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For other places with the same name, see London (disambiguation).
The clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, which contains Big Ben
The clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, which contains Big Ben

London is the capital city of the United Kingdom and of England. It produces 17% of the UK's GDP and the City of London is one of the world's major financial centres. The capital of the former global empire, London is a leader in culture, communications, politics, finance, and the arts and has considerable influence worldwide. New York City, Tokyo, and Paris are often listed with London as the four major global cities. London is also known worldwide by these names in other languages.

London is the most populous city in the European Union, with an estimated population on 1 January 2005 of 7,421,328 and a metropolitan area population of aproximately 12 million. London's population includes a very diverse range of peoples, cultures, and religions, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, and the world. A resident of London is referred to as a Londoner. Over 300 languages are spoken in London, making the capital the most linguistically diverse city in the world.(London: multilingual capital of the world,A Buncombe and T MacArthur, The Independent, London, 29 March 1999)

London is the home of many global institutions, organisations and companies, and as such retains a leading role in global affairs. It has a great number of important buildings, including world-famous museums, theatres, concert halls, airports, railway stations, palaces, and offices. It is also the location of many foreign embassies, consulates and High Commissions.


Defining London

Today, "London" usually refers to the conurbation known as Greater London, which is divided into thirty-two London Boroughs and the City of London. Historically, "London" referred to the square mile of the City of London at the conurbation's heart, from which the city grew. Between 1889 and 1965 it referred to the former County of London which covered the area now known as Inner London.

There are other definitions of "London" for special purposes, such as the London postal district; the area covered by the telephone area code 020; the area accessible by public transport using a Transport for London Travelcard; the area delimited by the M25 orbital motorway; the Metropolitan Police district; and the London commuter belt.

The coordinates of the centre of London (traditionally considered to be Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square, the Strand, Whitehall and the Mall) are approximately 51°30′ N 0°8′ W. The Romans marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone in the City.

Geography and climate

A Landsat 7 satellite image of west London. The prominent green space in the middle is Hyde Park, with Green Park and St. James's Park to its right
A Landsat 7 satellite image of west London. The prominent green space in the middle is Hyde Park, with Green Park and St. James's Park to its right
Main article: Geography of London
Main article: Climate of London

Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 km²). London is a port on the Thames, a navigable river. The river has had a major influence on the development of the city. London was founded on the north bank of the Thames and there was only a single bridge, London Bridge, for many centuries. As a result, the main focus of the city was on the north side of the Thames. When more bridges were built in the 18th century, the city expanded in all directions as the mostly flat or gently rolling countryside around the Thames floodplain presented no obstacle to growth. There are some hills in London, examples being Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill, but these provided fine prospects of the city centre without significantly affecting the directions of the spread of the city and London is therefore roughly circular.

London's location within Europe
London's location within Europe

The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river than it is today. It has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground. The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding. The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level and the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound. The Thames Barrier was constructed across the Thames at Woolwich in the 1970s to deal with this threat, but in early-2005 it was suggested that a ten-mile-long barrier further downstream might be required to deal with the flood risk in the future [1].

London has a temperate climate, with warm but seldom hot summers, cool but rarely severe winters, and regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year. Summer temperatures rarely rise much above 30°C (86°F), though higher temperatures have become more common recently. The highest temperature ever recorded in London was 37.9°C (100.2°F), measured at Heathrow Airport during the European heatwave of 2003. Heavy snowfalls are almost unknown. In recent winters, snow has rarely settled to more than an inch (25 mm). London's average annual precipitation of less than 24 inches (600 mm) is lower than that of Rome or Sydney. London's large built-up area creates a microclimate, with heat stored by the city's buildings: sometimes temperatures are 5°C (9°F) warmer in the city than in the surrounding areas.


St. Paul's Cathedral during the WWII bombings of London
St. Paul's Cathedral during the WWII bombings of London

Main article: History of London

The name London is thought to have come from the Latin name Londinium, as London was founded by the Romans during their reign over the land – although there is some slight evidence of pre-Roman settlement. (The BBC History website, however, claims that the name Londinium is actually "Celtic, not Latin, and may originally have referred to a previous farmstead on the site"; this also implies that there indeed were pre-Roman settlements in the area). This fortified Roman settlement was the capital of the province of Britannia. Another suggestion for where the name of the city comes from could be that of the mythical leader, King Lud. It was said that Lud laid out the first set of roads in the city. His statue can be seen hidden at the church of St Dunstan's In The West, Fleet Street.

