We tried the world's best spas, from Oslo's minimalist hotel spa with a seven-course dinner menu to St Lucia's idyllic Sugar Beach paradise.
Because men need pedicures (and maybe even the odd facial) too.
1 | Six Senses Laamu, The Maldives
Improbably azure, millpond-flat seas; sunsets to take on Turner’s best; and luxury like nothing you’ll find in London – Six Senses Laamu, in the Maldives, is probably the most relaxing place on the planet. Once you’ve tackled the choppy prop plane flight from the capital, Malé, it’s just a short speedboat journey to the water-bound spa hotel, where giant, beetle-like villas are attached, like vertebrae, to snaking, spine-esque walkways.
The first thing that strikes you about your watery palace is not how enormous your four-poster bed is, nor the tropical fish seen through the glass floor of your toilet. No, it’s how gloriously, cinematically blue the sea and the sky are, visible through a panoramic glass wall at the foot of your bed.
The spa itself is a revelation even for the massage-phobic. The Natural Sunburn Soother ($110), a symphony of cold towels and gentle prodding, is the antidote to the Maldivian sun. Sunburn assuaged, bed down for a dry Balinese massage with head therapist Piyada — her fingers are magic. Finish up with an Ayurvedic Abhyanga treatment ($270), which involves having warm oil trickled onto your head for 90 minutes.
After that, cycle back to the villa (every abode has a set of bikes), order a tequila sunrise, indulge in the most insane sunset you’ll ever see and Instagram the shit out of it. There’s only so much relaxation one man can take.
Best For: A view
Six Senses Laamu, Laamu Atoll sixsenses.com. British Airways flies direct from London to Malé. britishairways.com
2 | Hotel Café Royal, London
Hidden beneath the chaos of Piccadilly Circus lies one of the capital’s most relaxing spots. The Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre, at Regent Street’s new(ish) five-star Hotel Café Royal, could scarcely be more opulent. Nine treatment rooms, meditation spaces and a bar are arranged in a warren of candle-lit marble. Stress levels go down by at least 50 per cent merely on entry to this sanctuary (exact figure may vary depending on your profession).
The spa offers therapies including hot stone massages, body peels and even “harmony” (four hands working on you at once). A 50-minute deep-tissue work-out (£120), followed by a gentleman’s facial (£150 for 50 minutes), will leave you feeling both invigorated, relaxed and blackhead- and blotches-free. After a few lengths of the 60ft pool, London will feel like it’s a world – rather than a few feet – away.
Best For: A lunchbreak rub down
68 Regent Street, W1B 4DY. hotelcaferoyal.com
3 | Mandarin Oriental, Paris
Sometime a spot of pampering is best accompanied by getting out of town for the weekend, and where better for a short break than Paris? Easier to get to from the capital than most of Britain (with far better food), you’ve really got no excuse not to take advantage. Our pick is the Mandarin Oriental on rue Saint-Honoré in the exclusive 1st arrondissement. A walk around the wide tree-lined courtyard garden and lunch in one of the restaurants overseen by culinary demi-god Thierry Marx are precursors to the hotel’s real highlight: the 24-hour spa and wellbeing centre.
Ask for the Eastern Wonder, a 210-minute combination of massage, facial and Asian acupuncture designed to stimulate the blood (€490). It’s the relaxation equivalent of a full-body work-out; you are now ready to max out your Amex at Tom Ford, Hermès and Saint Laurent Paris, all nearby the swooping hotel entrance.
Best For: Men who'd actually rather be shopping
251 rue Saint-Honore, 75001. mandarinoriental.com
4 | The Scarlet, Cornwall
The aerial view of the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall certainly raised a few eyebrows when it opened in 2009 – it resembles a phallus – but unless you’re arriving by helicopter, there’s no cause for concern. Run by three sisters, The Scarlet – all recycled copper cladding, landscaped green roofing and floor-to-ceiling windows – is a paean to modernist architecture.
Perched on a secluded cliff top overlooking Mawgan Porth bay, 20 minutes from Newquay, with views out to the Atlantic, the hotel’s modus operandi is to bring the touchy-feely world of eco-tourism kicking and screaming into the realms of the luxury hotel experience. While the outdoor natural reed-bed swimming pool, solar panels, rainwater harvesting, biomass boiler and low-energy appliances tick all the eco boxes, the actual guest experience is still five star: large, comfortable bedrooms with balconies and sea views, attentive, low-key, round-the-clock service and a contemporary restaurant run by head chef Tom Hunter using local produce.
Couples – no children allowed – are encouraged to reconnect on a Scarlet Journey, whereby you can personalise the content and length of your treatments after a short consultation with an ayurvedic therapist. We kicked off with a Rhassoul bathing ritual for two (£60 for 45 minutes). This involved rubbing each other vigorously with scented salt scrub in our own private steam room, rinsing off, slathering each other with warm mineral rich mud, more rinsing, sluicing and sniggering, before a ten-minute steam to unwind.
Afterwards, we each opted for a Short Journey (£70), a deeply relaxing, 45-minute, deep-tissue massage tailored to our specific requests followed by more snoozing in the cocoon pods suspended from the ceiling. Then a 6pm pre-dinner soak in the outdoor cliff-top hot tubs (£20 for 30 minutes) — with a medicinal gin and tonic as refreshment.
