A Complete Guide to the UK’s Top Three Exhibition Venues

If you are new to exhibiting, travelling to a venue you haven’t been to before, possibly in a strange town or city can be daunting.  To help you, here we have a guide to the UK’s major exhibition venues.  The main ones are:

NEC Birmingham
ExCeL London
Olympia London

NEC

The NEC in Birmingham is the UK’s largest exhibition centre.  It contains 20 interconnecting halls covering 2,000,000 sq. ft. of floor space.  As well as exhibition halls, the venue offers 34 specialist conference and meetings suites. They also have the Resorts World Arena on site, with a capacity of 15,685. The venue records the highest ticket sales of any arena venue in the UK.  Key events hosted here include Crufts and the British International Motor Show.

How to get to the NEC

The address of the venue is:

National Exhibition Centre (NEC)
North Avenue
Marston Green
Solihull
West Midlands
B40 1NT

The venue is conveniently located next to Birmingham Airport in the West Midlands.  It is just off junction 6 of the M42, within easy reach of other major routes including the M40 and M6. It is adjacent to Birmingham International train station allowing easy access by train.

The NEC has 16,000 car parking spaces.  If you plan to arrive by car you can book prepaid parking for £12 a day, or it is £16 per day if you just turn up.  The carpark is a short walk from the venue and has a free shuttle bus.

If you plan to arrive by train there are regular connecting trains from Birmingham New Street to Birmingham International.  The journey only takes 15 minutes. If arriving by plane it only takes 90 seconds on a transfer from the airport to the venue.

Where to stay

There are a number of hotels located at the venue.  For a luxury stay, book a room at the Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC, Hilton Garden Inn Birmingham Airport or the Genting Hotel.

If you’re looking for budget accommodation, both the ibis and Travelodge at Birmingham Airport offer rooms for under £30 per night.

Alternatively, you may want an outdoor solution to accommodation. There are five campsites to choose from within 10 miles of NEC Birmingham:

  • Somers Wood Caravan Park
  • Kingsbury Water Park Camping and Caravanning Clun Site
  • Umberslade Adventure
  • Mousley House Farm Campsite and Glamping
  • Chapel Land Caravan Club

Where to eat

There are a number of food outlets within the NEC itself, including Subway, Cornish Bakery, Wetherspoons and Starbucks.  For a more substantial meal you can visit several restaurants located in Resorts World, adjacent to the NEC.  Here you will find several burger restaurants, Las Iguanas Mexican restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a steakhouse, Nando’s, Zizzi and Pizza Express.

For a special meal there are a number of Michelin starred restaurants in Birmingham including Asha’s Indian Restaurant and Bar, Adam’s, Simpson’s Restaurant and Harborne Kitchen.

Safety

Visitors will need to show one of the following:

  • A valid NHS COVID-19 Pass shown via the NHS App or downloaded and saved to your phone’s wallet. For those requiring digital assistance, a valid paper copy can be ordered online or by calling the NHS 119 telephone service.

OR

  • A lateral flow or PCR negative test result confirmation text or e-mail, received within 48 hours prior to attending the event.

OR

  • An EU Digital COVID Certificate. International visitors can show their equivalent COVID Pass from their country of origin.
Exhibition Venues UK: NEC Birmingham. Inside venue. Trade show with lots of stands and visitors.

Photo © Christine Matthews (cc-by-sa/2.0)

ExCel

ExCeL London is right in the heart of London’s historic Royal Docks in the east end, just ten minutes from Canary Wharf and twenty minutes from the City. ExCeL offers an abundance of flexible spaces and services which makes it a top choice for public shows, trade shows, meetings and special events.  It hosts major events such as the Smart Retail Tech Expo, IFSEC and International Food and Drink.

Getting there

The address is:

ExCeL London
One Western Gateway
Royal Victoria Dock
London E16 1XL

Driving

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) includes ExCeL London. Please visit https://cclondon.tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/ulez-vrm-checker to check whether your vehicle is subject to ULEZ charge.

You can download a parking map which shows you the location of the car parks on campus.

If you’re arriving via the M11, the North Circular (A406) or the A13, as you get closer to ExCeL you’ll pick up signs for Royal Docks, City Airport and ExCeL London. If you’re using satellite navigation please enter the postcodes below.

  • E16 1XL – If you are travelling from the west to ExCeL from Blackwall Tunnel, Limehouse Link, A12 or central London
  • E16 1FR – If you are travelling from the east to ExCeL from the M11, A13 or into London from the east.
  • E16 1AL – If you are using the Royal Victoria Car Park (MSCP) — approximately a 5 minute walk from the venue.

