What do you look for in a spa? Are you longing for a countryside retreat or is a quick designer fix in town more apt? Spa menus on the French Riviera are often mind-bogglingly long: you’ll find everything from hydrotherapy baths and Spirulina Detox body wraps to microblading, chronobiology facials and Haute Couture Rose Tango treatments. Then there are add-ons to your spa package: you may like access to colonnaded pools and bubble beds or you may prefer free blow-dries and Michelin-starred cuisine.
Amidst endless choices, Louise Simpson tours the French Riviera for sweet-smelling answers to your spa desires.
For a city spa with a view, look no further than the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo. Perched above the Monte-Carlo harbour, this lavish spa spreads over four floors dedicated to wellness. The spa menu features both Swiss-laboratory facials (by Cellcosmet and La Prairie) and hydrotherapy treatments. My favourite way to enjoy the vista is from my own hydrotherapy-bath suite. Some day spa packages come with access to the large indoor pool and the sundeck where you can soak up the rays between treatments. Next to the sundeck is a lunchtime restaurant, L’Hirondelle. The cuisine has been created with the help of a micro-nutritionist: there’s an all-veggie menu, a gluten-free menu and a market menu featuring fish and seafood from sustainable sources.
Run by the Société des Bains de Mer hotel company, this spa has a secret underground passage leading directly to two sister properties: Hôtel de Paris and the Hermitage.
Open daily 7am to 9pm.
Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, 2 Avenue de Monte-Carlo, Monaco
For quick-fix pampering, it’s hard to beat the Spa Métropole by Givenchy just off Monte-Carlo’s Casino Square. This spa pays homage to contemporary design with its white marble floors and bronze fittings. Interior architect Didier Gomez designed the 10 treatment rooms with white embossed walls that mimic Givenchy’s lace gowns. Signature treatments include Le Soin Noir facial using black algae extract. After your spa treatment, you can finish off with a hot-cold experience vacillating from sauna and caldarium to ice fountain and sensory showers and back again. Fitness addicts may like the Pilates or the Global Muscular Reinforcement gym session. I’d recommend the Day Spa rituals that include access to the elusive Odyssey rooftop garden with its wall mural designed by Karl Lagerfeld. Here you can lounge beside the pool and enjoy light snacks from a menu created by the late culinary legend, Joël Robuchon.
Open daily 7am to 9pm (treatments from 10am to 8pm).
Spa Métropole by Givenchy, Hôtel Métropole, 4 Avenue de la Madone, Monte-Carlo, Monaco
The star of the show at the Fairmont Monte-Carlo is the Carol Joy spa. This huge top-floor spa is bathed in natural light. Painstaking research was used for every detail of the recent renovation from the couples suites with double hydrotherapy tubs to the ladies relaxation lounge where friends can share bento box lunches. Choose between a Spirulina Detox body wrap by Kerstin Florian or a cellulite and body contouring treatment with Velashape. Signature treatments include the Caviar and Collagen Cocoon. The best view is from the nail spa: as you relax with your feet in a spa bath, you can gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows over the famous hairpin bend of the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix racetrack.
Open daily from 9am to 9pm.
Carol Joy Spa
Hôtel Fairmont Monte-Carlo, 12 Avenue des Spélugues, Monaco
This hilltop castle dates back to the Knights Templar. The La Prairie spa is set amidst olive trees, fragrant flowers and birdsong within the 34-acre landscaped grounds. Treatments take place in four treatment cabins, but (in summertime) I’d recommend opting for an open-air treatment in the gardens beneath a flower-strewn gazebo. Couples can enjoy the duo treatment cabin, while children can enjoy back massages and fairy nail treatments. You can arrive early to enjoy the sauna and steam room before your treatment. As well as La Prairie’s signature caviar facial treatments, there are organic body massages with jade stones by Bamford. The Haute Couture Rose Tango treatment uses the rose oil to help cell regeneration, while the Rêve en Provence package includes a spa treatment, gourmet lunch and access to the infinity pool. If all that isn’t enough, you can hire a personal trainer or have a blow dry at the hair salon.
Open daily 9.30am to 7.30pm.
Spa Saint-Martin by La Prairie
Château St-Martin, 2490 Avenue des Templiers, Vence
This discreet hideaway lies on its own peninsula mid-way between Monaco and Cap Ferrat. It feels more like a luxurious private villa than a hotel. The Sothys spa offers everything from chronobiology facial treatments to sugar-and-salt body scrubs. There are massages for the whole family: from a massage without essential oils for pregnant mums to a massage using wood-scented oils for Dads and a short massage using fruity-smelling oils for kids from 5 to 12 years. Day packages will allow you access to the excellent facilities: as well as its own private beach, there are outdoor and indoor pools and a fully equipped gym. My favourite feature is the sauna with its window over the lapping waves.
Cap Estel Spa by Sothys
Hôtel Le Cap Estel, 1312 Avenue Raymond Poincaré, Èze-Bord-de-Mer
You’ll find this pretty farmhouse down a long driveway lined with olive trees, lavender and agapanthus. Yet this five-star boutique hotel is only a short walk from the hilltop village of Mougins with its art studios and gastronomic restaurants. The Spa Candille is housed in its own stone villa within the garden. Alongside all the usual facials and body treatments (by ESPA), this is one of the best places to find a micro blading specialist or a certified reflexologist. Try the Total Holistic Stressbuster that combines body brushing and exfoliation with essential oil massage and scalp massage. After your treatment, you can sip herbal tea in the bay-windowed relaxation room. The Early Bird Cocooning package includes access to the hydrotherapy pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and fitness corner, while the Evening Cocooning package includes a three-course dinner at the Michelin-starred Le Candille restaurant.
Open daily 10am to 7pm.
Le Mas Candille, Boulevard Clément Rebuffel, Mougins
Provence meets designer chic at this luxury spa hotel and golf resort in the Varoise backcountry near Fayence. The Terre Blanche Spa sprawls over 35,000 square feet with 12 cabins and two duo suites. You’re spoilt for choice here with everything from Brazilian blow-dries to fitness sessions with intimidating titles such as Aquaphoby, Biomecca and Huber Motion Lab. There are organic facial and body treatments by Kos Paris, while Valmont offers a signature Energy Ritual facial that involves double cleansing, double massage and double mask. The best thing about the Terre Blanche spa is the sumptuous pool area with its colonnaded indoor pool and its outdoor pool with bubble beds. With this in mind, I’d opt for one of the Spa day packages that include access to the pool, sauna, hammam and laconium.
Open daily 9am to 8pm.
Terre Blanche Spa
Terre Blanche, 3100 Route de Bagnols-en-Fôret, Tourrettes, Var
Back to Nature
Set in a wooden chalet in a quiet village behind Grasse, Le Spa des Délices provides a mountainside escape for those on a budget. Couples can enjoy private spa access with treatment packages ranging from three to six hours. The best way to enjoy the spa is with an overnight stay at the spa including a candlelit dinner or at the neighbouring Chalet des Délices where you can watch the sun set from your Jacuzzi with a glass of champagne in hand.
Open daily 10am to 8pm.
Spa des Délices
5693 Route de la Moulière, Caille