As a warm festive glow lights up the city skies, there's no better time to visit London. Why not take some time out this Christmas and treat yourself to a weekend of pampering and preening. Here's a selection of my favourite luxury London spa hotels. Yule be mad to miss them...
The Berkeley, Knightsbridge
A hop and a skip from Harvey Nics - the recently revamped Berkeley Hotel (home to Marcus Waring's eaterie and the trendy Blue Bar) is one of the city's coolest new haunts; a favourite among the elite - from fashionistas to London connoisseurs.
Perched on the top of the building is the Bamford Haybarn Spa; rapidly building a reputation as one of London's trendiest spas - with one of the only rooftop pools (with a sliding weather-proof roof) in the city it's easy to see why.
As I arrive an efficient bell boy approaches. "Miss Stokes?" Before I can say "Ye.." my bag is whisked away. I arrive at my room a few minutes later and it's pipped me to the post. I think that's one of the most efficient check-ins I've ever had!
704 - a contemporary 'balcony room' with city views and a muted décor of silvers and greys. Facilities include: a king size bed and a lovely dressing area with a mirrored vanity table. A marble bathroom with a power shower, an extensive mini bar, flat screen TV, Nespresso machine and Bamford toiletry products. There's also a lovely assortment of high end glossies for bath and bedtime reading. Complementary WiFi.
The Bamford Haybarn Spa is a serene space spanning the top of the hotel. Clean and fresh with a natural 'New England' feel. Facilities include: An indoor/outdoor roof-top pool, steam and sauna rooms, a nail bar and a lovely relaxation terrace with comfy loungers, serving juices, snacks and cocktails...
Bamford and Oskia
The Bamford Body Signature Treatment begins with a relaxing foot bath ritual - a Swedish, Meridian and Shiatsu combination massage follows, to relax muscles and open energy channels - then reflexology is used to detoxify the organs. The treatment finishes with a pressure point head, neck and shoulder massage to relax, then assisted yogic breathing to refresh the lungs and help revitalise the whole body.
I was left feeling completely relaxed and stress free - a great full body overhaul.
Other Treatments Include
Oskia Eye Wonder: An anti-ageing eye treatment designed to reduce puffiness and strengthen the eye contour using lymphatic drainage, massage and stone therapy.
Marcus Waring's (two Michelin stars) restaurant is one of the best in town. The Caramel Bar for British classics and afternoon tea.
The Roof-Top Winter Cinema, where the terrace is transformed into a pine-filled forest cinema showing Christmas movie classics, accompanied by hot chocolate and mince pies.
The Berkeley Spa Sundays from £500
Based on two people sharing a Superior King-bedded room
• Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability)
• A glass of champagne per person by the pool
• A Bamford Signature treatment per person, one per stay
• Spa breakfast for two adults
• Small gift from the Bamford Haybarn spa to take home
Offer is valid until 31 March 2014
The Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge
Set between the bustle of Knightsbridge and the tranquility of Hyde Park, the world famous Mandarin Oriental takes one of the most exclusive locations in London. As I step on to my balcony I'm dazzled by the bright lights of Harrods in the distance and the wonderful winter windows of Harvey Nichols below.
London is my home, yet standing here I feel like an excited and incredibly glamorous tourist.
Junior Suite 307 - a large, elegant, traditional room dressed in opulent blues and golds with a canopied (very comfortable) king size bed. There's a generous seating area with two sets of beautiful French Doors leading out onto the balcony, with wonderful Knightsbridge views. Facilities include: An art deco-esque bathroom with over bath power shower a mini-bar, flat screen TV and chargeable WiFi.
Hidden in the basement of the hotel - a complete retreat and escape to serenity - it's apparent that MO brand are as passionate as ever about their holistic oriental approach; a very quiet and calming spot-lit mineral vitality jet pool is the hub of the spa, with a Sanarium and Amethyst Crystal Steam Room set alongside. Candle-lit treatment rooms sit along a corridor and there's a wonderfully relaxing Zen Colour Therapy room serving herbal teas, juices and fruits.
Aromatherapy Associates and Gaylia Kristensen
Aromatherapy Associates Rose Infinity Facial - The anti-ageing treatment begins with a cleanse, then a gentle natural enzyme peel to resurface the skin. A 'non-surgical face lift' follows using micro-currants from the AA facial machine to stimulate the skin and allow deep active moisturisation that dramatically plumps and reduces fine lines. The treatment finishes with a bespoke massage to stimulate circulation and a scalp, neck and shoulder massage to relieve stress.
My face felt fresh and glowing and actually slightly 'lifted'. The lines around my forehead had definitely reduced. One of the best anti-ageing treatments I've tried.
Other Treatments Include
Mandarin Oriental Experience. Inspired by Oriental origins, the treatment includes a welcoming foot ritual, a signature spa therapy and a Utopia advanced anti-ageing facial.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal - now one of London's most renowned and celebrated restaurants, and Bar Boulard, a lively up-beat French bistro in the basement - perfect for an après spa lunch.
