London England City Facts
My favorite all time city for things to do. Given that I am a native English speaker, I feel like I really fir in here. I first visited London in 1969. I have returned many times since to sample the museums, shopping, and used book stores.
Be sure to get the bus pass which includes the underground trains. But you need to ride above ground to see the sights so I do not suggest use of the underground tubes.
Top Ten Attractions
The city is home to countless historical and modern attractions, from the London Eye to the National Gallery and Tower of London. With free admission into many of these attractions, now is as good a time as any to explore them for yourself and soak up some culture. Take your pick from the top ten below, based on 2004 visitor numbers.
The National Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of European painting in the world. With paintings ranging from 1250 to 1900, the collection includes work by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Cezanne and Van Gogh.
The imposing British Museum exhibits the works of man from prehistoric to modern times with collections drawn from all around the world. Famous objects include the Rosetta Stone, sculptures from the Parthenon and the Portland Vase.
3. Tate Modern
The impressive Tate Modern is Britain's national museum of modern art. Housed in the former Bankside Power Station on the banks of the River Thames, the gallery displays major works by Matisse and Picasso as well as contemporary work, exhibitions and installations.
The British Airways London Eye forms a major feature of London's skyline. It is the world's highest observation wheel and offers passengers spectacular views of over 55 of London's most famous landmarks in just 30 minutes.
As well as the permanent dinosaur exhibition, the gallery boasts a collection of the biggest, tallest and rarest animals in the world. Don't miss the life size model of the Blue Whale, the 40 million year old spider, the earthquake simulator and an elephant bird egg.
See, touch and experience the major scientific advances of the last 300 years at the largest museum of its kind in the world. With over 40 galleries and 2000 hands on exhibits, step into the future in the Wellcome Wing, visit the IMAX cinema and virtual reality simulator.
Take a free guided tour with one of the Yeoman Warders around one of the most famous fortified buildings in the world. Discover its 900 year history as a royal palace and fortress, prison and place of execution, mint, arsenal, menagerie and jewel house.
The V&A celebrates all things art and design, and is home to 3000 years worth of amazing artefacts from many of the world's richest cultures. See their amazing collection of ceramics, furniture, fashion, glass, jewellery, photographs, sculpture, textiles and paintings.
The gallery features portraits in all mediums depicting well known British people. In addition to historical portraits, it exhibits a rapidly changing collection of contemporary work with exhibitions by individual artists, and hosts the annual BP Portrait Prize competition.
This is the largest maritime museum in the world with a collection of over two million objects relating to seafaring. Now a World Heritage Site, the historic landscape includes the 17th century Queen’s House and the home of the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory.
The Romans arrived in 43 AD and established ‘Londinium’ as a permanent military camp, although their principle settlement was in modern day Colchester. In 60 AD, after a failed uprising by the Iceni tribe under Boudica, Londinium was burned to the ground, only to emerge as the new commercial and administrative capital of Britannia.
The Saxons and the Danes
By the fourth century the Roman Empire was failing and in 410 the Romans officially abandoned the city, leaving Londinium to the mercy of Saxon invaders. In 841 and 851 the Danish Vikings attacked and in 1016 the Danish leader Canute became King of all England. London was designated the capital, a position that it has held ever since. The brief Danish rule ended with the accession of Edward the Confessor (1042-66) whose reign saw the geographical separation of power in the capital, with royal government based in Westminster and commerce centred upstream in the City of London.
1066 to the Black Death
Edward appointed Harold, Earl of Wessex, as his successor. Harold was defeated by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Over the next few centuries, the City waged a continuous struggle with the monarchy for a degree of self-government which culminated in the Magna Carta of 1215. London was granted the right to elect its own Lord Mayor. In 1348 the city was hit by the Europe-wide bubonic plague, the Black Death. This disease, carried by black rats, wiped out half of the capital’s population in two years.
It was under the Tudor royal family that London began to prosper and the population increased dramatically, trebling in size during the course of the century. The most crucial development of the sixteenth century was the English Reformation, the separation of the English Church from Rome. Despite huge religious strife between Catholicism and Protestantism, the Tudor economy remained in good health. In the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) London also witnessed a specifically English Renaissance, especially in the field of literature, which reached its apogee in the brilliant careers of Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare.
