SUITCASE Road Tests: Airbnb Experiences

SUITCASE Road Tests: Airbnb Experiences

SUITCASE tested a new concept from Airbnb called “experiences”, where the hosts not only open up their homes but their lives too.

of our main aims at SUITCASE is to help you travel like a
local, to be like a knowledgeable friend showing you a new city, as
well as encouraging you to see your own through fresh eyes. So we
were intrigued when Airbnb launched an “experiences” platform which
takes its current concept one step further by inviting hosts not
just to open their homes to visitors but their lives too. The
website explains to potential hosts: “This is a quick glimpse into
your world.” Whether it’s a workshop or a walk through a favourite
neighbourhood, hosts of all occupations can share their passions.
Of course we had to road test it, so last Tuesday I spent a lovely
afternoon in London doing things I would never usually

We kicked things off with lunch at
hot spot Lyle’s – not an
experience per se but it features in one of Airbnb’s curated
insider guides in which trusted locals recommend their favourite
places. In this case, Nicholas Balfe (founder of the much-lauded
Brixton restaurant, Salon) had rounded up his top restaurants and
it was undoubtedly a well-informed choice – I’m happy to report
that Lyle’s remains one of the best in town. (You should also check
out our
insider guides
– they’re pretty great too).

Fuelled by a pretty, springtime lunch of oysters, snails and
asparagus, I was whisked off to meet Dan at his Hackney studio for
a wallpaper printing masterclass. If I’m honest, not being the most
artistically inclined, it’s probably not something that I would
have chosen myself. Yet that made the experience better because it
was so far removed from my own life and interests – it also made me
wonder whether most users will go for things they know they like or
plump for wild cards.

Dan explained the wallpaper-making process, showing us examples
of his exquisite handmade work (one of his most recent commissions
was for the bedrooms of Stella McCartney’s children). He then
handed out aprons and I got stuck in – quite literally, as I’d
picked that day to wear a blouse with obnoxiously flared sleeves
which I merrily dragged through the acid-green paint. I carefully
placed a stencil on a long stretch of paper, poured paint and
smoothed it across the surface using a large windscreen-wiper-like
instrument known as a “squeegee” – and Dan charitably said I’d done
a pretty good job.

Next stop: gin-making from scratch in Stoke
. I was greeted with a G&T by host, Mark, who had
created his own 58 Gin blend, and spent the next couple of hours
selecting botanicals, sampling and distilling my own concoctions
while he talked through the history of gin in London. Again, a new
experience with new people – I went home with a history lesson and
two bottles of the good stuff.

Finally, the “taste of Spitalfields”, a candlelit supper club
hosted by Emma in a beautiful Victorian townhouse. Unsurprisingly,
a large proportion of the experiences offered by Airbnb are supper
clubs – and it will be interesting to see if they manage to take
over from other sites like Grub Club as the primary hub for such
dining experiences.

Of course, the success of an experience lies in choosing the
right one, which could be a pottery making in
, a cooking class in
or a grime tour of London. Thankfully there’s a
dedicated team to ensure they’re all up to scratch and filters –
design, food, art – to help you narrow down your selection. But
beyond the experience itself, a large part of the concept is the
social aspect. I imagine many will book for this as much as the
activity itself. You’re bound to meet like-minded individuals from
around the world – or people totally unlike yourself, depending on
what you choose. And connecting people and places is what it’s all
about. Could this become the new Tinder? Watch this space.

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