Coming to London on business doesn't have to mean all meetings and no fun. The British capital is proud of its work-hard, play-hard ethos and you'll see crowds of businessmen and women - whether suited-and-booted or in smart-casual hipster attire - embracing the city's buzzing after-work culture. Here are the best ways to get into the groove.
After Work Drinks
Londoners love to chat over a pint of beer or glass of wine, al fresco if the weather allows. Thousands of potential hotspots dot the city, and one place that consistently bustles with after-workers is The Holborn Whippet, a sleek pub with a front terrace on Bloomsbury's Sicilian Avenue. You'll see drinking and mingling at the historic taverns of The City of London and also in Soho and Covent Garden, where Lamb & Flag usually has (people) pavement spillage out front and a snug bygone interior if it starts raining - as it occasionally does in London.The skyscraper-packed financial district of Canary Wharf has oodles of slick watering holes, and if you fancy a really good cocktail, try Dandelyan, a multi-award winning bar inside Mondrian at Sea Containers Hotel, on the south side of the River Thames. You can sip and enjoy nibbles with inspiring views (look to your right and the mighty dome of St Paul's Cathedral will catch your eye).
Something To Eat
Drinks can often, of course, lead to dinner, and there's a fabulous array of culinary options, whether you're dining with colleagues or on your own. Solo travellers can find quick and tasty sustenance in pubs like The Punch Tavern on Fleet Street, in noodle and sushi joints in and around Chinatown, and on the so-called 'Pho Mile' on Kingsland Road near Shoreditch, where you can sit by the window and watch the world (OK, east London) breezing by as you tuck into authentic Vietnamese fare. Many eateries have 'solo' seats at their bars, such as Dishoom, an upmarket Bombay-style cafe with branches in several places including King's Cross. Dishoom is also ideal for camaraderie-building group dinners, with lots of small aromatic plates to share. Want to make a striking impression on clients? Book somewhere like Duck & Waffle, London's highest 24/7 restaurant, on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower on Bishopsgate near Liverpool Street station.
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Although most of London's world-famous cultural attractions operate regular office hours, they do have the odd after-hours openings. The British Museum, for example, runs 'Friday Lates', when you can browse its extraordinary artefacts, such as the Rosetta Stone and relics from ancient Greece until 8.30pm. The National Gallery, which showcases an array of art from across the globe in a grand building overlooking Trafalgar Square, shuts at 9pm on Fridays. If you like going to a show, you're spoilt for choice in London. Drama, comedy and musicals attract spectators to various venues, from opulent West End playhouses and theatre-pubs to unique spots like Shakespeare's Globe and The Royal Albert Hall, a haven of opera and other classical music, in Kensington.
Letting Off Steam
Sometimes you just want to get a sweat on and burn off a bit of that work stress. Most business-friendly hotels have gyms with weights and cardio equipment, and in the case of The Ned hotel near the Bank of England, a boxing ring. Yoga classes are available across the city, including in The Shard, London's loftiest building. If you prefer to exercise by the waterfront, jogger-friendly trails line both the River Thames and other waterways, such as the Regent's Canal, which threads 14km between north-west and east London. You'll also see runners pounding the trails of London's green spaces, including Hyde Park and neighbouring Kensington Gardens.
Visit London during the summer months - basically June to September, though it can be warm and sunny as early as April and as late as October - you'll have opportunities to let your hair down at an outdoor festival or two. Boasting top DJs and live bands, Field Day takes over Brixton's Brockwell Park (this year on Friday June 1 and Saturday June 2). Eric Clapton, Michael Buble and Bruno Mars will be the star turns at British Summer Time, a festival in Hyde Park from July 6-14. One of the nicest venues for an al fresco performance is the courtyard of Somerset House, a palatial landmark off Strand. Its summer series, held this year between July 5 and 15, includes a line-up of established and emerging artists, with American hip-hop icons, De La Soul, among those set to appear. Planning to be in London at the end of August? The Notting Hill Carnival is a vibrant Caribbean-style street party that spans a couple of days, but is bound to last much longer in the memory.