How To Make The Most Of Your Work Trip Down Time In London

By Sarah Lakos

Just touched down in London-town? Exciting! Planning to spend a lot of time in a meeting room? Less exciting! Cheer up, chappy, because there's plenty of time to impress your colleagues, drink some tea with the Brits, ace your important meetings, and get out to experience this fascinating city.

We've partnered with Hilton Hotels & Resorts to help you make the most of those precious hours between meetings, and if you're lucky, a free afternoon or a spare Saturday. Hilton properties allow you to seamlessly balance your wellness, business, and leisure routines. Situated within the Southbank neighborhood, Hilton London Bankside is a great option if you're looking to be in the heart of it all — with restaurants, landmarks, and shopping districts easily accessible. Better yet, the hotel offers Bamboo Bicycle Club rentals, making getting around even easier. (True story — these bikes, complimentary for all hotel guests, were made bespoke as an exciting project by the hotel team members).

As a proud London-dweller, I'm sharing the recommendations I regularly dish out to close friends and family. I've also consulted a couple of experts to weigh in on the things you can't miss. Pop the kettle on, and open your browser: Here are a few all-purpose, no-fail London itineraries for your work trip downtime, whether you have two, four, six, or eight hours to explore the city. Cheerio!

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If you only have a short amount of time between meetings, I’d suggest a quick spin around the buzzy precinct of Seven Dials and Covent Garden. Take an 18 minute ride on the tube, or opt for a 12-minute spin on your Hilton London Bankside Bamboo Bike to the Seven Dials roundabout, just off Shaftesbury Avenue. It’s an epicenter of shops, cafes, and theaters. Need a coffee? TY Seven Dials cafe is packed with hot, laptop-toting creatives and Londoners caffeinating. Zigzag your way over Long Acre to the old world Covent Garden marketplace, where you'll find plenty of pop-up shops and cute vendor stalls.

If you’re ready for a cocktail, return to Hilton London Bankside for a drink at their craft cocktail bar The Distillery. Located on the site that was once a famous essence factory in the industrial age, the cocktails at this place tip their hats to their history with their use of homemade aromatics, infusions and bitters. Order a drink with their house-made gin for an extra bit of British flair. Plus, they have a perfectly 'grammable wall made entirely out of pennies — perfect for that Insta-shot of your expert-made cocktail.

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If you’re keen to stretch your legs, there’s nothing like strolling along South Bank on a gorgeous London day. Luckily, if you're staying at Hilton London Bankside, you're literally right there. Speaking of right there, the Tate Modern is a mere three minute walk from your hotel. As home to one of the premier modern and contemporary art collections in the world, it's a must see. Or if you'd rather just stroll by, make sure to get a photo in front of the iconic structure that was once the Bankside Power Station.

As a foodie, I’m naturally drawn to the Borough Markets, so I suggest heading there after engaging in some culture. Take your pick of baked treats and a bevy of lunch options (including an outrageously photogenic paella). It's just a 10 minute walk from your hotel. Once you’re finished with the market's visual feast, you can take a walk along the most photogenic part (IMHO) of the Thames. Starting along the Southwalk Bridge, you'll see plenty of iconic Londontown mainstays. With an hour or so to spare, stroll past Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament for a quintessentially British photo opp.

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It’s time to hit the canal and go east. That’s right, London has a pretty spectacular canal system that you can walk (or boat!) along. As an East Londoner, I love spending time along the Regent’s Canal walk. That's a leisurely 45 minute walk, or 20 minute bike ride from Hilton London Bankside.

I suggest starting from Angel with brunch or a coffee from one of the many trendy Upper Street cafes or restaurants. Once you’re fed and watered, locate the canal pedestrian path starting via Colebrooke Row. A word to the wise: you’re sharing this busy path with cyclists, dog walkers, prams, and runners on any given day. It can get busy! Stay on the straight (and narrow) for approximately 45 minutes and you’ll arrive at Broadway Market. If you decide to extend your trip to a Saturday, you’ll can follow a crowd to the stall-packed road, where food, vintage clothes, and homewares will tempt your wallet.

And if you're ready for lunch, Sonya Barber, author of East London: An Opinionated Guide, has one can't-miss recommendation: "Stop in at Bright and get the fried lasagne. Trust me," she says.

Image provided by Hilton Hotels & Resorts

Perhaps you have full day free in London. Maybe you came in a day ahead of your meetings to beat the jet lag, with the added bonus of having time for a classic British day. This itinerary is for you. Take the tube about 40 minutes from Hilton London Bankside to Notting Hill at Portobello Road. It’s lined with sensationally photogenic pastel houses, shops, and arcades filled with antiquities. My favorite game is to play "buy, renovate, sell" along any of the dreamy streets.

An insider's tip from Julie Taylor, owner of the dreamy blog, London Is Pink: "Without a doubt, the prettiest street to explore is St. Luke's Mews! It's home to a famous pink mews house and has plenty of other scene-stealing houses to snap for the 'gram. It's a few blocks from Portobello Road, and just around the corner from the best Scandi cinnamon buns in the city."

Next, grab a bike for a spin around Hyde Park. The key things not to miss are Kensington Palace (which is open for various exhibitions year-round) and the Serpentine. If you’re feeling adventurous and your legs aren’t jelly by now, pedal to Hyde Park Corner to wave at Buckingham Palace ('cause I mean, you've gotta). From here, take the tube about 12 minutes back to Hilton London Bankside, where you can enjoy dinner at OXBO. Their menu is stocked with British classics (like an Aberdeen Angus Beef burger) and international dishes (like Sea Bream ceviche). Save some room for the Full English Breakfast in the morning, though. Your belly will thank you.

For more content on making the most out of your business trip, visit our "Doing The Most" hub.

This post is sponsored by Hilton Hotels & Resorts.