A new survey says Brits are falling in love with London again, with the majority preferring to holiday in the city versus other European city breaks.
The research, commissioned by London & Partners, which runs Visit London, also says 60% are proud to call London their capital city.
The findings coincide with the launch of a new Tourism Vison, which outlines the city’s plans to transform its tourism and hospitality industry by 2030.
Before the health crisis, the city attracted over 20m international visitors a year.
Of course, London has long been a magnet for overseas visitors as well but, post pandemic (and Brexit), does it remain such a draw for people from Belgium?
Well, when it comes to booking a city break you could not do much better. London offer more sights, more choice in restaurants and cafes, and easier transport options than many other similar city getaways. In fact, the same London & Partners research says that, when it comes to city trips, London was rated as having more to offer than global competitor cities Paris, Amsterdam and Rome.
To coincide with the research, this website has compiled a short list of “must see’s” and “must do’s” for any tourist visit to London.
When it comes to the kind of activities Brits are looking for from a travel trip, almost a quarter said their favourite part of London is its historical sites, with London Eye being one of most iconic landmarks and top 5 choices.
The lastminute.com London Eye, which opened in 2000 and has featured in international films, is centrally located on the River Thames in the heart of the capital, positioned opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.The experience showcases breath-taking 360-degree views of London’s skyline and its famous landmarks and has been the number one visitor experience in the city (and the UK’s most popular paid for visitor attraction) for the past decade.
At 135m, the London Eye is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel; a feat of design and engineering it has become the modern symbol representing the capital and a global icon.The attraction is open to visitors from 11am to 6pm every day (tickets start from £32.50).
London’s Science Museum is a major museum on Exhibition Road in South Kensington. Founded in 1857 and, with a world renowned collection, is one of the city’s major tourist attractions.
It currently hosts a temporary sci-fi exhibition, an immersive experience in which visitors are taken on an imagined interstellar voyage and which explores connections between science and science fiction on themes including space travel, cyborgs, alien life and threats to humanity. Visitors land on an “unexplored planet” while, en route, commentary is provided by a fictional female AI agent, Alann (Algorithmically Autonomous Neural Network), whose disembodied face appears on computer screens throughout the gallery.
Several fascinating objects are on display, including a Star Trek costume, a Dalek and Darth Vader’s helmet.
Not far away is another must see activity here: the Cutty Sark. It tells of the global race for tea and the lives of the people who lived and worked on this famous ship, said to be the fastest of her time. In 954 it was moved to a dry dock in Greenwich where it remains today.
Regular events on board, from craft workshops and shanty singing to character actors, help to make the voyage even more entertaining.
An immersive tour of another kind entirely – and rather more modern – takes you to north London and the home of the Tottenham Hotspur FC where several top Belgian footballers have plied their trade over the years.
Indeed the names of famous Belgian stars like Mousa Dembele, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and, further back in time, Nico Claesen are all included on a huge list of players, past and present, that is part of this fascinating tour.
Informative guides, such as lifelong Spurs fan Nick, will entertain you on no end of intriguing facts and figures about what is said to be the most state of the art stadiums in the world.
With a pitch that can be fully retracted under one of the stands (so as to accommodate American football and other events) you’ll be amazed as just how far football grounds have come and this is the newest and most modern of grounds in the English Premier League. The Dare Skywalk” also gives you the chance to view the stadium and its surrounds – some 46.8 metres above the pitch. The 90-minute tour takes in everything from the changing rooms to luxury lounges where fans and sponsors can quaff champagne during a game.
After all that dashing around the city, you’ll be in need of some serious refreshment too and we’ve selected a “top 3” eateries to head for.
As befits a city boasting a melting pot of cultures like London, our selection reflects the multiple and diverse culinary offerings the city has to offer, ranging from Spanish/Scottish food to Indian and Lebanese.
Two of these below (Maresco and Dishoom) are also among the most recent to open in London.
Right in the centre of London, just a stone’s throw from Oxford Street, is Maresco, a fabulous tea shop-turned-cosy resto which, after a major refurb, is now packing them in.
Owner Stephen Lironi hails from Scotland and is a former leading record producer in the 1990s. The affable and friendly Stephen was inspired to pull the plug on his former career and enter the horeca sector after reading a newspaper article one day.
