London Update: City Reports Strong Numbers; Looks Ahead to Winter

Official figures released late last week show that 8.5 million international tourists visited London in the first six months of this year, a 7.6 percent increase when compared to the same period in 2013.
The visitor numbers are expected to stay high as museums and galleries across the capital open for the autumn season and the city receives dozens of life-size Paddington Bears in preparation for the global release of the new film. 

The Paddington Trail will display Paddington statues designed and decorated by celebrities like Emma Watson, Nicole Kidman, David Beckham and Bear Grylls. Later, all of the statues will be auctioned to raise money for charity, most notably the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Where to Find Paddington

RELATED: Taking the Kids to London to Explore With Paddington Bear

Later this year, London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations will be a ticketed event, with 100,000 tickets available to the public. This initiative was launched in order to prevent overcrowding, but Visitors and locals will be able to book up to four tickets at £10 each at

Farther out, The National Portrait Gallery has announced a new major exhibition: Sargent: Portraits Of Artists And Friends will run from February 12 to May 25, 2015. The exhibit will cover the work of American portrait artist John Singer Sargent, who trained in Paris and worked mainly in London, where he was active from the 1870s until his death in 1925. The exhibition will include loans from galleries and private collections in Europe and America.

New Hotels

In September, the Mondrian London at Sea Containers officially debuted, with 359 rooms right along London's South Bank. (This is the first Mondrian-branded hotel outside the U.S.) The property has a 200-seat restaurant, Sea Containers, helmed by Seamus Mullen and multiple bar spaces, including Dandelyan, with drinks crafted by mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana. But the biggest buzz has to be the 1920s-inspired rooftop bar & lounge, Rumpus Room, which opened earlier this month and included Kate Moss, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jeremy Piven among its first guests. The bar sits within a glass box with 360-degree views, with an outside terrace. There is an extensive list of Champagnes, classic and specialty cocktails and a DJ spinning as the sun goes down. 

Mondrian London at Sea Containers

The Beaumont also opened at the end of September in an original Art Deco building designed by Wimperis & Simpson and built in 1926 as a garage. The first hotel project from Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – the restaurateurs behind The Wolseley and The Delaunay – the 73-room Beaumont is located in the city’s Mayfair district, and has a traditional American-style grill, residents’ lounge, a spa and a towering ‘inhabitable sculpture’ by artist Antony Gormley that protrudes from the building’s façade. (It's called Room, and it looks like a seated person. Take a look...) 

The Beaumont

In addition to its 50 guestrooms, The Beaumont will also have 13 Studios, eight One-Bedroom Suites, a Presidential Suite and (of course) Room - a one bedroom suite that is also a monumental figural sculpture and an architectural extension to the hotel. 

By the Numbers

Earlier this summer, London was named the most popular tourist destination in the world by the Mastercard Global Cities Index report, which predicted the city would host 18.7 million international visitors over the course of the year.

According to the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey, visitors to London spent nearly £5.3 billion, an increase of 6 percent over the same period last year.

RELATED: London Ranked World's Most Popular Tourism Destination

Beyond London, the first half of 2014 was the most popular period ever for tourism throughout the UK as a whole. Tourists made 16.41 million trips to the UK between January and June, an 8 percent rise over the same period in 2013.  Spending by foreign residents in the UK has reached £8.92 billion so far this year.

This summer, the capital’s museums and galleries had record-breaking visitor numbers. In August, the re-opened Imperial War Museum saw more than 250,000 visitors as it marked the centenary of the First World War. IWM London, the flagship venue for Imperial War Museums, now features an Atrium designed by Norman Foster’s architecture firm and a hanging gallery in the rooftop, providing dramatic views of the floors beneath. The National Gallery also saw 681,000 visitors – more than 100,000 overlast August’s figure.