice of four aromatherapy oil blends. I decided on the rosemary and eucalyptus oil and my body definitely felt rejuvenated and my mind clearer afterwards.

From the underground, Bond-worthy pool in the Corinthia’s spa, I float 52 stories above London in the infinity Sky Pool at the Shangri-La Hotel The Shard—an iconic landmark building designed by the celebrated architect, Renzo Piano. The highest hotel pool in Western Europe, it boasts unparalleled vistas of the city’s skyline. Guests can also relax at the Sky Sauna or work out in the fully equipped gym—both with similar showstopping views. Visits to the Sky Pool area are by appointment only, so there’s never too many people to intrude on the tranquil ambiance of the spa in the sky.

After a refreshing dip in the pool, I indulged in the Deluxe Sacred Nature Facial in one of the Shangri-La’s guestrooms outfitted as a spa treatment room. The anti-aging facial centers on Buriti oil extracted from palm trees in Brazil known as the “Tree of Life”. This nutrient-rich, organic oil has anti-inflammatory properties as well as photo-protective abilities to prevent sun damage from UV rays, making the facial ideal for those with sensitive or moisture-depleted skin. The treatment concludes with a pampering neck and shoulder massage so blissful I didn’t want it to end.

Over at The Carlton Tower Jumeirah hotel in Knightsbridge, the hotel is keen to promote its new UK partnership with Seed to Skin Tuscany. This Italian, botanical skincare and spa line combines high concentrations of active ingredients with advanced molecular science to promote cell regeneration and skin rejuvenation. The spa also features other European skincare brands like Omorovicza from Budapest, and while I haven’t tried them, this line offers luxuriously indulgent-sounding treatments such as the Blue Diamond Facial, and the Gold Hydralifting Facial with Rose Quartz.

The Carlton Tower Jumeirah’s health club—the redesigned Peak Fitness Club & Spa—features natural light with an indoor swimming pool enclosed under a two-story, curved-glass ceiling. Chic, poolside cabanas with day beds lend a resort feel to the space, and snacks such as dates and herbal tea are a nod to the hotel’s Middle Eastern heritage.

Whether your treatment preferences lean toward traditional or alternative, scientific to holistic, you’ll find it in some of London’s coolest and most luxurious international spas.

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