Guerlain Spa at Raffles London

The lowdown

The OWO building was used as the country’s War Office from the early 20th century until the mid 1960s and plenty of original features have been preserved and painstakingly restored in this huge Edwardian Baroque building. The super-thick walls add to the sound-proofed tranquillity of the hotel, and you get a real sense of the building’s history. You can almost hear the whispered state secrets being shared between former statesmen and spies in its hallways. In fact, the building’s history is very much part of the hotel today, and knowledgeable Ambassadors are on hand to give tours and fascinating insights (who knew that Ian Fleming dreamed up a certain Mr. Bond within OWO’s walls?)

Spavellous for

Super-luxe wellness seekers, top-end treatment fans, foodies, anyone looking for a special treat and a taste of French wellness in an iconic London building.

Spa info

As soon as the lift doors opened to reveal the fragrant fabulousness and parqueted perfection of the gilty Guerlain pleasure palace, we suspected that the spa was going to live up to the hype. The second that guests arrive at the spa reception, their real-world footwear is whisked away in a box and replaced by slippers. And fragrant hot cloths are provided to signal the beginning of the wellness journey.

The spa menu features carefully curated Signature facial and body treatments, including the Spirit of London and the Coastal Escape. There are nine generous-sized treatment suites, each one a self-contained sanctuary with its own private shower, changing area and locker. The spa also has one single and two double VIP Treatment Suites, each with its own private bathtub.

Experienced therapists have been meticulously selected and additionally trained by Guerlain to ensure that they live and breathe the luxury French brand, as well as delivering Raffles-standard treatments. We’re yet to experience one of the treatments here, but guests are raving.

The scale and finish of the pool area are seriously impressive. With supersized arches and double height ceilings, the space belies the fact that you’re several floors underground, helped by beautiful lighting and the sparkling pools.

In addition to having one of the largest swimming pools in London, the spa has a sauna, steam room, experience showers and plenty of inviting places to relax, including on comfy cream chaises around the pool.

You get a heightened sense of wellbeing from simply spending time in the pool space. Guest numbers are carefully controlled too, so some of the exclusivity is in the fact that you won’t be sharing the facilities with many other spa seekers, if any. When we visited on a Friday morning there was only one other guest using the pool.

Upstairs on the ground floor, L’Atelier Guerlain offers a beautiful, sweet-smelling space for express treatments, make-up and fragrance. Guests can take time to explore Guerlain’s much-loved scents and even create their own personalised bottle if they wish.

And, if all that pampering has worked up an appetite, you can refuel at the healthy Pillar Kitchen next door which serves nutrition-led smoothies and superfood salads alongside delicious fresh wraps and protein balls.

Treatment highlights

We haven’t tried any of the treatments yet, but like the sound of the Spirit of London, which has been designed to bring harmony to body, mind and spirit and sounds like a perfect pick-me-up for travel-weary guests looking for some city escapism. The Coastal Escape sounds equally appealing, whisking you away to more sun-drenched climes with the help of a soothing original soundtrack. All treatments have been designed exclusively by Guerlain for Raffles London.

For the ultimate treat, you can book the spa’s exclusive Royal Retreat, where you’ll get to enjoy three hours of spa bliss in the super-luxe surroundings of the stunning Royal Spa Suite.

Fit for a king or queen, the journey starts with an invitation to unwind with a therapeutic bath ritual before enjoying a two-hour tailor-made treatment in the selfcare sanctuary, followed by some royal relaxation where you can kick back and gaze at the suite’s pretty plasterwork ceiling. You’ll also have access to the full spa facilities and will have canapés and champagne to keep you refreshed on your decadent wellness journey.

Flash treatments at L’Atelier start at £100 for a half hour treatment.

Non-resident guests can use the pool facilties for one hour before and one hour after any treatment of 90 minutes or longer, from £290.

rooms

The 120 guest rooms and suites at Raffles London offer top-end comfort combined with a contemporary interpretation of classic Edwardian style, with suites offering more space and architectural detailing.

There are also 85 private residences on the site.

Rooms start at £1,100 per night for a Classic double room.

wining & dining

The OWO is home to a mouth-watering nine new restaurants and three bars, each with their own culinary offering and unique feel. Favourites includes Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco’s self-titled fine dining restaurant and his seasonally focussed Saison which offers Mediterranean style dining in the light-filled atrium.

Sushi Master Endo Kazutoshi’s restaurant will soon be adding to the already impressive culinary collection, providing Japanese-inspired cuisine, a sake bar and views of the capital from its new Raffles rooftop location.

We particularly loved charming Café Lapérouse in the shiny sculptural pavilion in the hotel’s courtyard. Grab a perch in the pretty Parisian-vibed bar area and enjoy caviar, shellfish and cocktails from the comfort of your scalloped chair.

There are three inviting bars to choose from in the hotel too: the Guards Bar, the bar at Paper Moon and the underground Spy Bar.

The Guards Bar and Lounge is the main bar at Raffles London and, if you time it right, you can get to see the changing of the guard at Horse Guards, the official entrance to Buckingham Palace, which is directly opposite. And it’s open to all, so you don’t need to be staying at the hotel to enjoy a drink with a side of pomp and circumstance.

Guests staying at the hotel can head down to the subterranean spy bar and interrogate the wine list where alleged spies were once subjected to the same fate.

There’s also a lively and colourful bar at Italian restaurant, Paper Moon where you can savour classic aperitivi, a glass of fizz or your choice of cocktail in style.

why so spavellous?

Where to start?! Firstly, Raffles London at The OWO is truly unique. It has an authentic history-infused feel, as well as offering a super-luxe spa experience at its Guerlain Spa. And, if you’re a history fan, the hotel and its fact-filled staff will keep you entertained for hours. The spa is beautiful and has a palatial feel – there aren’t many central London spas where you can enjoy swimming full 20 metre lengths, let alone in such an elegant environment.

The standard of treatments is crème de la crème – as you’d expect from such a well-respected French beauty brand. And then there’s the diverse top-notch dining, beautiful bars and historic bedrooms and suites. You really do feel like you’re in some kind of parallel universe when you’re inside the hotel which provides a real sense of escapism despite being in the heart of the busy capital.

So, what’s the catch? This standard of hotel and spa does not come cheap and really is a special occasion place for most people. But, when you visit or stay at Raffles London you don’t get the generic, often rather soulless kind of ‘luxury’ that is sometimes rolled out across upmarket hotel chains, you enjoy an authentic, one-of-a kind luxury experience in a properly iconic setting.

spavellous tips

If you don’t have time, or funds, for a full spa visit, head for an express treatment at pretty L’Atelier Guerlain.

Find one of the hotel’s Ambassadors who are knowledgeable and keen to tell you all about the building, its past and former residents. Official tours of The OWO are available too but these can book up months in advance.

spa-goers say

We’ll have to wait and see…

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Raffles London at The OWO, The Old War Office Building, 57 Whitehall, London SW1A 2BX

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SW1A 2BX
Phot credit: Spavellous
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