With so many world-class museums, restaurants and stylish co-working spaces to choose from, London abounds with ways to balance work and play. If you’re about to take a solo business trip to the city, planning ahead will help you make the most of your time. From stylish places to take work colleagues, to the best places for dining alone, here’s how to make the most out of your time in the Big Smoke.
Getting to and From the Airport
With a variety of great transport links, getting into central London is easy. From Heathrow Airport, the Heathrow Express takes you into Paddington Station within 15 minutes and the London Underground means it’s well connected to the rest of the city. Just purchase an Oyster Card and top it up from the tube station kiosk or use contactless payment at the gate.
From Gatwick Airport, the Gatwick Express will take you to London Victoria Station within 30 minutes, with first-class options available.
To save time, download the Gatwick Express or Heathrow Express app which allow you to buy your rail tickets and check live service updates in advance.
From City Airport, take a cab or hop on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) into the heart of the city. From Luton Airport, take a cab, or consider the Luton Airport Parkway rail service, which arrives into St Pancras International Station, within 30 minutes.
Where to Stay
Choosing the right location to stay during a London business trip will depend on the key places you need to be for work. London’s West End is divided into several districts including Mayfair, Fitzrovia, Soho, Covent Garden, Marylebone and parts of Westminster. It’s packed with top restaurants and attractions and is a great place for solo travellers to base themselves.
If you’re doing business in the City, consider staying around East London or simply hop on the tube, or take a cab, from the West End. St Giles London Hotel is walking distance to the West End’s key attractions and is just a two-minute walk from Tottenham Court Road Underground.
What to do on Your Solo London Business Trip
If you have some spare time in your schedule to get a fix of culture, hit up one of London’s top museums. The National Portrait Gallery, next to Trafalgar Square, and Somerset House, overlooking the River Thames, are famous art institutions while the Tate Modern will take you on a mind-bending journey with artworks by the likes of Dali, Hockney and Warhol.
In Bloomsbury, the British Museum never fails to impress with its ancient history and archaeological finds. For fashion enthusiasts, the V&A is a must, worth visiting for its splendid architecture alone.
For something different, trace the origins of the English Legal system with London Walking Tours. Or swot up on the city’s layered past – from the Stone Age to present day – at the Museum of London.
If you find yourself with a few hours to spare in the afternoon, consider booking a last-minute show. St Giles London hotel is a stone’s throw from theatre land and you’ll find many top stage shows hold matinees performances. Just ask at the box office.
Pampering & Retail Therapy
If you’re keen to get some retail therapy – and have room in your suitcase – check out the shops of Seven Dials and Covent Garden. They’re great areas for perusing charming independent boutiques, artisan market stalls, British labels and luxury spas. Feeling jetlagged after a flight? Pop into one of Monmouth Street’s upscale barbers for a facial or shave. They’ll even serve you a Whisky during your treatment.
Work Spaces and Places to Network
With an-open plan set-up of booths, sofas and working stations, The Hoxton Hotel has that laid-back co-working vibe you might be looking for if you’ve got some emails to catch up on or you’re holding a mini-meeting with a client. The coffee’s top-notch, the no-messing style brasserie is a great place for dining alone and waiters will come to you for your order. The bar serves a fabulous espresso martini too.
For a laid-back coffee shop vibe, try Jova, a great place to set up office, grab a coffee and hire meeting rooms which comes with concierge service and an area to leave your laptop should you need to pop out. For a stylish daytime meeting place, you can’t go wrong with the Ham Yard Hotel. Business travellers love this place for the stylish bar and grill and option of various seating areas, including a chic Orangery. There’s a rooftop terrace and even a bowling alley too.
Where to Eat and Drink
It’s true what they say about London being the dining capital of the world. And with everything from laid-back street food, to fine dining, you’ll be impressed by the variety of places to eat.
For an on-point breakfast of British classics, order the kedgeree or a Full English at The Wolseley. Or for lunch served with finesse, head to Wolfgang Puck’s CUT at 45 Park Lane. Both are suited for dining alone or holding a day-time business meeting.
To unplug after a long day of meetings, you might like to drop into a laid-back London boozer like the Star Tavern in Belgravia, Fox and Anchor in Farringdon or French House Soho. For a cool vibe and excellent martini, stop by Mark’s Bar at Hix or try sophisticated spot The Churchill Bar & Terrace, where you’ll find a range of local ales and – if it takes your fancy – a selection of premium cigars. For sophisticated drinks with a view, head to Galvin at Windows bar. Or for a more laid-back style of hijinks with your colleagues, meet them at the whimsical Onyx Long Bar at the Sanderson.
London spoils you for choice with fine dining and international flavours. Modern Cantonese restaurant Hakkasan is a favourite for its innovative delights like black truffle roast duck. Meanwhile, the renowned Sushisamba in Bishopsgate and Covent Garden (opening 2018) will add a slice of pizzazz to any business trip with its robata grills and vibrant plates of ceviche.
If you’re the type of business traveller who is looking for something a little swankier (and who’d blame you), London will dazzle you with its Michelin stars. Marcus at the Berkeley showcases seasonal British produce like Goosnargh duck and grouse via classic tasting menus, while the Indian High Society-inspired Gymkhana serves a bold and contemporary twist on Indian sharing dishes. Try the cocktails while you’re here.
Lucy McGuire is a travel writer, journalist and founder of The Travel Journo blog, based in South London. Originally a news reporter, she has written across food, travel and lifestyle for more than 10 years and believes London is one of the most innovative, diverse and unique cities in the world.