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spaQ: Sydney, Australia

Joanna Hall

There's nothing like the launch of a new hotel to get Sydneysiders excited, and when the über-trendy QT threw open its doors last year, there was undoubtedly plenty of hype and anticipation surrounding it. 

Sydney is one of the world's most famous holiday destinations, and when it comes to luxury boutique hotels there are plenty for discerning travellers to choose from. A hotel packed with style, designer flair, and plenty of history, Sydney's QT has quickly become a hot spot not only for couples looking for a romantic getaway, but also lovers of fine dining and cool places to enjoy a drink. And thanks to the hotel's quirky spaQ, the same goes for lovers of a spot of pampering who are looking for a quality experience in a spa resort or retreat, as well as something a little bit different.

Situated in Sydney's CBD, spaQ is part of the hotel but at the same time separated as a stand-alone venue, and besides a cutting edge design fusing old with the new, it also operates slightly differently from its rivals. In this spa, guests don't have to choose a treatment when they book, but book a block of time so they can make up their mind what to have on arrival. It also offers a unique range of international products, from Uspa in Melbourne, to Krestin Florian from the USA, and George Trumper from the UK. spaQ, however, isn't just about facials and massage; it also offers beautifying treatments, including traditional men's barber services which includes cutthroat shaves with a straight blade, hot towels and face massage.

The Decor:

Just arriving at spaQ, you know you're in for an experience with a difference. Outside the entrance are show window displays dominated by scientific paraphernalia and antique bottles and flasks. Walk inside and the design is striking: a rich fusion of restored heritage features from the historic Gowings department store (which used to occupy the site) and specially selected modern touches. 

The reception floor is tiled mosaic style, the furniture is retro dark wood, and the lighting is low and moody, making you feel instantly relaxed. As a lovely touch, there are curious objects carefully arranged on surrounding surfaces, a continuing throwback to the science lab of a bygone era, such as antique medicine bottles, test tubes and other curious implements. Even the reception desk is different, tall and semi-circular, adorned with white bust antique flasks. 

Move beyond reception and the changing rooms have an old-world clinical feel to them, with yellow-orange metal lockers (apparently original and recovered from WWII Japan), white rectangular wall tiles laid horizontally, dark wood trims, black marble vanity tops and deep, square stone sinks with large highly polished chrome retro taps. There's a moody relaxation room with a narrow window with a view through to reception, and half-egg shaped basket chairs filled with faux-fur throws. There's also resorted stained glass features and heritage tiling.

The Treatment:

After changing into a comfortable fleecy robe and slippers, I waited in the relaxation room for my therapist to find me. Emma comes along minutes later, and we're in one of the six treatment rooms. Before getting ready for my treatment, I had to take stock of my environment. Besides the moody lighting, the decor had many highlights including an original tiled wall from the Gowings department store days, free standing floor lamps, and a highly polished dark wooden floor. It was hard not to feel relaxed.

Choosing a treatment for my 60 minute time slot hadn't been easy; the spaQ menu offers a wide range of facial and body treatments, with extensive packages mixing different services, and add ons. Facial therapies include a Signature Caviar Facial, ideal for rejuvenation, Kerstin Florian K-Lift Therapy facials, ideal for anti-ageing, and a range of concept facials by Uspa. For the body there are choices of massage styles, including specific styles muscle relaxing and pregnancy.

After a long week of being stuck behind a computer, however, I opted for a Mystery Massage, encouraged by the spa's philosophy of individuality. All we had to discuss was what I was looking for, in my case a massage which was both relaxing and reviving, the focus on my back, neck and shoulders, and using some uplifting oils. The rest was down to Emma. Sixty minutes later, wooed by the moody lighting, the soft music, and some well-trained massage therapist's hands, I emerged reenergised and ready for my next QT adventure - dinner at Gowings Bar and Grill.

The Verdict:

The facility isn't big compared with some spas in Sydney; it has just six treatment rooms. With its quirky and very individual design, the bonus of a Hamman-style steam and ice room, that traditional barber shop, and a flexible menu of spa services, it is undoubtedly one of the most unique spas around.

Check out our reviews on Gowings Bar and Grill, and the QT Hotel.

Product Videos

spaQ is located at the QT Sydney, 49 Market Street, Sydney 2000. For appointments call 02 8262 0088, and for more information including a treatment menu and price list, visit

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