16 amazing hotels for mind, body and soul
Ease into the new year with these fabulous wellness getaways – from bouji treehouses in the Alps and sleep retreats in London to zen farm stays in Hampshire and fabulous beachfront spa hotels in the Med. And breathe…
Stay in the UK
Buxton Crescent Hotel
Buxton, Derbyshire Best for: Period splendour
It has taken 17 years and some GBP70 million to transform the once-derelict Buxton Crescent into a spa hotel. Situated opposite St Anne’s Well, the Grade-I listed crescent is located on top of a warm-water spring, which pumps up one million litres a day into the Peak District town. The building has been beautifully restored to its Georgian pomp – its 81 bedrooms are suitably grand with roll-top baths and views across the landscaped municipal gardens.
The spa itself has naturally heated thermal pools, which are surrounded by original tiling and ironwork. Treatments include underwater jet massages and a salt cave, plus a fabulous rooftop pool to swim in the pattering Derbyshire rain. After a day wallowing in thermal waters, head to the hotel restaurant – half a dozen oysters and a whole lemon sole are just the thing.
Stella loves: The Assembly Rooms, which adjoin the hotel – an 18th-century ballroom that can host 120 guests. The hand-painted ceiling is worth a visit alone. Out and about: Buxton’s Victorian Pavilion gardens, a few minutes from the hotel, has a gallery, glasshouse and tea rooms.
The Buxton Opera House is also situated behind the hotel (buxtonoperahouse.org.uk) The Cavendish Arcade next door to the hotel has a lovely outdoor cafe and shops. Book it: Rooms from GBP155 a night, B&B; ensanahotels.com/buxton. Read our expert review here.
Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire
Best for: Instant relaxation From bonfire night to beach parties, this hotel, popular with celebrities, is the place to celebrate an occasion and prides itself on attention to detail (look out for the urban beach and bold contemporary art). A huge draw is the award-winning Sequoia spa with its black mosaic-tiled pool, specialist treatments and the promise of instant relaxation.
There are three restaurants, but you won’t go wrong with The Glasshouse, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. The all-you-can eat sushi is a must.
The Grove is popular with celebritiesCredit: Chris Tubbs Photography
Stella loves: The Glasshouse restaurant’s spectacular dessert cart. Out and about: Plenty to do for outdoorsy types – there are 300 acres of gardens, a golf course, rolling hills, woodlands, wetlands and the Grand Union Canal all on your doorstep.
But it’s well placed to pop into the city too: Watford’s stations are a 10-minute taxi ride away, so there are excellent public transport links for day trips to the capital. Book it: Rooms from GBP370 a night; thegrove.co.uk. Read our expert review here.
Careys Manor and Senspa
New Forest, Hampshire
Best for: Playing lady of the manor For full-on spa relaxation with scenic benefits then you won’t go far wrong with this beautiful spa hotel. Choose a traditional room in the main 18th-century manor house or go for a more contemporary feel overlooking the very charming gardens.
Stroll down the gravel drive and you will spot New Forest ponies munching on the village green of Brockenhurst, and there are three decent pubs within walking distance. Alternatively, pad about in your robe and take advantage of the 22,000 sq feet SenSpa with swimming and hydrotherapy pools, saunas and ice room. With 18 treatment rooms the pampering options are numerous.
Book the 90-minute Thai massage if you want to feel reborn.
Careys Manor is a relaxing base for the New Forest
Stella loves: The three restaurants, all excellent, serving British, Thai and French cuisines as well as afternoon tea. Out and about: Walkers should head straight to New Forest National Park, home to native ponies and donkeys – plenty of good bike routes too. The New Forest Heritage Centre at Lyndhurst is the place find out everything about the local history, wildlife and conservation (newforestnpa.gov.uk)
Ashford, Kent Best for: Chilled-out yogis
This weekend yoga retreat is so chilled, it’s practically horizontal (and refreshingly uncompetitive compared with other yoga retreats we’ve been on), and hosts Martin and Maryann are experts in making you instantly feel at home. The setting is a 15th-century house – their home – and beautiful barn, converted into a yoga studio so groups are kept small, (up to 10 people depending on Covid restrictions). When you’re not omm-ing, chill out in the manicured gardens or take a dip in their pretty wild-swimming pond.
Meals are convivial affairs around a big table and food is farm-fresh: breakfast eggs are gathered that morning from the couple’s chickens and the salad leaves and broad beans for lunch are still warm from the morning sun.
