London – at your pleasure

London is a city that is always recognised as a great city to do business in. With so many headquarters of international businesses making their home in the UK’s capital, a deviser array of conference and meeting spaces and a buzzing media industry, it’s an ideal destination to hold your business events and meetings.
    
But what about when the meeting is over? What about your precious downtime when the laptop has been packed away. London is also the ideal city to extend your business trip and get a bit of well-earned relaxation and pleasure from!
    
For most business visitors part of the attraction of coming to London is the almost endless list of fantastic downtime activities, from sight-seeing to shopping to eating out.
Around every corner of London visitors will find new and exciting options – it’s a city of choice, with music, theatre and museums.
London has attractions to keep everyone happy. Visit London, the official visitor organisation, offers some inspiration with some of our favourite itineraries… or visit www.visitlondon.com for more information.

Food, glorious food
With 48 Michelin stars to its name, London continues to be heaven for foodies. Pierre Koffmann, arguably the world’s best chef has just opened his new London restaurant at The Berkeley. London will also see the new opening from Heston Blumenthal – ‘Dinner by Heston Blumenthal’ which is set to open at the Mandarin Oriental in January 2011. Daniel Boulud has brought 25 years of experience of the New York dining scene to London with Bar Boulud, his first European restaurant, also at London’s Mandarin Oriental hotel.
    
Other new restaurants to hit London’s busy restaurant scene are the amazing Viajnate at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Bistro Bruno Loubet at The Zetter Hotel and Tinello, which has been opened by celeb chef Giorgio Locatelli. A further 6,000+ licensed restaurants, bars and cafés are also on offer to tantalise the taste buds where you can get a real flavor of London.
    
Some of the best value food in London is ethnic – Chinese, Indian, or Italian – but don’t forget the famous British dish of fish and chips! Specific areas of London offer great value, particularly in ethnic cuisine. Brick Lane is famed for very good, cheap Indian and Bangladeshi food, Turkish restaurants abound in Stoke Newington and Chinatown is found in Soho.
    
London also offers some major calendar events that celebrate food as well as numerous food markets and farmers markets. These can be an ideal reason to hold a business event in the capital and extend your stay.
Taste of London in Regent’s Park is extremely popular, so too is Southbank’s Real Food market, which runs over the first weekend of every month.
    
Most recently, all eyes were on the city for the second London Restaurant Festival (www.londonresturantfestival.com). Over 600 establishments signed up, many creating special festival menus, and with over 70 different national cuisines on offer in just a few square miles, there was truly something for everyone. The annual two week celebration happens every year in early October.

Park Life
London has a huge amount of green spaces including more than 600 garden squares, 148 parks and gardens, 122 heaths, commons and greens, 16 city farms, eight Royal Parks and one historic battlefield. It is one of the greenest capitals in the world. There’s also so much to see and do outdoors in the capital. In fact, the only time you need step inside is when you return to your hotel at the end of an action-packed day.
    
Start your day in south west London. Kew is home to the amazing Royal Botanic

Gardens. Covering 326 acres, they’re an oasis of calm. For those feeling like a surge of adrenaline, the Treetop Walkway is a must. It’s 59 feet high and 660 feet long, taking visitors into the tree canopy of a woodland glade.
    
Take the District Line Tube up to High Street Kensington and stroll down Kensington Palace Gardens. Nicknamed ‘Billionaire’s Row’, the road contains some of the grandest and most expensive houses in the world but also provides some great high street shopping.
    
Halfway down you’ll find Kensington Palace. Its gardens are beautiful, while its orangery is an ideal spot to grab a bite to eat or even indulge in a fabulous afternoon tea and give your legs a well-earned rest.
    
With your batteries recharged, take a number 49 bus over to Chelsea and spend the rest of the afternoon at the Chelsea Physic Garden. Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, it continues to research the properties, origins and conservation of over 5,000 plant species.

Shopping and luxury
For lovers of the finer things in life, there’s no better city in the world than London for fashion and shopping. With Bond Street at the top-end of the scale right through to boutique markets like Spitalfields, London really does have a huge amount to offer in your downtime.
In the morning, head east. Opening in spring 2011, Westfield Stratford City is a stone’s throw away from the new Olympic stadium and is set to be Europe’s largest retail and leisure complex.
    
After a spot of lunch, it’s time for the next stop on your shopping pilgrimage. Go west on the Central Line to St Paul’s. Here you’ll find One New Change, which boasts an amazing rooftop terrace with spectacular views of St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as three floors of shopping.
    