In 1603, James VI of Scotland became James I of England (1603-25), uniting the two crowns and initiating the Stuart dynasty. The infamous Gunpowder Plot by Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic conspirators failed in 1605 when they attempted to blow up the king at the State Opening of Parliament. Under Charles I (1625-49) the animosity between Crown and Parliament culminated in full-blown Civil War. After a series of defeats, Charles surrendered to the Scots and was eventually tried and executed in 1649. London then became a Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, and found itself in the grip of the Puritans’ zealous law, until Charles II (1660-85) announced the Restoration of the Monarchy. The good times came to an abrupt end with the onset of the Great Plague of 1665 which claimed 100,000 lives. In 1666, London had to contend with The Great Fire when 80% of the city was destroyed and more than 100,000 people were left homeless. The Great Rebuilding, as it was known, was one of London’s most remarkable achievements, and it extinguished virtually all traces of the medieval city.
London’s expansion continued with the accession of George I (1714-27). The volume of trade had more than tripled and London was by now the world’s largest city with a population approaching one million. Although London was wealthy, it was also experiencing the worst mortality rates since records began; disease was rife, but the real killer was gin. At its height, gin consumption was averaging two pints a week, and the burial rate exceeded the baptism rate by more than two to one. Policing the metropolis was also an increasing preoccupation for the government, who introduced capital punishment for the most minor misdemeanours. Nevertheless, crime continued unabated throughout the 18 th century so the prison population swelled and transportation to the colonies began.
The 19 th century
The 19 th century witnessed the emergence of London as the capital of an empire that stretched across the globe. The city’s population grew from just over one million in 1801 to nearly seven million by 1901, bringing with it overcrowding and pollution, especially in the slums of the East End. The accession of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) coincided with a period in which the country’s international standing reached unprecedented heights, and the spirit of the era was perhaps best embodied by the Great Exhibition of 1851, which took place in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. While half of London struggled to make ends meet, the other half enjoyed the fruits of the richest industrialised nation in the world.
The 20 th century
During World War I (1914-18) London experienced its first aerial attacks, but they were minor casualties in the context of a war that destroyed millions of lives. After the boom of the ‘Swinging Twenties’, the economy buckled after the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929. When World War II (1939-45) broke out, London was largely unprepared for the bombing campaign, known as the Blitz, which continued for 57 consecutive nights. After the war, many Londoners abandoned the city for good, starting a population decline that has continued. The subsequent labour shortage problem was solved as immigration increased from the former colonies, in particular the Indian subcontinent and the West Indies. During the so-called ‘Swinging Sixties’, fashion hit London in a big way, and London was proclaimed the hippest city on the planet. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher won the general election for the Conservative Party, which was to remain in power for 17 years.
The 21 st century
London has come a long way since the Thatcher years. Redevelopment has continued apace and a series of prestigious new millennium projects and commercial construction have changed the face of the city. There has also been large-scale investment in infrastructure. A significant political development for London has been the creation of the Greater London Assembly (GLA), along with an American-style Mayor of London, both elected by popular mandate.
Central London encompasses most of London’s main attractions, theatres and restaurants, and most places within this area are in walking distance of each other. With a basic city map, you’ll be able find your way around easily and take in some sights on the way.
The River Thames divides the city into northern and southern halves, with Central London loosely described as being within the loop of the Underground’s Circle Line to the north bank of the river. London’s public transport is organised into zones, central London being Zone 1 with the zone numbers rising as one moves out from the centre. The city is also divided into boroughs which are individually run by councils. There are 32 London boroughs plus the City of London.
Every area of London has something different to offer, whether it’s attractions, open space, cuisine, nightlife or simply atmosphere. West London is renowned for its plush and expensive areas such as Kensington and Belgravia. It is the home of many major attractions, from the Royal Albert Hall to Kew gardens, and has excellent shopping grounds and beautiful architecture.
North London contains appealing inner-city suburbs like Islington and Camden Town and has a lively social scene. East London is an area of great diversity, from the Bengali-influenced Brick Lane, to trendy Shoreditch and the modern Docklands area encompassing Canary Wharf. South London has a vibrant multi-cultural atmosphere. It incorporates many attractions and venues including the South Bank centre, the lively international street markets of Brixton and Deptford, hip and happening Clapham and sedate Blackheath.
