Top Tips from a London Hotel Concierge

Brian Murphy, at the Bloomsbury Hotel, has been a concierge for over 25 years. He shares his top tips for London

Brian Murphy has more than 25 years experience as a hotel concierge, so he's the right man to share some of his insight into London—plus how to get the most from your concierge.

What is your personal favourite area of London?

Arjuna, character from Hindu epic Mahabharata, on show at The British Museum, London, UK

It would have to Bloomsbury—it has a lot of literary connections, as well as beautiful Georgian squares and museums, from the British Museum and its wealth of worldwide exhibits, to the Charles Dickens Museum.

What’s the most popular request for visitors in February?

On Valentine’s Day, people want to have a romantic dinner in a restaurant near the Thames, so I suggest the OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar & Brasserie, which is eight floors up the tower on the South Bank. You can enjoy fine dining with a great view of St. Paul's Cathedral. Also, the Royal Festival Hall's Skylon restaurant and the Tate Modern restaurant are great locations for hot dates. Afterwards, there’s nothing better than a romantic stroll around the South Bank area.

What are your favourite hidden gems in the city?

Bags for sale at Camden Market, London, UK

London’s markets, from Camden Town to Brick Lane. Make sure you get up early to catch the best displays at Columbia Road Flower Market, open every Sunday.

Any travel tips you can share for visitors getting around London?

Buying a Visitor Oyster card is a must—you just top it up every day and at the end of your stay, you get a refund of your existing balance.

What’s your favourite mode of transport in London?

London bus drives by the Houses of Parliament, London, UK

If possible, try to walk, or hop on and off a red London bus—bus stops are usually every 100 to 150 yards.

If visitors had one day to spend in London, what would you recommend?

They would have to go to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. Afterwards, they could walk across Tower Bridge and along the South Bank to Borough Market for a spot of lunch. It does the best street food in London. Have a wander around Tate Modern before crossing the Thames via the ‘wobbly’ Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then have dinner at Simpson’s-In-The-Strand before going to the theatre. It’s a perfect London experience.  

What would you recommend as the quintessential English experience?

Hammersmith Bridge of the River Thames, London, UK

Sunday lunch in one of those lovely pubs along the river by Hammersmith Bridge—either the Rutland or The Blue Anchor—then watch all the rowers going up and down the Thames.  

What are your tips for visitors on how to stay safe in the city?

Remember that in London and the rest of the UK, cars drive on the left. To ensure you cross roads safely, only use designated crossings, only cross when the ‘green man’ is showing and take note of all the signs. 

What would you say to a visitor about how to use their concierge?   

Always introduce yourselves to us; we are friendly and personal guides to the greatest city in the world (like taxi drivers without the wheels).

What’s the strangest request you’ve had as a concierge?

Proposal of marriage with engagement ring, London, UK

A former soldier wanted to propose to his girlfriend, and asked me to find an army jeep to bring them back from the Phoenix Theatre. I wasn’t able to get the jeep but I did manage to arrange for a Green Goddess (an old army fire engine} to pick them up. By the way, she said yes!