Choosing a spa hotel in Tallinn

Woman in a spa. Photo credit: WavebreakMediaMicro, Fotolia

Spa hotels can be found across the world in a range of exciting urban locations that add to their appeal. From the modern vibe of New York City to the exotic, olden-days charm of Tallinn, Estonia, the average spa-lover is spoiled for choice, even while travelling on business or on vacation to some far-off land. With the rigors of travel liable to take its toll on even the hardiest traveler, a spa hotel makes an excellent choice for a chance to unwind in style, restoring balance to both the body and the mind.

Numerous spa hotels also make their facilities available to local residents; however, these guests may not always have full access to every part of the spa the way hotel guests do. Access to the pool or fitness equipment, for instance, may require membership or a special day pass. Some spa hotels offer loyalty programs for local residents, and sometimes they advertise discounts during the off-peak season.

Spa hotels tend to differ from spa resorts, where the latter typically offer outdoor recreation options, such as a golf course, tennis court, or outdoor swimming pool. Both spa hotels and resorts differ from health spas (or destination spas), which tend to focus on an entire spa experience, with an itinerary that has everything from exercises to special meals detailed according to a strict timetable. Strong emphasis is placed on detoxing the body and mind to send you home healthier and happier.

In Tallinn, Estonia, a variety of spa hotels have cropped up to meet all of these needs. While some focus on basic facilities, albeit within a luxury environment, others go whole hog and offer an entire menu of treatment options and health food.

The Kalev Spa Hotel

The perfect spot for a family holiday

Kalev Spa, for instance, is part of a three-star hotel in the Old Town section of Tallinn. Named for the legendary warrior and founder of the Estonian kingdom, the spa is one of several establishments in Estonia to bear his name. Although it is quite cheap as far as hotel spas go, the wide variety of treatment options on offer here is quite impressive, not to mention its water park.

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The spa has its own wellness center, health center, fitness center, and beauty center. At the wellness center's Kalahari Spa, only natural products inspired by secret African beauty recipes are used. You can get anything from a desert sand massage to a body peel with desert salt crystals. Body treatments make use of professional cosmetics line Germaine de Capuccini, giving you a chance to dip into Cleopatra's milk bath or try being covered in chocolate, red wine, or coffee. Several slimming treatments are available and one special body treatment is available for mums to be. A whole menu of massage treatments are also on offer.

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Kalev Spa's Health Centre offers personal consultations for various beauty treatments, the services of a nurse and doctor, beauty injections, and several medical treatments.

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A salt chamber treatment, currently a hot-button issue in the spa industry, is available here, but guests are advised to check with the in-house doctor about potential medical complications or contraindications, especially if they suffer from asthma or other respiratory illnesses. Although the health benefits of the salt chamber treatment remain somewhat unproven, it is still a popular treatment in some cold European countries such as Finland, Russia, Poland and Estonia itself.

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At the Beauty Centre, guests can opt for professional beauty advice, the services of a hairdresser, or a manicure and pedicure. Several facial and body treatments are available here too, including non-surgical rejuvenating treatments such as Mesotherapy and platelet-rich plasma injections.

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At the Kalev Spa Fitness Centre, guests can use a huge gym overlooking a park, with or without the help of the in-house instructors. Group workouts can be arranged. All workouts are geared toward the individual's current fitness level and ultimate goals. Aerobics classes and water aerobics are also offered here.

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The water park, however, is one of Kalev Spa's best features.

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Reputed to be the largest in Estonia, the water park contains an 8-lane 50-metre-long pool, a 25-metre-long pool, a children’s pool, a paddling pool for toddlers, a large hot tub, a flower bath, and a pearl bath. Three slides are available for the pools.

