8 French spas for the ultimate unwind holiday
The country that invented thalassotherapy does not shy away from extravagance when it comes to wellbeing and pampering. From Paris to Bordeaux, here are eight of France’s top places to bliss out and unwind, writes Natasha Dragun.
Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, Champagne
“Come for the bubbles, stay for the journey,” is the motto at this opulent new hotel and spa, the first of its kind in the Champagne region. The bucolic setting overlooking a vineyard is hard to beat, with flowers, plants and grapes inspiring many treatments on the menu. Facials use products from the applauded Biologique Recherche range, known for its anti-ageing properties, with every ritual customised based on skin type. There are also blissful body wraps and massages, including one that incorporates a candle made of specially adapted wax to provide a soft, melting heat that leaves your skin with a satin-like sheen.
Spa Evian Source, Évian Resort, Évian-les-Bains
A collection of hotels dedicated to wellness on the banks of Lake Geneva, the Evian Resort’s pièce de résistance is its incredible Spa Evian Source. Check in to five-star Hôtel Royal and then dash between facilities in a golf buggy: tennis before a facial, perhaps, or a hike before a crystal therapy session. The retreat is all about life-changing experiences, which might include multi-day yoga journeys, or slimming programs that incorporate personal training, nutrition and lymphatic drainage. It’s all complemented by soaking in the mineral-rich waters the region is known for; don’t leave without trying the al fresco thalassotherapy circuit.
Institut Dior, Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris
Plaza Athénée is Paris’ chicest grande dame, and the ideal spot for Dior to install its spa. (Interestingly, the French fashion house used the hotel to showcase its first collection in 1947, and Christian Dior is said to have been inspired by the women who frequented the establishment.) The spa’s luxe fitout is like Dior’s approach to design: slick and impeccable. The products used in body and face treatments are exclusively Dior, incorporating Prestige creams and serums, as well as limitedseries L’Or de Vie La Cure skincare, made using an antioxidant-rich formula sourced from the Château d’Yquem vineyard. Every experience ends with an application of make-up and perfume, so you’re runway-ready when you leave.
Cheval Blanc Spa, Cheval Blanc Courchevel, Savoie
Cheval Blanc Courchevel, Savoie Perched at 1,850 metres in the heart of the French Alps, LVMH’s slick Cheval Blanc ski hotel is about as close to heaven as you can get. Dedicated to one of the company’s most indulgent beauty brands, Guerlain, the hotel’s spa menu is designed with high altitudes, cool weather and winter sports in mind. Begin your visit in the mirrored infinity pool before an invigorating ice plunge or steam in the al fresco Russian banya (steam bath). Then glide into the Warming Winter Pause ritual, uniting heated stones and paraffin pouches to soothe ski-weary muscles. You can also take your experience up a notch in the exclusive Orchidée Salon, a single room devoted to Guerlain’s ultra-luxe anti-ageing skincare range by the same name.
La Réserve Hotel, Spa & Villas, Ramatuelle
Despite its proximity to the rocking scene in Saint-Tropez, just 10 kilometres to the north on the French Riviera, this discreet oasis feels a world away from the high-octane glitz. Villas with pools are set in lovely private gardens, and bougainvillea-clad, detox-friendly restaurants have seemingly endless views over the Mediterranean. Relaxation is inevitable, even if you don’t make it to the spa; if you do, it’s guaranteed. The cool space of glass, marble and floaty white material is like a wellness cocoon, a place where you can book everything from Nescens anti-ageing programs – which include multi-day boot camps and sculpting body treatments – to balneotherapy (where marine products are the star), fangotherapy (using volcanic mud) and incredible La Mer facials.
Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie, Le Bristol, Paris
Arguably the world’s most opulent beauty and skincare brand, La Prairie is the perfect partner for Le Bristol’s spa in Paris. Filled with sunlight, the treatment rooms include a Russian banya with a heated marble table and soap menu, as well as a single space designed exclusively to showcase natural products by Tata Harper. In other suites, you can indulge in truly memorable facials making the most of La Prairie’s Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal range, known for its propensity to reduce the appearance of fine lines. And then there’s the extravagant Swiss Bliss ritual, using the brand’s Skin Caviar products to lift and firm from tip to toe: it begins with a footbath and ends three hours later with a massage, facial, steam and glass of champagne.
Fontcaude Spa, Vichy Thermalia Spa Hôtel, Juvignac
One of the largest and best-equipped spa resorts in France, Vichy Thermalia features a wellness ethos that revolves around the centuries-old hot springs it is fed by. Curative waters here, from the source de la Valadière at the edge of Montpellier, were once bottled and sold to the fashionably health conscious, and they still feature today in experiences including hydromassage, using natural essential oils, and the Watermass treatment, incorporating targeted jets to aid slimming. You can also simply soak away what ails you in the pool, heated to a bathtub-warm 32 degrees Celsius. More efficacious therapies on offer include cryotherapy – where you stand in a cylinder chilled to subzero temperatures for minutes of cell rejuvenation – and Endermologie light treatments, for skin regrowth and repair.
Vinothérapie Spa, Les Sources de Caudalie, Bordeaux
When your setting is one of France’s most applauded wine regions, it makes sense that your spa menu revolves around vinotherapy. Designed by architect Yves Collet featuring a calming palette of stone and wood, Les Sources de Caudalie’s spa in Bordeaux is made all the more serene by its outlook over a lake: enjoy a cycle around it or a walking tour of the estate’s Grand Cru Château Smith Haut Lafitte winery before you bliss out. You can book individual treatments such as a merlot wrap, crushed cabernet scrub or red vine bath, but if you’re checking in to the hotel – which also comes with a two-Michelin-starred restaurant – I highly recommend the multi-day ‘Cures’. These retreats unite wine-themed body and beauty rituals with healing soaks in wooden tubs filled with natural hot spring water drawn from 540 metres beneath the earth.