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The best conference venues in London
18th July 2017
London: the UK’s financial, legal and cultural hub.
With all of the ‘Magic Circle’ law firms and 70% of FTSE 100 companies headquartered in the city, the number of business meetings, working lunches, networking events and conferences which must take place in the capital every year is truly mind-boggling.
It is no surprise, therefore, that London’s conference sector is currently booming. Whether your next event is an annual business review, an awards ceremony, or an employment fair for filling your paralegal and lawyer vacancies, there is no doubt that you will be able to find a venue to suit your company’s needs (as well as your budget).
We spoke to a selection of the capital’s premier conference venues about why delegates and event organisers would enjoy the surroundings they provide, which facilities make them stand out from the crowd, and how conveniently they are located in what is, of course, a tremendously busy city.
London’s best conference venues
One Great George Street
Nearest Tube stations: Westminster / St James’s Park
Located squarely in the heart of the City, One Great George Street in Westminster is the headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Whilst it has been available for hire as a conference venue for nearly 30 years, the building itself has been a recognisable part of London’s streets for over a century.
As the venue’s own corporate team explain, ‘One Great George Street lives up to its name by successfully juggling its historic beauty with technical innovation and exceptional service. The venue occupies an enviable and convenient location just a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament. It attracts diverse event organisers including law firms, political parties, embassies, universities, pharmaceutical organisations and the travel trade to name a few. It never, however, rests on its laurels. Renowned for its high quality of standards and service, this historic yet highly innovative venue has gained an excellent reputation for hosting successful events of diverse sizes and for distinct markets.’
One Great George Street is also rightly proud of its accessibility credentials, and is described as ‘the most accessible historic conference venue in Westminster. The venue enables anyone, regardless of ability, to participate fully in any event. This has been recognised by winning accessibility awards including the coveted Cateys award for Best Accessible Venue. For One Great George Street, accessibility is not just about complying with the legislation set out in the 2010 Equality Act (although the venue does do this, and reviews its policies regularly). It’s about delivering faultless service to all the venue’s guests, including those with impairments.’
As well as its excellent technological and catering facilities, it would also be something of an understatement to describe One Great George Street as ‘historic’. The picture above shows the venue’s stunning centrepiece, the Great Hall. Now available for your next conference, it has in the past been used as the setting for such momentous events as the signing of the UNESCO charter in 1945. We think it is fair to say that this room, which seats 260 and has a standing capacity of 400, has rather more historical significance than most meeting rooms!
Nearest Tube stations Oxford Circus / Regent’s Park / Great Portland Street
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is described as ‘the collective voice of architecture’, and as such has a vital role to play in ensuring the continued excellence of the UK’s built environment.
What you may not have known about the institute, however, is that it has also recently established itself as one of the capital’s premier conference venues from its headquarters at 66 Portland Place, located conveniently near Regent’s Park and Oxford Street. Head of Venues Moya Maxwell told us why businesses should consider RIBA when thinking about their next event:
’As a purpose-built venue with museum status, the headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects occupies a unique position within the London venue sector. In today’s competitive market, conference organisers are looking for professional venues with something memorable. With outside spaces, daylight flooded rooms, contemporary and Art Deco styles and stunning views over London, we offer unique spaces; and, with three galleries and tailored building tours, we create lasting memories of every visit.
‘Since 2014 we have been one of London’s leading venues to offer conference space for 400 delegates, with the catering and exhibition area being one dedicated, light-filled room leading onto a private terrace. In addition, we can offer 20 different sized breakout rooms for workshop sessions.
‘Our venue team are experienced event specialists, fully dedicated to providing a personal and flexible service. We are constantly striving to exceed our customers’ expectations, whether by offering added extras for delegates to enhance their experience or creating bespoke packages for easy budgeting.
‘Our in-house technical team offers expert advice to customers and speakers and stays abreast of all the fastest-moving technological trends. We offer extended services from third party advisers, which include web streaming and video conferencing experts. We check equipment and speaker presentations, as well as offering rehearsals and sound checks to give our clients every assurance of a seamless production.’
Nearest Tube stations: Liverpool Street / Moorgate / Barbican
The Brewery, meanwhile, is a fascinating and historic venue not far from Liverpool Street which, unsurprisingly, began its life as a brewery – it was home to Whitbread, which moved into the purpose-built site as long ago as 1750, with operations continuing there until 1976.
James Varah, Commercial Director at The Brewery, told us about all the advantages the venue has to offer as a setting for conferences and other business events:
‘Located in the heart of the City of London, The Brewery is well connected and recognised for corporate events, particularly among financial organisations and emerging East London tech companies.
