Finding luxury without paying full whack is a bit of an art in an expensive city like London. This list should help, whether it’s views, booze or loos you wish to luxuriate in. It helps to have a hardy constitution and be willing to blag a little (or at least to dress up and look the part). Those who get easily embarrassed may want to stop reading now. And while I believe the suggestions below are genuinely free, in some cases the “free” element is part of a package or offered as a sample. But I have avoided the sort of ‘package’ which costs $22,100 per night where they’ll kindly throw in a bit of complimentary personalised jewellery.
Here’s my list…
1. Free luxury views
Everyone is talking about the View from the Shard but this will set you back a pretty penny. And at the end of the day it’s a viewing tower so not the most comfy experience. I’d personally rather take in the London skyline while relaxing in a cosy chair with a drink. And while London has swanky panoramic bars aplenty like Vertigo 42 and Radio at ME London, there’s little chance of leaving them without a considerably lighter wallet.
The one slight “loophole” might be Galvin at Windows bar on the 28th floor ofHilton on Park Lane.
It is a 5 star hotel so drinks are very expensive; but the layout means you can sneak in virtually unnoticed and walk to the quiet side of the bar to where the viewing area also extends. The staff’s attention is mainly focused on the high rollers on the sofas, so you can technically get up there, enjoy the view, soak up the ambience and leave without spending a penny – though it would obviously be polite to invest in a drink.
2. Free luxury booze
This is harder to pull off and the trick is to think “free samples” where quality trumps quantity. The more upmarket you go, the more likely you are to be regaled with freebies. For example, hotel bars that specialise in a particular product are often so proud of their collection they’ll give you a generous taster to help you decide. It’s risky though as you’ll be sorely tempted to buy after a tasting.
The ultimate upmarket wine shop is Hedonism in Mayfair, supposedly a favorite haunt of hedge fund managers. It’s full-on bling from the moment you enter, but if you’re enthusiastic about wine it’s a great place to browse the world’s finest wines. Get on their mailing list and you might be invited to an exclusive free wine tasting as I experienced recently… it was a wonderful evening drinking some of the world’s best wines at zero cost (though I did end up buying a bottle of a good wine afterwards).
Some wine bars will also give you free samples as long as you are sensible (and perhaps order a bit of food, since even tight luxury seekers need to eat!). Vinoteca in Marylebone for example gave us several tasters when we felt particularly indecisive. But the ultimate venue for free booze and canapés is a private viewing in a gallery. Getting invited is not as hard as one might think. Checkgalleries.co.uk and try to work it out!
Finally, I recently spent the night at a small luxury Chelsea hotel – The Beaufort – with a free bar for guests. You have to mix your own drinks but they won’t charge you for them.
3. Free luxury loos
Talking of hotels, London has some pretty gorgeous 5 star loos. And of all those that my hotel blog colleagues have inspected, the ones at The Langham just off Oxford Street probably outshine most others. The Langham does a pretty mean afternoon tea too and you may also get sidetracked at the wonderful Artesian bar. So you’re unlikely to spend a penny without investing quite a lot of pounds.
My friend Laura Porter (@AboutLondon on Twitter) is a bathroom geek and has helpfully written a guide to London’s best free toilets (luxury and otherwise)…
Read More: aluxurytravelblog.com