London Calling: Pass The Time On Your Company’s Dime

London. It’s an entire nation in its own right (with an 8 million-strong population: about the same as Switzerland). It’s got a truly international, multicultural vibe that’s unlike anywhere else in Britain. Even in the face of adversity and uncertainty, it remains an important global city for all kinds of businesses.


If you’re lucky enough to be shipped over there for work — even if just for a few short days — you’re gonna want to make the most of it. Though there’s *lots* to see and do, here are a few pointers to whet your appetite… some ways to balance both business and pleasure.


Fancy a stroll?

If you’re in London for work, you’ll no doubt find yourself in or around the city’s buzzing West End area. If you’ve got a little spare time on your hands, why not go for a wander?


Start at Trafalgar Square — pose for a pic on a lion and gaze longing up at Nelson’s Column. Then trundle up Haymarket to Piccadilly Circus. Walk from here up glamourous Regents Street to Oxford Circus, then turn right up Oxford Street to get a glimpse the hustle and bustle of London’s busiest shopping area.


Walk all the way to Tottenham Court Road, the heart of the Theatre District, and then turn right onto Charing Cross Road, where you can head back toward the Square, or meander off towards Covent Garden for a bite to eat or a drink with colleagues.


Here a bridge, there a bridge…

Traversing the Thames is a tactical necessity for most in London — but it’s also a pretty nice (and free) way to get some great views of the stunning skyline; especially if you’ve got a little spare time.


Westminster Bridge — Want a panoramic view of the Thames, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben? Then you must swing by and take a look.


London Bridge — Despite the name, it’s not the most impressive of London’s river crossings, but it remains the Gateway to the Square Mile (the original City of London) and offers some panoramic views right along the Thames.


Tower Bridge — Tower Bridge is most definitely the best of the bunch and well worth a visit if you’re short on time. You can even take a look inside at the inner workings of this marvelous feat of Victorian architecture.


Millennium Bridge — A modern architectural marvel, this Norman Foster-designed pedestrian bridge links historic St Paul’s Cathedral to the Tate Modern art gallery.


How the other half live

Writer Samuel Johnson, once said that ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’


True. Dat. Though by all accounts, what you can afford in London very much depends on your salary band (!). Yup, it’s expensive once you get there (but hey, you’re on company expenses, right?) and even if the true pleasures escape your pay packet, you can still ‘play tourist’.


Head out to West London suburbs like Kensington, Chelsea, and Fulham to see where the real money is. It’s where you’ll likely find the old celebrity, oh you know, sipping espresso beneath Gucci shades (maybe…). The King’s Road is chock full of designer boutiques and nearby Knightsbridge is home to renowned upmarket department store, Harrods, a destination in itself: great for casual browsers as well as serious shoppers.

Green and pleasant

Need some greenery to escape the urban environs? Head for Hyde Park where you’ll find 350 acres of open space and several famous landmarks; including the Serpentine and Speakers Corner. Or if you’ve time, trek down to Richmond Park in the trendy southwest suburbs — where the deer still roam free.


Alternatively, there’s Greenwich Park in the southeast corner, near the Millennium Dome/O2 Stadium. Alongside greener pastures, you find this area steeped in history: sights include the Royal Observatory; the Prime Meridian which divides the Earth’s East and West hemispheres; and the world’s sole surviving tea clipper, the Cutty Sark.


Food for thought

Britain’s not known for the quality or diversity of its national cuisine (…), but this is London, so you’re pretty much spoilt for choice everywhere you turn.


One thing Britain does very well is Asian food (Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani) — particularly the eastern part of London around Brick Lane, where you’ll find some of the best subcontinental cuisine this side of Bangalore. Cinnamon comes highly recommended — perfect for a treat or a relaxed evening meal with colleagues/clients.


Chinatown, as the name suggests, is full of Eastern promise and home to numerous culinary outlets which vary in price and quality. But if the prospect of standard takeout fare doesn’t appeal, why not try Opium (it’s a restaurant!)? Classy cocktails and delicious dim sum in serene surroundings? Whyever not! Nice for schmoozing a client or two — if that’s on the cards.


Taking the Heathrow Express train back to the airport? Get to Paddington Station earlier and swing by a sassy little Lebanese eatery call Ya Hala!, just sprinting distance from the platform. Opt for some tabbouleh, shawarma, and baba ghanoush if you’re stuck on what to have. Reasonably priced too. Great for a light lunch.

Or you could just opt for cheap and cheerful and head for the nearest ‘chippy’. Fish and chips are a British institution. Deep fried cod loin and chunky fries: topped off with mushy peas and a pickled egg. Enjoy in the drizzling rain, huddled under an umbrella. What better way to spend some quality time with colleagues?