The streets of London are paved with gold, says Katie McGonagle
In the 1960s, an American businessman spied an opportunity to make a buck or two out of a London landmark, buying the soon-to-be demolished London Bridge and rebuilding it stone-by-stone across the pond.
It transformed the tourism fortunes of its new Arizona home, showing the power of a London icon to draw in the crowds even on a different continent.
But just as the capital’s cabbies must take The Knowledge to prove they know the city’s streets, savvy agents looking to make London pay must first take the time to learn what it has to offer.
Some attractions sell themselves, and the world’s most famous palace is one of them. Superbreak offers private tours of Buckingham Palace, while Newmarket Holidays includes the palace, its Royal Childhood exhibition, plus Royal London sightseeing tour, a visit to Windsor, coach travel and a night’s B&B, from £109. Add a palace gardens tour from £125.
It takes a lot to top the palace’s well-tended flowerbeds, but the annual Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show might just have the edge. Superbreak offers the former from £179 with a night at the four-star Millennium Gloucester and show entrance, while Newmarket Holidays offers the latter from £115.
It’s surprisingly easy to tick off dozens of must-see spots in one go: Attraction World introduced The London Mini ONE this year, a single ticket covering a 24-hour hop on hop-off bus, fast-track Madame Tussauds entry, and the Tower of London, from £79 for adults and £55 for children five-15.
To see the sights from a different angle, Hoseasons’ boating breaks extend to the Thames, sailing past Hampton Court, Windsor Castle and Eton College (from £40 per night).
Farther down the Thames lies another English institution: the theatrical home of our most famous playwright. Do Something Different has added London options this year, including a Guided Tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (£32 for two). For something equally English, Attraction World reports soaring sales of its elegant afternoon teas: prices range from £20 at The Bloomsbury Hotel to £51 at Fortnum & Mason.
TREAD THE BOARDS
Men in high heels, women in green make-up, and more singing and dancing than Fame, London’s rich assortment of West End shows make an ideal hook for a weekend break – and a great opportunity to earn extra commission.
Encore Tickets has relaunched its trade-only booking system, MyEncore, allowing buyers of Flexitickets to change the date and even the show up to 72 hours in advance, and book deals such as theatre-plus-dinner or plus-hotel.
Similarly, Attraction World, a long-time seller of show tickets, but has recently started tagging on two to five-star hotel nights, with lead-in package prices from £105 for Wicked, including tickets and a twin room in central London.London Theatre Breaks are a big seller for Newmarket Holidays too, with prices from £109, covering coach travel to central London, a night’s four-star B&B, and hotel-to-show transfers.
The return of Miss Saigon after 15 years and arrival of talent show satire I Can’t Sing! (The X-Factor Musical) are both hot tickets for Superbreak, whose wide portfolio of theatre breaks – all comprising tickets and overnight accommodation – includes old favourites as well as up-and-coming shows such as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty. A night at the President Hotel and top-price ticket to Miss Saigon starts at £151.50 in May.
Is London the right place for a family break? What it lacks in seaside, it makes up in spectacular sights – and nowhere better than from London’s newest landmark, The View from the Shard. Superbreak reports this as one of its family best-sellers, along with The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden (transfers included), ZSL London Zoo, and Madame Tussauds.
If your clients’ kids like their attractions a bit more bizarre, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, with its collection of Amazonian shrunken heads, matchstick model of Tower Bridge and piece of the Berlin Wall, is bound to fire up their imaginations. All tickets sold through the trade include fast track entry and are priced from £26.95 for adults and £21.95 for children.
While some parents might worry about finding family-friendly accommodation, self-catering apartments can make a viable alternative to hotels, offering space to spread out, cooking facilities and easy access to city sights. Hoseasons has serviced apartments in 10 city centre locations, sleeping up to eight from £61 per night.
The City Apartment Book’s London properties include a two-bedroom house near Gloucester Road tube station, ideally placed to visit free family attractions such as the interactive Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum. Fellow luxury apartment provider Onefinestay also offers options to suit larger families: Harewood Row, a five-bedroom townhouse in Marylebone, sleeps seven and costs from £529 a night.
London’s fine heritage extends to its sporting prowess: from world famous football teams to iconic arenas, sport is a seriously popular draw.
Tours of Arsenal and Chelsea football clubs can be added to any accommodation package with Superbreak, with the former starting at £90 paired with a three-star hotel. A Tottenham Hotspur FC Stadium Tour is the latest signing for Do Something Different, which goes behind the scenes to the Director’s Box, dressing rooms and players’ tunnel (£40 for two).
Cricket fans can tour Lord’s Cricket Ground for a good look at the pitch and priceless artefacts such as the original Ashes urn (£18 for adults, £12 concessions, £49 for a family of four; email email@example.com or call 020 76168595 to book). Cricket widows need not despair though: turn it into a fun day for both with a traditional afternoon tea in the Lord’s Long Room, combining superb views over the pitch and guided tour of the Pavilion and MCC Museum, with a traditional tea (£42, or £51 with champagne).
Make that strawberries and cream with Newmarket Holidays’ Wimbledon break, which offers a seat at No. 1 Court plus coach travel, two nights’ accommodation and a stop at Royal Windsor, from £139 for two days. Or swap tennis whites for Lycra with Stage Three of the Tour de France as it passes by London in July (from £85 for two days, also with Newmarket Holidays).
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