A stroll in Hyde Park and, of course, a festive visit to Santa at Harrods.
Mandarin Oriental Urban Spa Escape from £545
Full English Breakfast for two (including healthy options)
Choice of two x 50 minute Oriental Essence or a one hour and 50 minutes Treatment Experience per room
From the outside, it doesn't look like much: a rather drab mid 20th century style building greets those arriving at Sanderson. And yet, upon stepping inside, the feel is more modern art gallery than post-war secondary school. No wonder: the hotel was designed by créateur extraordinaire Philippe Starck. Now, a lip-shaped sofa begs to be perched upon. A Surrealist chair with gold wings along its sides sits up against baroque gilt frames and Perspex swing seats hanging from the ceiling.
The Sanderson's 150 guest rooms all have the hallmarks of Philippe Starck design: transparent furnishings, sharp lines and quirky touches, such as portraits of collared chihuahuas. All rooms have 300-thread count sheets, Malin + Goetz products, iPod docking stations, a Nevaya interactive HD IPTV system, and a work space/desk. In-room spa treatments and 24-hour room service are available.
The art gallery feel continues in the Agua spa, reached by a lift whose interior is covered top to bottom with pictures of galaxies and constellations; we're heading into outer space. By contrast, the 10,000 square foot spa is completely white from ceiling to mosaic-tiled floor. French antique-style chairs and mirrors adorn the changing area. In the relaxation space, white leather chaise longues are more comfortable than they look, and I can help myself to green apples and water.
Custom massage. The treatment begins with three inhalations and warm towels to the feet. It is a full body treatment, but particular attention is paid to the stomach and arms. As any good therapist should, my lady asks if the massage pressure is OK (it is). She uses Shiatsu technique, frequently massaging through the towel, and is concerned about the tension in my neck. I leave feeling as if she genuinely cares about client's wellbeing.
Other Treatments Include
Jurlique Herbal Revitalise facial, which uses a concentrate of 15 potent plant extracts; the Agua Milk and Honey signature treatment, using a blend of sesame oil, warm honey and milk in a very light massage.
Suka for Malaysian street food - try the fish and satay options. The Berners Street Terrace for light bites. The Sanderson also serves a "Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea", including creations such as "strawberries and cream" homemade marshmallow mushrooms and a "Tick Tock" traditional Victoria sponge clock.
The Japanese-inspired Courtyard Garden, designed by landscape architect Philip Hicks in the late 1950s, with its giant bonsai tree representing Mount Fuji.
The Sanderson Signature Spa Package from £319
Includes overnight room accommodation, 100 pound credit in agua to choose a selection of mini treatments from a dedicated menu, complimentary wireless high-speed Internet access and English breakfast for two daily in Suka.
Situated in the heart of London the Corinthia combines old school grandeur with contemporary design. Popular with A-listers, well-heeled couples and international jet setters, there are no set check in and check out times, offering guests the ultimate flexibility.
Executive king, a large contemporary studio room with a private entrance hall. The bathroom is clad in Italian marble, and comes with underfloor heating, a tropical rain shower and a deep bathtub with built-in LED TV and ESPA products. Facilities include: a Nespresso machine, in-room media hub, Loewe LCD HD TV, complimentary WiFi and a refrigerated private bar.
The vast state-of-the-art spa is set over four floors and is 3300 square feet. Facilities include sleep pods, a 9 meter swimming pool, a vitality pool with a variety of air and massage jets, an amphitheatre, sauna, ice fountain and luxury changing rooms with heated beds, where you can relax and watch the glow of the ambient fireplaces.
Instant Radiant Facial from the Rush Hour menu.
The treatment takes place in one of the oval treatment pods which have been beautifully designed to enhance the energy flow. The treatment starts with a consultation and the therapist offers you a choice of scents for use during your facial. Whilst you are being pampered your second therapist is busy working her magic on your nails, and the final part of the pamper and preen is the eye brow shape and eye lash tint. One hour later and voilà, you are ready to go!
Other Treatments Include
At ESPA life there are many Rush Hour Beauty - Treatments are combined into packages to maximise your hour, including the Top to Toe package which includes an eye lash tint, eye lash extensions, eyebrow shape, an essential manicure and instant pedicure with shellac polish.
Massimo Restaurant and Oyster bar, offering modern Italian cuisine and art deco style glamour. Follow with a cocktail in Bassoon, with its intimate atmosphere, a flickering fire and surprise musical performances.
A stroll down the Embankment at night - it's London at its best.
One Day Detox from£295 per person.
• Full Body Salt and Oil Scrub
• Detoxifying Full Body Massage
• Detoxifying Body Wrap
• Personalised Facial
• Use of the Thermal Floor
• Indulge in a light lunch in the Spa Lounge with a freshly squeezed juice or a glass of Champagne.