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There is also a Finnish sauna and a steam sauna in the main water park, while the shower rooms contain two Finnish saunas and a non-heated pool. The water park's lobby contains a children's corner, where young children can be left in the care of a nanny while the adults use the fitness center or get one of the Spa's many treatments.

by Hotels.com Very good score on Booking.com

The spa hotel, built in 2005, boasts up to 100 comfortable rooms facing either the Old Town section of Tallinn or Kanuti Park, with its show fountain, well-trimmed foliage and children's park. All rooms have a hair dryer, bathrobe, a strongbox, a phone, an LCD TV and comprehensive information about the services at the Kalev Spa. All rooms are allergy-free. One of the floors was designed specifically for people with allergies. Families and kids are welcomed and will enjoy the famous waterpark. There is a play room for children in the lobby and a room for changing nappies. Swimming classes are available for kids. The Kalev Spa Hotel and Waterpark provides a unique opportunity to get both convenient accommodation and family-friendly entertainment in one spot. Well known across Tallinn for its active holiday packages, both locals and tourists flock to the Kalev Spa in search of either a relaxing experience at the luxury spa or family fun at Estonia's largest waterpark.

67 to 238 $

The Pirita Spa Hotel

The Pirita Spa Hotel, also a low-priced spa option, is similar to Kalev Spa in that it offers a very wide range of treatments at an affordable price. Guests can choose from a whole list of massages from all over the world, including stone massages; luxurious body treatments, including wraps and special baths; a SPA JET health capsule; body trimming treatments; and a Vichy shower massage.

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Group fitness training sessions are also offered at the wellness center, which is accessible from the hotel's entrance and also leads to the sports center and swimming pool. Discounts are offered to Club One club card owners, and a range of packages are offered through the website to serve all sorts of spa favorites, including one especially for children up to 11 years old.

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Looking back, the hotel's spa facilities all came together in time for the Summer Olympics in 1980. Although most of the games were held in Moscow, some of them were held right here in Tallinn, Estonia. The Pirita Spa Hotel falls under the banner of the Tallink Hotels brand - a local hotel chain that also manages a taxi service and ferry between Estonia and Scandinavia.

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Like Kalev Spa, the Pirita Spa Hotel also has a large water park with a huge pool that is incredibly popular.

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Some of the rooms have a terrific sea view since the beach is nearby. The hotel is located quite some distance from the city center and the neighborhood is quiet and peaceful - just what you'd need if you're looking for a chance to get away from it all and relax.

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The Von Stackelberg

Eco-friendly spa hotel

The Von Stackelberg Hotel, for instance, offers a small yet elegant spa that comes complete with a Japanese bath and an Estonian sauna. The Asian-inspired Zen Spa is, in fact, the cornerstone of this boutique hotel's offerings.

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Boasting Green Key certification, this somewhat expensive hotel is part of a local chain of hotels. Among its many treatments is a luxurious deluxe chocolate body treatment, which fights cellulite and stress. Various other body treatments offer slimming and firming effects, body shaping, rejuvenation, exfoliation, deep moisturizing, and body peels.

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Facials on offer can firm up the skin, cleanse, purify, moisturize, or relax the skin. Some facials are specifically used as an anti-aging treatment. The Juicy Tenderness reconstructive treatment is an hour of pampering that provides an instant "lift" effect, making it the perfect way to rejuvenate at the end of a long day or even a stressful week. The formula used enhances cell renewal and skin protection to prevent lines and wrinkles.

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Also on offer at the Von Stackelberg are a range of manicures, pedicures, massages, and salon treatments. Some treatments, such as the body shaping massage, cannot be offered to pregnant women for safety reasons, so it's best to call ahead and ask before booking an appointment.

