London, The Big Smoke; a city steeped in History yet also at the forefront of technological and financial innovations.
As one of the most historic, diverse and famous cities in the world, there is such abundance of things to do when visiting that even those who live in London wouldn’t be able to experience everything the city has to offer.
If you’re lucky enough to travel to London for Business, the first time can seem quite daunting, but once you get your bearings (and used to the constant crowds) it really is a city like no other and you are sure to have an amazing experience.
Here is our business travellers guide to London to help you navigate the city and get the most out of your trip.
Getting in to London…
As London is one of the most visited cities in the world (with huge demand for both leisure and business travellers), the city has a huge transport infrastructure to accommodate the millions of visitors each year.
This includes five London Airports to choose from when flying in and all of these have quick and easy rail connection to the centre of London:
Heathrow Airport: Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic, serving a record 78.0 million passengers in 2017. To make your way to Central London you can take the Piccadilly Tube Line, or the Heathrow Express to Paddington, which can take as little as 15 minutes when travelling from Terminal 2&3.
Top Tip: If you are travelling to/from Heathrow from a District Line station change at Hammersmith. The District and Piccadilly run on adjoining platforms at Hammersmith station meaning no escalation and a step free change between lines, great if you are carrying luggage!
Gatwick Airport: Located near Crawley in southeast England, 29.5 miles south of Central London. It is the second-busiest airport by total passenger traffic in the United Kingdom, after London Heathrow. There is an express, non-stop rail connection to Victoria Station which takes around 30 minutes.
Stansted Airport – Located in Stansted 42 miles northeast of Central London, Stansted Airport currently serves over 170 destinations across Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, Central and North America. To get to Central London, there is a ‘Stansted Express’ service which takes around 45 Minutes.
London Luton Airport: Previously called Luton International Airport, Luton is 25.2miles north of Central London. There is a direct train from Luton Airport Parkway to Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras International, and you could be there in as little as 24 minutes. Remember to add to a 10-minute Shuttle Bus transfer to your overall journey time.
City Airport: Located in the Royal Docks in London Borough of Newham, this is the most convenient airport for those who are travelling to the Financial Hubs such as Canary Wharf or the ‘City of London’. The Airport is served by the DLR tube line and has easy access to anywhere in the city.
Getting Around the City
Home to the world’s first underground railway, fondly known as ‘the tube’, travelling around London can seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to get to anywhere in a relatively short time.
For those staying over a weekend, the Night Tube is now running with the major lines staying open through the night on Friday and Saturday nights.
The tube network is expanding too, with the new Elizabeth Line (which will connect Heathrow to the major business hubs in Central London, the City and Canary Wharf) set to open at the end of 2018.
As well as the 270 Tube stations, there are also many over ground railway connections, as well as a reliable bus service which allows you to see the many wonders London has to offer whilst on your journey.
And for those with some time to spare, I would highly recommend getting the Riverboat if you can, it’s much less convenient but there is a certain wonder travelling under Tower Bridge whilst taking in the huge skyscrapers that make up London’s iconic skyline.
To plan a Journey in advance, ‘Transport For London’ have an easy to use journey planner on their website HERE
And for those who prefer to travel by car, there is the iconic ‘Black Cabs’ to consider, or for a cheaper alternative, Uber operates in London, having recently had its licence extended.
Places to Eat
If when in London you have to meet Clients for Lunch Meetings, there are some amazing places to eat.
For those looking to impress, the Sky Gardens and The Shard offer unparalleled views of the city and a range of bars and restaurant to choose from, and there is also the world-renowned Duck & Waffle situated in the Heron Tower, although I would strongly advise booking in advance for this.
Whilst there are the grand and expensive restaurant experiences to try, there are also thousands of small independent restaurants which have amazing, authentic food at a fraction of the price.
Things to do
Hopefully your business trip will allow some Bleisure time, and if so you will not be short of things to do. London has a huge variety of entertainment and there will be something to enjoy whatever your preference.
Not only does London have some of the most famous Museums in the world, including the British, Natural History and Science Museum (the latter also having an IMAX screen for any film buffs), there is also a huge amount of Art Galleries to visit, such as the Tate Modern and National Portrait gallery. Most of these have free entry, however certain exhibitions may require a pre-booked ticket, so it’s always good to plan in advance and see what’s on during your visit.
If you are seeking some live entertainment, there is the famous West End which has a variety of well-known and brand new shows to go and see. And if travelling there in the summer months, be sure to check out the Udderbelly festival on the South Bank which combines the best of live circus, comedy, cabaret and family entertainment with an array of pop up food and drink stalls.
For those who like History, you won’t be short of any cultural attractions to marvel at – including the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben (although sadly the latter is currently undergoing conservation maintenance set to continue until 2021). If you’re in the City, take a walk up The Monument which was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the City.
And for any Royalists out there – a trip to see Buckingham Palace is a no brainer on your first visit to London.
For more ideas of things to do when visiting, Time Out is a good way to search what on when you are there.
Other Tips to Remember:
- If you’re trying to save your mobile data, but have important work to do when visiting, there are numerous free WIFI hotpots to take advantage of, with Free O2 Wi-Fi internet service found at several locations including McDonalds, Debenhams, Costa Coffee, House of Fraser, Café Rouge. You don't have to be O2 customer, and there is no need for passwords.
- Be careful and mindful of your valuables when walking around the City as there has been an increase in ‘Ride-by moped thefts’ in recent years.
- And finally… always remember to stand on the right of the tube escalators!