I visited a secret subterranean spa beneath the Harbour Hotel in Brighton

harbour hotel spa brighton review 2024 womens health
I visited a secret underground spa in Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa Brighton / Emma Gritt

Most people visit Brighton to feel the sun on their skin, let their eyes stretch over the horizon, roll pebbles beneath their feet and immerse themselves in the sea. But not me, not this time.

Like a vampire, I shunned the spring sunshine and fresh air, and instead headed deep underground. My mission: To rest and recuperate in dimly lit, cool to the touch, brick-lined vaults, drown myself in silence, and avoid the hordes of hen parties who had descended on the seafront for a wild weekend of willy straws, karaoke and fluffy cowboy hats.

Plus, I had a 60 minute Temple Spa facial booked in, so I knew that I would emerge from the depths looking visibly refreshed - and not like someone who had lived through one or two centuries too many.

So where is this underground spa?

Think of a typical Brighton hotel, and you'll probably think of a big centuries-old building standing strong and stoic on the promenade, protecting its rotation of inhabitants from the full spectrum of British seaside weather, from gale force winds to ungodly heatwaves, pelting rain, and freak blizzards.

It's inside one of these imposing Victorian buildings that you'll find the Harbour Hotel Brighton, a 79-room boutique hotel which is situated right in the middle of the seafront. The rooms are bright and airy, with (extremely comfortable) king size beds, crisp white linens, complimentary gin, and lots of storage. We had a room with a sea view which was a real treat, and despite being at the very front of the hotel, surprisingly quiet - even at kicking out time from the pubs and clubs nearby.

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But for real tranquility, you need to go down several floors to the HarSPA, a labyrinth of a wellness centre which spreads over several lower levels. The backstory behind the spa is really interesting. When Harbour took the property over, during the renovation process they discovered a bricked up basement (so far, so Dracula), and rather than brick it back up again worrying about releasing an ancient curse, they deemed it the perfect opportunity to add a spa to the hotel.

HarSPA is not huge, but it's bigger than you'd expect. It's incredibly atmospheric, soft music fills the air, and the original brick-lined walls are lit up with candlelight. Down here, you'll find a sauna and steam room, a hydrotherapy pool and a small indoor pool, day beds and loungers, and rainforest showers. There's also two Scandinavian "togetherness" hot tubs, perfect for couples to cosy up in, or for one person to enjoy being able to stretch out in.

What about the treatment?

After rising from my coffin hot tub, it was time for my facial in one of the spa's six treatment rooms. I was booked in for a Temple Spa All About the Glow treatment, which promises "firmer feeling and brighter, healthy-looking skin". It uses products which are packed with vitamin C, and the brand's professional-only alginate mask to really help your skin absorb all the lovely products.

My practitioner also used contouring movements to aid in lymphatic drainage and release muscle tension along my jawbone. Bliss.

Know before you go

If you like to enjoy some spa time before heading home from an overnight stay somewhere, then note that you are actually not allowed to access the HarSPA once you've checked out of the Brighton Harbour Hotel. The only reason I was allowed to, was because I had arrived there very early in the day, and it was empty at the time.

This situation wasn't explained to me at check-in (even though I told the receptionist I had a treatment booked in at midday the next day).

You can visit the spa without staying at the hotel. Access for non-residents with or without a treatment is charged at £40 per person Monday to Thursday, excluding bak holidays. on Friday - Sunday, it's £45 and only when you have a 60-minute (or longer) treatment booked

Go there!

Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa, rooms start from £218 BOOK NOW

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