‘The size and variety of the eight spaces at The Brewery, alongside modern facilities and high-spec digital technology, allows the venue to cater for conferences from 30 to 1,800 delegates. These adaptable spaces, from the Porter Tun (for up to 1,000 guests, set under a stunning exposed timber roof), to intimate and characterful vaults and the more formal and regal styled Sugar Rooms, ensures there’s something for every event.
‘Each space has a unique look and personality as well as their own private entrance, meaning it can be hired out exclusively with full privacy or used as a breakout room. The same rooms also offer the ability to connect with other spaces meaning the venue can be opened up to offer seamlessly flowing conference and exhibition spaces. Installing one of the best complimentary venue Wi-Fi systems in the UK, a creative in-house catering team and bringing in ISO standards to create a quality control system enables the venue to consistently deliver the highest level of service.’
Royal College of Physicians
Nearest Tube stations: Regent’s Park / Great Portland Street / Warren Street
Externally striking and internally luxurious, the headquarters of the Royal College of Physicians is a unique and memorable venue for all manner of corporate events. Here’s how the college itself describes its proposition:
‘Rich in history, yet designed for the needs of today, the Royal College of Physicians is an award- winning, grade 1 listed, modern building overlooking Regent’s Park. The impressive portfolio of purpose-designed facilities include meeting rooms, auditoriums, exhibition spaces and dining facilities, with a good mixture of old and new styles to suit all tastes. The building has an atmosphere of space and light, with stylish modern architecture, as well as a private garden ideal for summer events and al fresco dining.
‘In its central attractive location, the College is situated only minutes away from Great Portland Street, Warren Street and Regent’s Park tube stations and is conveniently accessible for King’s Cross, Euston and Paddington stations, as well as the St Pancras Eurostar terminal, and has links to all major London airports.
‘The College has been awarded small museum status and an accolade of a Grade 1 listing in recognition of its architectural importance. We can offer bespoke tours of our Heritage Collection, architecture or unique physic garden to enhance your event and add value for your guests.
‘You may be interested to know that the revenue generated by events held here at the RCP helps us to fund many important activities that the College is involved in, including its leading role in the delivery of high quality patient care.
Nearest Tube station: Tottenham Court Road
The Congress Centre in Great Russell Street is another all-round excellent option for conferences and related events, and also benefits from offering fantastic value for money. If you are keen to hold a city-centre event but have a defined budget to stick to, this venue would be a fine choice.
There is much more to the Congress Centre than its hire price, however, as their team explain:
‘London’s Congress Centre is a purpose-designed conference and meeting venue set within an architecturally renowned modernist listed building in the heart of central London. The venue is in a very convenient location just two minutes’ walk from Tottenham Court Road Underground Station in London’s West End and offers easy access to the City of London and further afield. When Elizabeth Line services commence in 2018, Heathrow Airport will be just 30 minutes away by train.
‘The Congress Centre has benefited from a complete refurbishment in recent years and features 16 air conditioned rooms, most with natural light and some with original wood panelling, which are ideal for conferences, meetings, exhibitions, fine dining and special events. The venue offers state-of-the-art AV equipment including HD projection and giant screens, along with fabulous food, but it’s the dedicated account management and careful attention to detail that keeps Congress Centre’s blue-chip clients returning time and time again.
For further information, visit www.congresscentre.co.uk or call 020 7467 1318.’
A word from the experts
Finally, we thought it would also be a good idea to get in touch with a company which specialises in matching corporate clients with their ideal conference venues. We were interested to find out where the experts think are the very best places for hosting the perfect event, and here’s what Ciaran Delaney, Founder of Meetingsbooker.com, had to say:
‘Meetingsbooker.com includes nearly 4,000 meeting spaces in London so it's always hard to pick a favourite venue. I think your venue choice has to come down to the goals and objectives of your conference.
‘If you are looking for a newer, modern venue, then perhaps Crystal may suit your needs. Alternatively, you may require a five star luxury hotel, in which case the Conrad St James might be your perfect choice.
‘London is one of our most popular meeting cities in Europe on Meetingsbooker.com and the choice and range of venues continues to grow and expand. No matter what type of conference you are organising you can select venues on Meetingsbooker.com and submit your request online - venues will then respond quickly with their best offers.’
Image Credit: Maryland GovPics
So, with such an impressive range of excellent venues to choose from in this busiest of corporate cities, you will now realise why the most challenging part of arranging your next conference isn’t finding somewhere suitable – it’s narrowing down the many incredible options to just one!