The City of London, usually just called the City or the Square Mile, is the centre of trade and finance in Europe, rivalling New York City as the finance capital of the world. The traders, bankers and other wage-earners in the area work hard, so it’s no surprise they like to play hard, too. Flashy bars outnumber quiet pubs in the City, and most bars and pubs are designed to impress. Likewise, the restaurants are grand and often expensive – great for hashing out the details of a deal or letting someone know how important you are – although there are some cheaper places to eat near Liverpool Street. The City also roughly follows the boundaries of the ancient Roman capital of Britannia, Londinium, so there are plenty of museums to check out. And if you fancy slowing down the pace and soaking up some culture, the Barbican Centre is one of the capital’s most important cultural cornerstones.
Recommended: London by area
Things to do in the City of London
Bars in the City of London
Champagne and meatballs are the order of the day at Searcys St Paul's bar. Located on the first floor of One New Change, this Searcys has a sociable vibe with ’20s-styled raised seating surrounding the central bar, which is banked by plump leather benches. As well as the meatballs, you can get salads, cheese and charcuterie boards, smoked salmon with truffle oil and a few sweet treats. But the main focus here is on the Champers, something that Searcys specialise in; order it by the glass, the bottle or even by the magnum should the mood take you. Classic and signature cocktails come as an alternative to the bubbly, as well as a good selection of whisky, beers and ciders.
This City cocktail bar and restaurant on Bishopsgate comes from Drake & Morgan – a group with bars and restaurants across London. Weeknights see its cavernous innards kept busy by the Square Mile after-work crowd. That means it's mostly about the drinks. Cocktails range from mojitos, bloody marys and martinis to sierra madres (mezcal with triple sec, peach, star anise and lime) and a papaya and chia daiquiri, featuring bitters made from chia seeds. Beers by the bottle include Battersea IPA, Fat Yak Pale Ale and Einstök White Ale, from Iceland. Wines are evenly spread between the old and new world. Bar food includes polenta crisps, sweet potato fries and burgers, but if you're staying for lunch or dinner then the offer extends to steaks, Thai chicken curry, linguine with clams, white wine and chilli, and a pea and lemon risotto with mascarpone. Keep an eye out for special offers too, including bottomless brunch.
Restaurants in the City of London
Michelin-starred seafood cookery is the lure at this swanky City restaurant up on the seventh floor of the South Place Hotel. The food’s ultra-modern and impeccably crafted – a perfect fit for the dining room’s sophisticated vibe and gleaming monochrome interiors. Smooth-as-silk service is a bonus for the City’s expense-account crowd.
A City brunch spot with an American diner feel, Bad Egg comes courtesy of London’s bbq king Neil Rankin (Pitt Cue, Temper etc) – so expect smoky thrills and guilty pleasures galore, all driven by a rocking and rolling soundtrack. Don’t miss the pulled pork and kimchi hash or the ’nduja cheese fries. Manically popular.
One for the City’s early birds, this bright and breezy Antipodean café makes lots of friends from its pitch within Broadgate Circle. From huge savoury ‘power balls’ to sticky sweet ‘energy balls’, healthy fast food is the all-day deal. Shiny happy interiors, loud hip hop, tuned-in staff – you get the picture.
It’s almost too casual for the sharp-suited expense-account crowd, but this trendy take on a British chop house is still a cut above when it comes to deliciously crusted, smoky meats. Herb-flecked flatbreads are on hand to soak up the juices, while jazzy cocktails provide a boozy kick.
Pubs in the City of London
The perfect weekend in the City of London
Hotels in the City of London
This very cool-looking new five-star hotel comes from a collaboration between the Soho House Group and the Sydell Group (a US business behind The NoMad in New York). They've taken the Grade I-listed former Midland Bank building by Bank and turned it into what looks like a seriously swanky spot, with 252 bedrooms, nine restaurants, grooming centres and a members' area (open to guests, too) called Ned's Club, housing a rooftop pool, a gym, a spa, a hammam and a late night lounge bar. And if you're curious about the name? The building was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, known to his friends as 'Ned'. VIDEO: Take a look inside The Ned hotel
Threadneedles boldly slots some contemporary style into a fusty old dame of a building in the heart of the City; it was formerly the grand Victorian HQ of the Midland Bank, bang next to the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. The etched glass-domed rotunda of the lobby soars on columns over an artful array of designer furniture and shelving that looks like the dreamchild of some powerful graphics software – it’s a calm space, but a stunning one. The bedrooms are individual, coherent and soothing examples of City-boy chic, in muted beige and textured tones, with limestone bathrooms and odd views of local landmarks: St Paul’s, Tower 42 and the Lloyd’s building. Drinks are served under the stained-glass central dome, and the pillared restaurant (run by Marco Pierre White) is also an impressive space. It’s all smoothly run.
Club Quarters Hotel, Gracechurch
This exclusive 4-star hotel is in the City, London's historic financial centre. It has free WiFi and air-conditioned rooms in 4 different sizes. Both Monument and Bank London underground stations are 400 metres away.Club Quarters, Gracechurch is next to Leadenhall Market, in one of the oldest parts of London. It is 500 metres from the River Thames and London Bridge. The City's banks, businesses and shops are a short walk away.Guests have free use of the Club Lounge, a social/business lounge area with computers, wireless printing, complimentary coffee/tea and newspapers, as well as a fitness centre, and free chilled, purified bottled water.Each stylish room has bedside charging points, multi-purpose work spaces with task lighting.Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
A faded railway hotel until its £70m Conran overhaul in 2000, the red-brick Great Eastern became in 2007 the first of Hyatt’s new Andaz portfolio. The new approach means out with gimmicky menus, closet-sized minibars and even the lobby reception desk, and in with down-to-earth, well-informed service and eco-friendliness. The bedrooms still wear style-magazine uniform – Eames chairs, Frette linens – but free services (local calls, wireless internet, healthy minibar) are an appreciated touch. Restaurant options include British nosh at the 1901 restaurant in a magnificent former ballroom with a stained-glass dome or Japanese at Miyako. The cinema – set in the basement Masonic Temple, a feature of the original hotel – appropriately favours horror movies.