In 1777, Samuel Johnson said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford," and today this statement is truer than ever.
London has got to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. Steeped in history that dates back to the Romans, there is not a street in the city that doesn’t have a story from one period of history or another. From the Romans to William the Conqueror, the Elizabethans to Cromwell who beheaded a king, from the madness of King George to the Victorians, everywhere you look there is something to behold. It is a city that has been sacked and plundered, plagued and burnt, blitzed and bombed, but the tenacity of its people has ensured that London is one of the greatest cities in the world. Whether you stroll down the Mall with Nelson’s Column behind you and Buckingham Palace in front of you or duck down a side street in Soho you can guarantee that if the walls could talk they’d have a tale to tell.
So, if you are faced with 24 hours in London, the question is not what to do, but instead is what not to do. It is impossible to cover the city in such a short space of time, and you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to art, culture, shopping, food, entertainment and history. We have put together a few ideas that will give you a real feel of this city with its vibrant past and thrilling present.
- Hit the streets – London is a wonderful city to walk around and to explore on foot. Around every corner is something to look at, something to catch our eye.
If you have spent hours on a long haul flight and are looking to stretch your legs while imbibing some of the wonders that London has to offer, there is no better way to see some of the city’s sites than by foot and walk off that flight at the same time. A wander through Westminster, London’s political heart, really does give you a feel for the city. The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Cathedral are all situated within a stone’s throw of each other in the city’s political heart. These icons of the city are a sight to behold – the architecture is impressive beyond words and you really get a feel for the city as you watch Londoners bustle about their daily business. From here, a stroll across Westminster Bridge, over the river Thames, and along its southern bank takes you past the world famous London School of Economics towards the London Eye. The Eye is a great way to get your bearings. Seeing London in all her glory from such dizzying heights gives you the lay of the land. Located on the South Bank, which is also home to the London Aquarium and the London Dungeons, there is plenty to look at. It is also the perfect spot to catch a river boat from and explore London from the river.
- Culture Vulture – Where to start? London is home to some of the best museums and art galleries in the world. Whether you are a modern art fundi or a baroque buff, you will find your culture fix here. But there is so much more on offer than trawling museums. The theatre is beyond compare and with a huge array of theatres, you are assured to find something to your taste. If you really want to discover London’s multifaceted past, why not visit the Museum of London at the Barbican Centre? Here you will learn all about the city’s colourful history. Explore London during Roman occupation, the plague, the Great Fire, the Cromwellian Revolution all the way through to the blitz of World War II and right up to today.
South Kensington is museum hub. Here you will find the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, you can tick all the boxes here. The Natural History Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and as you walk in you are greeted by Dippy, the life-size Diplodocus skeleton cast that has been greeting guests since 1878. At the Victorian and Albert Museum, you can wander through the incredibly curated permanent exhibitions from countries and civilisations across the world and that span history. At the Science Museum, you can shake things up on the earthquake simulator.
For lovers of more contemporary art, the Tate Modern is an absolute must! Located on the southern banks of the Thames, across the river from St Paul’s Cathedral, the site of this modern art mecca used to house the electricity generators of the old power station. The huge five storey complex is home to some of the finest pieces of modern art on show in the world, from Dali to Damien Hurst.
Next to the Tate Modern is the Globe Theatre. The epicentre of William Shakespeare’s success, the Globe is not only a place of historical interest, it also puts on regular runs of the Bard’s best plays.
A trip to Trafalgar Square will also feed your hunger for culture. The home of Nelson’s Column, it is located at the top of the Mall – the other end is where Buckingham Palace is and where you might find the queen if she is in town. Trafalgar Square itself has some of London’s most beautiful water features, and if you want to get close to nature it is a great place to feed the pigeons. On one corner of the square, you will find the South African Embassy, while the other side of the square is the National Gallery and the Salisbury Wing. The rich array of artwork that spans back to the Renaissance and beyond holds some of the most wondrous pieces of art ever created. Just up the road is the National Portrait Gallery too where some of the history’s most famous faces are on display.
- Theatre Land – A hop skip and a jump from Trafalgar Square takes you into the West End, and theatreland. Directly opposite the National Portrait Gallery is St Martin’s Theatre where you can watch the longest running show in history – Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. But there is so much more. London is home to the best theatre in the world, so even if you can’t get tickets to the show of your dreams, you are guaranteed to find something that will transport you to another world.
- Wide Open Spaces – When one thinks about London, wide open space is not the first thing that comes to mind. But, London has some of the most beautiful parks. Near to Westminster and Trafalgar Square are the rolling green lawns of St James’ Park or wander through Hyde Park and feed the ducks on the Serpentine after a museum session in South Kensington. There is nothing like summer in London when all the parks fill with people who flock out to get some sunshine between meetings, at lunch time or over weekends.
- Food Glorious Food – Where to start? From high tea at The Ritz to a full English breakfast at a ‘greasy spoon’ cafe, you will be spoilt for choice. Whether you are fond of fine dining or gorging on gourmet pub food your appetite will be satiated. No visit to London is complete without a visit to Borough Market, in the heart of city, which is haven for foodies from around the world. You can also dine at the top of the Shard, where the food is to die for and so is the view.
Churches, historic houses, Monet or Michelangelo, fish and chips or fois gras, musicals or murder mysteries, London has got it all. Colourful, historical, vibrant, on trend, it is a city that never stops. And its people are unstoppable too. Whatever has been thrown at this great city, it has risen above and continues to awe and inspire visitors every day.
When next you are planning a business trip to London, ask us to work a day-of-leisure in London into your itinerary!