Visiting London on $1 Million a Day
Here’s the good news: Almost everything I’m proposing that you do in London costs very little. That way, you’ll have more money to invest in your lodgings. We’ll get to the low-cost, high-enjoyment experiences in a moment, but first, for your accommodations, may I propose the Royal Suite by Gucci at The Savoy?
The Savoy is where the finest people stay, yourself included, and the Royal Suite is as nice as life gets. The Savoy is located on the Strand, an old-fashioned way of saying “beach,” which makes sense because the hotel is perched alongside the River Thames, with the Southbank Centre out the window to your left and the London Eye to your right. Claude Monet would stay at the Savoy when he visited London, and from the hotel’s windows, he painted his legendary images of Westminster. Other regular guests include: Laurel and Hardy, Charlton Heston, Lady Di and Prince Charles, Muhammad Ali and Winston Churchill, whose favorite restaurant in London was the Savoy Grill.
Gucci redid the Royal Suite in 2021, their centenary year, which means that you’ll enjoy Gucci design, Gucci sofas, Gucci attention to detail, and when you arrive, a Gucci fashion show on the TV screen—as well as, of course, Savoy service. There’s a living room, a full-sized bar, a dining room, a dressing room for the sartorially inclined and one or two spacious bedrooms to welcome the family. Mom and Dad will sleep in a king-sized bed; the mattress, made with yak hair, sells for a cool $50,000. The Royal Suite contains the longest corridor of any hotel suite in the UK, which means you can either entertain legions or just play a long, long game of hide-and-go-seek with your fellow guests.
You’ll also enjoy the tender ministrations of your own personal butler, who will unpack your suitcase, serve your meals and look after any of your personal needs. (That’s as long as they are legal; not all requests are, I’m reliably told.) What’s the tab for all this luxury? As the expression goes, if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it, but since you want to know, the Royal Suite—butler service and all—goes for just south of 16,000 pounds (roughly $21,452) per night. You can also find hotel rooms and suites, including the one where Monet painted, for considerably less, and more than two dozen of the Savoy’s suites come with butler service, too.
When I arrived for a recent stay at the Savoy, the person checking me in said, “We know you don’t drink, so you can have a mocktail at the bar or sent to your room.”
When I asked how they knew I didn’t drink, she just smiled. So I asked what else they knew about me.
Without looking at her notes, she said, “You run marathons and you sing. And you are a pescatarian.”
All true. They actually took the time to get to know me. And I’m hardly Royal Suite material. When I got to my room, they had left maps of running routes through the city. Now, that’s service!
So now that you’re comfortably ensconced at the Savoy, it’s time to do some fun activities that most visitors might have never imagined. Start with the Courtauld Gallery—just a few minutes’ walk down the Strand—a fabulous collection of European art in a newly renovated jewel box of a setting. You’ll find exquisite works by the aforementioned Claude Monet, as well as Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Manet, Degas and Seurat. The Impressionists are tucked away in the third floor Great Hall, which has been an exhibition space for paintings ever since 1780. All the greatness of Western art with none of the exhaustion or long lines that comes with bigger, better-known museums.
Next, take in a Premier League soccer, er, association football, match. London features six Premier League teams, including West Ham, pictured here playing (and losing to) Leeds at London Stadium. Buy tickets online as far in advance as you can, and then take public transport to the stadiums. This is real-life London and not something you’ll see from the top of an on-off tourist bus. Unless you’re truly devoted to one of the teams, consider leaving with 10 minutes remaining in the match, so you don’t get swallowed up by the crowds on the tube on your way back to city centre.
Most tourists to London visit the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, but what about your valuables? Everybody’s heard of the great department store Harrods, but only a select few, now including you, know that Harrods has a safe deposit box area in its basement. When the store was built in the late 19th century, first, the heavy metal boxes were put in place, and then, the foundation of the store was built over them. The Harrods safe deposit boxes are the perfect place to leave your jewels in between your visits to Buckingham Palace, not to mention ready cash to pay for your hotel bill.
Nightlife? Sure, you can go to any pub in the city and find yourself drinking a pint of lager with another few hundred Yanks doing the same thing. But here’s a better idea: Ronnie Scott’s, the legendary 60-year-old Soho jazz club, whose stage has been graced by Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Miles Davis, and Wynton Marsalis, and more recently by Cassandra Wilson and Kurt Elling. It’s time for the birth of your own cool, as Miles would say, and Ronnie Scott’s is the perfect place for enjoying the best in jazz.
Next, visit the British Library instead of the better known (and far more crowded) British Museum. No offense to the British Museum (itself, well worth a visit), but the British Library will let you get up close and personal with the Magna Carta, the Domesday Book the Penny Black (the world’s most valuable postage stamp), as well as other priceless historical artifacts. Right now, you can also see Beethoven’s hand-written scores (did you know he was contemplating a 10th Symphony at the time of his passing?), as well as hand-written lyrics by Sir Paul McCartney. Imagine if they had collaborated instead of missing each other by a bit more than a century.
One final tip: Instead of Uber, always take black taxis. The drivers are scrupulously honest and know every street, intersection and mews in London. They must, because they all had to master “The Knowledge”—routings to and from every possible location in the city. Most drivers take two to four years to learn the entire Knowledge, on which they are tested thoroughly before they receive their licenses. So, on your way back to the Savoy, flag down a black taxi and ask your driver how long it took him (or her, there are a small number of women cabbies) to master the city’s intricate pathways.
So, there you have it. Lots of fun things to do in London, on a million dollars a day. Actually, far less than seven figures…which makes the Savoy’s Royal Suite far more affordable, don’t you think?