Is it going too far to say that spa therapists are angels in disguise and that spas are the heavenly realm they reside in? In this day and age of daily high anxiety and regular aches and pains, what could be better than receiving recuperative TLC at a great spa? The healing effect begins from the very moment you enter a spa and often lasts over a few days, something neither chocolate nor jewelry can achieve. There are the soothingly dimmed lights, feel-good scents in the air, warm, welcoming smiles and hushed tones, and the way your well-being becomes everyone’s prime objective (unlike the lady who just elbowed you in the metro). Then there is the series of mystical ancient–modern healing rituals that include herbaceous steam, massaging bubbles, soothing music, floral decorations, warm fragrant oils, and skilled therapeutic touch that leave you feeling and looking renewed.
With Christmas coming up, it’s the ideal time to consider making a great gift to yourself or a loved one that will prepare you to face the new year with a more positive attitude and less stressed muscles. Here are some of the top choices of excellent city spas of different kinds in Athens.
Electra Metropolis Hotel
Located in Syntagma Square at the top of Mitropoleos Street, this basement-level spa is on the small side and cozily down to earth yet glamorous, elegant, and immaculately clean. After the treatments, clients are ushered into a relaxing sitting area where they are served a sumptuous feast of fresh and dried fruit and a delicious herbal tea made from wild, organic Cretan herbs.
It’s challenging to select a treatment from the spa menu here, as there is a dazzling array of therapies on offer, and they all sound great. I started my spa-escapade by taking a dip in the medium-sized indoor pool and then relaxing in the sauna before going for a 55-minute Swedish massage called “Gentle Kiss,” which indeed gave my body the kiss of life, relieving long-held stress and multiple aches. Swedish massage is not as intense as deep tissue but still offers profound head-to-toe relief. The use of lavender (from Kozani) enhanced the healing process (lavender is known to ease stress), and the skilled masseuse relieved a knot in my neck pain that I’d suffered from for months.
Next, the therapist moved her attention to my face, offering me the “Looking Fabulous -Antiaging Face & Neck” treatment. The therapy includes using products chosen according to each guest’s skin needs and involves a powerful Japanese massage technique called Kobido. I had never experienced anything like the sequence of the therapist’s pulling, pinching, rubbing, and smoothing actions, which made me remember just how much tension facial muscles store.
Grand Hyatt Hotel
Visiting the Grand Hyatt Hotel spa is like entering a secret underground world of pampering. The entire large and atmospherically lit space is lavishly covered in light grey marble and has high ceilings, an enormous swimming pool, a steam room, a warm whirlpool bath, and even a cold (very, be warned) plunge pool.
Aegeo, a prominent and multi-awarded spa chain, has also created a top-quality range of cosmetic products. Here, my “salute per aqua” session was followed by a “Cretan Massage,” something the Aegeo Spa does brilliantly, unsurprisingly, as its owners are from Crete (most of the high-quality ingredients they use in their products are sourced from the island). The massage, which deeply soothed my desk-vexed back and neck muscles and helped alleviate my headache, included warm extra virgin olive oil, orange extract, and raki. This was followed by the indulgent “Royal Blue,” a deep body exfoliation, and next, the deeply moisturizing “Aloe’s Majesty” body mask, a combination of treatments that left my skin baby soft for weeks after.
My face was treated to “Beauty Slip,” a treatment combining products and massage techniques that make the skin firmer and brighter. The massage and mask stimulate lymph flow and increase collagen while diminishing dark circles. My face looked fresh and plump, with smoothness and a radiant glow.
First opened four years ago and operating as one of Greece’s two certified floatation centers, Etherfloat has, since the end of lockdown, added to its services by including massage therapies such as deep tissue, lymphatic, sports, neuromuscular and Swedish.
Floating involves stepping into a large oval pod and stretching out on the surface of water packed with Epsom salts. For the first 10 minutes, the pod is softly lit by blue light (or a sequence of light colors of choice) and soft music (that you can choose in advance) plays. After that, you lie suspended in complete darkness and silence. Floating for an hour has been shown by several international studies to induce a deep, meditative state of relaxation and mental calm. The very high magnesium levels in the Epsom salts, combined with sensory deprivation, have been found to help relieve anxiety, fatigue, and soreness. If done regularly, floating is said to offer long-term health benefits like regulating sleep, improving eyesight and hearing, and noticeably reducing joint or muscular pain, anxiety, depression, and brain fog. I have tried floating twice, and I felt physically relaxed and more clear-headed both times, having experienced deep connectivity with some feelings and ideas.
I chose the one-hour-long deep tissue massage, in which the therapist employs her unique blend of therapeutic techniques such as Thai, shiatsu, deep tissue, and reflexology. Deep, powerful strokes, lifting and stretching my limbs, and using her forearms and elbows for pressing areas such as my cemented shoulder blades, left me feeling blissed out. The massage can be enjoyed on its own or, ideally, in combination with a floating session, before or after.
Cocoon Urban Spa
This Spa in Halandri has consistently maintained its high standards and has kept upgrading its services and facilities since it opened over a decade ago. It has a hammam, sauna, small pool, and whirlpool and offers a gratifying selection of healing and beauty treatments for the body and face.
As CBD oil has become the talk of the town in recent years, I wanted to see whether their “CBD Oil Massage” would live up to its claims of relieving stress from the body while also calming the mind. Using firm, expert strokes and maneuvers, the masseuse successfully relaxed my muscles from head to toe, concluding the session with a head massage that made me feel floaty and prepared me for a good night’s sleep. I’m not sure how much the CBD oil helped, but the treatment lived up to its promise.
Great after a summer of somewhat reckless sun worshipping, the “Vitamin C Facial” I tried next was meant to clear dead cells from the upper layers of the skin while boosting collagen production and removing fine lines. My skin was bright, whiter, firmer, and plumper.
For a completely different experience, it’s well worth visiting the Turkish-style hammam baths, where you can combine a steam session (in a lovely octagonal marble room) with massage therapy or beauty treatments either in the steam room or the dry room. Following the treatment, clients are encouraged to sit on the spa’s picturesque terrace to nibble on Turkish delight and sip tea with a charming view of the Acropolis right above.
I went for the “Sultan’s Daughter Wedding Hammam,” a traditional massage ritual that involves being well scrubbed and exfoliated from head to toe, then rinsed off with buckets of warm water and lathered up and massaged inside a fluffy cloud of foam created by silk pillowcases that are dipped in liquid olive oil soap and slapped through the air above you.
After leaving my fluffy cloud, I was rinsed off again, and my hair was shampooed and conditioned with an ultra-relaxing head massage. Then, a chocolate mud mask was slathered onto my face and left on for 15 minutes, during which I dreamt I had finally arrived in the land of Valrhona. Cocoa has antioxidant qualities, and in combination with the mud, my skin was left squeaky clean, tighter, and radiant.
Tip: This luxurious experience can be enjoyed with a partner or friend.