The events of the past two years have led many tourists to seek rest and respite in traditional nature-based retreats but travellers are also making a ‘great return’ to cities. According to the 2022 Global Wellness Summit, this means one thing: renewed momentum for the urban wellness concept. Large hospitality groups and cities are evolving in accordance with the zeitgeist. One big trend this year, for instance, lies in urban bathhouses and wellness playgrounds. Cities are being redesigned so residents and visitors can flee pollution and excessive consumerism and embrace the reinvigorating power of green, communal spaces. Human-made beaches, free open-air wellness sessions, and water sports are popping up in unexpected destinations like New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Sydney.

Urban wellness retreats are inherently more affordable and egalitarian, as they can be enjoyed by locals as well as travellers and residents from nearby cities or towns. Moreover, many hospitality groups are combining the resort model with that of a membership club, giving rise to more than the typical hotel with a spa. The idea of an ‘out of this world’ urban escape is making travellers more excited about working on their health in a ‘bright lights, big city’ environment; one in which they can also enjoy the beauty of cultural and architectural wonders.

The numbers are telling. Dubai is planning on launching its new One&Only One Za’abeel (a wellness resort with residences) in 2023. Equinox Hotel, which has an impressive wellness and fitness centre with offerings such as biohacking and sleep coaching, plans to open 33 more urban properties over the next decade. Another group, Kerzner International, has created a new wellness hospitality brand called SIRO Hotels, which is also targeted at city slickers. These resorts will incorporate outdoor activities, diet and nutrition, fitness, and ‘recovery labs’. The German Group Therme, meanwhile, will be bringing ancient bathing traditions to major cities, inviting stressed-out urbanites to relax in a paradise of heat, water, and nature. Therme centres will be opening in a myriad of cities in the UK, Europe, the U.S. and Asia in 2023.

Making It Greener

The Global Wellness Summit predicts that many new resorts will be centred around green spaces and forests. For instance, medical-wellness resort RAKxa, which opened its doors in 2021, is located in Bangkok’s green lung. Bangkok is also home to The Forestias, a residential-led project that boasts a luxury hotel, medical centre, food area, and sports complex, peppered along a lush forest. It has forest canopy walkways that make for a heavenly escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Cities Are Rebranding Themselves

Many cities are waking up to the demand for urban wellness offerings and are completely rebranding themselves. For instance, New York hotelier, Jerry Inzerillo and his team are building a new city in Riyadh that will contain thousands of apartments, an opera house, a university, shopping centres, and hotels with a powerful wellness focus. Rosewood, Six Senses, Four Seasons, and Ritz-Carlton are just a few big names that will feature prominently in this new paradise for the senses. To follow, are some resorts that are already immersing their clients in the magnificence of city wellness breaks.

The Aman Spa At Aman New York

Aman New York, located on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, is Aman’s third hotel in the U.S. Founded in Phuket, the brand decided to bring the palpable tranquillity of its Asian roots to the Big Apple, completely transforming the Crown Building (which once housed the Museum of Modern Art).

The Hotel boasts the brand’s flagship urban spa: the three-storey, 2,300m2 Aman Spa. It offers a host of transformative wellness and longevity experiences, medical services, specialist therapies, performance science approaches, and cutting-edge nutritional programmes. The treatment rooms have features such as full-body cryotherapy and an infrared detox sauna, plus a pool surrounded by fire pits and daybeds.

For the ultimate private pampering experience, book one of the two Spa Houses, which have a spacious double treatment room, sauna, cold plunge pools, steam rooms, and an outdoor terrace with a private cabana. If you are in New York frequently, consider joining the Aman Club – a members-only retreat with a wine room, cigar lounge and private garden terrace. The Aman New York also has 22 private residences situated above the suites.

Asaya At Rosewood Phuket And Hong Kong

Rosewood Hotels and Resorts has created the Asaya ‘urban wellness destination’ concept for its resorts in Phuket and Hong Kong. ‘Asaya’ is a Sanskrit term for ‘an intention or hope to propel self-change and transformation’.

The resorts welcome guests, patrons, and members, inviting them to begin their wellness journeys by first connecting with themselves.

Guests experience a ‘wellness atelier’ upon arrival, with experts creating a bespoke experience for them.

