Nothing can soothe your body, mind, and soul like a good dose of pampering. We visit the best spas in the heart of the city.
Over the last few decades, Greece has developed a notable and highly respectable wellness scene, with spas and holistic centres now able to compete with some of the best of their kind in the world. Offering cutting-edge treatments and using excellent designer product lines, with complex and imaginatively decadent treatments for the body, soul, and face, these bliss centres can offer the most gratifying gift any tired being could wish for during the high-stress- any other time of year. Let’s face it – nothing beats the experience of walking into a place feeling foggy-headed and bedraggled, only to step out one, two, maybe even five hours later feeling and looking completely renewed. The effects may fade after a few days, but the memory of how lovingly and expertly every inch of you was handled, of the pacifying and luxuriant environment, meditative lighting, deep heart-opening fragrances, and tranquil sounds will not ever leave you.
As a pampering freak, I have cunningly made it my life mission to discover the best of what the world has to offer in terms of therapies, treatments, and holistic healing methods. In travels to Mexico, Japan, and Southeast Asia as well as throughout Greece, finding real healing – from backstreet miracle workers and anomalous shamans to highly trained teachers and sophisticated therapists at uber-luxurious wellness paradises – has been a serious and fascinating path of study for me. To guarantee you will enjoy your spa experience during your time in central Athens, here are my top three selections.
The only one of its kind in the heart of the Greek capital, the Turkish-inspired baths in historical Thisseio offer a true getaway from contemporary urban reality. Guests usually start with the Hammam, a circular, white marble steam room where, wearing nothing but your ‘pestemal’ traditional hammam towel you can spend as long as you like sweating it out, alleviating yourself every so often from the heat by pouring cool water over yourself from a bronze basin. There are many options for hair, face, and body treatments and therapies to follow, in which the massage therapists use black or olive paste soap, Dead Sea mud, the exfoliating ‘ketseas’ natural bristle brushes, and other traditional Turkish goodies to enhance the pampering. Before returning to reality, you can enjoy sipping herb tea and munching on Turkish delight in the relaxing communal area.
A: 17 Aghion Asomaton & 1 Melidoni, Athens
Like entering another dimension, one where the lavish décor and top-notch pampering expertise is truly unparalleled, the GB Spa is by far the city’s best (and one of the most expensive!). Guests are encouraged to relish the essence of the spa (‘salute per aqua’ or health by water) experience by connecting to the water element first – starting with a leisurely dip in the ozone-rich pool with curative thick sea salt and following that with an excellent choice of around five steam rooms, such as the Herbal Suite, where you can meditatively inhale the essences of Greek organic herbs like thyme, oregano, and lavender, or the Amethystos Grotto, where the walls are covered in a mosaic of amethyst stones and the steam is infused with pure eucalyptus oils. Outside the steam rooms are showers with six different settings, from Tropical Rain to Summer Shower, as well as two marble foot baths with hydromassage. ESPA products are used in all treatments, such as high-tech facials and massages, among which are deeply restorative, two-hour-long Ayurvedic rituals, the hot-stone Balinese massage, salt scrubs, and slimming, detoxifying or soothing body wraps. For instant beautification, Spa Manager Anne Speck recommends the Signature GB facial, Prickly Pear Luxury Facial inspired by the 15th-century Japanese Kobido lifting massage.
A: Hotel Grande Bretagne, Syntagma Square
Based in Crete, Aegeo Spa magnetizes the achy-limbed in all forms at its various spa centres in Athens, located at the Electra Palace and Electra Metropolis Hotels, as well as across the St George Lycabettus Hotel. It welcomes guests for “flash” treatments – from a deep back and neck massage to a glow-inducing facial – as well as determined day guests who have made serious recovery their mantra. The modern and elegant spa inspires in clients a real sense of trust via its warm and friendly staff, expert treatments, and excellent Babor products, as well as products that originate in Crete, such as olive oil and raki (distilled grape alcohol), both of which are used in the super-relaxing signature Cretan Massage. Another special treat at Aegeo is the Ancient Greek Massage, based on ancient healing principles as taught by Hippocrates and including circulation-boosting and exfoliating skin brushing with a horse-bristle brush, cupping, and warm olive oil for intense muscle relaxation. Aegeo’s most unique therapy by far is the Wish Massage, a four-hand massage in which the client makes a wish before the therapy, that the two masseurs focus on throughout the treatment. Aegeo’s menu includes a variety of effective beauty therapies too, from microdermabrasion using precious stones and masks with gold to the instantly brightening Collagen Booster facial.
A: 15 Mitropoleos St, Athens