Ladies: whether you've been overdoing it lately, feel drained from London's week-long heat wave, or just want to take it easy at the weekend, look no further than Covent Garden.
Although an unlikely setting for a spot of 'me time' (Covent Garden is most well known for its wacky street performers, cool bars and restaurants, and hoards of tourists), modestly sat upon the uneven cobbles of Floral Street is the Sanctuary Spa.
The Sanctuary Spa was opened over 35 years ago to provide a haven and retreat to the Royal Opera House's ballet dancers. While it remains a female-only spa today, other aspects of this prestigious retreat have changed dramatically.
The first thing that struck me as I was warmly welcomed at reception was how modern the place is without giving way to a cold, minimalist interior. The waiting area is filled with rich, deep shades of purple and burgundy, highlighted with gold and cream accessories. Gentle music flowed around the room as orange candles burned and flickered.
The spa's waiting area. Photo courtesy of Sanctuary Spa
This classical/modern balance continues across the Sanctuary's five floors; each guest is issued with a map upon arrival as the spa is so unexpectedly spacious. The reception is on level one along with the changing rooms and powder room, the restaurant and treatment rooms. Levels two and three feature predominantly treatment rooms, including the Jasmine, Orchid and Lavender suites. The ground floor is also referred to as the Koi Carp Lounge Level, and the basement comprises an exercise pool, Jacuzzi and steam room, as well as more treatment rooms.
The Exercise Pool level. Photo courtesy of Sanctuary Spa
For me, the Koi Carp Lounge Level was the most relaxing space and I found myself spending 99% of my day here. The space initially feels much larger than it really is due to the clever use of mirrors. My eyes immediately were drawn to the sparkling pond in the centre of the room where gigantic koi carp leisurely drifted around the orchid pots and spotlighted bridge, occasionally causing a bit of a splash.
A wooden deck with over-sized, rounded wicker seats overlooks this spectacular water feature. The lights were dim, candle flames danced and soft music played. Along the edges of the koi pond women were scattered; some perched admiring the fish, others sprawled out on padded seats strewn with cushions, and some even painting their toenails.
The breathtaking Koi Carp Lounge. Photo courtesy of Sanctuary Spa
Stroll past the pond and you will be suddenly struck with bright rays of light as the ceiling opens up and is sealed with a clear roof. This whole area shined and shimmered as the sunlight hit the Atrium Pool – complete with novelty swing – below.
The Atrium Pool features a fun swing. Photo courtesy of Sanctuary Spa
And if a formal lunch doesn't float your boat, lighter, healthy snacks can be purchased at the floor's bar; choose from a pricey and limited selection of breakfasts, nibbles, lunches and sharing platters. Despite the restricted food menu, there is a large choice of alcoholic drinks on offer, including red, white and rose wines, and strong fruity cocktails. Guests can sleep off their full stomachs and bleary eyes on one of the double beds facing the swimming pool.
And what spa would be complete without a range of rejuvenating treatments? The Sanctuary has these in bucket loads. Ranging from £35-£110, treatments can be as simple as a manicure, pedicure or massage, or as bizarre and as a serenity dreamtime float or hammam rasul experience – your day is what you make it.
The only problem is that stress levels will probably begin to rise as soon as you step back out onto the manic streets of London. Best not stay away for too long then.