Asaya Wellness in Phuket has six suites (including a signature wellness suite), luxurious treatment areas, an outdoor relaxation zone, and a Watsu pool. Asaya Hong Kong, meanwhile, is divided into two floors comprising indoor and outdoor space in the Rosewood Tower on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.

The Asaya concept is built on five pillars: emotional balance, fitness and nutrition, physical therapies, skin health, and community. An experienced team of therapists guides clients with movement coaching and bodywork, naturopathy, tailored fitness, and art therapy. The aim is to tap into the emotional realm “to clear obstacles, facilitate expression, promote healing and cultivate self-care through establishing a healthy lifestyle.”

Guests are invited to experience a host of assessments such as genetic analysis, 3D skin analysis and lifestyle assessments.

The architecture is also wellness-centred. Asaya Hong Kong, for instance, has a series of engawas (traditional Japanese porches) that connect inner and outdoor spaces to galleries, ateliers, the kitchen, ornamental pools in an inner courtyard, and fragrant herb gardens.

Sindhorn Wellness By Resense At The Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel Bangkok

The Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel Bangkok has an entire floor dedicated to Sindhorn Wellness by Resense. It’s amazing to think that this space of peace and calm is located in a building that is in the very heart of Bangkok city life. Press ‘9’ in the elevator and you will be transported to an oasis with an endless infinity pool, cutting-edge gym, and spa. World-class practitioners will help you erase the day’s stress with facial treatments, massages, thermal and hydrotherapy experiences.

Thermal therapies are focused on the use of contrasting heat and cold to improve blood flow and flush out toxins. They include the Rasul, Classical Hammam, and Rejuvenation treatments. If your aim is to free yourself of stress and recharge your batteries, try Float Therapy, which involves drifting away into zero-gravity bliss in a private pool saturated with Epsom salts.

The Chuan Spa At The Langham Chicago

Chicago is a bustling city, with a population of almost 2.7 million people. It is also a cradle of many important industries such as printing, publishing, transportation, financial trading services and food processing (to name just a few). Its skyline is pierced by vertiginous skyscrapers, which are inhabited by movers and shakers who sometimes need a break from the high-octane atmosphere at work.

The Langham Chicago invites city workers (and tourists from across the globe) to unwind at its wellness oasis – the Chuan Spa, where treatments are based on the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water).

Wood governs the sense of sight as well as the tendons, liver, ligaments, and gall bladder. The emotions it tends to convey are anger and depression. Fire, meanwhile, governs the speech, tongue, heart, blood vessels, and small intestine. It conveys joy and over-excitement with possible mood swings. The Earth element can manifest itself in worry and anxiety, Metal may express itself through sadness and grief, and water may convey fear and anxiety.

Upon arrival, guests are invited to share information that helps identify potential imbalances. They also undergo sensory testing, so they can receive the treatment that is most suited to their needs. The spa, which boasts heavenly views over the city and the Chicago River, is home to a swimming pool, hydro-vitality hot tub, Oriental steam room, and eucalyptus and Himalayan salt stone saunas. It additionally has a fitness centre with a full range of equipment. One of its signature treatments is the full-body experience, comprising an exfoliation treatment and deep tissue massage with CBD-infused oil.

COMO Shambhala Urban Escape at COMO Metropolitan London

COMO Shambhala, famed for its wellness sanctuary near Ubud in Bali, has a holistic, 360º approach to wellness. By visiting its Urban Escape at the COMO Metropolitan London, you can kickstart your lifelong commitment to wellness. The array of therapies for the face and body is vast. You can enjoy massage therapy, a couples’ massage workshop, facial and body care treatments, beauty care, and instruction in healing techniques like yoga – all under the guiding hand of seasoned experts. For skincare, for instance, Robina Avakian (a renowned skincare therapist with over 28 years’ experience) is on hand to help you turn back the hands of time. She is one of the many professionals who are at the top of their game. The wellness escape also has a dedicated reflexologist, remedial massage therapist/physiotherapist, postnatal exercise and recovery specialist, energy healing therapist, beauty therapist, and acupuncture and shiatsu practitioners. You can additionally opt for online consultations with some therapists – including Per Van Spall, a Qigong master who can help you unblock, free and balance your ‘chi’ or energy.