by Adriaane Pielou, The Telegraph, December 13, 2017
Loosely modelled on the scarily glamorous Guerlain Institute, which opened on the Champs-Élysées in 1939, this is one of the handful of day spas the renowned Parisian beauty house has more recently set up around the world.
Located in the glass-walled Waldorf Astoria hotel in Charlottenburg, in West Berlin, it’s easily the city’s swankiest spot for a treatment. That doesn’t mean it’s a destination spa, though. No one (except perhaps a spa director doing a bit of industrial espionage) would want to spend too much time lolling on a massage bed – even a heated one, spritzed with the Guerlain scent of your choosing, as here – in a city as engrossing as this.
But it’s precisely the huge amount of time you’re likely to spend on your feet in Berlin, taking in as much as possible, that makes it so inviting.
Although Kurfurstendamm, the very grand main shopping street, is only a few minutes’ walk from the 31-storey hotel, the Waldorf’s location, slightly out of the centre, and its huge views across the city, give it the feeling of a haven.
Everything has been built on a generous scale – floor-to-ceiling windows, light flooding into big rooms – and the relaxing sense of expansiveness that starts in the marble lobby continues when you walk out of the lift on the fifth floor and into the serene and fragrant spa: eight treatment rooms, white on white, gold and lilac; sauna and steam room; indoor pool; open daily from 8am to 9pm.
I arrived here exhausted from a day on my feet, first at Berlin Story, the city museum on Ku’Damm, and then at the searing Topography of Terror museum, which tells the story of Germany’s Nazi era. Undressing and showering in the privacy of my own personal boudoir, and then engulfing myself in a silky cotton robe lined with super-soft towelling, felt intensely welcome.
My facial started with a foot-washing (always a slightly humiliating ritual, for the therapist as well, I imagine). After that, however, it was pure pleasure to choose a scent, sink onto that delectably warm bed, and have the twentysomething German therapist solicitously wrap my head in a linen towel (who wants face creams in their hair?) before directing a lamp over my face to see what she had to tackle.
Few facialists anywhere do extractions, aka squeezing out blackheads. Yet along with lymphatic-system and pressure-point massage – which this facial includes – extractions are a practice that virtually guarantee you will look better afterwards. A bit pink, possibly, but definitely clearer-skinned.
“If you are passionate about beauty you love extractions,” Stephanie murmured as she diligently got to work, a tissue cushioning her nails. What an effective addition German efficiency is to an otherwise quintessentially French beauty experience. I did leave slightly pink, but that was more because any treatment here ends with a free run of a Guerlain cosmetics counter. Heaven.
A few hours later, resuming exploration of Berlin at the old Clarchens Ballhaus ballroom, I was scarlet in the face. But at least I arrived there looking soignée. As one would hope, given Guerlain’s prices.
A 60-minute Radiance facial costs from €125 (£111). Waldorf Astoria Berlin, Hardenbergstrasse 28, Berlin 10623, Germany (00 49 30 814 000 2950; waldorfastoria.com).
• Read the full review: Waldorf Astoria Berlin