Green Farm in Kent hosts small groups for yoga retreatsCredit: Liz Seabrook
Stella loves: The adjoining day spa offering Espa treatments; the ‘Inner Beauty Facial’ is highly recommended. Out and about: This is walking territory; plenty of chocolate-box Kent villages and olde-worlde pubs on your doorstep. If you are feeling energetic, borrow one of the farm’s bikes or take up Martin’s offer of a guided walk (with dogs Sassy and Charlie leading the way) around his smallholding of sheep, cows and chickens – his knowledge of the countryside is encyclopedic.
We even spotted a patch of rare wild orchids tucked away in the corner of a remote meadow. Book it: Weekend from GBP645 per person (single occupancy) or GBP1,100 for two people sharing, full board (two nights); greenfarmkent.co.uk
Chelsea, London Best for: A good night’s sleep
Belmond owned (and therefore spectacular as standard), this hotel has a richly colourful past. Since opening its doors in 1887, it has welcomed all sorts of famous faces and literary types, from Oscar Wilde (famously arrested in room 118) to international supermodels and socialites, but it now dazzles even brighter thanks to a multimillion-pound spruce up. Harley Street hypnotherapist Malminder Gill has partnered with the hotel to create its Sleep Concierge service.
Guests are instantly de-frazzled with one-on-one sessions, calming meditation recordings and the most enviable pillow menu, plus there are sleep sprays and bedtime teas to ensure you have the best sleep money can buy.
The Cadogan has partnered with Harley Street hypnotherapist Malminder Gill to create a Sleep Concierge serviceCredit: Helen Cathcart
Stella loves: Asking for the keys to the private Cadogan Place Gardens opposite – an oasis of calm for the select few (picnics and tennis can be arranged). Out and about: It’s a short walk to the shopping districts of Knightsbridge and Chelsea. Refuel afterwards at The LaLee, an elegant, if whimsically designed, cafe-restaurant inspired by the voyages of Chelsea socialite Lillie Langtry – service is impeccable, vibe is cosy and the menu is European classics; don’t miss the burrata, pumpkin and pomegranate starter (thelalee.co.uk).
Chelsea Physic Garden is also delightful for a local potter – the charming medicinal garden, established in 1673, also has a cafe and gift shop to stock up on herbs (chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk). Book it: Rooms from GBP530 a night, B&B; belmond.com. Read our expert review here.
The Parkgate Hotel
Best for: A slick city spa This well-positioned new city hotel, slap bang in the heart of the Welsh capital and right beside the Principality Stadium (or Millennium Stadium), is a sight to behold. The imposing building is a former post office, which opened in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and has been beautifully restored, with a spacious restaurant, modern and stylish reception rooms with striking mirrors, armchairs and stacks of thoughtfully curated classic novels and – the piece de resistance – a top-floor spa.
The changing rooms are snug and the swimming pool modestly sized but there are some fabulous heated beds next to it, overlooking the impressive city skyline, as well as a sauna and steam room to boot, and treatments use Elemis products. Afterwards book dinner at the smart brasserie restaurant, The Sorting Room – the sticky toffee pudding with Welsh honey ice cream is heaven on a plate.
The Parkgate Hotel is housed in a former post officeCredit: Richard Johnson
Stella loves: The anti-ageing facial in the spa (Elemis Pro-Collagen Age Defy) – it leaves skin feeling rejuvenated and looking visibly more plump and bright. Out and about: Perfectly placed for shopping – the main shopping hub, St David Centre is a five-minute stroll away (and has all the stores you could possibly want, from John Lewis, Reiss and Hobbs, to Jo Malone and The White Company).
For post-shopping cocktails, pop to The Ivy (just outside the shopping centre), which has an Instagrammable bar, festooned with enormous flower arrangements. There’s also a lovely family-run Italian restaurant across the road, Giovanni’s (giovanniscardiff.co.uk). National Museum Cardiff is a ten-minute walk – the current exhibition of David Hurn photography runs until 27 March (museum.wales).
