Best Hotel Gym Views
From the 47th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, sunbeams play off the perfect cone of Mount Fuji. Far below, Tokyo’s frenetic pace is reduced to a silent pulse of miniscule cars and people. You take another sip of water and lose yourself in the music emanating from the built-in speakers in the Bodysonic flooring. Is this the hotel’s presidential suite? The signature restaurant? Nope—it’s the Park Hyatt’s fitness center.
Your typical hotel gym may well be located in the basement, wedged somewhere between the boiler room and the broom closet. These deserted beefcake bunkers are usually the last place anyone wants to exercise. But some hotels have seen the light, elevating their gyms to dizzying new heights, with spectacular views to match.
For true gym-junkies, the view from the treadmill might seem irrelevant. But for those requiring a little encouragement, it can make all the difference. “If you want to start exercising again, a new environment can be a big positive because you won’t associate it with the baggage from the old gym,” says sports psychologist Sam Maniar, Ph.D. “It can then be used as a motivational springboard so you’ll be more likely to start exercising at home.”
Enter the welcoming environs of a new breed of hotel gyms and you’ll be met with high-tech machines, sensitive interior design, and remarkable panoramic vistas. Some gyms, like the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s, are so far from terra firma that their lofty position alone should be enough to raise the pulse. “It’s highly decadent to put a health club on top of a building, but if you’re stuck working out, the view might offer some reprieve,” says architect Mitchell Joachim, who created the concept of gyms floating on the water surrounding New York City. “Views provide people with a relationship with the outside world in terms of scale, position, and geography,” he says. “Take that away and the sense of confinement is overwhelming and cruel.”
Still, gyms shouldn’t replace all mirrored walls with windows. On the contrary, mirrors are essential for focusing on form when lifting weights. Maniar suggests that décor be dictated somewhat by activity. “When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, most people want to be distracted,” he says. “If they don’t habitually exercise, it can be boring or painful to start working out, and they often need something to occupy their minds.” An iPod or TV will suffice, but spectacular views offer far superior distractions.
What kind of distractions?How about snow-covered Alps from Milan’s Principe di Savoia or breaching whales from qualia, a luxury hideaway on Hamilton Island in Australia. According to Tom Oliveri, who manages the health club on the 27th floor of New York’s Millennium UN Plaza, “When the TV is on, people don’t like it. They always ask me to shut it off.” He blames the commanding views over New York’s East River and beyond.
But if a little natural light is all that’s needed to alleviate the funk of a basement sweatbox, why give over multimillion-dollar real estate to treadmills? Maniar explains that superficially, a health club may be all about fitness, but their true purpose is far broader: Through design, location, staffing, and marketing, everything about a gym is intended to build self-esteem as much as muscle tone. “When you feel good about the fact that you exercised, and you did it in a hotel’s gym, it has to be good for business,” he says.
Maniar also has an idea as to why some hotel gyms have risen to extreme heights. “We tend to associate higher floors with more successful people,” he says. Of course, high-end hotels are courting power brokers more than power lifters, so it makes sense that their health clubs be placed where their target clientele sees themselves—at the top of the corporate ladder. Sure it’s a stretch (what workout would be complete without one?) but with that kind of psychoanalysis, a basement gym may never look the same again.
Park Hyatt, Tokyo
From the 47th floor, the views of Tokyo are so commanding that guests can give their own eye-in-the-sky traffic report—and see all the way to Mount Fuji. Don’t miss the aerobics room—it’s here that Bill Murray’s treadmill went out of control in the film Lost in Translation. The best time to work out is the morning, before clouds roll in to cover Fujisan.
The Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, New York City
Overlooking the United Nations building from the 27th floor, this health club, open to both hotel guests and the general public, takes in iconic views of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, along with New York’s bridges. Even the massage tables have views. The best time to visit is September, when guests can look down on the buzz of delegates arriving for the UN General Assembly.
Principe di Savoia, Milan
From the Club 10 Fitness Center, located in the eighth-story penthouse of Milan’s Principe di Savoia hotel, guests can see the Pirelli Tower, skyline of Milan, and snow-covered Italian Alps beyond. The hotel also boasts a full-size 1,600-square-foot pool. “Most people slack off when they look at the view because their mind is distracted,“ says Alessandra Baldeschi, the hotel’s public relations manager. “But exercise is also a form of mediation, so those moments can only be beneficial.”
qualia, Hamilton Island, Australia
The gym at qualia, Hamilton Island’s newest luxury hideaway, offers commanding views of Whitsunday Passage in the Coral Sea. It’s no surprise that sea life abounds. From July to September, the waters around Hamilton Island are ideal for nursing whales. There are also loggerhead and green turtles as well as the occasional sea cow surfacing for air. And in August, there’s the added bonus of spinnakers dotting the horizon during Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel, London
From nine floors up, this gym rubs shoulders with the posh townhouses of Knightsbridge. Located between Hyde Park and Cadogan Gardens, the workout room’s south-facing windows overlook the upscale shopping district of Sloane Road and the rooftops of London. In fact, the view stretches all the way to the Battersea Power Station, a skyline made famous by Pink Floyd’s album cover Animals.
Oberoi Zahra, Egypt
The Zahra’s not a traditional hotel, but rather a luxury River Nile cruiser, so its gym offers an ever-changing view. “It’s almost as if you’re watching a moving picture show—centuries of Egyptian culture unfold right before your eyes,” says manager Tapan Piplani. Beyond the water’s edge and green fields, the colossal sand dunes of the Sahara are a constant reminder that the mighty river supports all life in the region. The Oberoi Zahra makes regular stops to take visitors on excursions to iconic attractions like the Valley of the Kings. The best sights without getting off the treadmill are Gabal El Silsela and the Temple of Kom Ombo, located right at the water’s edge.
On a boat, below-deck workouts can be very disorienting. Thankfully, the ships of Crystal Cruises have panoramic views from both the gym and wraparound running track. “Guests have seen whales, dolphins, flying fish, and sharks while working out,” says spokeswoman Mimi Weisband. “When there is something interesting happening outside the window, people work out longer to take in the view.”
Front Hotel, Copenhagen
Copenhagen is so universally low-rise that one could stand on a step-aerobics platform and see from one end of the city to another. Well, almost. The fitness center, on the first floor of the all-glass Front Hotel, overlooks the modern Copenhagen Opera House designed by Henning Larsen, the canal, and—in summer—boats of every description. Exercise during the opera’s grand openings to see celebrities and members of the royal family arriving by boat.
Langham Place, Hong Kong
Step into this health club on the 41st floor and you’ll feel on top of the world even before working out. From the airy modern cardio room you look out on a sea of neon and the throb of humanity in the Mongkok district below—it’s the most densely populated place on earth. The commanding views of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon make Langham Place the ideal workout destination during Chinese New Year, when the city is ablaze with fireworks.