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Bliss Spa

The Perfect Urban Respite

  • Bliss Spa
    @ the W Hotel, 181 Third Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Map)
    415.281.0990

A brownie, a city view, and a 75-minute massage. I'm beginning to think this is all a girl needs to help her recharge from the midday Monday slump. It's 2 pm and I've just been checked into my appointment at Bliss Spa, which has only been open for a week -- but from the looks of it, is already attracting harried executives and pampered debutantes alike.

Bliss is an establishment with the kind of storied past that only the stars of the urban day spa boom can boast of. The brainchild of celebrity aesthetician Marcia Kilgore, Bliss has been a spa favorite since the late 90s. Aside from the recent San Francisco addition, which sits pretty in the posh W Hotel, Bliss also has locations in New York City and London, and will soon be opening in Chicago and Los Angeles. San Francisco's 5000 square foot location, the first on the West Coast, is aptly placed in the context of the W Hotel's "live-well" sensibility, which proffers guests with things like complimentary poolside yoga and spa visits to their hotel rooms.

On first glance, Bliss strikes the eye as relatively unfussy in demeanor. Upon stepping off the fourth floor elevator, I walk into a lobby full of swishes of blue and green. In fact, as I examine my surroundings, the décor resembles a sort of retro-modern approach to bathroom design, full of water motifs, cool colors, and clean lines rather than the plush embellishments of the spas to which I am accustomed. There's a lot more to this place than meets the eye, however, Bliss is equipped with a retail boutique that carries its celebrated bath, body and skincare lines, as well as three movie-while-you-manicure stations, eight treatment rooms, and men's and women's lounges with cityscape views.

Bliss is known for its innovative menu of skincare and body treatments, which combine holistic remedies with contemporary beautification breakthroughs. Particularly tempting is Bliss' triple oxygen treatment, a luxurious anti-aging facial that includes a fruit acid wash, oxygen and milk mask, and hydrating enzyme pack. Bliss' body treatments include a yummy hot salt scrub, which uses rosemary, lavender, and eucalyptus to warm and smooth your skin; and the carrot and sesame body buff, with a carrot mulch rubdown followed by an invigorating sesame seed and sea salt scrub. I myself am here for the Blissage, a 75-minute blend of Swedish and Shiatsu massage that sounds much needed after just a few hours of work.

After changing into a fluffy robe and flip-flops, I relax for a bit in the locker room sauna before sipping herbal tea and munching on delicious brownies in the women's lounge, a chic lavender-walled vestibule where I wait for my massage attendant. Katie finally comes into the lounge and leads me down the hushed corridor into one of the treatment rooms -- a blue-tiled (as in walls, floors, and ceilings) pocket of dark serenity that's in keeping with the rest of the spa's décor. I disrobe and hurriedly scrabble beneath the heated blankets of the massage table. Katie then proceeds to give my feet a soothing paraffin dip, swathing my feet in a foot wrap before moving onto the massage. She pays especial attention to the knots in my neck and shoulders, tendering my joints with the same peppermint and aloe blend my feet got to bask in.

By the time Katie's mastered her healing touch on my now rejuvenated flesh, I'm ready to finish the pampering with a rinse-off in one of Bliss' grass-tiled steam showers, which provides a novel complement to the water designs that seem to suffuse the rest of the spa. I guiltlessly treat myself to another brownie after my shower, which seems to be the perfect end to a perfect massage, though rumor has it that there's complimentary beer in the men's lounge.