Well worth a look is the recently redesigned Louis Vuitton store on New Bond Street (head to Bond Street Tube on the Central Line). Designed by flamboyant architect Peter Marino at a cost of £30 million, it is surely one of the most opulent places in the world to buy a handbag. But a word of warning: under no circumstances must you use the word ‘shop’. In Louis Vuitton world, the term is ‘maison’!
    
Stroll through the West End and browse through some of the capital’s favourite department stores. Selfridges, which combines fashion and art in their Ultralounge, is a popular choice for great brand and designer names while the ever popular John Lewis offers everything from fashion to food and home wares to footwear.

Post-retail pampering
Next, a bit of post-retail pampering. In Knightsbridge you’ll find the Mandarin Oriental hotel, home to a spa frequented by the stars (Jennifer Aniston is rumoured to use it when she’s in London).
    
Or you could go to see Leighton Denny at Harrods. Joan Collins and Davina McCall are just some of the stars who can’t resist his jewel-encrusted manicures and expert pedicures. Head over to Harvey Nichols to find all your favourite designer brands and end the day with a glass of bubbles at the wonderful Champagne bar on the Fifth Floor.

Sporting activities
From watching the biggest names in world sport to getting involved yourself, London is a hotbed of great sporting activity all year round and a perfect way to unwind and relax after a busy conference or meeting.
    
Start your day in north west London with a behind-the-scenes tour of Wembley. The stadium will be hosting high-profile games throughout the year, including England’s qualifying matches for the 2012 European Championships and the final of the 2011 UEFA Champions League.
    
If you’re in town from 8-14 August 2011, pop along to see the Yonex BWF World Badminton Championships in London at Wembley Arena. As well as seeing the best in the world smash a shuttlecock around, you’ll also be in the venue hosting the Badminton at the 2012 Olympics.
    
The O2 becomes the London venue for NBA season games in Europe in March 2011. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is set to make another welcome return to London in its quest to make basketball history, when the league holds its first-ever regular-season games in Europe. The New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors will square off for back-to-back games at The O2 arena in London, England, 4-5 March as part of NBA Games – London 2011.
    
Just a few stops along the Jubilee Line to St John’s Wood is the world-famous Lord’s Cricket Ground. On the fascinating guided tours you’ll get to see some of the most famous sights in world cricket, including the precious urn for the famed Ashes.
    
In the afternoon, head down to south west London and complete your day by visiting the homes of two other sports. Twickenham Stadium is the focal point of English rugby, while Wimbledon is famous for tennis and has an excellent interactive museum, including a virtual John McEnroe revealing the secrets of his pre-match rituals.

Hidden gems
There are surprises around every corner in London. From historical sites, to areas of natural beauty, to brilliant but unsung shops, bars and museums, the list of things that you can find only in London is almost endless.
    
Start with a spot of history in east London by visiting Eastbury Manor House in Barking, reputedly the place where the Gunpowder Plot was first conceived. South Kensington’s Victoria & Albert Museum is one of the most popular visitor spots in London. Less well-known is the fabulous V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green (just a few stops away from Barking).
    
End the morning at the Bank of England Museum where you’ll be able to hold a bar of gold and see the largest collection of Bank of England notes and associated material in the world.
    
In the afternoon, experience a bit of religious splendour. First, explore Bevis Marks, the nation’s oldest synagogue. Established in 1701 to serve the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, it’s only minutes from Bank station.
    
Then you could either head up to Neasden in north west London to see the truly jaw-dropping site of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest traditional Hindu Mandir outside India. Or make your way to south west London to visit the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Sikh temple Southall. Once again, it’s the biggest outside the sub-continent.

Pleasure without a price
A major benefit of London’s cultural offering is that many of the events or museums in the capital are free – which is a huge cost saving to any delegate and a perfect way to compliment any business programme or offer a huge cost saving in your own downtime. Whether it’s watching the Chinese New Year celebrations in China Town, viewing the latest exhibitions at the famous V&A Museum or simply watching the street performers in Covent Garden, there is something to offer any budget.
    
London has over 300 museums, galleries and collections, including some of the greatest in the world, as well as some of the most unusual and interesting. What’s more, many of these superb cultural attractions are free (except for certain special exhibitions and events).
    
For all national collections, free admission has been introduced for everyone. These include: Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Maritime Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Museum of London, Theatre Museum, Queen’s House Greenwich and Royal Observatory. In addition, the Royal Airforce Museum has also recently introduced free entry for all.
    
Markets are a good source of inexpensive goods – London has over 300 of them, ranging from the attractive Columbia Road flower market to authentic east London markets like Ridley Road, which sells ethnic goods and food and Walthamstow Market, which has 450 stalls. Although prices and variety of goods vary considerably, there are excellent bargains to be had.

For more information
Web: www.visitlondon.com