Shopping, music, sites, shows … it’s easy to see why London is one of the world’s top travel destinations. And with so much to see and take in, the city that has loads of history and enough shopping options to keep you going all day long, you can end up feeling wiped out. Thankfully, London has just as many relaxing and soothing options as it does excitement. Here are our best picks for chilling and getting back to a Zen-like state in London Town.
After a long day of walking the cobble streets in search of the best fashion finds, nothing could be more relaxing and rejuvenating than a trip to a
high-end spa. Good thing London is full of places to get massaged, waxed, scrubbed, polished and smoothed. Here are two of our best picks:
The K West Hotel and Spa
If you can stay at this hotel that is frequented by London’s hipster musicians and celebrity girlfriends, that’s ideal. But even if you can’t, a day trip to the spa will have you leaving feeling like a rock star. Located at the Shepherd’s Bush tube station, the K West is an up-and-coming hot spot, with music studios in the surrounding neighbourhood that draw in A-list clientele, so they need to have an ultra cool vibe and an A-list spa as well and the spa is a great place to get pampered. Treat yourself to London’s one and only Snow Room experience and chill out in the refrigerated room (complete with frosty snow) for a couple of minutes, then dip in the hot tub or steam away stress in the sauna. Alternate between the hot and cold before heading in for a deep tissue massage, mani and a pedi.
The Dorchester Hotel and Spa
The Dorchester is old-school British tradition at its best. Traditional styling dominates the hotel’s atmosphere and you will feel posh just walking through the lobby. But to ease away the day’s stress, take the elevator down to the spa and check yourself in for a luxurious Carol Joy Facial that includes diamond dust. Yes, a facial with diamonds — what could be more soothing than knowing that your skin is being polished, plumped and massaged with these sparkly little gems? Even the cream used after the massage has glints of diamonds, so when you leave, you’re glowing in only a way that a diamond can make you glow.
You need a spot to drop your bags and put up your feet after traipsing around London. And what we love about these two hotels is that while they may be in the hustle and bustle of a major metropolitan city, they offer a quiet comfort that makes you feel like you have a private bubble in the city.
Located on the busy Park Lane, the Metropolitan has stunning views of Hyde Park from their floor-to-ceiling windows. Just picture looking out over the treetops each morning. Sigh. If that’s not enough to put your mind at ease, the simplistic, minimal rooms dressed in creamy whites, natural woods and shots of rich purple on the floors, it’s a mod retro feeling that is also clean and soothing. Even the TV is white, to blend into the walls. And if you feel like taking a bath in one of their giant tubs, you can keep your skin in check with the hotel’s own line of bath products based on the soothing and healing powers of the Balinese.
If you don’t want to be holed up in your room all day, you can sneak down to the dining area to grab a lighter version of Afternoon Tea. The Afternoon Delight has healthier, lower-fat versions of scones, mini sliders, fruit spreads and preserves. Or you can have a quiet meal at the hip and trendy resto, Nobu. Fancy an evening cocktail? The Met Bar is a members only club, so the atmosphere is chilled, and as a hotel guest you get access to this private affair.
Tucked away on a quaint street with city homes, the Halkin offers a discrete, serene, retreat away from the buzzing city lights and sounds. It’s still a quick hop over to the park and major routes, but you’ll feel like you’re in your own private sanctuary here. The rooms are sleek, with black finishes and the comfiest beds to doze in. It’s a slightly older crowd that frequents this hotel, the kind of people who enjoy the finer things in life — good wine, amazing food and the ultimate luxury when travelling. If you’re looking for something to retreat to after pushing through crowds for a Topshop sale, or to get closer to Big Ben, there’s no better place to relax (hint, try the wine flights in the super swanky bar and people-watch through the window).
Where to dine
London has some of the best dining in the world; gone are the days of stodgy British food that North Americans have come to know. And Londoners know quality food — they fill the best restos night after night. Luckily, we found a few spots that offer up amazing food. And if the food doesn’t leave you feeling soothed, the quiet and peaceful atmosphere will.
When Madonna shot scenes for her movie W.E. at this hotel and restaurant, it quickly put Boyd’s on the map as a hot destination. Thankfully, though, it hasn’t lost its informal charm and regal setting due to the attention. It only opened in February 2010, but it feels like it has been a settled establishment for years — like a London standard. Regardless of the atmosphere, the food is enough to put you in a total state of relaxation. The menu has the traditional English fare of fish and chips, chunky fish soup, English charcuterie and homemade fennel tomato ketchup. But to really feel satisfied, you could try the best gnocchi outside of Italy. The gnocchi is boiled once, then fried in butter for a crispy coating and a melt-in-your-mouth, creamy filling. Topped with a salsa verde sauce, thinly sliced cured ham and rocket, it’s like heaven on a plate. While that might put you into a gnocchi coma, save room for a light dessert. The banana toffee slice sounds hefty, but its flaky layers and light filling make it the perfect bit of sweetness after dinner paired with a cappuccino.
Island Restaurant and Bar
On the edge of Hyde Park is a quiet little oasis where you can dine, people-watch and relax. Island is a modern British restaurant with beautiful food and huge windows that let you take in the lush, green park. Must tries on the menu include homemade, prime Scotch beef burgers, rump of lamb with olive oil mash, and a huge selection of pastas and risottos. All are beautifully presented and will make you stop thinking about what sight you need to see next and just appreciate the stunning food. The best part of the menu? Dessert. If you’re only going to treat yourself once, you must try the baked Alaska with passion fruit (the doorman at a nearby hotel chased after me to recommend it after I asked him for directions). It’s big, so you might want to share, but the hot and cold combo of this classic is simply blissful and the passion fruit adds just the perfect touch of tartness.
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