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The Sanctuary Covent Garden is famous for its koi carp - these are not their fish but look pretty similar

I paid £109 for a special Sweet Dreams offer with 50 minute treatment on 13 January 2011 including:

Day Spa Admission (9:30am - 6:00pm), choice of 50 minute treatment, warming Apple Streusel and Winter Sparkle Cocktail and complimentary Vanity Bag.

Plus complimentary Sleep Retreat and Skin Consultation

See their website for current special offers:


Treatments are not available in isolation, but must be booked with a day or evening spa admission.


The cheapest entry is the Winter Evening Spa on selected days £35.25 - regular price £47.


Towels, robes and blankets are included, but you should bring your own flip flops.


If you feel like visiting the spa regularly they do offer an annual membership, ranging from £125 - £235 a month, with which you also receive 5 guest passes, 10-20% discounts on food, drinks, treatments, products and you can also visit without having to book.


For more info visit


As at January 2011

The Sanctuary Covent Garden


Sadly for ladies only, The Sanctuary in Covent Garden is the grand dame of spas.  Originally for West End dancers, the spa cheerfully invites you to uphold the tradition of swimming naked!  I accepted, only to find that I was the only bare naked lady in the whole place!


Having visited so many spas abroad I was really taken with how English The Sanctuary is.  From the one piece bathing suits to the list of rules everywhere (some of which are quite useful).


My favourite part of the spa was the Atrium Swimming Pool where I cheerfully swum naked and had a go on the famous swing (I warn you, it is very hard to get off and not have it bash you in the head on its return!)  It really did feel like I was swimming in the open, with the frosted glass roof four floors above, and trailing plants hanging down, this is a pool for floating and generally messing about.  As the oldest part of the spa it is a little grubby, but wonderfully atmospheric, and it made me feel like a mermaid.


If you fancy doing some laps there is also a much colder Exercise Pool on the lower floor, which I jumped in to refresh a couple of times.


But the most popular part of the whole spa is the famous Koi Carp Lounge, which is stunning.  Around the pond (and those fish are huge!) you can lie, sit, read a magazine, even take one of the soft blankets and curl up for a snooze.  Unfortunately you may be woken up by the noise of the café in the lounge, or by the chatting of all the other ladies.


I would probably have been a lot more relaxed if I hadn’t been naked, but I’d just rather not lie around with a wet costume making my robe all wet.  But there were moments when I regretted being naked, particularly when I went for my complimentary Sleep Retreat.  It’s a bit like going on a plane, with the “stewardess” standing at the front giving you all your flight instructions.  There are about 9 spaces, and each lady lies down on a bed covered with a duvet (here’s the problem - you’re supposed to take off your robe but the bed is vinyl, so at the end you have to unstick yourself - I’d keep the robe on next time.)  When you press a button on your controller you get an intermittent vibration of the contoured bed, then you put on your headphones and have a half an hour of meditative sounds and talk.  I must admit, even though I do a lot of guided visualisations and listen to a lot of plinky plonky music, I was at first quite resistant to the idea and for the first half I was feeling quite tense, then all of a sudden I just let go, and my whole mood changed and I started to feel so much better.


Unlike many other spas the only refreshments that are free here are glasses of water, and the cost of drinks is, I feel, quite high, £3-4 for a coffee, and £2 for my redbush tea.  You can enjoy refreshments in the Koi Carp Lounge, or the upstairs Lounge, or the full menu in the White Orchid Restaurant (where you are requested to book a table).  I had a wonderful pumpkin salad in the Koi Carp Lounge, which was about £9 (as are the sandwiches), but it was well worth it.  Sadly my afternoon treat - coffee and a chocolate brownie was less enjoyable, as the coffee was cold and brownie just average, but they very quickly made me a hot coffee when I pointed it out.


I found it quite hard to find somewhere to really chill out, as this is a very chatty spa, and for ladies to get together to discuss work problems, boyfriends and of course bitch about their other friends.  I did find myself regretting that I wasn’t in an overseas spa where I didn’t speak the language!  The best spot I found for a little quiet time was the Thai Relaxation Area, only a three person space, just above the Atrium Pool.  Lying here was a little like lying on a beach, just letting my lunch go down before jumping back in.


There are lots of other water experiences to enjoy here, the Spa Pool, which is a beautiful blue mosaic pool with occasional jets, a traditional smaller jacuzzi (also called the Spa Pool), a Sauna, Hammam Steam Room and a Sanarium, which is a milder Sauna, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  There are showers dotted everywhere so you can rinse off before and after your experience - but do be careful as I found the temperatures varied a lot, even in the same bank of showers.  Unfortunately the cold hose also seemed to be missing from the Hammam, so I had to come out and have a cold drench shower to cool down - but I loved it!


In the afternoon I also opted for a complimentary Skin Consultation in the shop.  You can wander into the Shop any time you like and get advice - or some moisturiser or oil for your face, but the Skin Consultation is a little bit more full on.  I didn’t like it.  Mainly because when you’re feeling deeply relaxed the last thing you should do is stick your face in a white box, have light flashed at you, and then sit and look at eight photos of your face showing the spots, wrinkles, bacteria, sun damage, brown spots, etc. etc. and have different products rapidly thrust at you.  It’s not hard sell and after I had smiled and nodded for a bit I just said I’ll think about it and wandered off, but I did feel like it was an unfortunate detour from my day of bliss.


After a bit more lying around and dipping into pools it was finally time for the high point of my day - my 50 minute Lava Shell Massage.  It was the first time I’d tried this and the therapist was wonderful, gently explaining the massage, and constantly asking if the pressure and heat were okay.  Also I loved the massage bed, gently contoured and with the leg area heated - I could have stayed here for hours!  My therapist did say that I had a lot of tension in my lower back and spent a lot of time there, and asked me to stretch it out afterwards, (but I’ll be honest it is a little bit stiff today, so I’m not entirely sure what to make of that).


Wobbling slightly I made my way up to The Lounge to enjoy my complimentary prosecco and apple tart - and both were out of this world.  Apparently they infuse the prosecco with spices or something - just gorgeous!


I was amazed by quite how much of my time I spent lying down.  Partly because I had the whole day there, partly because I was very relaxed, but the wonderful thing about this spa was that I realised just how much I benefitted from a calm lie down.  Recently I’ve been a bit run down and have just started to plop myself in front of the TV every time I have a bit of me time - well when I got home after the spa I did something else... I lit a few candles, made the bed properly with the throw pillows, found a soft coffee coloured blanket, pulled out a few of my favourite books, made a great big mug of decaf and just carried on chilling out.


The Sanctuary is spread over five floors so there are a lot of stairs to negotiate, but, unless are having a treatment on an upper level, you’ll only want to visit the lower three floors.


I thoroughly enjoyed my day at The Sanctuary. After years of looking at it and thinking, well it’s a bit expensive, I can see why.  There are so many attendants making sure your day is perfect, so many nice touches, and so many ideas you can take away from here.


I’m not sure I would have come here in the first place if I hadn’t been given vouchers, but I am so glad that I did, as I really needed to recover from a difficult and busy few weeks.  The Sanctuary really was the perfect place for me to take time out, relax, heal, remember that I need looking after too, not take things too seriously (how can you when you’re naked on a swing over a pool!) and just be happy!  (Although the next time I might make it more of a social occasion and bring a naked friend!)


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