by Hotels.com Fabulous score on Booking.com

The Von Stackelberg features a total of 43 guest rooms and suites. There are 19 standard rooms, 18 ZEN rooms, 6 ZEN Deluxe rooms, 2 unique suites. The hotel's Standard Rooms have recently been renovated. They are all spacious and elegantly decorated. The rooms are air-conditioned and have writing desks with a flat-screen computer monitor and free Internet access. The rooms also include coffee and tea making facilities as well as digital safes. In the bathrooms, you can find heated floors, a hairdryer, and exclusive walk-in showers or baths. The décor of all rooms has been chosen to showcase an elegant style that matches the brick walls and wooden floors. All natural materials have been used in the ZEN rooms. The bathrooms have natural stone tiles and a Jacuzzi bathtub or power shower. Bathrobes and slippers are also provided, along with extra bathroom products. All other facilities and features are the same as those offered in standard rooms. ZEN Deluxe rooms are similar, except they come with a pillow menu to choose the right pillow for a good night's sleep and vary in size.

65 to 194 $
65 to 194 $
65 to 194 $

The Telegraaf

5 star spa hotel

The Telegraaf Hotel, while far from being a budget hotel, provides its guests with an exceptional experience at its Elemis SPA, which is itself part of a renowned British spa chain. Elemis is one of the city of Tallinn's most popular spas.

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From the moment one enters the candlelit reception, one can feel the pressures of city life drain away. Elemis SPA promises the highest standard of products and services in treatments for the body and mind, covering everything from facials and massages to body and hand therapies.

All treatments are customized according to the lifestyle and needs of the individual customer by having them fill in a special lifestyle analysis form when they first arrive. The changing rooms provide a selection of bathrobes, toiletries and towels.

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Children are welcome, but they must be accompanied by an adult since the pool area has no lifeguard. Guests can opt for various massages, a soak in the full-size Jacuzzi, or time in the sauna and steam bath.

by Hotelstars Superb score on Booking.com

There are 86 modern rooms, designed in Modern Art style with Art Deco touches and offer refined and elegant decór: 34 Executive rooms, 44 Superior rooms, 4 Junior suites, 4 suites. The hotel has rooms for allergic and disabled guests and non Smoking, located on the 2nd and 4th floors. In 90% of the rooms have a bath; in one room Suite features a sauna. Each of the air-conditioned rooms provide free Wi-Fi, so guests can remain online at all times, if they choose. A flat-screen satellite TV is also available for entertainment. While all the rooms are spacious and well-decorated, up to three standard suites and a presidential suite are also on offer. The elegantly appointed bathrooms have bathrobes and slippers standing by, waiting to be slipped into, and laundry and dry cleaning services are available, upon request.

151 to 756 $
129 to 864 $
129 to 864 $

Swissotel Tallinn

Spa hotel with signature treatments

Rounding out the selection is Swissotel Tallinn, a hotel brand seen across the world. While it doesn't lay claim to being a full-fledged spa hotel, its spa area for hotel guests, Purovel Spa and Sport, is both comfortable and functional.

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The gym is on the same floor as the spa, for added convenience, so you can get a good workout first and then pop across to the spa for a dip in the pool or a relaxing massage.

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The sauna is especially appealing since it offers occupants a fantastic view of central Tallinn city, which is just perfect in the wintertime when Tallinn is blanketed in snow while you're wrapped in warm comfort.

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The spa's own brand of products is used for the massages and are among the toiletries placed in the hotel rooms; these can also be bought at the spa itself if you want to take some home. The organic essential oils used in the products are made in Switzerland.

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Among the signature treatments are an aromatherapy session and various massages including Alpine spring, which uses essential oils to clear the nasal passages; mountain meadow massage, which combine aromatherapy with a massage; heated mountain stone massage; sports massage; and a de-stress massage. The sweethearts massage for couples is offered in a private suite. Visitors can also opt for a body polish, milk and honey body wrap, anticellulite wrap, a range of facials, and hand and foot treatments.

