If you’re a frequent business traveller, chances are you’re someone who loves embracing new experiences and cultures. And you probably find it frustrating that you don’t get enough downtime in the great cities you visit for business to appreciate them fully.
In fact, according to a recent survey by Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts around a third of business travellers say downtime is the best part of their trips, the worst part being not having enough free time to explore the destination. 88% of business travellers surveyed do make an effort to see at least some of the city they’re doing business in. Some business travellers even say their favourite destination is somewhere they’ve never been to before.
Appreciating that downtime is important for overall wellbeing, over two-thirds of business travellers surveyed by Crowne Plaza tack a holiday onto the beginning or end of a trip, visiting famous local landmarks, galleries and museums, guided tours, and of course, the perennial favourite – sampling authentic local food and drink. When you choose to stay somewhere that’s centrally located in a prime business location, such as a Crowne Plaza hotel, you can step straight out into the heart of each city and start exploring immediately - whether you have just an hour to spare between meetings or a half day.
Some may argue that Paris is probably more exciting than Preston when it comes to a business trip, but there are other, slightly more unexpected jewels in the business travel crown. Here are our five top picks.
Home of many company HQs and international trade fairs, France’s third largest city is a dynamic place to do business. It’s astonishingly historic too, and well worth exploring in your downtime. Start with the wonderfully-preserved Roman amphitheatre on Fourvière Hill before heading down to the UNESCO-listed old city. As you wander the narrow streets, look out for Lyon’s unique traboules – winding covered alleyways used by 19th-century silk merchants to keep their precious fabrics dry, and later as secret passages for the French Résistance to stay one step ahead of the Nazi occupiers.
Renaissance architecture and the striking Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière contrast with the steel, glass and greenery of the ambitious Confluence urban renewal neighbourhood. The Musée des Beaux Arts (almost as good as Paris’s Louvre) and the perception-challenging Museum of Contemporary Art offer cultural interludes. You’ll find the most authentic Lyonnaise cuisine and regional wines served in the bouchons – homely restaurants with distinctive gingham tablecloths.
Lovely, intimate Porto, with distinctive blue ceramic tiles (azulejos) on many buildings, has enough attractions to fill a business trip’s downtime, but not too many to overwhelm you. The entire, walkable city centre is a UNESCO-listed open-air museum, taking in pretty waterfront Ribiera on one side of the River Douro, and the historic port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia on the other. Spanning both is Porto’s behemothic landmark: the arched, steel Luis I bridge, designed by a partner of Gustave Eiffel. Must-dos include climbing the Baroque Clérigos Tower, for fabulous city views; seeing the gilded interior of the Bolsa Palace, and the breathtaking sweeping wooden staircases and carved panelled ceilings of the Livraria Lello bookshop – rumoured to have been J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts School.
You’ll never eat badly in Porto. Cod features heavily, as does caldo verde, a comforting kale soup. Look out for the hearty Francesinha – a meat-packed sandwich covered in sauce and smothered in grilled cheese. And Porto is the home of port – don’t leave town without trying this delicious fortified wine.
The World Bank cites Copenhagen as Europe’s easiest place to do business, with its attractive business facilities and can-do labour market ethos. When you’re not sealing a deal with one of Copenhagen’s innovative companies, the city itself offers some welcoming Scandi downtime. Wander around Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s heritage harbour, pausing for smørrebrød (open sandwiches) and snegls (cinnamon pastries) at its fashionably hygge eateries before you give a nod to the lovelorn Little Mermaid – Copenhagen’s symbolic statue. If Vikings interest you, the National Museum inside the Prince’s Palace has an astonishing ethnographical section. One way to see Copenhagen is by rented bike – it’s the world’s most cycle-friendly city with 450km of dedicated routes. Or, take to the water on a canal boat tour to see the capital from a different perspective.
Start-up central and technological business hub, Berlin has enough interesting things to fill a whole week. It’s also possible to appreciate this fascinating city in bitesize chunks between meetings. Fancy browsing art and culture? There’s the UNESCO-listed Museum Island featuring five world-class museums next to each other. Want a late visit to a Berlin icon? The Reichstag and the ‘eye in the sky’ Berlin TV Tower are open until midnight; while the the Berlin Wall can be visited at any time. U-Bahns are an efficient way to get about the city, although walking is best for absorbing Berlin’s unique, historic atmosphere.
There’s no typical Berlin cuisine (unless you count currywurst); it’s diverse and inventive, from Michelin-starred fine dining to international street snacks and food trucks scattered across the city. And Berlin’s nightlife is legendary, whether you prefer clubbing or cabaret.
Retaining number one spot as a City of Opportunity, London offers a fantastically-connected, slick global hub for business travel. It’s a vibrant city for downtime too – its beautiful, quirky skyline where asymmetrical modern skyscrapers stand shoulder to shoulder with Baroque opulence, towers over exciting, culturally diverse areas and clean green spaces. London offers world-class art and culture – Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the British Museum and the Natural History Museum all have late-opening evenings. Stroll among the bohemian South Bank’s street performers to the Globe Theatre and experience Shakespeare as it was originally performed, or catch a musical in the West End’s glittering theatreland. There’s no shortage of Michelin-starred restaurants, and you can take a gastronomic tour of London’s diversity in Chinatown, Borough Market and Brick Lane’s curry mile and bagel bakeries.
Choose a hotel that’s close to the heart of the city
To make the most of your downtime on a business trip, choose a hotel that’s not only in a prime business location, but also within easy reach of local transport links and the best things to see and do as you gear down after a busy working day. Crowne Plaza® has hotels in the hearts of Lyon, Porto, Copenhagen, Berlin and London, as well as other European cities, and understands how important it is to take care of the whole you during your business trip, whether you’re working or relaxing.
Crowne Plaza has more than 95 hotels across Europe in prime business locations, so wherever you’re headed for business, chances are, they’re already there.
To find out more about how Crowne Plaza is changing the face of modern business travel, or to book a room, visit crowneplaza.com/businessmostly