International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
After a long day traipsing around the myriad streets, shops and museums of Paris, a bit of relaxation is in order – especially in the run up to Christmas when tourist sites are busier than usual and festive shopping can be frenetic.
So do as the locals do, and indulge in a bit of pampering at one of these four spas -- each uniquely Parisian in their own way-- that cater to both men and women and all tastes and budgets.
On the luxury end of the scale, next to the ultra-chic Place Vendôme in the 1st arrondissement, is the Six Senses spa. At the entrance, a wall covered in lush green plants creates a barrier between the bustle outside and the calm inside, and the six treatment rooms, located in individual cocoon-like wooden huts, have screens onto which live images of nearby Tuileries Garden are projected. Try the Paris Honey Facial (140 euros), a nourishing skin treatment using honey harvested from the beehives on the building’s roof.
L’Echapée, an urban spa off the busy rue Oberkampf in the 11th arrondissement, is a vast, three-level loft-like space that houses four treatment rooms, a swimming pool, a steam room, two yoga rooms and a restaurant. Facial treatments use the organic, Paris-based Absolution skincare brand; try the hour-long personalised Absolution skincare treatment, adapted to suit the client’s individual needs (85 euros). Californian, hot stone and shiatsu massages are also highly recommended (starting at 70 euros), as is a day relaxing by the indoor pool (35 euros).
For high-quality French skincare, the Institut Sothys is a serious – and chic – destination on the moneyed rue Faubourg St Honoré in the 8th arrondissement. Treatments here use the brand’s scientifically developed products, such as the Digi-Esthétique omega-H2CR balm, an intensive treatment that plumps up wrinkles for a more youthful appearance. Seasonally changing facials provide the skin with specialised treatments -- for example, this winter’s Blackberry-Apple Oxygenising Facial contains minerals to boost skin’s defences against the cold weather (90 euros).
For a less rarefied but still magical experience, the hammam – traditional Turkish baths – at the Paris Mosque in the 5th arrondissement is an affordable and convivial way to give your body a treat. For 18 euros, you can spend as long as you like in the marble-floored steam rooms attached to the beautiful mosque, with the three rooms becoming progressively hotter as you advance. Scrubs and massages are available in the communal spaces at an additional cost, or you can purchase the famous savon noir (a Moroccan soap made from olive oil) and an exfoliating mitt at the entrance to appreciate the benefits of the steam yourself. Enjoy a mint tea in the cafe afterwards to round off the experience.
Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.