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Special day spa packages are on offer for ladies, gents, and couples. The Lotus Spectacular is a full body treatment that lifts, tones, and firms the skin, while deeply moisturizing it and improving its natural defenses. First, the body is rubbed with an aromatic scrub, and then firming concentrates and masks are applied. The entire treatment is finished off with a luxurious body cream.

by Hotels.com Superb score on Booking.com

Swissotel Tallinn offers 238 rooms and suites. Each has gorgeous views of the city, free Internet, and state-of-the-art entertainment systems. Guests also receive free access to the spa and sports facilities. For the business guests, executive rooms offer large work desks, an ergonomic chair, and access to the executive lounge, which serves free snacks and cocktails and provides meeting facilities. Each room has an espresso machine, tea-making facilities, walk-in rain shower with or without a bath, heated bathroom floors, a minibar, an electronic safe, a radio, a hairdryer, and more. There's a special kids' room featuring Disney or Pixar decor, kids' bathrobes, age-appropriate toys, DVDs and video games, a play corner, and special bathroom amenities. There are 11 one-bedroom suites and a Presidential Suite.

129 to 540 $
117 to 540 $
117 to 508 $

Even More Options

Apart from these giants of local spa hotel industry, there are numerous other hotels that offer great facilities but not much in the way of treatment programs. Baltic Hotel Imperial, Schlössle, and Merchant’s House are a few examples of such hotels.

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Baltic Hotel Imperial, for instance, has a private sauna in the basement, where up to 12 guests can soak in the Jacuzzi or just sit by the fireplace in the private sitting room. A menu of massages is available to guests, and snacks can be ordered from the hotel's Imperial Pub.

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Meanwhile, Merchant's House makes a regular sauna and massage parlor available to its guests.

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The Schlössle also offers the services of a sauna and a range of massages.

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While each of these hotels provide top notch amenities and services, they don't offer the same breadth of service that one would find at a full-fledged hotel spa.

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Overall, there are a great many options available for hotel spas in Tallinn, depending on how close you need to be to the center of town or Old Town or in matching a hotel spa with your personal budget. Each of those named and many others provide an extraordinary experience to soothe and replenish, leaving you free to explore the city to its fullest.

Hotels with great relaxation facilities

by Hotelstars Fabulous score on Booking.com

A range of rooms are on offer from single rooms to deluxe rooms with their own kitchenette to a suite with its own sauna and Jacuzzi. Disabled guests can receive a special room and allergy-free rooms are also available. All rooms have SAT-TV, a direct dial telephone, free Internet access, a hairdryer, a minibar, and central air conditioning. The rooms are very spacious and feature high-quality fabrics and wooden furniture.

58 to 301 $
86 to 301 $
70 to 301 $
by Hotelstars Superb score on Booking.com

With 23 rooms on offer, there are fewer guests in residence than at other hotels, so the Schlössle remains a quiet gem in an otherwise noisy town. The Schlössle pays minute attention to detail across its service offerings and in the appointment of its rooms, giving guests a relaxing stay in a luxury environment. Each room features antique furniture, free iPads, and a flat-screen TV with a DVD player. Some rooms offer a luxury en-suite bathroom with heated floors and a choice between a shower and bathtub. Guests also receive bathrobes and a private bath butler. Valuables can be placed in a personal safe for the duration of one's stay.

162 to 1621 $
162 to 1621 $
162 to 1405 $
by Hotels.com Very good score on Booking.com

Although the Merchant’s House is a boutique hotel, the management has customized a number of rooms to cater to different types of visitors. Some of the rooms available include the standard single, standard double, standard twin, executive double, suite and the presidential suite. Children under 12 years are allowed to stay free of charge. There are also baby cots available and extra costs available at an extra charge. The special presidential suite is around 150 square meters and is located in the oldest portion of the hotel. It includes a number of facilities including a private sauna and a special 14th century hand-painted ceiling. Regardless of their particular decor, every room comes equipped with air-conditioning, a minibar, personal safe, writing desk, electric kettle, and satellite TV. Those who need to get online and stay in touch with the world at large will have free access to the hotel's Wi-Fi. The entire premises is a non-smoking area, so guests with allergies or sensitivity to cigarette smoke will be able to breathe easy throughout the hotel.