Or catch a film at the independent cinema, Chapter Arts Centre in the suburb of Canton (chapter.org) If you fancy a round of golf, sister hotel Celtic Manor Resort, which has three championship courses, is a 30-minute drive away. It also has an excellent and far larger spa (it’s also the place for celebrity spotting). Book it: Rooms from GBP111 a night, B&B; theparkgatehotel.wales
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Best for: Football fans (and footballers’ wives) The signed T-shirts that line the walls of the corridors are a colourful reminder that this hotel was once the pre-match base for the England football team. That circus moved on a few years ago – their loss, quite frankly, not least because of the recent GBP14 million overhaul of the spa.
There’s an indoor pool, hot tubs, steam room and gym – we particularly enjoyed the Club at Cottonmill, a three-storey extension starring a large sauna with a stunning wraparound view of the Hertfordshire countryside. Some of the rooms (self-contained suites), meanwhile, are found in pretty little mews houses, set in a beautiful topiaried walled garden – a little oasis of luxury.
Sopwell House is on the edge of St Albans
Stella loves: The hydropool and chilled outdoor lounge area with its big sofas and cosy braziers – made for lolling in your dressing gown with the Sunday papers. Out and about: The pretty city of St Albans, with its coffee shops, boutiques and bustling Charter market is a few minutes by car.
Start your tour at the cathedral and seek out the ‘pandemic gargoyle’, a stone carving with a face mask, which looks down from one of the medieval shrines (stalbanscathedral.org). Then wander down to the excavated roman ruins in Verulamium Park, stopping by at the excellent museum there. Loop back and finish with Sunday lunch at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, said to be the oldest pub in England (yeoldefightingcocks.co.uk).
Seaham, County Durham Best for: Beach walks and sea air
Fresh sea air, boutique style and northern hospitality are in abundance at this beautiful spa hotel. Found in the eponymous harbour town off the Durham coast, the spa offers every which way to unwind: wood-panelled outdoor hot tubs, a salt sauna, herbal sanarium and plunge pools, and plenty of waterbeds. Dinner at spa restaurant Ozone (try the salt and pepper squid and beef short rib) can be enjoyed in your gown and slippers too.
Back in your room, if the super-king-size bed doesn’t have you nodding off at first sight, in-house hypnotherapist Silvia offers a range of relaxation videos via the hotel’s YouTube channel, which can be watched on your suite’s tablet.
Spa facilities at Seaham Hall include outdoor hot tubs, a salt sauna and herbal sanariumCredit: Charlie Coleman
Stella loves: Take in the sea view with a glass of fizz in hand and a tray of oysters, courtesy of Seaham Hall’s pop-up champagne and seafood truck during the summer. Out and about: Mix an indulgent weekend with a splash of Norman architecture at nearby Durham Cathedral, a 25-minute drive from the hotel; the Unesco site was founded as a Benedictine Monastery in 995 (durhamcathedral.co.uk) If you leave with more appetite for exploring treasures past, pop into Circle Vintage, a two-floor fashion trove, minutes away (41 Saddler St). Book it: Rooms from GBP295 a night, B&B; seaham-hall.co.uk.
Read our expert review here.
Spa hotels in the sun
The Grand Park
Istria, Croatia Best for: A fly and flop Built in 2019, this hotel is found in the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Istrian Riviera; it sits across the bay from the main town of Rovinj, overlooking the Venetian influenced architecture.
Slick and modern in its aesthetic, the hotel offers beautifully designed rooms at an affordable price. The view is spectacular throughout – from the rooftop infinity pool to the balconies where breakfast is served. Pula airport is less than 40km away, so it’s also a good option for a long weekender.
The Grand Park sits across the bay from Croatian town RovinjCredit: SGFd.o.o
Stella loves: The spa menu, offering bespoke treatments using local produce
Out and about: Kantinon, in the middle of the harbour, serves excellent seafood, while The Adriatic in the town square offers great bistro-style food. If you’re feeling energetic, the shingle coves that make up Lone Bay are easily reachable by bike. Strictly fans might wish to time their stay to coincide with the annual week-long Salsa Festival, with open-air dances and live professional shows.
Marbella, Spain Best for: A touch of hedonism
A Bloody Mary station at breakfast with a view of the sunlit sea behind sets the tone at this pleasure-filled hotel. Chiringuito, its seafront restaurant, is ideal for lazy, salty days in the sun – waiters serve cocktails, oyster platters and every type of charcuterie imaginable, a DJ plays Ibiza-style house music and double daybeds are dotted around for lounging. By night, there is a cocktail bar and nightclub that’s open until 4am.
