I may love luxury travel but I love FREE luxury travel even more – so I’ve combed through the tangled mess of my brain (seriously, the inside my head looks like my hair) to come up with some of the best free luxury travel activities and perks I’ve taken advantage of recently in Venice, New York, Bern and Paris.
So skim, sift and sort through in the hopes that you can find some free travel ideas for your next trip.
Free luxury travel in Venice
Free private speedboat to Murano Island
When I asked at our hotel, the glorious Gritti Palace, about taking an excursion to Murano Island near Venice the concierge immediately called up a deluxe private speedboat to pick my husband and I up. No cost. The water taxi was kitted out like a floating limo with white upholstery and polished wood.
I felt so incredibly posh that I posed around the back of the boat screaming ‘Look at me! Look at me!” in my head.
Why is the speedboat to Murano Island free? Murano is famous for glass, and the glass-blowing factories you’ll be taken to are hoping you’ll buy their incredibly expensive chandeliers, sconces, goblets and mirrors.
Trust me, you’ll be tempted. After your tour – and you don’t have to buy, though you probably won’t feel quite as posh skulking out empty handed – you’re free to wander around the island of Murano and then take a vaporetto back. That’s what we did and that brief ride in the water taxi was the top free luxury travel perk of our stay.
If you can’t get a free speedboat through your hotel (ahahaha, not through the hotel literally, now that would be a trip) you should still be able to get free transportation to Murano Island simply by hanging around St. Mark’s Square and talking to the touts offering free Murano glass-blowing factory tours.
Free luxury travel in London
London is consistently rated one of the most expensive cities in the world, so it’s nice to know not everything will drain the pounds from you pocket.
Free entrance to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London
If I wasn’t so obsessed with Anne Boleyn I probably wouldn’t go to the National Portrait Gallery every time I’m in London, but the National Portrait Gallery’s Tudor room, full of moody dark paintings of the key players of the 1500s, beats an episode of the Tudors on TV any day.
It’s also free. And once even I got to watch an American woman get caught for shoplifting in the gift store – how can you top that for drama? (Don’t worry – they didn’t cut off her head.)
Given that not everyone is quite as obsessed with the English court of the 16th century as I am, I feel compelled to mention that many other public museums and galleries in London are free – such as the huge National Gallery right around the corner on Trafalgar Square. So you have no excuse not to get cultured.
(If you are in the National Gallery, don’t miss the painting of the Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche because we can all use a little more Tudor history in our lives.)
Free luxury travel in New York
New York is the city that never sleeps and neither does your credit card. There’s one way, however, to have an amazing night out for free.
Free drinks in New York’s gallery district of Chelsea
Aren’t we just so chic and sophisticated hanging out at gallery openings? Well here’s something you should know. Everyone, chic or not, can – and does – attend gallery openings in Chelsea, New York’s most happening art district.
It’s fun, fabulous and free, and you’ll meet a cross section of the art-world elite, men on the make, debutants and art students. Oh so festive and yes, the drinks are free. Just please make sure to look at the art. Thursday nights.
And while we’re at it, you can do this in other New York neighborhoods such as Soho, where I once stood inches away from Matt Dillon. You can also consort with the elite on Cork Street in London’s swanky Mayfair neighbourhood. In fact, this is a great way to sight see around the world.
Free luxury travel in Switzerland
Who doesn’t like Switzerland? Staggeringly beautiful mountains, well-run trains and fondu. It also has a rep for being pricey, however, but don’t worry, there’s at least one place you can go for free.
Free entrance to the Bern Bear Park
Maybe bears aren’t the first thing you think about when you think luxury travel – free or otherwise – but a trip to the Bern Bear Park should be high on your list. Bears are a big part of Bern’s history and have been since 1191, after the founder of Bern named the city after the first animal he killed in a hunt. Which was a bear, obviously. Otherwise it would have been named Rabbit. Or Wild Pig. You get the point.
Right now Bern has two resident bears, Finn and Bjork, and you can see them for free at their spacious Bern Bear Park home overlooking the Aare River. It’s a lovely walk there through the old town and offers great views of Bern, the river and the bears.
Free luxury travel in Paris
Paris is perfect and it’s even more perfect when it’s free.
Free entrance to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris
His cathedral was enough for him. It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence. From Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
I’m always on the lookout for people who don’t laugh in my face, and if Notre Dame Cathedral could inspire such peace and tranquility in Quasimodo it can do the same for you and me.
Whether you’re a pilgrim, pauper or pampered socialite, entrance to this 800-year old gothic cathedral is free. But its certainly not cheap. It’s so grand it inspired Henry VI of England to be crowned here in in 1431, so it’s sure to impress even the most jaded luxury traveler today.
(Not that any of us are jaded … free luxury travel is just too exciting to ever bring us down.)