The best cities to extend your business trip

If you’re heading away on a business trip, why not make your trip truly worth your while and mix in some leisure activities, too? ‘Bleisure’ holidays, or holidays catering to both business and leisure travellers, are on the rise. Arrive at any of these four destinations around the world, check off your business obligations, then add an extra day or two to take advantage of all the great things to do and see. Travel writer Becky Howard explains why bleisure trips are more appealing than ever.


American Express Travel AU London Dinerama
Photo: Dinerama

What doesn’t the UK’s capital city have to offer? One of the world’s leading hubs for business and commerce, London also sees about 30 million tourists every year. The sheer size of London means you can’t do it all in one visit – or possibly lifetime! – so focus on just one of its many charms: the vibrant food scene.

If you’re in the Bankside area, make like a local by picking up a bite to eat between meetings from one of London’s vibrant food markets. Bankside’s Flat Iron Square or Borough Market both offer a selection of quick eats and delicious artisan coffees to get you through your day. From international cuisines, local produce, charcuterie and baked goods, there’s no shortage of options either. Dinerama, a short walk from Shoreditch High Street in East London, is an industrial-chic street food scene sure to impress potential clients and serves as a cool place to meet friends for an after-work wind down (pictured above). Kerb in the transformed King’s Cross district sees a rotating selection of food stalls to grab a quick lunch before running to catch your next train.

When you’ve seen to your business meetings in Soho and brokered a deal in Canary Wharf, pack your briefcase away and hit the town for an unforgettable meal in the city. London has earned top marks as a global foodie destination offering cuisine to suit every traveller’s desire. Feast on some exquisite Pan-Asian plates at Chi Kitchen on Oxford Street, or modern Lebanese dishes within an English Heritage building in St Johns Wood at Crocker’s Folly. If you fancy a proper steak before heading to the theatre, Smith & Wollensky is a solid choice.

If you extend your trip and tack on some proper R&R time, it means you can explore one of the districts lying further afield than Zone 1. Picturesque Greenwich is easily accessible by a zippy Thames Clipper boat ride. It’s home to a raft of wonderful free-entry museums, a market set within a World Heritage site and the restored Cutty Sark. You can even see the ever-changing cityscape from the sky by booking a ride on the Emirates Air Line cable car. Your work may have brought you to The Big Smoke, but you’ll leave feeling like it was a holiday well spent.

San Francisco

American Express Travel AU San Francisco

It was a bohemian haven in the 1960s but nowadays San Francisco is the destination for the new dominant counter-culture: tech. Silicon Valley (south of the city centre) is home to Apple, Google and Facebook, and with Twitter, reddit and Uber based Downtown, the entire Bay Area is a global business destination.

Find your way to Workshop Cafe in the financial district to squeeze in some valuable prep time before a meeting. This cool and efficient space prides itself on promoting productivity, offering all styles of desks, outlets and access to high-speed internet. There’s a café that serves up fresh eats and amazing coffee to help fuel your day. You can even jump the queue by ordering via their app if you don’t have time to linger.

Take advantage of one of America’s most walkable cities and, if time permits, spend a couple of hours in the stunning Golden Gate Park. There is over 1000 acres to enjoy, even if you only have time for an alfresco lunch. Check out the Botanical Garden or hire a bike to journey through the natural scenes of the city. If you’re due back in the office after this outdoor field trip, you’re sure to head back feeling refreshed from a healthy dose of nature.

With a few extra days for travelling, you can discover some of San Francisco’s individual neighbourhoods. Culture fans will find paradise in SoMa, the city’s cultural epicentre packed with different museums and art centres begging to be explored. Swing through the equally inspiring former hippie enclave of Haight-Ashbury for a double-shot of very non-corporate America with restored, colourful Victorian houses at every turn (pictured above). Then wander nearby to The Castro, the vibrant heart of progressive, free-spirited San Francisco. Watch a movie at the Art Deco Castro Theatre, have a bite to eat at Harvey’s and then finish your San Francisco bleisure trip with a hike to the top of Russian Hill for panoramic views of the Bay Area.