Parking is available on a first come, first served basis, using pay and display. Parking costs £20 for 24-hours across all our car parks. Parking is available for cars, transit vans and minibuses up to 3.5T.

Public Transport

There are 2 DLR (Docklands Light Railway) stations at the venue – Custom House for the west entrance and Prince Regent for the east entrance.

On the London Underground you need to get the Jubilee line to Canning Town then change onto a Beckton-bound DLR train for the quick two-stop journey to ExCeL: Custom House or Prince Regent.

Where to Stay

ExCel is located close to 16 hotels with 3,143 bedrooms.  Aloft London Excel and Doubletree by Hilton London Excel are both a 3 minute walk from the venue.  For a more budget option Ibis London Excel is a 7 minute walk.  For an interactive map click here.

Where to Eat

There are a wide variety of food and drink outlets at the venue with something to suit all tastes.  Grab a coffee and sandwich at Costa, the Bagel Factory or Subway; go Asian at Chop’d, Chozen Noodle or Chozen Noodle Sushi; pizza at Fundi Pizza; burger at Prime Burger; or a full three course meal at the Bridge Restaurant.  For a full list of outlets click here.

Safety

Proof of double vaccination, Covid-19 antibodies or negative lateral flow test (within the last 48 hours) is mandatory to gain entry.  Please note, UK-based visitors can use their NHS Covid Pass, and international visitors, the equivalent from their country of origin.

Exhibition Venues UK: Excel London Exhibition Venue Outside.

Photo © Flick. Delegate Connect Images.

Olympia London

Olympia London is located on the west side of London.  It is one of the UK’s oldest venues, having been open since 1886.  The Olympia National hall was added in 1923 and Olympia Central in 1930.  In 2011 Olympia West was added, giving 2 floors of 4000 sqm each. It plays host to major, long-standing events such as the Ideal Home Show and The London International Horse Show.

Exhibition Venues in the UK: Olympia Exhibition Venue outsite.

Photo © Kenneth Allen (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Getting there

The address of the venue is:

Olympia London

Hammersmith Road

London W14 8UX

For a map of the area click here.

Driving Visitors

If you need a space for your car we require you to pre-book online to secure a space. There is an option to pay for parking on the day, however spaces are limited. Pre-booked car park visitors should enter the car park from Blythe Road or Sinclair Road. Olympia Way is currently not accessible for visitors.

Exhibitors and Contractors

If you’re an exhibitor or contractor unloading and loading in designated areas, you must book a slot using Voyage Control, the online vehicle booking system. You will not be charged for this service.

For any parking that is required in addition to the unloading or loading time, we require you to pre-book online to secure a space. Car park spaces will be charged at the normal tariff rates of £28 per day for cars and vans or £48 per day for lorries.

Public Transport

London Overground

Kensington (Olympia) is on the London Overground network. It’s one stop from Shepherd’s Bush (Central line) or West Brompton (District line). The venue is next to the station.

District Line

There is only a District line service from Earls Court on weekends. Please check before you travel.

When travelling from Monday to Friday, you should change at West Brompton for a 2 minute Overground train to Kensington (Olympia). Alternatively West Kensington is an 8 minute walk away, and High Street Kensington is a 4 minute bus ride or 12 minute walk away.

Central Line

Change at Shepherd’s Bush for a 2 minute Overground train to Kensington (Olympia).

Piccadilly Line

Baron’s Court is a 9 minute walk away from Olympia London.

Hammersmith & City Line

Hammersmith Station is a 5 minute bus ride or 15 minute walk away.

Circle Line

High Street Kensington is a 4 minute bus ride or 12 minute walk away. Hammersmith Station is a 5 minute bus ride or 15 minute walk away.

Where to stay

There are over 30 hotels within walking distance that are 4 or 5 star.  At the top end is St Paul’s Hotel which is 0.3 miles from the venue, which has rooms from £200 a night.  For a more budget option the Ibis London Shepherds Bush is 0.6 miles away which has rooms from £65 a night.  For a full list and to book click here.

Where to eat

There are several cafes and snack bars within the venue and a number of restaurants, pubs and takeaways within a short walk.  For something really special you could go to The Ivy Kensington.  Or there are two good pubs by the venue – the Hand and Flower and the Albion.  Cibo offers good Italian food and Karma Indian.  Or you could try Le Petit Citron for French cuisine.  For a full list click here.

Safety

The NHS Covid Pass is required to attend events. It provides evidence of vaccinations, negative tests, or natural immunity. Please generate your Covid Pass, ready to show, before arriving at the venue to speed up your entry.  Facemasks must also be worn.

This guide covered the UK’s top three event venues.  We will look at the other major venues next week.

Quadrant2Design. Warehouse and Office.

If you need help with your exhibition, we can help you. Get in touch with us here.