Review: Librisa Spa at Mount Nelson


-mount-nelson-librisa-spa-body-treatment-480Turn a corner from the winding narrow corridor leading in from the parking lot, and the sparkling swimming pool, the expanse of manicured lawn and the mature gardens of the renowned Mount Nelson Hotel are revealed in all their glory.

On the left, overlooking this beautiful view, Librisa spa occupies prime position amidst what was once a street of heritage houses. This setting, combined with the historical grandeur of the interior spaces, makes this spa truly special.

The look and feel of the spa is one of a stately home: luxurious and vast with grand finishes – think hand painted silk wallpaper, a sweeping staircase, a Willowlamp chandelier, hand-blown glass objets d’arts, Turkish embroidered throws on the massage beds and framed photographs of birds in flight by noted South African photographer, Caroline Gibello.

The reception area is joined by an open walkway (heated in winter) to the main building which houses the treatment rooms. Sunlight floods the extensive space, and glass walls afford elegant views of the garden and the art on the walls. I was greeted warmly and shown to the changing rooms which lead into a small, private area with an outdoor plunge pool, and a sauna and steam room.

There are eight enormous treatment rooms, each with their own spacious bathrooms, reminiscent of luxurious five star hotels. The couples’ suites upstairs have private balconies with views over the garden. Also upstairs is a small, enclosed manicure room and a separate pedicure room with handmade pewter bowls stamped with the Librisa flower logo.

My therapist Dominique began the Librisa Signature Massage using melted ‘Cupid Candle’ wax and 90 minutes later completed one of the best massages I’ve ever had. Dominique has that a quality all too rare in spa therapists: presence. At all times I felt as if she was 100% focused on me and her caring and nurturing energy remained constant throughout the treatment. She is both skillful and sincere, and comes highly recommended. Despite the quality of her massage she is not exclusively a massage therapist – a fact that tempted me to book a facial treatment with her there and then.

librisa spa 2Having peeled myself from the massage bed, I was led to the conservatory – the relaxation area of the spa. Unlike other spas which normally have dark relaxation areas to encourage sleep, the conservatory at Librisa is flooded with sunlight and surrounded by wild foliage. A waterfall feature outside adds the sound of running water, which mingles with the soothing soundtrack piped throughout the spa.

Thoughtful touches such as complimentary herbal teas, bottled mineral water and piles of nuts and dried fruit are available as well as piles of local and international glossy magazines (often missing from other five star spas) – all the ingredients needed to relax after a wonderful treatment.

I chatted to Spa Manager Fairoza Tippens afterwards whilst elegant therapists in tailored black uniforms glided around us. She is clearly passionate about offering her guests the best possible service and was eager for constructive feedback – an endearing touch that shows that, despite having attained such a high status, this is not a spa content to simply rest on its laurels.

The Mount Nelson spa has been through many incarnations since it opened eight years ago. Both hotel and spa management have changed several times, each influencing the treatment offerings and product ranges. What has remained however are the timeless elegance and opulent finishes long associated with the iconic hotel.

Librisa spa is a true urban sanctuary, reminiscent of a bygone era of sweeping lawns, rambling roses and twinkling chandeliers. Set in landscaped gardens complete with a sun-splashed conservatory and framed botanical prints, this is the perfect escape to soothe the frayed nerves of our stress-filled, modern lifestyles.

Samantha Reynolds

Sam Reynolds is a freelance writer, photographer and spa consultant, with over 12 years international experience in the spa world. Her writing and photography can be seen at, and her creative services at

Sam experienced the Librisa Signature Massage (90 mins R 890) at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, 76 Orange Street, Cape Town
Tel: 021 483 1550 Email:
Opening Hours: 9am to 7pm


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