Establishment neighborhood
Bankside Hotel
2 Blackfriars Rd., Southbank
After three deliriously comfortable nights as Southbank’s new Bankside Hotel, we had to ask ourselves: Why can’t every city hotel be like this? It’s smallish, with under two hundred rooms, and utterly contemporary—concrete walls covered in urban photography you wish you could slip into your suitcase, light fixtures that moonlight as sculptures, locally made ceramics for your morning Nespresso, and the chicest writing sets for those postcards you might actually send. When you do leave your hotel, you’ll see the River Thames in the foreground, the Tate Modern for an art fix to the left, and Borough Market (to load up on paella, oysters, and cute to-go flutes of champagne) on the right. If you’re in town on business, take note that the Bankside has decked out a loft space with tables and sofas to type from, art tomes to procrastinate over, and a subterranean gym and spa to keep energy levels soaring.
Agua Spa
20 Upper Ground, Southbank
A new discovery for us, Agua Spa is located under the hypermodern Sea Containers hotel (formerly the Mondrian) and designed by Tom Dixon. It’s the antithesis of a normal spa. There are no hard corners, only undulating surfaces that curve into corridors and communal spaces, and the color scheme is white, grey, and silver. The whole vibe is more akin to a spaceship or a futuristic cocoon than the usual wood/cotton/natural-light mix. The manicures and pedicures are both indulgent and blessedly efficient, but of all the treatments, the Soveral Signature Facial is one we come back to again and again. If you’re into lymphatic massage, aromatherapy, and nontoxic beauty, you won’t be disappointed. We also found ourselves in the womblike relaxation area sipping herbal tea and reading newspapers (thoughtfully left by each bed) long after our appointment ended.
Sea Containers London
20 Upper Ground, Southbank
Originally built by American architect Warren Platner to be a hotel, this building instead became the headquarters for a sea containers company that eventually went broke. London's designer of the moment, Tom Dixon and Universal Design Studio, completely revamped the building, with plenty of nods to Platner and the building's nautical past, including a copper-clad reception area resembling a ship's hull and the aptly named Sea Containers restaurant. Plus, the subterranean spa is incredible (the Alexandra Soveral signature treatment is a game-changer), and the plush,thoughtfully turned-out rooms boast views of the Thames, something that no other London hotel can claim.