Time out: three spas and salons in Covent Garden

With so much going on in our neighbourhood, spas feel less like a treat than a necessity – if you’re planning a big night out they can prep you for it, and if you’ve spent a hard day shopping they can help soothe it away. In many cases they can be an attraction in themselves, with half- or full-day packages that make ideal gifts.

Although we were sad to see the Sanctuary Spa close in May 2014 – it was one of the oldest, in business for 36 years and with a long list of famous fans – but there are still plenty of great options nearby, from relaxed independents to big-name institutes to Thai specialists. Pair them with a workout in our fully-equipped gym – free to use for guests – and you’ve got the perfect wellness package.

Relax Covent Garden

Situated just off popular shopping street Long Acre, Relax does a very informal, very accessible take on spas, with a colourful downstairs lounge for pop-in massages and a series of luxurious treatment rooms upstairs, clustered around a waiting area that looks out over the St Martin’s Court development (so you can people-watch and plan which shops to hit afterwards). Massage offerings range from powerful sports sessions to classic, relaxing Swedish techniques. The Ultimate Relax Experience, coming in at £210, includes an aromatherapy facial, a full body massage and a manicure or pedicure.

  • Address: 7 Mercer Street, WC2H 9QJ
  • Walking time: 8 minutes
      Landmarks on the way:

    • Bedford Street and Southampton Street, built on the site of Bedford House (demolished 1705) and the subsequent Bedford Estate.
    • Rose Street, home to the historic Lamb and Flag. A small cobbled street that once extended further south, but was cut off by the construction of Garrick Street in the 1860s.

Thai Square Spa

While most modern spas offer at least one Thai-inspired treatment, Thai Square, a gorgeous retreat in an old Covent Garden warehouse, offers in the region of 50 – so if this is the style you prefer, this is where to come. Naturally, treatments use plenty of aromatics and spices – ginger, lemongrass, jasmine, cinnamon, black pepper – and many, if Thai Square is to be believed, date back centuries (as long as it works, we’re not too bothered). There’s a fair amount of hype around the Golden Maharani Facial Treatment, which uses a face-pack made with genuine 24-carat gold. There’s also a wide range of massages and basic beauty services, and the decor is lovely throughout; we’re particularly taken with the big copper baths in two of the fourteen treatment rooms.

  • Address: 25 Shelton Street, WC2H 9HW
  • Walking time: 8 minutes
      Landmarks on the way:

    • Bedford Street and Southampton street, built on the site of Bedford House (demolished 1705) and the subsequent Bedford Estate.
    • Covent Garden market
    • Floral Street, renamed in 1895 in reference to the trade in flowers at Covent Garden, and now lined with upmarket shops
    • Pineapple Dance Studios

Aveda Institute

The Aveda name dates back to the mid-70s, and today it’s one of the world’s most recognised names in organic hair and beauty, specialising in plant-based products, committed to fair trade and against animal testing. Its London salon and spa has a huge staff of 70 from 23 nationalities. As you’d expect, there’s a focus on hair treatment and styling, but also really like their pricing structure for body treatments – pick a main massage and add on extra mini-sessions, from ayurvedic eye treatment to reflexology, for £20 each. There’s also a men’s grooming section, which sells itself as “a merging of traditional barbering and holistic well-being”. Boys?

  • Address: 174-177 High Holborn, WC1V 7AA
  • Walking time: 11 minutez
      Landmarks on the way:

    • The southern section of Wellington Street, connecting to the Strand, was developed following the burning of the original Lyceum, which stood across the street’s current path, in 1830.
    • Royal Opera House
    • Bow Street, once home to the headquarters of the ‘Bow Street Runners’ – London’s first professional police force. It was a minor street until it was extended north onto Long Acre in 1793.

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