Combining some festive shopping with a relaxing spa break is a special way to get started on your present lists, while making sure you give yourself a treat too. Top Santé deputy editor Yvonne Martin finds out all about it at The Rena Spa at the Midland, in Manchester.

The run-up to Christmas can be an exciting time of year, but it can also be frantic. So it’s a great treat if you can turn a gift shopping expedition into something a bit more tailored to wellbeing.

We took the train north to check out The Rena Spa at the Midland in Manchester and, as luck would have it, the city’s annual Christmas market was in full swing too, making it a great time to visit.

Grand surroundings

The 115-year-old hotel is impressively grand and has a distinguished history. Did you know that Mr Rolls met Mr Royce there in 1904? It says so on the shiny brass plaque at the front of the building. But this particular weekend, it was host to me and my sister Monica.

We arrived on the Sunday just in time for lunch at Mr Coopers’ Restaurant where we each had a starter and a main, that were delicious and elegantly presented.

Relaxing in the spa

With our treatments booked for early evening we had a couple of hours free to make the most of the spa facilities.

We swam around the pool and massaged our shoulders on the jet of water from the Swan Neck Fountain. We buffeted our limbs in the hot tub. Then we sampled the steam room and the sauna, which had a wall of Himalayan salt. I was only brave enough to briefly hop in and out of the chilly shower experience in between the hot rooms. Then we did it all again.

We wanted to be ready for our treatments in good time, so left the pool area to dry off and try the relaxation room. It was time for a cup of herbal tea and curling up in a sound-cancelling egg chair to unwind.

There are also more private relaxation zones and some rather hypnotic hanging pod cocoons, where you can dangle and gently swing yourself into relaxation.

Face and body treatments

The spa has recently been rebranded and now uses the Caudalie, Germaine Du Cappucini and Crystal Clear ranges. I had a 50-minute facial using several Caudalie products, including The Cream, The Serum, The Gentle Buffing Cream and The Moisturising Mask. My therapist gave me plenty of advice as she worked and was keen to find out what I wanted from the facial, adjusting the treatment to make it just right for me.

It included a face, neck and shoulder massage, which boosted my skin cirulation and worked in the products.

While the face mask was on I also had a head massage (though I could have chosen an arm and hand massage if I had wanted). This was done in a Shiatsu style with firm pressure on particular points around my skull. It was quite invigorating. Afterwards my face was glowing and noticeably fresher (I thought).

Monica had a body exfoliation and massage using the Crushed Cabernet Scrub, Contouring Concentrate and the Body and Hair Nourishing Oil. Even the next day she said her skin still felt noticeably softer.

Later, we went on to dinner at Mr Cooper’s which was a relaxing way to round things off.

Christmas is coming

The next morning we came down to the lobby to see that the hotel staff had manoevred an absolutely enormous Christmas tree into position there, all ready for decorating.

This put a smile on my face and, after an extensive and very good breakfast, we set off feeling decidedly festive to explore the city centre.

A festive market

The twinkly chalet-style Christmas market stalls are all over numerous streets across the city centre. Every time you think you’ve come to the end of it you turn a corner and see some more lights tempting you down another road. There are crafts and cosy hats and scarves, jewellery and lots and lots of wintry food and drink for sale.

We browsed and shopped until our feet had had enough. Then we popped in to a friendly little café, full of cycling memorabilia, that is part of the Rapha cycle shop at 5 St Ann’s Alley. We got a great cup of tea and a couple of veggie toasties that really hit the spot.

On returning to the Midland for our bags, we saw that someone had been hard at work decorating the tree while we were out, though there was still a fair way to go! It was a festive end to our visit which was a relaxing and indulgent way to start feeling Christmassy.

An overnight stay at The Midland costs from £150. To find out more about prices visit and for details and prices on the spa treatments available click here.