For a soigné you
There is no better city than Paris in which to transform yourself into someone properly polished and groomed. So it is hardly surprising that it should be home to one of the world’s most opulent Guerlain Institut day spas (guerlain.com), offering treatments that range from a straightforward hour’s massage (£76) to the eight-hour Journée Métamorphosée, or Day of Transformation, a full-on programme of pampering and beautification (£600). There are ten treatment rooms, most contemporary, but romantics should ask for one of the original 1930s cabines, with their blue mosaic walls, gilded basins and lyre-shaped manicure tables.
The newest luxury spa in the city is the just-opened Dior Institut at the Plaza-Athénée (plaza-athenee-paris.com), with its elegant interiors and promise of rejuvenation and youthful-looking skin (treatments start at £135).
But one of the prettiest and most romantic is at the Four Seasons George V (fourseasons.com, doubles from £556), a marvellous evocation of a palatial country house, with chandeliers, neoclassical statuary, extravagant cornices and subtly lit ceilings painted Tiepolo-style with clouds. Each of the 11 treatment rooms is decorated differently, their walls lined in toile de Jouy or damask, while the fitness room is upholstered in buttoned silver leather. This is undoubtedly le plus Versaillais of all spas, right down to the trompe l’oeil evocation of the Grand Trianon gardens, which surround the swimming pool. But mostly because its signature treatment is a ritual entitled, ‘a stroll through Versailles’, a series of scrubs, massages and facials featuring orange blossom and milk, the key to Marie-Antoinette’s, er, creamy complexion, all to the accompaniment of music by Rameau and his contemporaries.
For a sculpted you
Overlooking Zurich, The Dolder Grand (thedoldergrand.com, doubles from £440) has a brand-new Kurhaus, or spa, with 19 treatment rooms designed by starchitect Norman Foster – all seductive sinuous curves, as you could be after a stay here. For in addition to the usual spa facilities, not to mention an icy Snowparadise, kotatsu heated footbaths and sunaburo hot-pebble baths, there’s an on-site clinic, Klinik Tiefenbrunnen, which offers plastic surgery procedures as well as the services of a consultant dermatologist.
Chiva Som (chivasom.com, three nights from £960 including meals and daily massages) in Hua Hin, Thailand, was arguably the pioneer of this sort of spa. Its Niranlada Medi-Spa offers Botox, Restylane, laser vein treatment and various skin-tightening, contouring and rejuvenation procedures – many of which are also available at the Beauty Farm at the Capri Palace Hotel (capripalace.com, doubles from £265) on the Italian island of Capri. Most of its guests come here for its Leg School, which offers a combination of treatments involving mud, medicated bandages, exercise (its principal pool is surely one of the most beautiful in the world) and massage intended to stimulate circulation and banish cellulite and stretch marks. It also has a cardiovascular risk assessment programme in collaboration with the cardiology department at the University of Naples Polyclinic.
Alternatively, you can combine spa therapies with a medical check-up at the Kempinski Grand Hotel Heiligendamm (kempinski-heiligendamm.com, doubles from £148) on Germany’s Baltic coast, a couple of hours east of Hamburg. Arguably the oldest spa in western Europe, it dates back to 1793, though the original Kurhaus is now a Michelin-starred restaurant. Along with beauty treatments and fitness programmes, it also offers cardiovascular check-ups, metabolism tests, dermatology consultations and ‘psychosomatic treatments’.
For a calmer you
Through green, rolling hills dotted with sheep and up a rhododendron-lined drive, the majestic five-star Gleneagles (gleneagles.com) in Scotland is a sight to behold. But it’s the hotel’s Spa by Espa that really impresses. Designed by Amanda Rosa, the sanctuary has all the signatures that make Espa spas so unique: elegant mosaic-inspired interiors, a vitality pool complete with swan-neck fountains to massage aching shoulders, comprehensive heat experiences (crystal steam rooms, tropical showers, saunas and, for those who dare, an ice rub) and a soothingly cocoon-like relaxation room. And that’s before meeting the therapist. Treatments are typical of the brand’s holistic approach. Either book ‘Espa time’– at least two hours – during which a therapist tailor-makes a treatment to suit you, or opt for a specific treatment; highly recommended is the Advanced Lifting and Firming Facial, which not only results in younger looking skin but will leave you feeling remarkably stress-free, too. The Day Spa Experience costs £185.