When you look at the area surrounding Berlin's central railway station (Hauptbahnhof), the main impression is of cranes, buses and passengers hurrying to get to their destinations. Yet here of all places - nestled amidst the hustle and bustle between the districts of Berlin-Mitte and Moabit - is where Germany's largest and arguably most beautiful spa opened its doors in summer 2014. As soon as visitors walk into the Vabali Spa (see above; Photo: PR), they are greeted by the aroma of incense and the soothing tones of relaxing music. The decor is authentic, sophisticated and virtually kitsch-free too, with some of the statues and carvings having been imported direct from Indonesia. Those seeking relaxation within this 20,000-square-meter spa complex can choose between eleven saunas, some of which are situated in the 5,000-square-meter gardens, and anyone in the mood to swim a few lengths after their sauna is spoilt for choice with both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool. Alongside traditional relaxation massages, Ayurveda treatments are also on offer in the treatment rooms, and refreshments are available in a restaurant offering international cuisine and wok dishes. Those wishing to enjoy the flair of Vabali on a regular basis can become members of the spa's own fitness club, where they can use the gym equipment or take classes.
Concerts are not the only attraction on offer at the marquee-like Tempodrom on the site of the former Anhalter Bahnhof station, as it also houses the Liquidrom (see above; Photo: PR), a wonderful haven of tranquility and well-being. The centerpiece is a dimly lit grotto containing a 13 meter-diameter circular saltwater pool, and the high salt content of the water means that you can just float and listen to the gentle tones of the underwater music, which is often provided by DJs or live bands at weekends. After the floating bath, visitors can visit the Finnish sauna, the steam bath or the heated outdoor pool on the Zen terrace for further relaxation, and the experience can be enhanced even more by hot-stone massages and fragrant aromatic oils.
However, it's not always necessary to set aside several hours or even a whole day to take time out - short relaxation sessions are extremely effective too, especially when spent at beautiful places like the Yi Spa in Berlin-Mitte (see above; Photo: PR). The spa's Asian team specializes in practices such as Thai, hot-stone and Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massages, but there are exotic treatments on offer too. How about a chocolate and cinnamon body wrap, for example, or maybe a coconut body scrub or a honey and mango facial? For people in a real rush, there's also a "business antistress body massage" that they can book in their lunch break, providing them with intense relaxation within just half an hour.
Have you ever bathed in hay? This ancient healing practice has been rediscovered by the Ruhepool Berlin bath house and wellness center in Prenzlauer Berg (see above; Photo: PR), and offers intense relaxation in a natural wood tub of warm hay. Hay baths are said to have a purifying effect and are supposed to boost the immune system too. These baths can also be booked as a complete ritual, including a rubdown with lavender-infused towels and a cleansing, full-body massage. However, the hay bath is just one of the treatments available at Ruhepool Berlin, as it also offers Japanese bathing rituals by an open fire in private bathing units, along with private sauna rituals, massages and beauty treatments.
As a Berliner, it's easy to begrudge tourists the great selection of beautiful hotels in the capital city, yet the spas in many of these luxury establishments are open to non-residents too. One of these is the Ono Spa in the Mandala Hotel (see above; Photo: Alice Hath), which is located on the eleventh floor and enjoys a spectacular view across the city. The relaxation treatments on offer include a sauna, a 25-meter-long reflexology walk-around zone, a detoxifying Iyashi Dôme bed, along with a range of massage and cosmetic therapies in the treatment suites.
The "La Prairie Boutique Spa" in the neighboring Ritz Carlton Hotel is also open to visitors. With its marble inlays and gold mosaics, the pool is reminiscent of a fairy tale from One Thousand and One Nights, and the steam bath and various saunas are open to guests too. The wellness area in the Hotel Das Stue at Tiergarten, with its wonderfully purist design, is also open to people who book a treatment. Here, visitors are pampered with natural beauty products from Susanne Kaufmann, which are used in both massages and facials.
Non-members can also use the facilities of the Cowshed Spa at Soho House, which is located on Torstraße in Berlin-Mitte. A sauna, steam bath and Hamam (Turkish bath) offer the perfect conditions for relaxation and, despite the image conjured up by its name, the spa's purist design is definitely not reminiscent of a cowshed. After expert professionals have pampered your face and body with the spa's own natural cosmetic brand, you'll also be fully prepared for any sudden encounters with film stars like George Clooney, who like to stay at Soho House when they're in Berlin.
01 The Vabali Spa near Berlin's central railway station (Photo: PR)
02 The Liquidrom in the Tempodrom (Photo: PR)
03 The Yi Spa in Berlin-Mitte (Photo: PR)
04 The Ruhepool Berlin bath house and wellness center in Prenzlauer Berg (Photo: PR)
05 The Ono Spa in the Mandala hotel (Photo: Alice Hath)