Word of warning: there is no mobile phone signal on site but WiFi works well. If you’re feeling particularly active, you can take Jasper, the hotel’s whippet, for a walk if you ask nicely at reception. Plus, if you arrive by rail, bike or foot, you receive a green discount for reducing car usage.
Best For: A weekend with the wife
Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, TR8 4DQ. scarlethotel.co.uk
5 | The Park Hyatt, Milan
Esquire’s home from home when the seasonal menswear circus makes a trip into town, the Park Hyatt Milan is an oasis of calm in an otherwise non-stop city. Located a stone’s throw away from the spires of the imposing Duomo and the glitzy boutiques of the cavernous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it’s perfectly positioned for a Milan city break. Widely recognised as one of city’s best hotels, the Park Hyatt is all about discreet, understated service.
The rooms – even the standard ones – are enormous, but it’s the public spaces, the spa in particular, that seal the deal (oh and the breakfast’s surprisingly good — the Park Hyatt’s bacon is the best you’ll find on the entire Italian peninsula). Aside from the well-appointed gym and plunge pool, the spa offers a range of unusual, targeted treatments, which are ideal when you’ve spent 14 hours on the hoof at fashion shows (let us tell you).
We went for the remarkable Four Hand Massage (€210). Coming in at just under an hour, the treatment involves two therapists working in tandem to “induce a sense of mental calm”. A little disconcerting at first (it feels a bit like being fondled by an octopus), you quickly become proverbial putty.
Once you’re back to rude health, head out to Bice, which is a short walk away (Via Borgospesso, 12), for a plate of pasta telefono (the strings of cheese as you raise your fork resemble telephone wires), a glass of Barolo and some breathing space to prepare yourself for your next day’s treatment — the lymphatic massage (€110), which involves “pumping movements along the lymph channels”. Great following a night on the (tomato) sauce.
Best For: Men who'd rather be eating
Via Tommaso Grossi, 1, 20121. milan.park.hyatt.com
6 | The Park Hyatt, New York
Once you’ve filled your boots at the Park Hyatt Milan, head across the pond and sample the recently opened New York outcrop. Occupying the first 25 floors of the Christian de Portzamparc-designed One57 skyscraper, the hotel is nestled in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The Park Hyatt NYC is all about understated comfort, and the 13,000sq ft Nalai spa, on the 25th floor, presents no contradiction.
We opted for Nalai’s Signature Treatment. Lying on soft linens on top of a warm bed of quartz and sand – designed to help “ground” you – you are then massaged with a very warm, very soothing quartz poultice. Don’t opt for this if you have a sinus problem as you’re very likely to fall asleep.
Best For: Men with high blood pressure
153 West 57th Street, 10019. newyork.park.hyatt.com
7 | Sugar Beach, St Lucia
Overshadowed by St Lucia’s forest-covered, pyramid-shaped mountains on the west coast of the island, the white sands of Sugar Beach give way to a sea even bluer than the sky above it. A Caribbean paradise with punch, the resort is encircled by some 100 acres of rainforest; the 78 whitewashed villas feel like something out of a Bounty advert, while the spa’s nine purpose-built tree houses – concealed within the undergrowth – look like the set of Robinson Crusoe. Or Tarzan.
If you’re searching for a week or two of proper swimming trunks-on, feet-up luxury – with a shot of overproof rum in the arm, this is the place for you. The seafood by French chef Jacques Chretien is outstanding. Try a plate of rainbow rolls (finished with umami-laced flying fish roe) from the Cane Bar. You won’t be disappointed.
Sugar Beach has put together a package of men-only treatments including a skin-refining facial ($125), which features a lactic acid mask that both moisturises and exfoliates (great for getting your skin suntan-ready) alongside a de-stress massage ($125).
As good for gym obsessives as it is for Mac monkeys, the massage focuses on the brunt-bearing regions of the neck, shoulder and lower back. Then, once you’re up and running again, try one of the early-morning boot camps, which are worth doing for the sunrises alone (not to mention all those extra endorphins).
Best For: Rum fans
Val des Pitons, PO Box 251, Soufriere. viceroyhotelsandresorts.com
8 | The Thief, Oslo
Often overlooked in favour of Stockholm and Copenhagen, Norway’s capital city Oslo is one of the best-kept secrets in, well, northern Europe. Small, on the edgy side, and dotted with beautiful architecture – be sure to visit the iceberg-esque opera house, which gives Sydney’s a run for its money.
The Thief Hotel, which opened in 2013, is situated on the water’s edge in arty Tjuvholmen. It boasts pared back interiors and well-appointed rooms, along with a bevy of eating choices (try the seven-course menu in Fru K).
As far from plinky-plonky panpipes and tasteless cucumber-infused water as it’s possible to get, The Thief’s basement spa is aimed squarely at men featuring an enormous 800sq m gym, a pool and hamam. Be sure to opt for a Thief Hamam treatment (NOK1,295) to leave your skin feeling softer than it’s felt since the day of your birth. After that, try a Rough Skin Priori (NOK1,295).
Created specifically for men, the treatment is effectively an acid peel, which, with the use of fruit and lactic acids, tackles coarse skin, scars and blemishes leaving you relaxed and ruddy for hours afterwards.
Best For: If you've been hitting the bottle
Landgangen 1, N-0252. thethief.com
Any we've missed?