Business Travel Guide: London
Despite heavy competition and the restructuring of the economic system, London remains one of the world's key financial centers. The prospect of the 2012 Olympic Games has added another significant factor to a city that thrives on financial and business services, tourism and high-tech companies. London is home to around 500 foreign banks and most of Fortune's Global 500 companies. London's central role in the world has brought an ironic twist to the capital as the recent skyscrapers of Canary Wharf are being challenged by new and planned glass and steel headquarter buildings, which until the huge development of Canary Wharf was London's centuries-old, traditional business center.
to Know Before You Go
Currency: Pound Sterling
Exchange money at an airport within the U.S. or in England once you arrive. Airports and many tourist attractions house various exchange booths such as Thomas Cooke, but for the best rate, use an ATM or get cash back on purchases using a debit card. Although the European Euro is not widely used, it is possible to spend the Euro at the airport and larger retailers, hotels and restaurants in town.
Public Transportation: With the Underground, or "tube" as locals call it, and an extensive railway and bus system, public transportation is an excellent way to navigate London. While the tube does run from Heathrow to central London via the Piccadilly line, the trip will take a little over an hour. Fortunately, the Heathrow Express offers high-speed non-stop service to London's Paddington station. The cost is £18 and it takes just 15 minutes. For £18.90, passengers can also speed their way from London's Victoria Station to Gatwick in 30 minutes on the Gatwick Express.
Taxi Cab: In London, you have black cabs and minicabs. "Black cabs" can be any color but all reflect the iconic shape of a historic London cab and offer metered service. A trip from Heathrow to central London will cost somewhere between £45 and £85. From Gatwick, expect to pay £78 to £98.
Minicabs, which may come in any shape, make or model, are not metered, so negotiate a price before setting out. While mincabs aren't licensed to pick up passengers at the airport, they can be arranged for airport drop-off. A typical fare from Central London to Heathrow is around £30; Gatwick £55.
| Map of London | Map by
Times (daily) and The
Economist (weekly) are global business
papers with extensive UK editions featuring local
Times and Daily
Telegraph are both mainstream dailies that
include daily business sections. On Sundays, look
for The Sunday Times and The Sunday
Nearly a dozen other papers such as The Daily
Mail, The Guardian,
The Independent and The Evening
Standard cover business news.
| For more on travel in the capital, see our guide to the Best of London
Just opposite The Dorchester and part of the Dorchester Collection, this is a new hotel with a real wow factor. A huge entrance, Wolfgang Puck's first European restaurant, CUT, and bedrooms with bespoke desks fitted with every kind of hi-tech gadget you could imagine make this a great addition to London's top hotel scene. En-suite bathrooms contain marble baths, freestanding showers, double vanities and mirror-mounted televisions. The Penthouse Suite, located on the ninth floor, has its own key-controlled lift for privacy and security, as well as a large balcony with panoramic views across Hyde Park and Mayfair.
Andaz, the hotel that replaced the former Great Eastern Hotel, is perfectly located just beside Liverpool Street Station. Attracting mainly, but not exclusively, business travelers, it has adopted a relaxed approach to check-in, with an Andaz Team Manager assigned to you. With five restaurants, four bars, fourteen event rooms and 267 guest rooms and suites, the eco-conscious hotel is a good bet for those needing access to the City, Canary Wharf and eastern England. Rooms boast stylish touches such as Eames chairs, and feature modern technology including iPod docks and free Wi-Fi and local calls.
In the heart of Canary Wharf, and just ten minutes from London City Airport, the hotel's skyscraper surroundings
will make you feel like you're in Los Angeles.
Only the incredible views of the city of London remind
you where you are. Designed for a corporate clientele,
the property is stark but functional. Rooms are large,
with pale wood flooring and simple American walnut furniture.
Each is equipped with every imaginable bit of technology:
a flat-screen TV with internet access,
CD player, play station and a laptop safe. There are great views, particularly from the Presidential Suite, which at a massive 2,930 square feet features three bedrooms, walk-in closets, a separate powder room, sitting area, full kitchen and dining room for eight. Guests have access to a state-of-the-art fitness center within the hotel, plus free use of the adjacent Holmes Place at Canary Riverside Health Club, which has a full-service spa.The restaurant, Quadrato, offers agreeably authentic Northern Italian cuisine.
This modern hotel is situated at Hyde Park Corner where Piccadilly meets Park Lane. The hotel has 297 rooms, along with health facilities and an Elemis Spa. 60 elegant designer suites reflect London's fashionable lifestyle, and luxury suites feature drawing rooms and butler service. The Club on the dedicated seventh floor has 46 bedrooms and suites, private registration, shower room facilities and a lounge with separate meeting space. Particularly favored by business people, the purpose-built Video Conferencing Suite is ideal for exclusive business meetings; in addition, the business center boasts four private meeting rooms. The excellent Cookbook Café provides more casual dining and occasional cookery events. The eponymous Theo Randall adds culinary flair in the form of superb Italian regional cooking.
Located on the edge of Covent Garden, where the West End meets the City, One Aldwych has equal appeal to the theater-going tourist and the high-powered business executive. The Edwardian building was once home to The Morning Post, but while the building's exterior features have been retained, interior design has been transformed to mix contemporary simplicity and classic English style. Every room has a bed with crisp white Frette linens and feather and down duvets, iPod docking stations and complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi; fiber optic reading lights and Bang & Olufsen televisions are standard fixtures, as well. Guests are offered complimentary shoeshines and daily newspapers, and fresh fruit and flowers are delivered every day. The hotel has a fitness center, two restaurants — the fine dining Axis and the more casual Indigo — a lobby bar which makes a popular meeting place, as well as the Cinnamon Bar, which offers coffee and light snacks.
