Sometimes your business meeting takes you to a concrete jungle of a city, where you’re happy to fly in, fly out and get back home. Other times, you find yourself in a place like London, an engaging destination where turning every corner leads to something new, even when that something new is 900 hundred years old.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in London on business, it’s an absolute must that you extend the trip to explore this iconic city. There’s a lot here to explore—from world-famous museums and grand parks to a lively theatre district and historic architecture—making it daunting for first-time visitors. To help you out, here’s our list of can’t-miss sights and experiences.
Start in Westminster
Located in the heart of London, Westminster is a great place to start exploring… as long as you remember to look left before crossing any streets. This bustling area is home to some of London’s most iconic landmarks, including Westminster Abbey, where kings have been crowned since 1066. Take a tour to learn the Abbey’s fascinating history and see the final resting places of 17 monarchs, as well as famous writers like Chaucer, Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson Charles Dickens and Sir Isaac Newton.
Crossing the Bridge
Across the road from the Abbey, walk alongside the Houses of Parliament and look up at the world famous Elizabeth Tower. What… never heard of it? Perhaps you know it better by the great bell it holds inside, Big Ben. From the pavement, it’s hard to believe the clock faces on the tower are 23 feet across. Venture halfway across Westminster Bridge for the best view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
After crossing the River Thames, don’t pass up a ride on the London Eye no matter how long the line is (and it’s usually not that long). The 30-minute ride on this giant Ferris wheel is an eye-opener for sure, day or night, as you peer 135 meters high in an enclosed capsule to see views of London’s skyline that are, if you’re a touch acrophobic, literally breathtaking.
No trip to London is complete without seeing the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Occurring daily at 11:30 a.m. from April to July, this formal ceremony is more akin to a choreographed show than a military presentation. There are no tickets to buy—just arrive early and march straight up to the Palace gates to get both an eyeful and an earful of British tradition and pageantry. Afterward, grab some fish-and-chips from one of the outdoor vendors, choose malt vinegar as the condiment of choice and relax by the lake in nearby St. James’s Park.
West End and Beyond
London’s West End is considered one of the pinnacles of English-speaking performance arts. Highlights of the 40-plus playhouses here include The Palace Theatre, a nearly 140-year-old, red-bricked giant originally known as “The Royal English Opera House;” and Queen’s Theatre, which survived a direct blast during World War II and currently hosts the longest-running musical in the world, Les Misérables.
If you prefer a bit more historical accuracy to your theatres, head across the Thames to Shakespeare’s Globe, a thatched-roof, open-air theater that is a faithful reconstruction of the original that once stood just a few hundred yards away. During the warmer months, you can attend one of Shakespeare’s plays here. It may cost more than the one penny paid by groundlings in the bard’s time, but it’s still an affordable and unforgettable experience.
Join a Small Tour Group
To gain a better understanding of London before or after your meeting, consider joining a walking tour led by local experts who specialize in such topics as art history, archaeology, cuisine or classical studies. They often give you a dive into a destination’s culture in just a few hours.
“Business travelers often have a limited timeframe in which to sightsee and are also intellectually curious and want to learn about a destination from local experts,” said Gabe Rizzi, President of Travel Leaders Corporate. “Therefore, this partnership with Context Travel is ideal in that it pairs business travelers with local scholars who are experts in their field and take people ‘under the skin’ of a city to really learn about and understand it.”
For more on the ‘business+leisure’ trend, check out Bleisure Travel: What is it and How Will it Impact Your Travelers (and Your Bottom Line)?
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