Welcome to the Meeting and Event Planning Guide to London, written with meeting planners in mind. The stunningly successful, “happy and glorious” 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games didn't just transform the image of London, they also delivered massive improvements to its meetings, conferences and events infrastructure, its accommodation stock and its transportation systems. With all the refurbishment, London is re-confirmed as one of the world's greatest business and events destinations.
While meeting planners can now take advantage of the huge improvements that have been generated by London's hosting of the Olympic Games, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will not fully re-open until Easter 2014 when it becomes Europe's largest urban regeneration scheme (the size of nearly 300 soccer pitches) with even better access provided by CrossRail, Europe's biggest construction project which is due to open in 2017. This huge urban renewal project has already transformed East London and it will soon provide a huge range of new and iconic sporting, cultural and business facilities just a few miles from the already massive ExCel exhibition complex.
London's investment in its transportation infrastructure, its efficient "Underground" subway system and the ever-present black taxis and red buses mean that visitors, guests and delegates will be able to get around with ease. Six airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton, London City and London Southend provide unrivalled international connections – make London one the world's most accessible capital cities.
London's glittering nightlife and dining scene lends itself to private events that will tempt guests to break out of the boardroom and the hotel bar. For instance, lavish receptions for up to 70 guests can be held among the hand-strung pearl adornments at Pearl Restaurant and Bar in High Holborn. Moroccan and North African influenced decor can create a sumptuous setting for groups of up to 140 guests at Kenza. No. 5 Cavendish Square, with three bars, a restaurant, a roof terrace and eight boutique hotel suites, can accommodate business events of any type or size and its ground floor, complete with an outdoor terrace, is a lively venue for up to 180 people.
Cultural venues are also sure to give guests the feeling of a true London experience. The prestigious Tate Modern has spaces for private events, including a restaurant capable of accommodating up to 350 guests, while the Royal Academy of Arts near Piccadilly Circus is available for events of up to 800 people. Groups can also give any meeting an exotic backdrop at the recently renovated Blackburn Pavilion at the London Zoo, or the more formal yet still breathtaking atmosphere at one of several event facilities at Kew Gardens.
Certainly, traditional event centers have a place among such attractions, and London boasts several large and impressive conference and exhibition centers. The 90,000-square-meter ExCeL Exhibition Centre has already hosted well over 1,500 national and international events. The Business Design Centre, based on Upper Street in Islington, features an impressive main exhibition hall of 6,000 square meters and welcomes over 80 exhibitions and 250 conferences each year. The Centre lays claim to being the first all-in-one trade, exhibition and conference complex in the UK.
With stunning views of the Tate Modern, the Globe Theatre, the mighty Thames and the Millennium Bridge, the Mermaid Conference & Events Centre boasts a stunning backdrop and uniquely modern lighting and decor, not to mention a prestigious guest list that has included KPMG, BBC and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. The Centre accommodates up to 600 guests to presentations in a spacious auditorium; or opt for an intimate dinner for 100 to 170 in its Blackfriars or River rooms. For a venue with a more traditional look, Alexandra Palace, opened at the end of the 19th century and based within 196 acres of parkland that overlooks London, is a timeless venue for large groups to enjoy exhibitions, conferences and ceremonies, as its Great Hall accommodates from 2,500 to 7,250 guests. And in Westminster, the prestigious and popular Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre has four large auditoriums and seven conference rooms that host up to 400 meetings annually.
London is home to some of the most high-profile companies in the world, covering all sectors from banking and finance to media and advertising. The London Stock Exchange is also a pull for the thousands who work in the heart of the city and in nearby Canary Wharf. Major companies including JP Morgan, Ernst and Young, Barclays Capital, CitiGroup, Credit Suisse, Bank of America and Clifford Chance are in London and various news and media companies including Reuters and BBC are also based in the city.
Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abbey. Trafalgar Square. The Tate Modern. From historic to modern to up-and-coming, cultural to recreational, the attractions in London have made this amazing city one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. From world-changing events such as the English Reformation and the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and the Beatles' "British Invasion," London has and continues to make waves as a center for culture, politics and commerce, envied by cities across the globe that continuously strive to emulate its iconic style.
Between 1831 and 1925, London's population skyrocketed, due to its expanding railways and rapid industrialization; it was then the world's largest city. Though it no longer holds that title, Greater London is home to over eight million people, with a total of more than 13 million people residing in the metropolitan area. At 1,577 square kilometers, London is the 37th largest urban area in the world, defined most notably in its geography by the Thames River, which runs across the city from the west to the east.
Walking the streets of London, guests will experience a diverse range of architectural styles, though most buildings trace their roots to the Georgian, Edwardian or Victorian periods. From red bricks to stucco to limestone, the face of London is an attractive mix of traditions with modern twists. Many of its traditional landmarks, such as St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, however, still dominate the skyline, due to strict regulations on building heights.
