You don’t always have to jump on a plane to enjoy time off work. If you’re visiting a city for business, why not use your leisure time to explore the place rather than hiding at the hotel bar? Our series of City Breaks gives you suggestions for the most popular destinations around the world.
Business travellers will often claim to be familiar with one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan cities: London. But while central London is a bustling hive of tourists, the locals tend to carve out their own version of the capital without stepping foot near a tourist attraction. If you really want to become an insider to London, here are four of our top recommendations for things to do, places to see and unusual entertainment scattered around the city.
Retreat to the Barbican
If it’s culture that you’re seeking, there’s no better place than the Brutalist structure of the Barbican. Europe’s largest multi-arts venue plays host to a variety of ever-changing art, theatre, film, dance and music events, as well as being home to the London Symphony Orchestra and the peaceful Barbican Conservatory. It’s also a must-see if you’re interested in modern architecture. Check the programme ahead of time to see what’s on, but don’t worry if nothing catches your eye. Instead, retreat to the tranquil oasis of the Conservatory, a hidden glasshouse filled with over 2,000 species of tropical plants and a variety of colourful birds.
Explore Hampstead Heath
This ancient park nestled between Hampstead and Highgate in north London is the perfect place to get away from the crowds and stresses of everyday London life. Hampstead Heath has something to offer visitors all year round, whether you’re seeking somewhere to swim, walk or sit and relax whilst admiring the views of the city below.
In autumn, stroll through the seasonal foliage up to the top of Parliament Hill and drink in the vistas. In summer, the infamous swimming ponds are the perfect place for an early morning dip, instantly making you forget that you’re in the middle of a gargantuan city.
With one of the most exciting and diverse arts scenes in the entire world, it’s little wonder that there are over 1,500 permanent art galleries in London. We seriously doubt that any resident has ever visited all of them, which makes a day of gallery hopping around London one of the most desirable activities for a day off work. Start by checking the current exhibits at heavyweights such as Tate Modern, The National Portrait Gallery and the V&A before seeking out some of the smaller and lesser known establishments. Try Saatchi Gallery, Serpentine and the Hayward for exciting yet accessible contemporary art, or if you’re seeking somewhere really unusual, seek out Victoria Miro, White Cube or Gagosian. The best bit? Other than temporary and touring exhibitions, the majority of London’s art galleries are free to visit!
Make Time for Tea
If you’re having a day off in London, why not do something quintessentially British that you may not usually partake in? Afternoon tea is an indulgent tradition perfect for lazy afternoons when you have all the time in the world. Seek out some of the best and most unusual places to enjoy tea and cake in the city and while away a few hours with a friend or enjoying your own company. For a sophisticated traditional experience, head to The Savoy, The Ritz or The Lanesborough.
If you prefer something a little different, the dramatic interior of Sketch has as much allure as the delicious pastries they serve, Scoff & Banter Tearooms let you mix and match their twists on traditional British fare, and The Sanderson boasts a spectacular Alice in Wonderland themed tea.
Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.