Spa Review: Espa Riga – Riga, Latvia
The Espa brand has cemented its image as one of the world’s leading spa creators, and Espa Riga is no exception to that standard. Condé Nast Traveller awarded Espa Riga the prestigious first place in the Condé Nast Traveller Reader’s Spa Awards for Favorite Overseas Day Spa in 2012.
So when an opportunity for a business trip to the Latvian capital arrived, my hand was frantically waving in the air. (I’m a very diligent employee).
I am not a fan of the Radisson Hotel group, having had some dodgy experiences in the past, but chose to stay at the Radisson Blu Latvija for convenient access to the spa (Espa Riga is situated on the hotel’s premises, but also has a separate street entrance for non-hotel guests).
I had booked a day spa package that included full use of all the heat and water experiences (vitality pool, saunas, steam rooms), a back massage, a facial, a scalp massage and hand treatment with paraffin gloves. The package also included a 2 course meal at the Spa Café.
I had booked my treatments to commence at 10am, so promptly at 8am; I arrived to enjoy 2 pre-treatment hours in the spa’s renowned facilities. Upon checking in, I was offered a tour of the 6 floors. I had read that spa’s décor had been inspired by the opposing elements “Fire and Water”, and this theme surely came through in the details. No detail was spared on the exquisite interior.
The entire 6 floors were focused around an eye-popping spiral staircase of black mosaic. The experience showers were painted in flamboyant, deep, shimmering greens and purples. The lavish water wall and opposing fireplace added even more drama. I must say, the art nouveau concept, and the extravagant design aspects were breathtaking.
After the tour, I was given a luxurious cream bathrobe and a pair of Espa slippers, and was shown to the changing rooms on the 3rd floor.
I was happy to note that the sleek designs and lavish nature extended to the changing areas. I quickly showered (using the luscious Espa bath products provided) and headed for the indoor swimming pool. The water was so warm! I enjoyed a few laps before I tried the 1st floor steam room. For the next hour or so I alternated between the saunas, steam rooms and lap pool.
I was advised to wait for my therapist in the relaxation area on the 6th floor five minutes before my treatments were to begin, so I made my way up there with enough time to enjoy the outdoor vitality pool. I must admit, this was my favorite of all the ‘heat and water’ experiences. It was a very cold morning, and the incredibly warm water condensed into the icy air generating puffs of steam clouds that created an eerie, yet mysterious setting. At this point, I couldn’t see how it could get any better; I was loving every moment of luxury in these stunning surroundings.
After my swim I helped myself to a serving of green tea whilst I gazed at the impressive granite fireplace. I still had plenty of time so I knew I had to check out the Rondello sauna. To be fair, the sauna was incredibly beautiful and featured an amber glass skylight, but really, it was just a sauna.
I took a walk around the 6th floor and noticed the individual steam ‘pods’ – what a perfect idea for those seeking some solitude. At that point, since I had finished my ‘touring’ I made my way to the female relaxation room to await my therapist. I reclined into one of the incredibly comfortable loungers plugged in my iPod, and almost dozed off!
My therapist arrived promptly at 5 minutes to ten. I was escorted to the therapy room, which was decorated in opulent deep purple. She asked me some standard questions, and gave me the privacy to undress and get comfortable. We began by choosing the scents and oils I preferred, and commenced with the back massage.
I was expecting a heavenly experience, just by observing the standards I’d already become accustomed to at Espa Riga. But in the interest of being totally honest, it was not the best massage I’d ever received. Not by far. I asked for more pressure several times, but eventually gave up.
It was over pretty quickly, thankfully, and we then moved on to the head massage. Now, this, I loved. Just the right amount of pressure, and she hit all the right spots. I closed my eyes and enjoyed every moment. Before I knew it, she was waking me up from a relaxed sleep.
We paused a little after the head massage as the therapist undertook a basic skin analysis in order to determine which products to employ for my facial. Cool cotton swabs were placed on my eyes, and before she started, she placed each of my hands inside a hot paraffin glove. The gloves were heated to perfection and my hands loved the treat. With both hands snuggled inside their piping hot cocoons, she commenced my facial. The products were very luxurious, and felt rich and velvety against my skin. I enjoyed the rhythmic strokes she utilized at each step of the cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing process. The effects were immediately noticeable, and my skin felt smooth and polished.
After the facial, she removed the paraffin gloves and gave me a brief but gratifying hand massage. Before I knew it, my session had come to an end. I was given some time to slip back into my robe before the therapist returned with a product card. She ticked all the products that she used during my treatment session, and a few others that she thought would suit my needs. Of course, I was advised that each of these products were available for purchase at the Espa Riga shop. It was an obvious sales pitch, but it was not executed in a way that made me feel pressured to purchase anything.
When I was ready to leave the lush purple treatment room, I was escorted to the 5th floor relaxation area. This area is off-limits to general spa users, and only accessible to people actually receiving spa treatments. The room was darkened and lined with the same ergonomic recliners as the one before. Before I got comfortable, I helped myself to another green tea, and plate of nuts and dried fruit.
It was perfectly quiet and I lay there totally relaxed for a few minutes before in barged 2 very loud women, badgering on about the massages they had just received. My solitude being broken, I retreated to the change room where I took a lengthy shower, washed and dried my hair, and even styled it using the ceramic straighteners available in the changing area. I returned the slippers and bathrobe, asking the attendant if the robes were for sale. I was interested in purchasing one, as they were extremely soft and comfortable. Unfortunately the robes are not available for purchase, which I found strange, as the shop sold every Espa product you could dream of, and more.
I made my way to the 2nd floor where the Espa Café is located. This floor also houses a fitness studio and the nail bars. The design feel of the spa extended even to the café, and the avant-garde décor included rich black tables and purple leather booths.
My two-course meal commenced with the pumpkin and sweetcorn soup, served with hunks of fresh, warm bread. I love pumpkin soup, and wouldn’t have thought I would have had the best pumpkin soup at a spa café! I chose fish for my main course, which consisted of a cod fillet served on a bed of shaved potato slices and tomato purée. I enjoyed both courses immensely. While the portions were on the tiny side (think minimalistic i.e. large white spaces on the plate with creative brush strokes of sauce), the presentation of the dishes was immaculate and the food was very tasty. I can deal with tiny portions if at least it’s not pretentious. I rounded off the satisfying meal with a strawberry smoothie.
And so concluded my day at the Espa Riga. What did I think of it? Well, I loved the feeling of luxury that enveloped me as soon as I stepped through the glass entrance doors. I felt like royalty as I enjoyed the various heat and water experiences. I will never forget that feeling of being surrounding by condensing clouds on that freezing morning in the outdoor rooftop pool while I floated, cocooned in the warm water.
While my massage, the focal point of my days’ treatments left a lot to be desired, the feeling of opulence that Espa Riga provided transcended that disappointment.
Would I go back? Most definitely!
NB: Due to the low level of lighting inside Espa Riga, the picture quality may be affected. For this reason, and due the fact that I enjoy providing images for all my reviews, I have supplemented my own photos with a few official photographs from http://www.espa.com.
Disclaimer: No part of this spa experience (travel, accommodation or otherwise) was paid for by Espa Riga. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.