Around AD 61 the Iceni tribe of Celts lead by Queen Boudicca stormed London and took the city from the Romans. The Celts burnt the relatively new Roman town to the ground, and archaeological digs have revealed a layer of red ash beneath the City of London, which is believed to be the burnt remains of the old Roman town.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Londinium was abandoned and a Saxon town named Lundenwic was established approximately one mile to the west in what is now Aldwych, in the 7th century. The old Roman city was then reoccupied during the late-9th or early-10th century.

Westminster was once a distinct town, and has been the seat of the English royal court and government since the mediæval era. Eventually, Westminster and London grew together and formed the basis of London, becoming England's largest – though not capital – city (Winchester was the capital city of England until the 12th century).

London has grown steadily over centuries, surrounding and making suburbs of neighbouring villages and towns, farmland, countryside, meadows and woodlands, spreading in every direction. From the 16th to the early-20th century, London flourished as the capital of the British Empire.

In 1666, the Great Fire of London swept through and destroyed a large part of the City of London. Rebuilding took over 10 years, but London's growth accelerated in the 18th century, and, by the early-19th century, it was the largest city in the world.

London's local government system struggled to cope with this rapid growth, especially in providing the city with adequate infrastructure. In 1855 the Metropolitan Board of Works was created to provide London with infrastructure to cope with its growth. In 1889 the MBW was abolished, and the County of London was created which was administered by the London County Council, the first elected London-wide administrative body.

Probably the most significant changes to London in the last 100 years were as a result of the Blitz and other bombing by the German Luftwaffe that took place during World War II. The bombing killed over 30,000 Londoners and flattened large tracts of housing and other buildings across London. The rebuilding during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was characterised by a wide range of architectural styles and has resulted in a lack of unity in architecture that has become part of London's character.

Until their 1997 ceasefire, London was regularly a target for IRA bombers seeking to pressurise the British government into negotiations with Sinn Féin on Northern Ireland.

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On 7 July 2005, there was a series of coordinated bomb attacks by Islamic extremist suicide bombers on three underground stations and a bus. The explosions came less than 24 hours after London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics and as the G-8 summit was underway in Gleneagles, Scotland. A series of explosions also took place on 21 July 2005; however, in the latter incident, there were no fatalities. With the United Kingdom remaining a staunch ally of the United States, and also retaining a military presence in Iraq, London continues to be a target for Muslim extremists.

Modern London

The principal facade of Buckingham Palace was designed in 1850 by Edward Blore and redesigned in 1913 by Sir Aston Webb
The principal facade of Buckingham Palace was designed in 1850 by Edward Blore and redesigned in 1913 by Sir Aston Webb
A downstream view of the London Millennium Bridge spanning the River Thames between Tate Modern gallery and St Paul's Cathedral
A downstream view of the London Millennium Bridge spanning the River Thames between Tate Modern gallery and St Paul's Cathedral

Today Greater London comprises the City of London and the 32 London boroughs (including the City of Westminster). The dominant centre of activity in London is the City of Westminster (including the West End) which is the main cultural, entertainment and shopping district, the location of most of London's major corporate headquarters outside of the financial services sector, and the centre of the UK's national government. The City of London (also known as the "Square Mile") is the banking centre of the world, and Europe’s main business centre. The headquarters of more than 100 of Europe’s 500 largest companies are in London. The London foreign exchange market is the largest in the world, with an average daily turnover of $504 billion, more than the New York and Tokyo exchanges combined. While very busy during the working week, most parts of the City tend to be quiet at weekends, since it is primarily a non-residential area.

London attracts very large numbers of visitors and tourists. Tourist attractions are mainly in Central London, comprising the historic City of London; the West End with its cinemas, bars, clubs, theatres, shops and restaurants; the City of Westminster with Westminster Abbey, the Royal palaces of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House etc., the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with its museums (the Science Museum, Natural History Museum, and Victoria and Albert Museum) and Hyde Park. Other important tourist attractions include St Paul's Cathedral, the National Gallery the Bankside area of Southwark with the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, and London Bridge, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, Tate Britain on the Embankment, the British Museum in Bloomsbury. There are many other museums and places of interest.


Main article: Culture of London.

London is an international centre of culture in all its forms - music, theatre, arts, museums, festivals and much more.

London Districts

See also: Inner London, Outer London.

Central London

Main article: Central London

City of London

Tower Bridge at dusk
Tower Bridge at dusk
Main article: City of London

The City of London is the principal financial district of the United Kingdom, and is one of the most important in the world. It is governed by the Corporation of London, an ancient body headed by the Lord Mayor of London. The City also has its own police force, the City of London police. Once dominated by the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, it is now home to many tall buildings, including Tower 42 (formerly, and popularly still, known as the NatWest Tower) and 30 St Mary Axe (popularly known as the "Gherkin", built in 2003).