Facts & Figures
Greater London covers an area of 1,584 sq km and is the smallest of the England’s nine regions (1.2% of the total land area of England). Source: ONS
There are currently four World Heritage Sites - Palace of Westminster, Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich and Kew Gardens and 17 national museums across the capital. Source: English Heritage
The number of passengers arriving and departing to or from London's airports equaled over 120 million in 2004. Heathrow handled 67m passengers, making the airport the busiest and best connected in the world. Source; CAA, BAA
There are almost 21,000 licensed taxis in London. 'Black Cabs' come in 12 different colours. Source; Transport for London, Mann & Overton
London has over 40,000 shops and some 80 individual markets, including Walthamstow Market, Europe's longest daily street market. The capital is home to ten Farmer Markets. Source: GLA Economics, Visit London, London Borough of Waltham Forest, London Farmers' Market
Leicester Square played host to 42 film premieres in 2004, including: 'The Incredibles', 'Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason' and 'The Aviator'. Source; Westminster Events Team
There are 6,128 licensed restaurants in London, a remarkable 22% of Britain’s restaurants. They include menus from more than 50 major country cuisines, and 36 Michelin star rated restaurants. Source: GLA Economics, Time Out Guide to Eating & Drinking, Michelin Guide to Great Britain & Ireland
Queen Elizabeth II is the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror.
Her Majesty has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign; the first, named Susan, was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. Source: British Monarchy
Open space accounts for 30% of the London area including 147 registered parks and gardens and eight royal parks. Source: English Heritage
London has 3800 pubs, 9% of those in Britain. There are 233 nightclubs,15% of the clubs in Britain. In Westminster alone there are 330 venues open after midnight. Source: GLA Economics
London 101 - One hundred and one amazing facts about London
Download your copy of Visit London's booklet of fascinating facts covering everything from the number of pearly kings and queens to the number of reptile species in London Zoo! Download London 101 (PDF) [1.8MB]
Population & People
Greater London has a population of 7.2 million people and it is one of Europe’s most densely populated areas. It is home to 1 in 8 of the UK’s population and has 3 million households.
Although predominantly white and Anglo-Saxon, more than a quarter of its population is from an alternative ethnic background, making up half of the UK’s total ethnic minorities. This gives London the largest non-white population of any European city and is an important part of its cosmopolitan feel. Over 250 languages are spoken in the city.
Throughout history, immigrants and refugees have been arriving in London and forming pockets, which can now be witnessed in areas such as Soho, which has a predominantly Chinese community, and Shoreditch with a strong Bengali influence. London is renowned for its multi-cultural society, so the average Londoner is a tolerant and open-minded character.
London has more women than men and its population is younger when compared to the rest of the country; 47% of its population is aged 16-44 whereas the figure is 40% for the rest of the UK. The capital is home to 306,000 students in higher education.
Population density is 4,573 per square kilometre, although there is wide variation between the boroughs. Kensington and Chelsea is the most densely populated with 13,300 per square kilometre followed by Islington (11,700 km sq).
Culture & Lifestyle
London offers a fantastic diversity of population and supports a myriad of different lifestyles. Whatever your background or interest, you’ll find people of like mind and have the opportunity to express yourself freely.
People of all ages and backgrounds flock to London for many different reasons. They include improved work prospects, better wages, a higher standard of living and the stimulation of living in a bustling metropolis. The city’s lifestyles vary considerably and the options are endless. From nightlife to sport, shopping to theatre, art to dining there’s always something to do and people to meet.
London’s long-standing ethnic diversity is an important factor in its popularity with settlers from overseas. The strong economy of the City draws many people including graduates from around the country and beyond. The presence of large numbers of long- and short-term visitors also adds to London’s vibrancy. As with all big cities, there can be issues with traffic congestion, crowded public transport, long working hours and high costs of living but there are ample compensations and ongoing improvements on many fronts.
London is frequently likened to a collection of villages. Clusters of local shops, markets, parks, leisure centres and other venues help foster a feeling of local community within a conurbation of seven million people. Some areas have a particularly strong identities and associations making London a world in one city. The capital continues to draw newcomers all the time and it is a city that is always changing.
English is London’s primary language, although approximately 300 languages are now spoken in this multi-cultural city. The English that is spoken in London today is a hybrid incorporating borrowed foreign words, traditional cockney rhyming slang and a standard south-eastern accent. In some parts of London English is now the second language for the majority of residents. A difficult and illogical language to learn anyway, the English language in London is in constant flux as it is influenced by new ideas and communities.
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