Hong Kong

American Express Travel AU Hong Kong

This densely packed urban island bills itself as ‘Asia’s world city’, and it’s long been a favoured business destination. With world-class hotels and venues, a booming economy and super-efficient infrastructure, Hong Kong’s dizzying skyline speaks to its success.

If you find yourself in Central Hong Kong for work, enjoy a unique but free transportation experience with the Central-Mid Levels Escalator. The longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, it consists of 20 escalators and three moving walkways. Thousands use it to commute to work each day, escaping the city’s congestion and hilly landscape – and it’s a fascinating insight into real Hong Kong life.

End a work night out at Above & Beyond in Hotel Icon, which boasts stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline, appetising Cantonese plates and delicious cocktails to wash it all down.

Since you can’t see every part of Hong Kong during a quick business trip, add some time to your stay to properly explore Hong Kong’s Kowloon peninsula. Take a Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour for thrilling, expansive views. Have lunch at Tim Ho Wan, the original of the acclaimed dim sum chain restaurant. Described as the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, the lengthy queues are worth it for those light, moreish buns.

Happily sated, head to the Hong Kong Museum of History, where a permanent exhibition tracking the fascinating Hong Kong Story will keep you entertained – and educated.

If you haven’t had a go on the ferry in the daytime, opt for an evening journey to see the 13-minute dazzling Symphony of Lights display If you haven’t had a go on the ferry in the daytime, opt for an evening journey to see the 13-minute dazzling Symphony of Lights display (HK$230), a light show of lasers and coloured searchlights that illuminate the entire city (total journey time is 60 minutes). Spectators can also enjoy the show from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront free of charge.

Before you leave Hong Kong, make time to hike some of the outlying islands to balance out city and green space during your trip. Tap Mun, or Grass Island, should be top of your list, then Tai O for quaint fishing village vibes (pictured above) and Peng Chau to explore the ruins.


American Express Travel AU Lisbon

Portugal’s reinvigorated capital is a huge draw for young, creative types looking to sink their toes into some sand as well as explore city life. A budding tech destination, it’s also gaining traction for entrepreneurs and start-up enthusiasts.

If you’re here for work, there are a few must-visit central locations that you can squeeze into a couple of hours in between commitments, or even prime spots to visit with clients in tow. Pop down to the Time Out Market, an incredible cornucopia of restaurants, bars and shops trading out of the traditional Mercado da Ribeira. Whether it’s a quick pasteis de nata (Lisbon’s famous, flaky custard tarts), a gourmet dish from celebrated chef Alexandre Silva or even vegetable tartares from Tartar-ia, you’ll find it in this market. Then a quick stroll or tram ride through the cobbled, atmospheric streets of Bairro Alto offer a more bohemian flavour of the city (pictured above).

Forget the stress of the workday with fantastic views of the old town from Miradouro de Säo Pedro de Alcântara, a lookout terrace where you can sit and relax, taking in all the city has to offer with a Portuguese drink from one of the café kiosks.

Lisbon deserves a more leisurely pace, too. With an extra day, meander through LX Factory, a former industrial quarter that’s been colonised by a creative collection of cafés, art galleries, shops, bars, and on Sundays, a flea market. It’s inspiring, friendly and still loveably shabby. Don’t miss sipping or buying wine at More Than Wine, perusing Retroshop and enjoying coffee at Café na Fábrica on your tour through LX Factory, snapping Instagram-worthy pictures as you go.

At night, ensure you catch a fado performance – Portugal’s unique music genre that marries yearning, emotional vocals with stringed accompaniments. Fado’s roots lie in the city’s ancient Alfama district, where fado restaurants can be found around nearly every corner. Alternatively, check out Fado & The City, which hosts fado evenings in a constantly changing atmospheric city venue.

Get excited for you next business trip. Explore the best bleisure destinations and get booking.

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