Things to do in London

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford"

That famous Samuel Johnson quote was true back in 1777, and it's even truer now. London is a thriving city that attracts over 15 million international visitors a year, and attendees at this year's UXPA 2014 conference will be spoiled for choice when it comes to planning activities outside of the conference. The Park Plaza Hotel conference venue is conveniently located in the heart of the city, making it easy to make the most of your trip and enjoy London’s range of world-class attractions.

We've summarized a few key activities you might find helpful when planning your trip, but please check out the links at the bottom of this page for events and happenings during your stay!

And don't forget the "guided pub crawl" Design, Drink & Dander: The Ol' Thames Pub Crawl, starting at 3:30pm on Wednesday 23rd July from the conference benue. Join us and relax with a delightful walk and drink along the beautiful Thames! Reserve your spot now for £8!

Art & Design

The UXPA 2014 conference venue is a five minute walk to the Thames and the South Bank arts centre. If it's a nice day, there's nothing better than a stroll along the river to the jaw-dropping Tate Modern, Britain’s home of contemporary art.  As you're walking through Bankside's Cultural Quarter, keep an eye out for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre along the way, where you can still watch a play in the 'yard', with the rest of the peasants!

Or, take the Tube to the Victoria & Albert Museum – the V&A as the locals say – home to the world's leading museum of art and design.

The Globe Theatre:

The Globe Theatre is just a walk away on the South Bank and is a reconstruction of a traditional Shakespearian theatre experience.  Walk along the south bank until you go past the Millennium footbridge. You will pass the Tate Modern and then just off Bankside will be the thatch roof The Globe. Please note that most tickets will be for a completely outdoor theatre experience so watch the weather. There are tours available during the day until 17.30 and evening shows at 19.30. You will be able to catch a performance of Julius Cesar or Antony & Cleopatra during the conference week.

Standing tickets in the ‘yard’ start at £5 (these have the best view of the stage), with more expensive tickets for the seated areas.

Before the show, walk around the surrounding narrow streets for a feel of what London used to be like. The site of the Globe used to be London’s main entertainment zone way back in time.

Tate Modern:

Right next to the Globe theatre is the Tate Modern in what used to be the Bankside power station. General admission is free, however some special exhibitions will require you to buy tickets.

Opening times: 10.00 – 18.00 (22.00 on Friday and Saturday)

If you can, try the famous on site restaurant that is acclaimed for having one of the best views of London. From here you’ll be able to see St. Paul’s Cathedral right across the river.

Traditional Sightseeing

Many of London’s traditional sights are also within easy reach of the conference. Looking out from the hotel venue you'll see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace both nearby. Tower Bridge and the Tower of London can be reached by river bus from the hotel.

For arguably the best views in London, you'll want to book a spin on the London Eye. This giant ferris wheel holds large, enclosed capsules that rotate slowly around to give you a bird's eye view of the entire city. Even on a cloudy day, it's a lovely way to spend 30 minutes, but the absolute best time to book a 'flight' is at dusk, with the sun setting over the Thames as you go up and the lights of London twinkling below as you come down the other side.

London has a lot of sights to see, and what better way to spend your long summer evening than taking a walk around this historical city and visiting some the best attractions in the world? Below you will find a few picks we've put together; feel free to read on or explore our custom made Google map.

Big Ben and the houses of parliament:

From the Park Plaza conference hotel you just cross over Westminster Bridge and the houses of parliament are just on the river on your left. Guided tours are available to visitors on Saturdays only and cost £25. We recommend booking tickets in advance.

Next head north along Whitehall, the centre stage of British government. Along the way you will pass Downing Street, home of the prime minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

At the top of Whitehall you will reach another famous landmark, Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column as the centre piece. All distances to London are traditionally measured from here. On the other side of the Square is the impressive National Gallery building, where you can see paintings by some of the most famous artists, including Monet, Claude, Raphael, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Michelangelo to name just a few. Best of all entry is free!

  • National Gallery opening times: 10.00 – 18.00 (21.00 on Fridays)
  • Entry: Free

Why not take a detour through St. James’ Park on your way back to the Park Plaza.

Places to eat/drink:

Try the Trafalgar Hotel Roof Garden for cocktails overlooking Trafalgar Square

Stop off for a coffee and food by the lake in St. James’ Park

Buckingham Palace:

Head across the river from the Park Plaza on Westminster Bridge. On Parliament Square why not start your royal walk by visiting Westminster Abbey, just opposite the houses of parliament building on. This is of course where Kate and William wed.

  • Westminster Abbey opening times: 09.30 – 15.30
  • Last guided group tour: 15.00
  • Abbey Museum: 10.30 – 16.30
  • Entry price: £18 (£15 as part of a tour)
  • Website: http://www.westminster-abbey.org/home

Then head up to Trafalgar Square along Whitehall. When you hit Trafalgar Square, turn left and take a leafy stroll down The Mall until you come to Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence. From Saturday 26 July visitors will be able to see the state rooms. Tickets can be purchased online and cost £21.

Stop off for food on the way back:

Try the excellent value for money Italian Family Café: Bon Gusto Café on Buckingham Gate, before heading back towards the river along Birdgage Walk.

Tower Bridge & The City:

Take the ‘tube’ from Westminster to London Bridge via the Jubilee Line (the grey one!). Exit at London Bridge and take in the views of The Shard, Europe’s tallest building.

