London’s best spas inspired by overseas wellness traditions

Best for: romance and relaxation

Just moments from the busy Strand and Covent Garden, a subterranean world of candle-lit bathing awaits. Opened in summer 2021, this is the AIRE brand’s eighth international opening and first in the UK, set within the vaults beneath an unassuming townhouse once home to J M Barrie, author of Peter Pan. Its sizeable complex of atmospheric pools are inspired by the ancient Roman thermae tradition, lit almost exclusively by flickering tealights, tucked in alcoves or suspended from chandeliers.

Following a welcome drink, guests descend through darkened stairwells (and, slightly incongruously, a lift) to sample first the caldarium (heated to 39C), then the tepidarium (36C), finishing the circuit with a bracing plunge in one of two frigidaria (13C and 10C). There’s also a salt exfoliation area, a peppermint-infused steam room and a ‘floatarium’, which allows guests to experience buoyancy similar to the Dead Sea.

There’s a faraway, almost mythological feel to the whole space: giant amphorae tucked into niches, distressed mirrors, ornate jugs of mint tea and a soundtrack of chanting and gongs. The result is otherworldly and timeless, sensory and soporific; when an attendant chimes a bell to signify the session is over, it may take several moments to remember which century it is.

Suggested treatment: The 120-minute Love Yourself ritual includes a 45-minute full body massage with warm amethyst crystals and oil enriched with sandalwood essence in a private treatment room, plus time in the thermal baths. £210 per person.

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