The City has only a small (c. 7,000) resident population, but a daytime working population of more than 300,000. Its primacy as the chief financial district has been directly challenged in recent years by Canary Wharf in East London.

West of the City, Covent Garden is home to the Avenue of Stars, London's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

The West End

Main article: West End of London

The West End is the most popular shopping and entertainment district in London. Trafalgar Square is the most prominent landmark. Oxford Street is one of the best-known shopping streets in the world. Running from Charing Cross Road in the east to Marble Arch in the west, via Oxford Circus where it crosses Regent Street, it is home to many large department stores and shops (Selfridges, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer). Tottenham Court Road runs north from the eastern end of Oxford Street towards the north of the city centre, and is best known for its plethora of hi-fi, computer and electronics stores.

South of Oxford Street's eastern end is Soho, a network of small streets crowded with restaurants, pubs, clubs, smaller shops and boutiques, and theatres and cinemas, as well as media companies and film, advertising and post-production companies. Soho is also well known for its very lively club and bar scene, the notorious sex industry and as the major "gay quarter" of the city. Piccadilly is an elegant thoroughfare running from Piccadilly Circus in the east to Hyde Park Corner in the west. It is adjacent to Mayfair, and Green Park. Regent Street and Bond Street are important thoroughfares.

East London

Main article: East London, England

East London saw much of London's early industrial development and much of it now is being extensively redeveloped as part of the Thames Gateway. It was also key to London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and is now scheduled to undergo extensive regeneration in the run-up to the games. This is the second time in modern history that East London has seen large-scale rebuilding: it took the full force of the Blitz in World War Two, with post-war reconstruction leaving a legacy of bleak housing estates and tower blocks in several areas.

The East End

Main article: East End of London

The East End of London is closest to the original Port of London, and tended for that reason to be the area of the city where immigrants arriving into the port would settle first. Successive waves of immigrants include the French, the Huguenots, Belgians, Jews, Gujaratis, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and many other groups.

The East End extends from the eastern side of the City of London and includes areas such as Whitechapel, Mile End, Bethnal Green, Hackney, Bow and Poplar. The area has many places of interest including many of London's markets, (for example Columbia Road Flower Market, Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane Market, Petticoat Lane Market), and several museums, including the Geffrye Museum and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

The East End is an area of uncertain delimitations. It abounds with legend, sentimentality and cockneys. It has a somewhat romanticised history of working class cheer, resilience, organised crime and gangsters such as the Kray Twins, and poverty, ameliorated by a spirit of British toughness. The somewhat harsher truth is that the East End contains some of the poorest areas in the United Kingdom, with all of the problems this entails.


Main article: Docklands
The Canary Wharf complex: the tallest building, 1 Canada Square, has been the UK's tallest skyscraper since 1991. Seen from the high-level walkway on Tower Bridge
The Canary Wharf complex: the tallest building, 1 Canada Square, has been the UK's tallest skyscraper since 1991. Seen from the high-level walkway on Tower Bridge

The London Docklands, on the Isle of Dogs along the Thames in the East End, has developed enormously since the early-1980s. For a period in the early-1980s, many warehouse buildings in Wapping had been occupied and used as artists studios and low-cost loft living spaces. This inevitably drew the attention of property developers who gradually (and then not so gradually) moved in to take over. The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was set up in 1981 to accelerate the process, and the first phases of major development started to reshape the area, culminating in Canary Wharf, whose best-known feature is the 1 Canada Square office tower (which is often incorrectly called "Canary Wharf"), which has been the UK's tallest skyscraper since 1991.

A massive-scale development within the last three or four years has added a great many more skyscrapers, and many large businesses (investment banks, law firms, etc.) have moved in. A new headquarters for HSBC and Barclays as well as the European headquarters of Citigroup, have now been completed, and are in use.

Attracted by this growth, restaurants, bars and nightclubs have opened, there are three interconnected shopping malls beneath the Canary Wharf structure, and a cinema complex has opened in the area. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) serves the area, connecting to the London Underground at Bank, Shadwell, Canning Town and Stratford stations.

There has also been a great deal of gentrification and residential development in the area: North of the Thames around Limehouse Basin and toward Wapping, as well as south of the Thames in Rotherhithe where former wharfs and the old docks have been converted into high-priced loft apartments for a community of bankers, software developers and others working in the financial service industries in and around Docklands.

