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A Five-Star Concierge’s Top 6 Tips for Visiting the London 2012 Olympics

June 26, 2012  |  Travel Booking and Tips

A few weeks ago, the XOJET Blog posted tips for booking private jet travel to the London 2012 Olympics. Once you’re there, what’s the best way to get around? We chatted with Alan Noone, head concierge of five-star luxury hotel The Berkeley, to get his recommendations for making your stay in London this summer a great one. His 6 top tips:

Women's Singles at Wimbledon
Women’s Singles at Wimbledon
Photo credit: Blogee

1. Plan ahead—for everything, not just the Games.

It’s not just your flight and event-specific tickets you should buy in advance. Book everything—your lodging, restaurant reservations and theater tickets—now. “August is normally a quiet month for us,” says Noone. “This year, we’ve seen a 30% increase in demand for rooms.”

2. Consider events outside of Olympic Park.

One way to avoid the expected congestion at Olympic Park, Noone points out, is to attend events happening at other venues. “The archery events are being held at Lord’s Cricket Ground, which has been hosting sporting events since 1814,” he says. The Tube will drop you off 10 minutes’ walk from the venue; you might even consider walking the Jubilee Greenway, which runs to the south and also passes by a number of other Games venues.

Tennis, of course, is being hosted at Wimbledon in southwest London. Or check out beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade, a venue in Central London that dates back to 1745. (Trivia fact: 5,000 ton of sand is being brought in from a quarry in Godstone, Surrey, to create the “beach.”)

3. Take a river bus!

River taxi on the Thames River in London, England
River taxis on the Thames River

Why try to race through congested London streets when you can take a leisurely cruise on the Thames? River taxis offer a great way to get to your venue. Several of the Olympics venues are accessible by river, including Greenwich Park (equestrian and modern pentathlon), North Greenwich Arena (basketball, artistic gymnastics and trampoline),The Royal Artillery Barracks (shooting), Horse Guards Parade (beach volleyball) and Eton Dorney (canoe sprint and rowing).

This can be an unforgettable way to travel to the games in style. “I would suggest booking a place on Water Chariots’ Silver Service, which takes just 40 minutes from Limehouse Marina to an exclusive Olympic entrance at Old Ford Lock,” Noone recommends. “You’ll be able to enjoy a glass of champagne in the quayside reception lounges before you board. Then you can relax as you cruise past the sights, taking in an unrivalled view as you approach the Olympic Park!”

4. Discover hidden gems.

Noone says that dinner reservations are going fast for hot spots like Zuma, Nobu, C London (formerly Cipriani), Hakkasan Mayfair, as well as Marcus Wareing and Koffmann’s at The Berkeley itself.

But Noone also suggests some more intimate dining establishments:

  • Le Boudin Blanc in Shepherds Market:  “A casual French Bistro with good food in a small cobbled street area of Mayfair.”
  • La Petit Maison: “Same owners as the very popular Zuma, this restaurant next to Claridges has nice French food and is great for shoppers, as it’s a stone’s throw from Bond Street.”
  • The Greenhouse: “Wonderful restaurant in Mayfair.”
  • Babbo: “Lovely Italian in Albemarle Street.”
  • Bellamy’s: “Very popular with local Mayfair residents, this lovely, discreet French brasserie is one to cherish. It has wonderful seafood and an honest French wine list.”

And if you fancy English pub food:

  • The Grenadier: “Wonderfully atmospheric pub tucked away down a quaint little Belgravia mews. Top-quality, fresh pub classics and a nice selection of ales. The Duke of Wellington visited this house and so did his officers.”
  • The Guinea: “A beautifully warm old Mayfair pub with a delightful Grill restaurant at the back of the bar. Great for meaty British classics with a lovely ale or hearty red.”
  • Quo Vadis: “Quo Vadis is back on the scene after an extended hiatus, and the reports are all good. Bringing a little bit of glitz to Soho, you can be guaranteed a superb experience.”

5. Attend some non-sporting events.

open air theater london
Open Air Theater
Photo credit: Aesop

Yes, you may have traveled to London specifically for the Olympics. But don’t miss the chance to experience some of the other amazing events happening at the same time.

London is hosting an embarrassment of cultural riches this summer, from the production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, to the Tate Modern presentation of the first major Damien Hirst exhibition in the UK.

“The Royal Albert Hall is presenting the world-famous BBC Proms annual classical music festival,” Noone says. “And guests with families will love the Warner Brothers’ studio tour of ‘The Making of Harry Potter,’ which has been really popular all year.”

But if you’re Olympics-bound, don’t forget the basics:

6. Don’t plan to drive anywhere. We’re not kidding.

According to Noone, “the main thing to bear in mind is that the London Olympics aim to be the ‘greenest’ Games yet.” This is his polite way of saying that public transportation will be about the only way to get to events. And it may be the best: a high-speed Olympic Javelin train will whisk ticket holders from St. Pancras International station to Stratford International in a mere 7 minutes.

Your concierge can help make taking the train or Tube relatively stress-free. “We can provide guests with tickets for the Javelin train or passes for the Tube,” Noone says.  “We can even drop you off at the station in a chauffeur-driving luxury automobile.”

In contrast, “driving from Central London to Olympic Park could take you up to 2 hours,” says Noone. “Our chauffeur service could drop you off at the Western Gate, but you would still have to walk nearly a mile to the stadium.”

That’s due in part to the Olympic Route Network (ORN), which connects all Games venues to make sure that athletes and officials get to the Games on time.  One-third of ORN roads are designated “Games Lanes” restricted to the IOC’s fleet of 1,500 coaches and 4,000 specially-marked BMWs, which will take athletes and members of the “Olympic Family” to Olympic venues.

“Even the famous London black taxis won’t be able to use Games Lanes,” says Noone.

7. Allow plenty of time to get to your event.

“You should plan to arrive at your event well in advance of its start time, maybe even one to two hours ahead” counsels Noone. “Expect to encounter airport-like security.”

There’s absolutely no parking at any of the venues, except for a limited number of accessible spaces that must be booked in advance.

If all of this sounds like a monumental hassle, don’t worry. An experienced concierge like Noone will work with you to take care of all the details of your stay, so you can enjoy yourself without worrying about logistics. After all, if Noone can arrange for a live snake to be delivered to a guest for a wedding proposal (no joke!), he can probably make your London 2012 Olympics stay one you’ll never forget.

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