73 to 227 $
76 to 216 $
67 to 216 $

Spa Etiquette

A spa hotel will typically provide creature comforts that nurture and nourish amidst a backdrop of elaborate, elegant decor that sets the mood for harmony and luxury. Many spa hotels offer premium services such as an individual tea service or unique, signature spa treatments. Customer service is of paramount importance since guests are paying for the experience as much as for the use of the facilities. Even the products used are chosen very carefully, and the attendants are skilled in their application.

Spa hotels are a good choice for urban vacations, where you'll want to strike a balance between relaxing in your luxuriously decorated room, eating at fine dining restaurants, exploring the city, and winding down at the luxury spa.

The typical facilities at a spa hotel are a steam room, sauna, gymnasium, and a swimming pool. Some spa hotels even offer exercise classes for groups or make a personal trainer or yoga teacher available for private coaching, on request.

Guests who book a spa treatment should aim to arrive at the hotel's spa about 45 minutes in advance to give themselves time to complete the formalities, tour the facility, change clothes, take a shower, and relax before the session begins. If you're paying for access to all the facilities, you may want to allot time to use each of these before your treatment. You'll also want to have time at the end of the session to rest since many treatments have the effect of lulling you into a state of total relaxation. For this reason, it's best to leave such treatments until right before bedtime, rather than shortly before you begin a day of rigorous activity. The massage therapist will give you a few minutes to yourself in the treatment room after the session, but this time should be spent gathering your things and preparing to leave since the next guest will be waiting for the room.

It also helps to brush up on your spa etiquette to avoid disappointment or frustrating experiences, which run contrary to the whole purpose of visiting a spa. The most important rule is to turn off your cell phone. Apart from being a nuisance to other guests who are trying to shut out the world and relax, answering your cell phone, or even just texting and using social media, prevents you from fully immersing yourself in the experience, so you will not get the full effect that you're paying for. If you're likely to get bored during simple procedures like pedicures, you can of course bring some reading material with you.

As part of spa etiquette, it's best to speak in hushed tones to avoid breaking the sense of calm that hotel spas work so hard to create. While inside a treatment room, the therapist will take cues from you on whether to be chatty or to work silently.

It should go without saying that you absolutely should arrive on time, at the very least, if you can't arrive early, or you may end up delaying the appointments of those who booked treatments after you. In fact, your attendant may actually end up cutting your appointment short to prevent delays for other guests who showed up on time. You can ask the hotel reception to call your room to remind you of your appointment, if necessary.

If you're due for a massage, take a shower first to wash off the dirt that has stuck to your body over the course of the day or any chlorine left on your skin if you took a dip in the pool or hot tub first. This will also help to refresh you ahead of your treatment.

Spa hotels put a great deal of thought into the service and care they afford to their guests. Feel free to make requests that enhance your comfort level. For instance, you can ask for the air conditioning or music to be turned down or request more/less pressure during the treatment. Most hotel spas will accommodate requests for a male or female massage therapist. Male therapists are assigned to those who do not state a preference in advance since female therapists tend to be more in demand.

All reputable hotel spas only hire massage therapists who adhere to a strict code of professional conduct that fits within the confines of the law of the land. Guests should keep this in mind before they make any requests that could be considered inappropriate or illegal, which would be a serious faux pas at a respectable establishment.

Guests who are nervous about being massaged while nude can request alternative treatments such as reflexology, Thai massage, or Reiki, where there is no need to disrobe.

If you have a whole day of treatments planned at the hotel spa, aim to get a body treatment before a massage and have a facial after the massage. Cancellations typically need to be made 24 hours in advance of the treatment to avoid cancellation charges. While some hotels include a service charge for treatments, in many cases, the therapist only receives part of this fee. So if you're particularly impressed with your therapist, you can offer a separate tip as well.


Carolyn John, 2014

UNIQUE VACATION