Stress and the city: the new wave of urban wellness


Stress and the city: the new wave of urban wellness

Among the urban sprawl hotels are stepping up their spa game – ambient music to the ears of stressed-out city-breakers seeking serenity

Gilly Hopper

BY Gilly Hopper22 July 2022

The push/pull of living in a hyper-connected city, where ‘busy bragging’ is currency can, at times, prove more than a little trying. The pandemic pulled focus away from cities for a period – turns out, greener pastures can be found in the countryside (who knew?) – and catalysed a reappraisal of the metropolis in general. But while escapes to the country have lasting appeal, many nature-craving urbanites are looking to strike more of a balance in their current habitats.

Go for a stroll in London, Paris, or Berlin, say, and you’ll likely notice a shift in energy. Streets are becoming more and more occupied by an influx of lycra-clad walkers and cyclists, and al-fresco dining spots have cropped up on every available corner and cobbled path. ‘Wellness’ is a word on everyone’s lips and the health benefits of being out in nature are evident. As cities recalibrate to better cater to residents – urban spaces are becoming increasingly verdant thanks to rewilding projects and urban greening efforts – an increasing number of urban spas are emerging across cities globally.

Though day spas in the city are not a novelty, these urban retreats are taking things to transcendental new heights. And longer-standing sanctuaries in some of the world’s buzziest cities are revamping elements of their service to better reflect advances in the wellness space.

Let’s pause here for a moment… Inhale for five, exhale for five. Good. It’s time to visit a few of the most tempting temples of tranquility…


You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better case study than NYC when it comes to assessing urban wellness scaling. The constant hustle of the city that never sleeps can be draining, so pinpointing places to rest up and recharge is key. But first, a high-octane stay to shake off of any unwanted energy. Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards, from the cult gym brand, will help drop those shoulders, thanks to an impressive offering of SoulCycle classes, a vast open-air pool with city views, and a 27,000 sq ft spa which is home to cryotherapy chambers, infrared saunas, NutriDrips, and more.

For a waterfront retreat in the middle of the city, try the nature-centric 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. The in-house Bamford wellness spa offers holistic treatments using all-natural ingredients, and the Field House has stationary bikes and resistance treadmills to help you sweat out the week’s stresses.

Over on Howard Street, on the edge of Nolita, 11 Howard is home to HigherDose (‘dose’ standing for dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins), a facility which is ‘dedicated to getting you hot and high’. The spa’s infrared saunas help to ‘detox heavy metals from your body, promote healthy sleep cycles, and reduced muscle tension’. In town on Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday? Sign up for a 60-minute lymphatic drainage session. On your way out, stop by their new boutique to pick up a medley of future-focused products – from LED face masks to sauna blankets – to continue your wellness journey at home.


Europe’s major cities pack a punch and second cities – like Antwerp, in Belgium – aren’t far behind. The centre of the diamond trade in Europe, Antwerp is densely concentrated, meaning the port city can feel quite hectic at times. To counter this, individuals can wind down at the spiritually aligned Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp. A former monastery fringed by beautifully landscaped gardens, Antwerpenaars are drawn to the property’s Botanic Health Spa, where ancient herbal and monastic remedies align with traditional European and Chinese medicine. Rotate between the panoramic Finnish sauna, foot reflexology basins, and botanical shower experiences. The spa itself – conceived of glass, wood, and natural stone – is eco and sustainable in design, ‘using next-generation technologies to conserve natural resources and contribute to environmental sustainability.’

Meanwhile, across the pond, in the UK’s capital, West Londoners will soon (circa 2023) have a new place to centre themselves with the opening of Six Senses London. Taking up residence in the iconic former Whiteleys department store, guests will enter into a ‘convivial and biophilic’ ground floor before ascending to the Six Senses Spa.

The spa journey itself will ‘mirror the different energies of city life, from the sensory stimulation and movement of the street to the stillness and calm of a quiet café or park’; in short, spa-goers will move from vibrant areas to more serene ones during their spa day. Meanwhile, on the second floor, residents and members will have access to a social and wellness club space featuring ‘a central bar and lounge, co-working spaces, a restaurant, and wellness rooms’. They’ll also be ‘offering a pioneering programme to encourage growth, reflection, and reconnection’ – say hello to spa-going 2.0.


In Asia, megacities like Tokyo and Bangkok present an equilibrium to frenetic days (and nights) in the form of wellness-centric hotels. In neon-bright Tokyo, Aman Tokyo is a welcome refuge plotted within the Otemachi Tower, with urban greenery, courtesy of the Otemachi forest, offsetting the surrounding skyscrapers. Serene in atmosphere and dynamic by design, Aman Tokyo is the definition of an urban oasis. Such claims are further solidified by the Aman Spa which features onsen-style, volcanic rock baths and steam rooms, plus a 30-metre indoor swimming pool (with panoramic city views, ofc).

Guests can indulge in a treatment informed by Japan’s tradition of kampo herbal healing, which ‘emphasises the rebalancing power of natural herbs’, or sign up to the Misogi experience – a traditional Shinto purification ritual that ‘uses water to cleanse the body and reset the mind’. After all that, thoroughly zenned out, you’ll undoubtedly forget you’re in Tokyo’s central business district (with a growing inbox).

Six hours south (by plane), in the hyperactive streets of Bangkok, refuge comes courtesy of Capella Bangkok. The cosmopolitan Thai capital is always bustling, so taking the occasional breather from the sensory overwhelm can feel like a necessity. Perched right by the river, the jasmine-scented Auriga Wellness spa (set amidst tropical gardens – hence the jasmine) offers a calming enclave to restore and rejuvenate, with customised treatments combining ancient Asian rituals with modern practices. Tailored wellness is Capella Bangkok’s MO, making it a great address to keep in your back pocket.

Continue your wellness journey at more of our spa hotels