Just as its architecture is a melange of styles, the city itself is a veritable melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. One of the most cosmopolitan capitals in the world, London can claim that over 300 languages are spoken in the city. About 31 percent of the population is foreign-born, with residents hailing from India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia and Germany, among many others. Home to the Houses of Parliament, the city is governed by the Mayor of London and it contains 32 Boroughs, each with its own local government.
With its historic past, it's no surprise that London boasts a dizzying array of cultural attractions. Watch the popular Changing of the Guards held throughout the year at Buckingham Palace. Stroll the 487 acres of Regent's Park, making stops at the indoor and outdoor activity center "The Hub" and the Queen Mary's Rose Garden. Or, take the entire city in from the views atop the 135-meter-tall London Eye. So as not to risk missing a single hotspot, attraction or landmark, guests can grab a seat on the Original Tour's iconic red double-decker buses, which make stops at over 90 locations across the city.
Over the years London has loosened its collar somewhat; today, a vibrant nightlife, theater, shopping and dining scenes complement the traditional historic and cultural attractions. Guests can indulge in some traditional fare, such as the classic "Fish and Chips," deep-fried fish with French fries dressed in malt vinegar, or one of many pies or puddings from steak and kidney pie to "Shepherds' Pie," a minced lamb, made with vegetable and mashed potato. (Rules, the oldest restaurant in the capital, is the place to savor some of these traditional favorites.) True to its diverse population, London also boasts a wide range of international fare - from Lebanese at Al Waha, Ethiopian at Lalibela, Japanese at Ubon to Turkish at Gallipoli. Guests can also leave it to the experts, opting to stop by one of the several recipients of Michelin stars, the oldest and best-known restaurant guide rating in Europe, such as Pied a Terre, Wild Honey, La Trompette and Hibiscus.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
The weather in London often suffers from drizzly rain and intermittent showers over the course of the year. The hottest month is July, when average temperatures can reach around 23°C (73°F), though minor heat waves between the months of June and August often see temperatures rising much higher. January, the coldest month, sees temperatures struggling to rise above 2°C (36°F)
London's annual rainfall averages around 584 millimeters (23 inches). February is one of the driest months of the year, but the weather is generally inconsistent so guests can expect a mixture of unpredictable weather conditions. The best time of year to visit is early spring in April and May and towards the end of the summer in August.
ExCeL London Convention & Exhibition Center
The largest major convention center in London, the 300 million ExCeL Exhibition Centre opened in November 2000 and has since hosted over 1,500 events. Its location in the redeveloped Docklands Area, which boasts more than 20 restaurants, bars and hotels, makes it a convenient spot to transition from work to play. The centre also has five on-site hotels, including Novotel, Ramada Inn & Suites and Crowne Plaza, which together provide conference goers with a total of 1,500 rooms. For larger conferences, there are more than 7,500 additional rooms within walking distance.
Spanning 90,000 square meters, the building has two column-free rectangular halls that together cover 65,000 square meters. Movable walls create a flexible environment for accommodating any range of event sizes. The centre also boasts London's largest auditorium, with room for over 500 guests, and 45 gallery rooms, offering waterfront views of Royal Victoria Dock and room for 20 to 200 people. Additionally, a three-level self-contained Platinum Suite provides a private, elegant setting for 400 to 1,100 people and has its own registration area, lobby and bar.
ExCeL Exhibition Centre matches its stunning space with quality amenities, including an in-house audio-visual team of Blitz Communications, Ltd., one of Europe's leading audio-visual companies. The centre has high-speed Internet access and wireless Internet capabilities, as well as in-house catering by Leith's, ready to provide menus for conferences, parties and galas. The centre has three on-site pay parking lots with over 3,700 spaces, and it is also accessible by the Docklands Light Railway and the Underground.
Business Design Centre Group
The Business Design Centre in Islington was saved from demolition in 1981 by entrepreneur Sam Morris. Opened five years later in 1986, the fully-restored centre became the United Kingdom's first integrated trade, exhibition and conference complex. The centre offers roughly 6,000 square meters of exhibition space, housed under a barrel-vaulted ceiling flooded with natural light. Its Conference Centre is ideal for breakout sessions and VIP lounges, as its moveable walls can create up to nine interlinking rooms or a total of over 1,000 square meters.
Among its many amenities, the Business Design Centre has on-site catering provided by the Good Eating Company and audio-visual services by AVC Productions. The centre sits adjacent to the 184 rooms at the Hilton London Islington, and also has 285 on-site parking spaces.
In the heart of West End, the Congress Centre is one of London's leading event and conference locations. Having recently undergone a 4.2 million renovation, the Congress Centre boasts 13 impressive meeting rooms for both large and small events.