At the Shard you can take the elevator to the highest viewing platform in London. Advance online tickets are £25, but more expensive on the door. Or instead of spending £25 on an elevator trip, put it towards a meal by visiting one of the 3 restaurants located on floors 31, 32, and 33.

Next walk east along Tooley Street and then take a left on Tower Bridge Road.  Tours around Tower Bridge are very reasonably priced compared to other London attractions:

  • Guided tour of London Bridge: £9
  • Tour of London Bridge and the Monument (Christopher Wren's tribute to the Great Fire of London: £10.50
  • Evening tours (private booking): Evening tours can be booked for groups of 10 – 20 at a cost of £21.50 per person and offer fabulous sunset views across London. Please contact the London Experience Team if you can organise a group of 10 or more.
  • Website: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/TBE/EN/Exhibition/Tours+and+Guided+Tours.htm

Cross over Tower Bridge to the north bank and you should see the Tower of London on your left.

Tower of London opening times:

From here you can also walk around the City of London, one of the biggest and oldest financial centres in the world. Check out the Sky Lounge at the Hilton on Pepys Street for a drink with great views of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London

Food & Entertainment

London has become a hub of cooking styles from around the world, with thousands of restaurants catering for every taste and budget. The aforementioned South Bank is teeming with outdoor bars and cafes, as well as great pop-up restaurants. Or, if you feel adventurous, head a bit further afield to Borough Market near London Bridge to try artisanal food. 

London is famous for its' theatres and the West End is home to over 40 theatres. You can often buy 'returns' on the day for popular shows that same night, or try one of the official half-price ticket booths in Leicester Square. Top tip: Almost all the big-name actors will come to the stage door after the show, so if you fancy an autograph from Jude Law or Kim Cattrall, you won't be disappointed!

And, if music's your thing, well, London has been known to produce the odd decent band now and then! You can catch up-and-coming and touring acts in places such as The Borderline or head to Camden where the pubs and clubs showcase new music every night of the week. If it's big names you're after, check listings for Shepherd's Bush Empire, Brixton Academy or the O2 Arena.

There's also a strong comedy scene in London, with major names regularly selling out venues such as Wembley Arena and the Hammersmith Apollo. You can also catch rising stars at venues such as the world-famous Comedy Store and the Soho Theatre.

Soho Dining:

Take a tube from Waterloo on the South Bank to Tottenham Court Road on the Northern line (the black one!). From there you have the beginning of Oxford Street, one of the most famous shopping streets in London. You are also in the heart of the West End and London’s theatre district that is spread across Covent Garden, Soho and Piccadilly Circus.

We suggest you take a stroll around Soho, via Soho Square and onto some of the famous streets like Wardour Street, Poland Street, Carnaby Street and Old Compton Street.

Be careful late at night, although generally the area is very safe and tourist friendly.

Two very lively Latin flavoured cocktail bars and restaurants in the famous Soho area are Floridita (which often has live shows) and Bario Central (which has music, DJs and dancing in the evenings on weekends)

Or if you prefer a good old fashioned American style BBQ then head over to Bodeans on Poland Street

Alternatively, head towards the Leicester Square end of Soho until you hit Gerrard Street, the centre of London’s China town. Here you will be spoilt for choice for restaurants, but the local have a lot of great things to say about the Four Seasons and in particular the roast duck and crispy belly pork dishes.

Thames Boat Trips:

The Park Plaza hotel is perfectly located to take a post conference river taxi down the Thames. The evenings are the perfect time to see the city light up its historic sites and the modern glass high rises that now line the City and Canary Wharf. The Riverboat service runs till 22.00 – 23.00 making it a perfect evening activity.

Try the return trip from Westminster (hop on at the Embankment/ London Eye departure point) to Greenwich Arsenal during the evening. Sites along the way include the houses of parliament, St. Pauls, the Shard, The City of London financial district, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, and the Millennium Dome to name but a few.

If you want to do some sightseeing you can purchase the River Roamer and hop on and off at various stops along the route that include: Bankside (for Tate Modern and Globe theatre), Millennium Dome, or North Greenwich for the Emirates cable car. Otherwise at Greenwich you can visit the maritime museum:

Brick Lane and Shoreditch:

If you’re in the mood for going a little further afield why not try a stroll around the east end of London where London's digital start up scene and creative agencies are thriving in converted warehouses and former biscuit factories. This area that stretches from Liverpool Street Station to Old Street roundabout is home of Google's London Campus, the Silicon Roundabout, hipsters and one of the liveliest nightlife and party scenes in the world. A good place to appreciate emerging fashion, urban culture and street art (you might spot the odd Banksy). There is an abundance of interesting places to drink and eat such as:

Or for views of the City financial district from the 39th floor lounge:

Britain & Beyond

London is obviously well connected to the rest of the UK and Europe, so you can easily extend your trip to visit other popular destinations such as Bath, Oxford, Edinburgh, or one of the many European destinations that are a short flight away. Dublin. Barcelona, Berlin and Rome are just a short flight away from any of the major airports around the capital. Or, why not jump on the Eurostar to Paris or Brussels for a whirlwind day trip? Top tip: Even if you don't actually get on the Eurostar, pop in to the glamorous St. Pancras International rail station for some primo bubbly at Europe's longest champagne bar!

More Information: