If you’re going to visit a spa, you might as well cram in a city break too – that’s GT’s budget-cut philosophy.
Which is why we flew three hours to experience the acclaimed Malo Spa in Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon. One trip, two very good reasons. Now that’s what we call a holiday.
For those of you that don’t know, Lisbon is one of the oldest destination points in the world. Located at the mouth of the Tagus river, it’s the sixth-most-visited city in Southern Europe (after Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens and Milan) and attracts up to two million tourists a year.
Once there, it’s easy to see why – impressive architecture and culinary excellence to boot, Lisbon has a Subtropical-Mediterranean climate which means one thing: mild winters and blistering summers. When we travelled there in August, it was true to form, so escaping under the nearest air-conditioning unit was a staple. Escaping into the arms of a deluxe spa was, however, even better. In fact, it was sheer luxury.
Occupying an entire floor of the beautiful Corinthia hotel, the Malo Spa was a welcome break from Lisbon’s alpha city madness. The brainchild of local celebrity surgeon Dr Paulo Malo, it’s a retreat for locals and tourists alike.
Spread across 32,000 square-feet, it consists of 13 treatment rooms including Spa Suites where guests can privately enjoy the latest health and beauty technologies. These include: fat reduction treatments without surgery, mesotherapy, facial treatments with dermabrasion, individual cocoons for weight/volume loss and anti-ageing treatments.
A Tea Lounge with a wide variety of teas, including herbal teas from around the world, is also available. Naturally, I took full advantage.
For a typically vain Leo like myself, the spa’s USP is its medical edge. Although it’s exactly what you consider a spa to be in the traditional sense, it also pushes the boundaries with procedures of the almost-invasive kind. To me, that translates into results.
For Dr Malo, this was his exact intention. “Spas as they used to be known, as in those offering purely massage and relaxation treatments, have always had a limited shelf life,” he told GT.
“These days, people are demanding more for their money. That is why we set out to reinvent the spa and in the process became pioneers in the business.
“Basically, there was a window of opportunity in the market for medical spas and we took it. Anybody, with a little training, can implement a spa, but when you reach for a level where you need professional expertise – doctors, nurses, specialists and so forth, you see we’re not only talking about masseurs. We are talking about people who are at the top of their profession and we are the only company in the world, I believe, that is providing this type of work. It’s a niche market. For example, in London any hotel can have a spa, but it’s impossible to establish a working medical spa in more than two or three, due to the available space.”
My first three treatments – which I selected from a catalogue of over 100 – included a 60-minute epidermoabrasion (quite literally, this is mechanically rubbing off dead cells from the skin surface), an 85-minute Jaipur massage (which uses rigorous movements in all muscular mass to help the immune, nervous, circulation and lymphatic systems) and fat-busting Ultra Cavitation, which literally melts pesky bulges into oblivion. So far, so good.
In between each session I was allowed to set my own agenda, which consisted of alternating between the sauna, Vichy showers and the heated pool. It was like medicine for the soul.
Naturally, visiting Lisbon without seeing beyond the hotel would be a cultural crime, so each evening we ventured out – looking and feeling as good as the city we were in. For our first night, we drove through the city’s winding roads before reaching a remarkable restaurant called A Travessa.
Owned by prestigious restaurateur Vivian Durieu, the secret eatery – located in the winding Travessa das Inglesinhas street – was once a 17th century monastery, which goes part-way to explaining why dining here is often considered a religious experience.
Discreet and elegant, the Luso-Belgian restaurant attracts the city’s intelligentsia and, evidently, still continues to exert a fascination with politicians, journalists and artists alike. It was, and remains, one of my favourite places to dine.
To anchor this, there was only one venue which could complete the night – and that’s Lisbon’s very own private member’s club, Silk. Offering a 270-degree rooftop view of the city by night, we stayed there until dawn. Fortunately, a second day of pampering awaited.
While the first served as the perfect introduction to luxurious pampering, day two was about upping the ante.
Although I’d always been previously disinterested in Botox, the nature of the spa was working its magic. After consulting with a doctor, not to mention my interior self, I decided to bite the bullet and try it for myself.
Surprisingly, the procedure was both painless and – thanks to the staff – quite good fun. Almost immediately I felt a surge in confidence and the mirror reflected it in more ways than one.
Although each individual procedure made a physical difference, the best results came from the combined effects of the entire experience. Both on my body and in my mind.
At no point was I locked into a dreary detox or rigorous exercise regime. Rather, deluxe treatments were fortified with good weather, great company and excellent hospitality.
Together, these pampered all five of my senses – something which, ultimately, made perfect sense.
Where to stay: Located just 10 minutes away from the city’s airport, Lisbon’s Corinthia Hotel & Malo Spa is the only venue we recommend for combining hotel luxury with beauty and grooming excellence. Corinthia.pt
Where to visit: Atravessa.com and Silk-club.com.
Words: Peter Lloyd