It can be a bit overwhelming when you’re visiting a new city on business, especially one the size of London. You usually don’t have much time to explore, but you still want to make the most of your trip.
Travelling on business comes with some different requirements to travelling for leisure - but that doesn’t mean travelling professionals aren’t interested in having access to green spaces to walk in, fine dining options and a vibrant nightlife.
This guide has recommendations on the best places to stay depending on the style of your trip, as well as top tips for dining, acting like a local, tourist attractions you can squeeze into limited free time and the best ways to get around one of the most colourful and famous cities on the planet.
How to navigate London: Dolphin Square’s insider tips
1. Office space and meeting rooms to rent for the day
London has a great deal of meeting and events spaces available to rent and a growing number of co-working spaces or offices to rent for the day. You can search through sites like Gumtree or book somewhere like WeWork or you can choose accommodation which has on-site facilities, to save time, energy and money on commuting.
2. Renting a car for the day
There are so many options for car rental in London, with all the major global players like Hertz, Enterprise and Avis available all over the city, as well as hundreds of smaller but still great companies. There are comparison websites which can help you find the best rate.
Alternatively, if you don’t need a car all day long, in a city where parking can be a nightmare, there are companies which offer minute and hourly rentals, where you have flexibility, can pick up one of their cars parked near you and leave it near your destination, without having to worry about returning to the rental office.
When driving in the UK, and especially London, it’s important to know that vehicles drive on the left and that pedestrian crossings - or zebra crossings as they are endearingly known - are well recognised. So if someone’s waiting to cross be sure to stop, as sometimes pedestrians step out without checking to see if you have. It’s also wise to stay vigilant for the many cyclists on the road.
The congestion zones (which you have to pay to drive through), constantly heavy traffic and high quality of the other transport options (including Black Cab taxis and Uber) mean you may do better not to rent a car at all.
3. Public transport
There is great public transport in London. As well as the iconic red London Buses (which take passengers all over the city) and London Underground, there are central overground rail lines, ‘Santander Cycles’ and even boats.
All of these can be paid for with a contactless card, Samsung or Apple pay. If you’re in town for a little while or likely to return, then you or your company could load credit onto an Oyster Card which can be used across all public transport.
There are also broad, well-kept pavements and free-standing pillar-maps throughout the city for those happy to walk.
Most of the city, especially the centre and some neighbourhoods in particular, are very easily accessible from all the city’s major airports.
4. Always stand on the right side of escalators!
There are a few unique bits of London transport advice. You may have heard to ‘mind the gap’ (when getting onto the iconic London Underground - or, as it’s known locally, The Tube), but it is also important to know that Londoners always stand on the right-hand side of the escalators. The left-hand side is for those rushing up them - you don’t want to get in the way of London commuters in a hurry!
It’s impossible to get phone signals on most of the London Underground but keep calm and carry on - this year TFL have been rolling 4G out across their service, starting with the Jubilee Line. The majority of the Underground network now has mobile data reception but it’s worth checking if you’re planning on doing some work while you’re on the Tube.
5. Enjoy the view - places to impress clients
Wow your clients (or treat yourself) with an upscale dinner, or drinks and a spectacular view of The Big Smoke. There are lots of great rooftop bars around the city, including Madison’s, with its stunning view of St. Paul’s Cathedral; GONG, the highest bar in London, on the 52nd level of the striking Shard skyscraper and the Sky Garden.
Where to stay in London
Knowing a little more about the diverse areas around London will mean you don’t waste valuable time travelling unnecessarily or ending up in suburbs which aren’t what you’re after.
Below are four of the best neighbourhoods in central London - with information on what they’re close to, their transport links and suggestions on which type of business traveller they might best suit. Each location offers the guest a different experience and atmosphere, appealing for different reasons.
Right in the heart of London, Pimlico is known for its garden squares and its regency architecture. It’s a beautiful upscale residential area in Westminster, well connected to the rest of the city, making it one of the best areas to explore London from and ideal for business travellers.
Who: Those travelling with colleagues or travelling alone, Short or Long term stay
Pimlico is home to Dolphin Square, which offers serviced accommodation that provides guests with more space to spread out, onsite meeting rooms and other brilliant guest amenities, so you can enjoy luxury, convenience and good value during your stay. These serviced apartments are also great if you're travelling with your team, as you can have your own shared work space without compromising on personal privacy.
If you’re travelling alone for work it can be a little lonely just staying in your accommodation. Pimlico has a lot of cafes to work remotely from and a choice of bars and restaurants to have business meetings in.
Located on the River Thames, close to the historical and beautiful district of Westminster and all of its tourist attractions, as well as other upscale areas such as Chelsea and Kensington. It’s not far to get to the beautiful Hyde Park - the hotels around which are where you can find London’s best Michelin-starred dining.
If you have a free evening while you’re in town, you can get to trendy areas such as Soho, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and London’s West End (and the fantastic surrounding bars and restaurants) all in less than 20 minutes.
Only 1 mile away from Trafalgar Square, The National Portrait Gallery and Buckingham Palace - it’s one of the best places to stay in London if you want to do some cultural sightseeing but only have limited free time.
Pimlico has excellent transport links, making it ideal for business travellers, including its own Underground station on the Victoria Line. It has easy access to all the major city rail stations: a 10-minute taxi ride from Charing Cross; a 10-minute underground connection to Waterloo and a 2-minute underground connection to Victoria Station.
There is easy access to Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and Stansted airports.
It’s only a few minutes walk to be amongst the thriving hustle and bustle of the city - but the area itself has lots of green space, which is a treat in a city the size of London.
Pimlico offers a slightly slower pace for when you need to relax and take a break from the corporate - but with convenient access to a huge amount going on nearby, just a short pleasant walk, an easy taxi ride or a quick Tube ride away.