The Dorchester has always been one of London's grandest hotels and now it has a chef to match in the form of Alain Ducasse. The 80-seat room, designed by Patrick Jouin, is beautiful — a soothing, sophisticated space with light wood panels and natural materials in varying shades of tan and cream. The walls are decorated with silk green and yellow buttons, the tables are a lesson in luxurious settings, and there's a private dining area for six, set apart with sparkly fiber optic strands. The menu offers a range of the maestro's signature dishes, though "reinterpreted with a modern touch" for London. Seasonal, fresh British and French ingredients are used to good effect by executive chef Jocelyn Herland, who comes from Alain Ducasse at Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris.
If you want to impress with your London savvy and your business credit card is creaking then book at Galvin-Bistrot de Luxe, which is now high up on London lists, despite its odd location. Baker Street is a river of one-way traffic and it never scored highly on London's gourmet trail. But the arrival of chef-brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin transformed this once-blighted site. The restaurant has a self-assured air, decorated with dark wood paneling, a wooden floor and leather banquettes lining the walls. The menu is a lesson in bourgeois French tradition that many chefs could do well to emulate. Here are classics that you would be happy to find in any Parisian restaurant like terrine of chicken, foie gras and celeriac, and a perfect cassoulet. The wine list is fair on pricing and has a section of fine wines. The set price lunches also offer great value.
There is always a sense of discovery on reaching The Greenhouse, which comes from its delightful and unusual location, tucked away in Mayfair and reached through a plant-filled courtyard. Once inside, you're instantly seduced by a rich décor of neutral colors set off with sharp green leather chairs and dark wooden floors. But it's the top-notch food from executive chef Arnaud Bignon that customers come for again and again. Seasonal ingredients are used with imagination, as in asparagus with cheese, blood orange and rocket cream; followed by Dorset lamb with aubergine, sweetbread and red pepper. The wine list is exemplary.
If you want to impress a business client, take them to the restaurant that is on everyone's hot list. Hélène Darroze has seduced London with elegant ease. Her success is helped by the £70-million refurbishment of the grande dame of hotels, The Connaught. Dark wood paneling, comfortable chairs to sink into, gorgeous tableware and linen and a hugely generous staff-to-customer ratio pamper and spoil the clientele. The chef comes from Landes in the southwest of France, her background reflected both in the ingredients and a rustic honesty in what is very sophisticated cooking. Naturally, all the frills are here, and amuse-bouches, treats between courses and chocolates come as part of the very expensive package. The wine list is impressive, with a focus on French vintages.
Looking to secure that deal with an impressive meal? A safe bet would be the seafood platter at Scott's. The setting is designed to impress with comfortable seating, startling art on the walls and a magnificent crustacea bar. You can sit here and toy with an expensive oyster, or go the whole way with one of those seafood platters or any of the superbly cooked fish, which come from sustainable sources. From the svelte, welcoming doorman, to the self-assured wine list, this is a restaurant for high flyers.
41 Earlham St., WC2
Booking line: 0844-871-7624 (plus £2.50 booking fee)
The Donmar Warehouse has always been one of the most exciting and impressive smaller theaters. With only 250 seats and in a warehouse setting in Covent Garden it puts on the kind of exciting, star-studded performances that rival any of London's big venues.
Located between Winchester Walk, Stoney St., Bedale St. and Borough High St.
London Bridge Tube
The market is a historic site, a market place way before the Romans discovered Londinium. It's been a hardy survivor through the centuries and today, thanks to a charity set up to preserve it in 1999, continues to be one of "London's Larders." It comes alive on Thursday through Saturday when the splendid cast iron building and the surrounding streets are full of traders of organic and home-made foods. Shop until your basket is creaking, then go to any of the many restaurants that dot the area. Start with breakfast at Roast; try coffee and fabulous pâtisserie at Brindisa or go for a drink at the small drinking venue, the Rake, with its comprehensive beer list.
St. Paul's Tube
Housed in a former power station on the South Bank, just opposite St. Paul's, Tate Modern is impossible to miss. The huge building, with its two great towers, houses Britain's modern art collection. Part of the permanent collection is always on show, but look out for the blockbuster international exhibitions that are put on every year. There's a great restaurant and café with superb views over the Thames.
1 Portland Pl
Oxford Circus Tube
Designed by David Collins, who's put his mark on places like the Blue Bar at The Berkeley hotel and The Wolseley, the chic and oddly quirky Artesian bar is where cocktails just get better. Sit among the chinoiserie and the horse head statuary and sample the creations. They specialize in rum, so either take them as they come or try the house punch. Superior bar snacks complete the package.
There's a new experience on the river Thames. Now you can take a river trip which takes in all the major sights with a live guide on board. The new boats only take 12 and are not for the faint-hearted as you're open to the elements. Once past Wapping Police Station, the skipper revs up the engines and the boat takes off at speed down to Canary Wharf. It may not be the same as surfing on Bondi Beach, but this is the Thames.
Whether a BBC broadcaster, eminent archaeologist or professional actor leads your tour, you are guaranteed to be shown the secret side of London by some of the most engaging guides in town. Two-hour tours are offered seven days a week and reveal the hidden worlds of literary greats like Shakespeare, Dickens and Oscar Wilde or other legendary Londoners like Jack the Ripper. They do a Beatles Walk, Harry Potter walks and others for children and now can take you on a day trip out of London. Or just join them for a pint of Guinness on a traditional pub crawl. No need to book, just grab a schedule and turn up at the designated hour. (Author: Mary Anne Evans)
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(Updated: 07/25/13 CT)