The elegant Marble Hall, with marble finishes and a captivating view of the famous Epstein statue, holds up to 250 guests, while the stylish meeting rooms filled with natural light can hold groups of 15 to 75 people. The other facilities at the centre can play host to groups as small as six people to as large as 800 people. The centre's Bedford Suite, located nearby, is an exclusive boardroom, studio room and meeting room complex that offers a reception area, Internet station and beverage bar. The suite, which offers a completely private meeting space when all spaces are booked, can accommodate up to 35 guests.
The Congress Centre is one of the best-equipped venues in London, with plasma screens, video conferencing and webcasting capability, and wireless Internet being used in its various rooms. The centre also has in-house catering and menus for day, breakfast or lunch and evening meals. The centre has discounted rates at nearby four-star hotels, including the Radisson and Edwardian, which is directly opposite the centre. Its convenient location also places guests in the vibrant neighborhood of West End, near Covent Garden, Oxford Street shopping and the shows and plays at Theatreland. Parking lots and metered street parking are also within walking distance to the centre.
A major air transit hub, five major airports service London: Heathrow, Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted and London City.
London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Approximate taxi fare: 37 GPB
Heathrow Airport is London's and Europe's busiest airport, serviced by over 90 airlines offering flights to over 170 destinations across the globe. With over 67 million passengers passing through its gates in 2007, London Heathrow is also the 3rd busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.
About 24 kilometers west of central London, the airport consists of two parallel runways and five terminals, the fifth of which was recently opened in 2008. Other airport updates include a 105 million Pier 6 at Terminal 3, which allows the airport to service the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and a 50 million air traffic control tower. Heathrow plans to invest another 6.2 billion over the next 10 years for rebuilding and renovating its existing terminals.
Not just a transportation hub, Heathrow is a true dining and shopping experience. High-end boutiques abound, with stores such as Burberry, Thomas Pink, Versace, Cartier and the first Tiffany & Co. airport store in Europe lining the terminal halls. Other storefronts offer a range of goods, from technology at Dixons to beauty products at Boots to gourmet chocolates at the Chocolate Box to children's toys at Hamleys. In order to allow guests to make the most of its shopping, Heathrow allows travelers to "fly with everything you buy," meaning travelers can take anything they purchase after security on the plane with them, regardless of any baggage restrictions. Many of its shops are also duty or tax free.
Less avid shoppers can also pass the time at Heathrow at one of its many restaurants or bars. From quick service at cafes such as Bite and Bagel Street to lingering meals at Carluccio's or Brasserie Chez Grard, travelers with a little or a lot of time to eat can find a suitable stop. Famed chef Gordon Ramsay also has a restaurant and cocktail bar at Heathrow named Plane Food. Other amenities provided by the airport include the spa Urban Retreat, wireless Internet access, a post office and 32 private cabins with bathrooms, Internet access and entertainment systems, available for small fees for unexpected delays or long transfers. The airport also has an interdenominational chapel with Anglican, Catholic, Free Church, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish chaplains.
London Heathrow Airport has short-term, long-term and valet parking options. Business travelers can also take advantage of business parking, which is closer to terminals and offers more frequent transfer service. The London Underground has a stop at Heathrow, and the airport's Heathrow Express trains reach London Paddington in 15 minutes. Single fare is 15.50 at the station.
Airline carriers serving London Heathrow Airport(LHR)
London Gatwick Airport (LGW)
Approximate taxi fare: 70 GBP
Gatwick Airport is the city's 2nd largest airport with 79 airlines flying to 227 destinations. Serving over 35 million passengers annually, London Gatwick is the busiest single runway airport in the world and 7th busiest international airport in the world. Situated in Crawley, West Sussex, approximately 46 kilometers south of London, the airport is a major hub for British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic.
To make a trip to London Gatwick more enjoyable, the airport boasts numerous restaurants, bars and shops, including pharmacies. The airport's unique Shop & Collect service allows travelers to leave purchased items at the airport and collect them once they return. Both terminals also feature Internet access and family play areas.
Gatwick has long-term and short-term parking options, and the Gatwick Express offers high-speed travel between London and the airport in about 30 minutes. Single fare is 16.90.
Airline carriers serving London Gatwick Airport
London Luton Airport (LTN)
Approximate taxi fare: 60 GBP
London Luton is based on the outskirts of Luton, Bedfordshire, roughly 48 kilometers north of London. The 5th busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the 4th largest serving the London area, London Luton welcomed nearly 10 million passengers in 2007. Several budget airlines, including easyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomsonfly, Silverjet and Ryanair, service the airport, with flights running to over 30 destinations in four continents.