And when the inevitable hangover hits the next morning, the beautifully zen Japanese-inspired bedrooms (all biscuit tones and waterfall baths) are just the places to recharge – along with the Six Senses spa, with hot and cold pools, ice baths, a sauna and steam room.
You can party and unwind in equal measures at Nobu MarbellaCredit: Charly Simon Photography
Stella loves: The world-class massages at Six Senses Spa – it’s as though the therapists have magic thumbs. Out and about: Set on the Golden Mile stretch of beach, it’s great for sunbathing and sea swimming. Ask the hotel about dawn yoga by the sea and start your day with a view of the Rock of Gibraltar.
Bicycles are available for hire too. Or it’s a five-minute taxi ride to Marbella Old Town where you can wander the cobbled streets and the 16th-century St Mary’s Church followed by lazy lunch under the orange trees. Book it: Rooms from GBP404 a night, B&B; marbella.nobuhotels.com.
Read our expert review here.
Crete, Greece Best for: A space age spa This beachfront hotel is all sweeping glass architecture and in-room ‘chromotherapy’ lighting.
There are a vast number of bedrooms to choose from – ours came with ocean-views, a private pool and more smart-home technology than you can shake a remote control at. Drag yourself away to visit the piece de resistance of the hotel – its vast basement spa, which has the feel of a James Bond villain’s lair – all neon back-lighting, dark wood and swishy staff. It doesn’t get more 007 than their ‘Gold Therapy’ anti-ageing body wrap and massage, which leaves you in a slick of gold Germaine de Capuccini glitter.
Nana Princess is a beachfront hotel with sweeping glass architecture
Stella loves: The heavenly heated indoor freshwater pool.
Out and about: Take a day trip to Spinalonga, a former leper colony and now a tourist site. (Arrange a hotel transfer to Plaka, then take a boat to the island). Afterwards, eat in Plaka or drive 15 minutes to Taverna Stavrakakis in Lakonia for vine leaves stuffed to perfection. Book it: Rooms from GBP303 a night, B&B; nanaprincess.reserve-online.net.
Read our expert review here.
Mykonos, Greece Best for: Cocktail lovers This chic resort, found on a hillside overlooking the ocean, has a luxurious but utterly chilled out vibe.
The building comprises seven white-washed buildings connected by cobbled paths and surrounded by leafy gardens. The pool is the central focus, with a bar area nearby complete with a mid-century record booth and shelves of vinyl where the resident DJ plays. To really unwind, book in at the Six Senses Spa – the Blissful Marma Massage lives up to its name.
For dinner, we recommend Matsuhisa Mykonos, a fine-dining Japanese restaurant; the signature black cod doesn’t disappoint.
The pool is the central focus at Belvedere Hotel on the Greek island of Mykonos
Stella loves: The cocktail menu, devised by a celebrity mixologist who invented the Cosmopolitan. There are seven varieties of martini. Out and about: Mykonos beaches are stunning: we took a bus (as taxis are hard to come by on the island) to Paradise Beach, home to Paradise Beach Club, a boisterous beachfront spot which is the place to party (paradiseclubmykonos.com).
Shopping in Mykonos is great, particularly on Matoyianni Street, where I scooped up a traditional Aztec dress and some beautiful locally made jewellery. Book it: Rooms from: GBP245 a night; belvederehotel.com. Read our expert review here.
Hotel Royal, Evian Resort
Best for: Regal grandeur Just across the border from Switzerland, this tiny French spa town is the spot for some serious pampering. This five-star palace hotel was built in 1909 for Edward VII – who died before he could stay there – but it retains a regal grandeur.
It’s high on a hill above Lake Geneva, surrounded by snow-capped mountains; expect top-notch service, seriously delicious food (there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant on site, Les Fresques) and spa treatments to soothe the stresses of the day.
Hotel Royal was designed for a king, who never stayed thereCredit: Lucie & Simon
Stella loves: The electric bikes right outside the door were a quick and easy way to whizz down into town (and back up the steep hill again, barely breaking a sweat). Out and about: A stroll (or bike ride) down the hill into the town of Evian-les-Bains is a must – it takes about 10 minutes. There you can fill your water bottle at the original ‘Source Cachat’, discovered in 1789, and visit the Thermal Spa before a walk along the lake-front to admire the town’s elegant architecture.
