Well Intentioned: A Chilled-Out Guide to London, UK

Sea Containers London enjoys a prime location on the South Bank
Sea Containers London enjoys a prime location on the South Bank | Courtesy of Sea Containers London / Booking.com
Photo of Emma Sparks
8 September 2021

Seek out spa treatments, swimming spots and restorative restaurants with this laid-back guide to the British capital‘s calmer corners.

Tired of London, tired of life? No – sometimes we’re just tired and in need of some serious self-care. The English capital may be known as the playground for those with a “work hard, play hard” mentality, but it’s also a surprisingly effective place to chill – hard. Ready to find respite from the frantic speed of everyday life? Slow down, take a breath, and relax into our wellness-minded guide to London.

AIRE Ancient Baths London

A candle-lit bath at Aire Ancient Baths London, with mirrors, an exposed brick wall and candles
Courtesy of Aire Ancient Baths London / Aire Ancient Baths London

This underground spa near Covent Garden will transport you to another era, thanks to its antiquity-inspired architecture and strict no-phones policy. The baths may not be truly ancient, but the relaxation is real. Soak away your stresses in seven candle-lit baths, ranging from a cool 10C (50F) to a toasty 36C (97F), float in a pool with the same salinity as the Dead Sea, or treat yourself to an antioxidant-rich red-wine bath and grapeseed-oil massage.


A light living area at Inhabit London, with a table, chairs, sofa and coffee table
Courtesy of Inhabit / Booking.com
With an infrared sauna, Peloton bike and daily schedule of yoga and mindfulness classes, this budget-friendly hotel is a dose of much-needed calm, especially given its busy location between Paddington Station and Edgware Road. Start your day with a cold-pressed juice and a dish from the intention-setting breakfast menu, such as Love (smashed avo) or Happiness (homemade granola), before pausing to breathe at the meditation station or losing yourself in a book at the pin-drop quiet library.

Brockwell Lido

Swimming Pool
An outdoor swimming pool at Brockwell Lido Swimming Pool 1930s, with trees behind the pool
© David Churchill / Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Whether you’re new to cold-water swimming, a long-time Wim Hof fan or just want a spot to sunbathe in the summer months, don’t miss Grade II-listed Brockwell Lido. The Olympic-size unheated pool sits within hilly Brockwell Park in Southeast London, near Herne Hill and Brixton. Join dedicated regulars for an early-morning lap session, sign up for a yoga or pilates class at the adjacent studio, or enjoy sourdough pizza and cocktails at the poolside restaurant 400 Rabbits.

Triyoga, Camden

Fitness Studio, Spa, Yoga Studio
The big daddy of London yoga studios, Triyoga, is your one-stop shop for all things “ommm”. Beyond exploring the mind-boggling array of classes on offer, from vinyasa flow to toddler yoga, you can up your overall wellness with a spot of acupuncture, hypnotherapy and massage. There are numerous Triyoga locations across the city, but the flagship Camden studio – in a renovated Victorian piano factory – is the biggest and best.

Ham Yard Hotel

A colourful and stylish seating area at Ham Yard Hotel, with hanging lights and sofas, tables and armchairs
Courtesy of Ham Yard Hotel / Booking.com
“Aaahhh…” is not only what you’ll say as you flop onto your bed at this chic Soho hotel by renowned interior designer Kit Kemp and her hitmaker Firmdale Hotels. It’s also the name of one of the indulgent treatments at the Ham Yard’s tension-busting Soholistic Spa – it starts with skin brushing to improve circulation and is followed by a Mediterranean scrub and a warm-oil massage. Post-treatment, head to the fourth-floor rooftop bar (one of the best in London) for a fragrant cocktail infused with honey, herbs and edible flowers, all from the kitchen garden and resident rooftop bees.

Holland Park

The Dutch Gardens in the grounds of Holland House, Holland Park, London UK
© Richard Barnes / Alamy Stock Photo
The many green spaces in London are the essential antidote to traffic jams, tightly packed tube carriages and crowded streets. For a moment of pure Zen, look no further than the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. Filled with blushing Japanese maple trees, roaming peacocks, a koi carp pond and a multi-tiered waterfall, it’s the ideal place for a mindful walk or moment of meditation.


Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Healthy, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$

Vegan restaurants aren’t just about chopped kale salads and spirulina smoothies, as the menu at Farmacy in Notting Hill demonstrates. Alongside the aforementioned greenery – much of which is grown on the restaurant’s biodynamic farm in Kent – you’ll also find a slew of comforting plant-based plates, including lasagne, (no) beef burgers and warm choc-chip cookies. It’s a pretty venue, too – think brushed brass, bare wood and house plants galore.

Sea Containers London

A stylish dining room at Sea Containers London with a bar, tables, chairs and city views
Courtesy of Sea Containers London / Booking.com
Staying sober? No need to stick to soft drinks and water all night. The Lyaness drinking den at the Sea Containers hotel on the South Bank regularly ranks among the 50 best bars in the world, thanks to its fabulous Thames-front location, spiffy decor and thoughtfully crafted cocktails. Bartenders will happily create a teetotal tipple just for you. Ask for an alcohol-free Second Prelude, which features vegan honey and the non-alcoholic aperitif, Aecorn Dry. Gaze out across the river, taking in London’s matchstick skyline, for a moment of calm.

Looking for more relaxed and stylish hotels in London? Check out our guide to the best hotels in Notting Hill, or the best hotels in Paddington, London, all bookable with Culture Trip. Heading to Eltham Palace? Check out these hotels nearby.

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