Originally opened in 1938 as a military airbase, the airport was slowly rebuilt and renamed London Luton in 1990. The biggest development began in 1998 with a 40 million aluminum and glass terminal of 60 check-in desks and a wide choice of shops, restaurants and bars; the terminal was opened in 1999 by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. Later, in 2005, the 35 million Passenger Terminal Development project was completed with the opening of a departure lounge and retail complex, a six-gate boarding pier and new security, immigration and customs halls. A new departure hall opened in 2005.
Today, eateries, from coffee shops to full-service restaurants, and various retail outlets are found in the airport. London Luton offers short-term, mid-term and long-term parking. Shuttle services are also available between London and the airport.
Airline carriers serving London Luton Airport
London Stansted Airport (STN)
Approximate taxi fare: 91 GBP
Located close to Harlow in Essex and about 48 kilometers from the northeast of London, Stansted is home to thousands of low-cost flights that serve over 20 million passengers each year. As the United Kingdom's 3rd busiest airport, Stansted consists of a main passenger terminal, a private aircraft terminal and a cargo station. A unique and attractive design, the main terminal building's "floating roof" creates the impression of a swan in flight. Guests can reach the airport through the Stansted Express, which runs to and from Liverpool Street Station every quarter of an hour. The total journey takes around 45 minutes.
Airline carriers serving London Stansted Airport
London City Airport (LCY)
Approximate taxi fare: 23 GBP
This single runway airport is located directly opposite the London Regatta Centre in the east of London. Serving up to 2.5 million passengers and flying to over 30 destinations a year, London City Airport serves the bulk of financial business travelers who work in the city. The airport is also recognized as the closest private jet center to central London, and three years ago, it was voted the best corporate aviation handling facility for passengers in Europe by European Business Air News.
The airport's 22 check-in desks and 12 self-service machines offer some of the fastest check-in times of any airport in the United Kingdom. London City offers seven eateries, over five retail outlets, wireless Internet access and a foreign exchange desk. Short-term and long-term parking facilities are available, and the airport is easily accessible from a new stop on the Docklands Light Railway, which links to the London Underground.
Airline carriers serving London City Airport
Network Rail owns and operates Britain's rail infrastructure. Main routes take guests to Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, amongst other destinations. There are nine major British rail stations in the capital, with Paddington, Victoria and Euston being the main stations. St. Pancras International acts as the gateway to European destinations thanks to its Eurostar connections to Paris, Lille, and Brussels and beyond.
Transport for London manages most of the public transportation services in London.
The London Underground metro system, often called the Tube, is the world's longest underground railway at about 400 kilometers of track. The Underground services three million people daily at 268 stations on 11 lines: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern and Piccadilly. The Victoria and Waterloo & City Lines connect the central city and many suburbs to the north of the Thames.
The Underground is divided into six zones, and fares are dependent on zone and time of day, with prices ranging from 2 to 6 per trip. The Oyster Card, introduced in 2003, is an electronic card that covers particular zones on a weekly or monthly format. Currently used by about 10 million passengers, monthly cards cost around 24.
London rail service includes the Docklands Light Railway, which provides transportation to 39 stations in East London, and the London Overground, whose five lines make stops at locations including Kew Gardens, Camden Road and Queen's Park. Oyster Cards can be used on both rail services. Rates vary based on zones traveled and time of day. Fares start at 1 for children and 4.80 for adults on off-peak hours and 6.30 for adults on peak hours.
London Buses commands about 8,000 vehicles covering 700 routes, making it one of the biggest bus systems in the world. About 1.5 million passengers ride the buses each year. One-way fare is 2. One-day bus passes for 3.50 and seven-day bus passes for 13 are also available. The electronic Oyster Cards, used on other Transport for London transportation, can be used on the buses at a rate of 0.90.
London River Services
London River Services operate commuter journeys along the River Thames. With a network of 24 piers and five new piers added in 2000 at a cost of over 7 million, the service is now used by more than 2,000 passengers every day and approximately three million people a year. River buses run Monday through Friday every 15 minutes. Fares vary based on pier.
Rental car companies are numerous and most service all London airports. Common companies include Hertz, Avis, Europcar, National, Alamo and Enterprise.
Hackney Carriages are the only official licensed black cabs to shuttle visitors around the city in one of 21,000 vehicles. Guests will immediately spot the yellow "hire" light that is situated on top of the vehicles. Rates are based on time of day, the distance covered and the speed of the taxi. The minimum fare is 2.20. A five- to 12-minute journey costs around 5 to 8 before 8 PM and an eight- to 15-minute journey ranges from 7 to 11.
Photo Credit : visitlondonimages/ britainonview
There are no current promotions in London, England.
Interested in placing a promotion? Call Cvent for information on advertising opportunities at 1-866-318-4358.