In the summer months you can swim in the outdoor ‘Evian Plage’ lakeside pool (valleedaulps.com); evenings are for a flutter at the ornate casino, which dates back to 1911. And, for the energetic, there are plenty of activities that can be arranged privately, including golf coaching, mountain biking and trekking. Book it: Rooms from GBP255 a night; evianresort.com
near Kitzbuhel, Austria
Best for: Sauna connoisseurs Arriving at this gargantuan spa retreat spanning more than 12,000 sq m feels like stepping back in time. It’s located at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser mountains, and staff greet you dressed in dirndls and lederhosen.
Family-owned since 1772, Stanglwirt has been voted as one of the best hotels in the world. It is run on sustainable principles and as well as being home to a working farm and traditional inn, there is a gorgeous and enormous spa with several pools and no less than five different saunas; we loved the one lined with rock crystals and colourful lighting, though our favourite was the spruce organic sauna, which was rustic and candlelit – pure romance. Active types will enjoy the tennis courts, golf course and riding school too.
Cool off afterwards in the natural swimming lake.
There are plenty of outdoor activities for guests to enjoy at Stanglwirt Resort in Austria
Stella loves: Try a Dr Barbara Sturm facial or Lomi Lomi Nui massage in the world-class spa. Out and about: The hotel offers hiking tours with local experts. If you’re taking the children, stop by the Children’s Water World, complete with pools of different depths and Disney murals on the walls.
The list of sports that can be arranged is endless – mountain biking, fishing or skiing are highlights. Book it: From GBP101 pppn, B&B, stanglwirt.com
Waldhotel at the Burgenstock resort
Lucerne, Switzerland Best for: A touch of old Hollywood
No expense has been spared in this ultra-luxurious detox palace. As soon as you drift across the picturesque Lake Lucerne in Burgenstock’s own hybrid catamaran and climb 500 metres into the Alps on the resort’s private funicular, you know you’re in for an extra-special experience. Rooms are large, comfortable, modern, looking over Alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps.
The main draw, though, is the state-of-the-art medical spa complete with cardiologists, endocrinologists, dermatologists, dentists and aesthetic doctors for injectable ‘tweakments’ and more besides. There are several luxurious gyms around the resort. Not forgetting the two incredible spas with breathtaking indoor/outdoor heated pools.
Rooms at Waldhotel are spacious and have Alpine views
Stella loves: The guided Alpine Detox Walk – phones are banned (even for photos!) on this 90-minute mostly gentle hike through the Swiss alps, complete with a 30-minute forest bathing experience.
Out and about: While it’s possible to go into Lucerne using the hotel’s catamaran, most people stay within the Burgenstock resort where there is interest in abundance, including the tiny, original chapel that hosted Audrey Hepburn’s wedding to Mel Ferrer in 1954. The resort’s Asian restaurant, Spices, is housed in a glass promontory on the edge of the hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows and awesome views over the lake 500m below. Book it: Three nights from GBP1,200; buergenstock-waldhotel.ch.
Read our expert review here.
South Tyrol, Italy Best for: Peace and solitude A weekend in this elegant treehouse resort in the Alps brings out your inner 10-year-old – there’s nothing quite like the excitement of waking up in your own little ‘den’, 15ft in the air, enveloped by pine trees.
Each treehouse – there are 16 in total – is decked in cool, modern style with plump sofas, cosy stoves and sheepskin rugs and comes with a verandah and swing chairs so you can sit out and enjoy the view over the lake. In winter the hotel becomes a snowy wonderland with ice skating. If you like to keep your feet on the ground, there are 26 private chalets too.
San Luis is a spectacular mountain retreat, set up for privacy and seclusionCredit: Stefano Scata
Stella loves: The mini kitchen in our treehouse so we could whizz up breakfast eggs how we liked them. (Or there’s an extensive menu if you want breakfast served in your treehouse.)
Out and about: This mountaintop retreat is about 1480 metres high, so it’s all about the bracing altitude hikes. The Alpine countryside surrounding the 40-acre hotel grounds has miles of trails to choose from but if you’re feeling lazy, the hotel also has electric mountain bikes for your disposal. Visit Knottnkino – an outdoor theatre cut into the side of a mountain where the ‘performance’ is the stunning view (merano-suedtirol.it/de).
The nearest ski slopes are 20-minute drive away, likewise the town of Merano, famous for its thermal spas.
Book it: From GBP255pppn; sanluis-hotel.com.
Read our expert review here.
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