He recalls how it told how the best Scottish seafood would leave Scotland headed for Spain as there was no domestic market for the more esoteric or, indeed, expensive catches. His love of Spanish cuisine dates back to family holidays to Palamos in the 1970s.
Fast forward to the present and, in partnership with his Barcelona-born executive head chef Pablo Rodriguez (the two first met at another resto about a decade ago), Stephen is now indulging his passion for serving up really mouth-watering Spanish dishes with a focus on Scottish seafood.
Judging by the popularity of the place it’s a passion shared by many others too even though Maresco only opened a recently as last autumn.
The idea here (and at a couple of other excellent restos he runs in two other parts of London, Crouch End and Stoke Newington) is to serve some of the best Scottish seafood available alongside some of the best Spanish produce.
Stephen likens running a successful restaurant to producing a live show or concert and, with some terrific and particularly inventive dishes (plus a very affordable menu which is regularly changed) any visit here is sure to hit all the high notes.
Another highly recommended spot to eat, located in London’s bustling Canary Wharf district, is the multiple award-winning Dishoom, inspired by old style Bombay café culture and serving some very tasty Indian-inspired cuisine. With its modernist design and artwork, it seeks to pay “tribute” to Bombay’s “bustling spirit.” It has restos of the same name in other parts of London but the huge and atmospheric Canary Wharf site, tucked away in a lovely corner of Wood Wharf, is the newest.
There are no traditional starters or mains as such here but, rather, “small plates”, grills and other dishes but all are delicious (as is the breakfast served daily until 11.45am).
Worth noting too that for every meal consumed here, the resto very generously and commendably donates a meal to a child (that’s an estimated 15 million meals so far).It works with two charities – Magic Breakfast in the UK and Akshaya Patra in India – who provide free meals to schools.
Making up our “top 3” recommended restos is Comptoir Libanaise which showcases excellent cuisine from Lebanon.
It has no less than 9 locations in London alone (with others elsewhere in the UK) and the London Bridge site,located next to the mainline rail station, is particularly colourful and cheerful. Considering the central London location (and the quality of the food served here) the prices are also very democratic.
Owner Tony Kitous (who first arrived in the city as an 18-year-old with just £70 to his name) has now built up a “mini empire” and aims to merge traditional Arabic cooking with easy contemporary eating.
He wants to make Lebanese food as mainstream and popular as, say, Italian because he strongly believes the food of the Middle East “is the best in the world.”
Of course, any visit to London really does demand at least one overnight stay and, with prices in the very centre of London notoriously high, it’s good to consider other options.
One such place is Bermondsey, in fact, just down the road from London Bridge and in an area that has been the focus of a recent but rapid and exhilarating revival.
A great place for a stopover (short or long) is The Bermondsey Square Hotel, which boasts 90 designer bedrooms, including a series of suites with great views of The London Eye and The Shard.
On the ground floor, guests are welcomed to the cottage-feel floor where a touch of country life meets the bustling and hipster vibes of the newly–restored square outside. There’s a secluded library space where WiFi is complimentary in what has become a working hub for many in the local area.
This hotel is ideal for families or small groups as it has family and interconnecting rooms, perfect for those who want to stay together.
The family rooms are light and bright and have a sofa bed to accommodate an extra person or two. Interconnecting rooms have connecting doors, allowing you privacy but with easy access to the adjourning room. Worth noting that kids under 12 years of age stay free and there’s a lovely and hearty breakfast served.
Before it opened in 2009, the idea of a 4-star hotel in this area was apparently met with some scorn in most quarters so the recent boom here shows how far the area has come in the intervening period.
This quirky and very pleasant hotel, affectionately known as B2, is located in a now particularly trendy part of the city. It has been featured on Channel 4’s ‘Hotel GB’ and was named the UK’s Most Stylish Hotel by TripAdvisor, high praise indeed but well deserved.
Summing up the city’s enduring appeal, London Mayor Sadiq Khan says, “Tourism is the key driver of London’s economy, supports 500,000 jobs and is one of the cornerstones of our diverse, vibrant, global city.”
So, with the school half term (and even Easter) fast approaching if you are thinking of a great city break, you’d do well to consider London, a perennial old favourite that is clearly as popular as ever.
It’s a great time to check out why the Brits are again falling in love with their capital.