“London & on & on & on & ….” So says artist Jeremy Deller’s Art on the Underground installation in Brixton. The city of London sprawls, yes, but it also welcomes. Whether you’re headed to London for work, fun, or a little bit of both, here are our tips for making the most of your time there.
Where to fly in
London metro area is served by five major airports: London Heathrow Airport (LHR), London Gatwick Airport (LGW), London Stansted Airport (STN), London City Airport (LCY), and London Luton Airport (LTN). When determining which airport is the best to fly into for a personal trip, know your options by searching for flights to multiple airports at once. If you’re based in San Francisco, for example, you can enter ‘SFO, OAK’ in the From box and ‘LHR, LGW’ in the To box and Hipmunk will show you results that include combinations for each of those options. Alternatively, you can enter the city name itself (London) or the city code (LON) and all nearby airports will be included in the search results.
Pro tip: If you’ve been hoping to stretch your business travel budget to plan a trip to London, 2019 is likely the year to do it. With the recent announcement of JetBlue’s entree into cross-Atlantic flights, routes between many major US cities and London airports are seeing a dip in year-over-year pricing.
Once on the ground, Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted airports offer express trains that connect travelers to Central London. The Heathrow Express transports passengers to Paddington Station in just 15 minutes, where travelers can then change to a taxi, bus, or the Underground (also known as the Tube) to reach their final destination in the city. The Gatwick Express transports passengers to London Victoria Station in about 30 minutes, where travelers can then change to the Tube, a taxi, or bus. The Stansted Express runs every 15 minutes and transports passengers to London Liverpool Street. The journey takes about 45 minutes. Travelers flying into Luton can take an East Midlands or Thameslink train to Central London; trains depart from the Luton Airport Parkway train station. Finally, travelers flying into London City Airport have the advantage of flying into the airport closest to Central London. Travelers can take the Tube directly from the airport’s Docklands Light Railway stop.
Cabs are available upon arrival at all airports, but they cost the most of the ground transportation options. As an example, a cab ride from Heathrow to Central London can range between £45 and £70 and takes about an hour. Comparatively, the Heathrow Express costs about £22 and takes 15 minutes.
Where to stay
Across every budget and borough, there’s a London hotel to fit your needs. In town to catch a glimpse of the royals? Book The Stafford London to stay close to Buckingham Palace and The Mall to catch any comings and goings. Looking to explore the literary side of the city? Stay at Grange St. Paul’s Hotel for an easy walk to the Tower of London—a must-see for history and historical fiction lovers alike.
Meanwhile, business travelers look for a different set of amenities, and unsurprisingly, many hotels in London meet those specific needs. Here are our picks for the best hotels to stay in during your next business trip:
- If you’re attending an event at ExCeL London, the Hilton London Canary Wharf Hotel is just a short Tube ride away and features a footbridge to the station entrance. (Plus, Concur Hipmunk users receive exclusive discounts when staying at a Hyatt property).
- If a hotel in a prime Central London location is what you’re after, look no further than the Amba Hotel Charing Cross. The hotel is just a few minutes walk from Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and the Thames.
- Need space for an event? The trendy W London – Leicester Square offers over 1,300 square feet of meeting and event space, a WIRED Business Center, and individual event studios that can also be combined to create larger spaces.
How to get around
Much like Manhattan, getting around London requires you to prioritize two of the following: time, money, or convenience. Taking the Tube, for example, is your least expensive option. The Tube runs on a zone system, meaning you pay a variable price point based on the length of your journey. Depending on the duration of your stay, you may want to purchase a pay-as-you-go Oyster card to avoid purchasing multiple single ride passes.
Your Oyster card also gives you access to the city’s bus system. While the red double-decker buses move infinitely slower (thanks to increased stop frequency), they also travel where the Tube doesn’t. Here, you’re choosing convenience and low cost over time.
Also available above ground—the iconic black cab. Hail one, call out your destination to the driver, and away you go. Grabbing a cab is typically convenient, but cost can greatly fluctuate based on your destination—especially if you’re heading to or from the airport.
Both cabs and Uber are available in London and are likely your best option for getting around the city if you’re staying in an area far from a Tube station. Plus, if you manage your travel and expenses with Concur or Concur Hipmunk, your Uber trip receipt will automatically populate into your expense report.
Pro tip: Use TripIt’s Navigator feature to search transportation options available to you. It will show you the estimated costs and travel times for each option, so you can decide which works best. You can find Navigator within your flight, hotel and rental car details screens. Plus, if you add a restaurant reservation to your itinerary (more on where to eat below), Navigator also helps you find the best transportation options for getting to your table.
Where to eat
From pub grub to Michelin stars, London has it all. SUSHISAMBA blends the flavor of Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian cuisines into a memorable dining experience. The Covent Garden location is ideal for business lunches or dinners, or for grabbing a bite after you’ve explored the market. Or, check out the 110 Bishopsgate location for stunning views from the 38th and 39th floors.
Speaking of views, head to OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar & Brasserie to enjoy seasonal British fare while overlooking the Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and really, the whole of London. Don’t have time in your itinerary for a multi-course dinner? You can stop in for a drink, afternoon tea, or weekend brunch… and to snap that IG shot, of course.
In pursuit of wine and cheese? Head to Gordon’s Wine Bar. This cavernous wine bar is cozy in the winter and spills out to the outdoor patio seats in the summer. Order the Lebanon Red and a cheese board—with over 20 cheeses to choose from, you might need to bring a friend or two to help. (Just let us know when you’re headed over.)
What to do
Looking to get some sightseeing in while you’re in town? Both London Shell Co. and City Cruises offer a unique way to experience London’s sights—by boat! Ever-changing views, entertainment, plus dinner and drinks, add up to a memorable event for clients or a fun night on the town.
If your family tagged along on your business trip, there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do. To start, London is a playground for the imagination, just ask Harry Potter. Kids will love discovering all of the Harry Potter-inspired attractions across the city, especially a visit to Platform 9¾. Or, get up close and personal with nature at the ZSL London Zoo, where kids can partake in the daily Meet the Animals experience or be a Junior Keeper for a Day.
Adults-only? The West End is the place to head for theatre shows at a discount. You can buy discounted tickets online or head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for half-off tickets. Or, get your culture fix at any of the city’s world-renowned museums, including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Modern, or Tate Britain.
Looking for something a little less curated? Head south of the river to Brixton where you can explore Pop Brixton, Brixton Market, the famed Electric Avenue, and the unique boutique shops lining the borough’s lanes. And be sure to check out the public art installations while you’re there, too.