2. The City of London
Not to be confused with Greater London, the City of London is the site of the original city, settled by the Romans 2000 years ago. It’s technically a county of its own and is still the beating heart of the now vast metropolis, steeped in history but cutting edge at the same time.
Who: Lone traveller, Short Term Business Traveller
It’s the Central Business District so is very convenient if you’re working there during your trip and don’t want to travel further for meetings.
Space is at a premium on the banks of the River Thames, especially around this area as there are so many company offices there - so a lot of the accommodation is premium, high-rise hotels such as The Hilton and The Ned, though there is a Travelodge and a Premier Inn if you (or the company) are on a bit more of a budget
It’s home to St. Paul’s Cathedral if you only have time for some walk-by sightseeing and the Museum of London, if you have a little more free time.
Right beside London Bridge, it has easy access to the south side of the river, including being 10 minutes from The Shard, the tallest building in the UK.
As one of the city’s hubs, the City of London is dense with transport links.
There are nine Underground stations (including Monument, Bank, Liverpool Street and Blackfriars) giving direct access or easy link to all lines, as well as the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) which connects to London City Airport in 25 minutes.
There are several overground and National Rail stations including Cannon Street, Moorgate and City Thameslink.
You can get to the city’s major stations and their connections easily and quickly, including: London Bridge in 10 minutes by Tube or 15 minutes on foot; Waterloo in 10 minutes and King’s Cross St. Pancras in 15 minutes.
Despite being right in the centre of the city it only takes about an hour to reach Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
The City of London is one the main financial hubs of the United Kingdom and the world, so much of the space is occupied by office buildings. While this means there aren’t as many restaurants as some areas, it’s very convenient if your work is centred in the thick of the Central Business District.
The brilliant transport links and nearby tourist spots make getting out and about easy.
3. Covent Garden
Covent Garden is centrally located and comes with a great deal of its own atmosphere. Especially brilliant if it’s your first time in London and you want to experience as much as you can in a limited time. It has a great dining and theatre scene and is within easy walking distance of numerous big attractions, such as the National Gallery, Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. There are excellent public transport connections to other parts of London and it’s easy to take a boat along the Thames to reach other places of interest.
Who: Short term business traveller, travelling alone or with colleagues, wanting to explore
As a popular tourist hotspot, it’s easy to find accommodation for all budgets in Covent Garden, so whether you’re on a high-end solo trip or trying to get a group of employees into the city for a short term project you can find the place for your trip.
Just north of Trafalgar Square, close to The Strand, The West End and Leicester Square. Covent Garden Market is its own landmark and makes for a wonderful place to enjoy a relaxed after-work drink in a very London atmosphere.
Equidistant between Royal Festival Hall and The British Museum and just over the Thames from the London Eye, Tate Modern and National theatre - it’s easy to get to all sorts of sites and cultural hotspots.
Covent Garden is one of the very best areas of London for getting around on foot:
It takes 15 minutes to reach Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery, Westminster Cathedral. It doesn’t take long to get to Buckingham Palace and most of the journey is away from traffic, through St James’ Park.
Covent Garden has its own tube station on the Piccadilly Line or Leicester Square and Charing Cross Stations are both only a 4 minute walk away.
London is a fascinating city, proud of its multiculturalism. If you’ve managed to factor in an extra day, or two, or have some free evenings, Covent Garden is a wonderful base from which to enjoy the vibrant and diverse culture it has to offer.
It’s one of the safest areas of London, though it’s a popular tourist destination so comes with the regular need to be careful of belongings when you’re out in the evenings and things are lively.
There are so many excellent places to eat packed in around Covent Garden. These range from inexpensive Mexican, Indian and Brazilian, through traditional pub grub, all the way to upscale fine dining.
It's only a 5-minute walk to London’s famous Chinatown, the West End and Soho, with artisan coffee shops, bars and delicious eating options.
4. Kings Cross
Kings Cross has been on the rise since the Eurostar terminal came to St Pancras Station in 2007 and there has been major redevelopment works done on the major stations.
It’s attracting more high-end cultural and corporate development - Google, who already have offices there, recently announced plans for a further £1 billion building stretching along the west side of King's Cross station towards the Regents canal.
Who: Lone business travellers on a flying visit
If your London trip is only a flying visit then Kings Cross, with it’s excellent transport links and plethora of hotels might be the spot for you.
Only 15 minutes from Camden Town, so you can enjoy the eclectic mix of markets, cuisines and live music venues that area is famous for (though be careful as the nightlife there can get pretty wild - COVID permitting).
For the more low key visit, King’s Cross is home to the British Library and is very close to the Guildhall Art Gallery and other museums.
Due to the brilliant transport links, despite not being on the river, this area feels close to everywhere.
King’s Cross Station is one of the biggest stations in the city, it also connects the capital with the North East of the country. Right next door to it is St Pancras International station which is the rail gateway to Europe, via the Eurostar.
This area is extremely well connected, including easy links to all Underground Lines and an hour or less to Heathrow, Gatwick and London City Airports.
It’s also only 10 minutes North of Charing Cross Station and 15 minutes from the Central Business District.
Lots of hotels have been developed around this area due to the arrival of the Eurostar - ranging from £35 to hundreds of pounds a night depending on what sort of level of luxury you’re looking for.
It’s also only 20 minutes away from the huge and beautiful Regent’s Park. London Canal Museum is around the corner, as is the Regent’s Canal itself.
Make the Most of Your Trip
Your time is valuable and even when you are working, life doesn’t stop.
London is huge, densely populated, colourful and incredibly diverse. Whether you want to visit museums, enjoy a meal with yourself or have a big team night out, there’s something for everyone, if you just know where to look. Finding the right home from home is a good place to start.