Further east in the London Borough of Newham are London City Airport and the ExCeL Exhibition Centre.

West London

West London includes many of the traditionally fashionable and expensive residential areas such as Notting Hill, made better known in 1999 by a film of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Within the district is the famous antique market at Portobello Road. Kensington and Chelsea are the most expensive places to live in the country. The area is also famous for the Kings Road, a distinguished and attractive shopping street and thoroughfare.

Further to the west, at White City, near Shepherd's Bush, is the principal operating centre for the BBC, while in the extreme west, in the London Borough of Hillingdon, lies Heathrow Airport.

Considered more south-west than West London on account of its being the only London borough to straddle the River Thames, Richmond upon Thames includes the attractive riverside districts of Richmond and Twickenham. This corner of London is home to Richmond Park, London's largest, and Twickenham, the home of English rugby union.

South London

The London Eye is a recent addition to the London skyline
The London Eye is a recent addition to the London skyline

South London contains such diverse districts as Wimbledon (famous as the home of the major tennis Wimbledon Championships), Bermondsey, and Dulwich. Redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle, a road intersection and district close to the centre, is due to start in 2006.

Greenwich is on the banks of the Thames where the river broadens into a wide meandering reach of muddy water. It is an historic neighbourhood and boasts a fine park and the Royal Greenwich Observatory. It is also has a popular market.

Brixton, Camberwell and Peckham are home to many families (and their descendants) who immigrated to London from the West Indies during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, sometimes known as Afro-Caribbeans.

North London

North London includes suburbs such as Hampstead and Highgate, which retain a village atmosphere. North London is more hilly than the south, and many of the hills give excellent views across the city. Large parks include Hampstead Heath, which includes Parliament Hill, noted for its fine views over the city, and the Hampstead bathing ponds; and Alexandra Park, site of Alexandra Palace. Many areas have significant minority populations including Stamford Hill, home to a significant community of Orthodox Jews, and the Green Lanes area of Harringay which has large Turkish and Greek communities. Islington is considered one of the more affluent areas in London, due to large scale gentrification, although it is in fact one of the most deprived boroughs in the country; it is also home to Arsenal football club. North London's other world-famous football team, Tottenham Hotspur, play in nearby Tottenham.


London by night as seen from the International Space Station. The London Orbital M25 motorway can be seen ringing the city, most notable here to the south, and two dark spots on the edge of the densely packed lights of Central London are just noticeable in this thumbnail view: Hyde Park and Regents Park.
London by night as seen from the International Space Station. The London Orbital M25 motorway can be seen ringing the city, most notable here to the south, and two dark spots on the edge of the densely packed lights of Central London are just noticeable in this thumbnail view: Hyde Park and Regents Park.

London had about 860,000 people in 1801 (in comparison, Paris had about 670,000 in 1802), and the population of Edo (modern-day Tokyo, Japan), at the time the largest city in the world, has been estimated at 1 million to 1.25 million people. London was the most populous city in the world from 1825 until 1925, when it was overtaken by New York.

Residents of London are known as Londoners. The city and the 32 boroughs (some 1,579 km² or 610 square miles) had an official 7,421,228 inhabitants, making London the most populous city in Europe alongside Moscow. Subsequent reviews suggested that the returns were understated, and that the population on Census Day was closer to 7.29 million. The official estimate of London's population in mid-2003 is 7,387,900 [2]

In the 2001 census, 76% of these seven million people classed their ethnic group as white (classified as British White, Irish White or "Other White" in the 2001 census), 10% as Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, 5% as black African, 5% as black Caribbean, 3% as mixed race and 1% as Chinese. The largest religious groupings are Christian (58.2%) and No Religion (15.8%). The Irish are the largest foreign-born group in London (numbering approximately 200,000).

The population of the urban area of London at the 2001 census, as calculated by the Office for National Statistics, was 8,278,251 inhabitants. (External reference: [3]). London urban area is the third-largest in Europe, behind Moscow (11.7 million inhabitants in 2000) and Paris (9.6 million inhabitants in 1999).

Unlike many other countries, the UK does not provide national metropolitan area population figures based on commuter percentages and economic influence. This is left up to each individual city to define. This has created much confusion when comparing London's true metropolitan area region with others around the world. It is helped even less by confusion of the term "Greater London" with the political entity of the City of London, which is often confused with the metropolitan area.

Without a specific national reference to London's metropolitan area, many different sources provide alternate definitions. One such definition describes the London metropolitan area (6,267 square miles, 16,043 km²) with a population of 13,945,000 — larger than the combined populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (External references: [4], [5]) If this definition is followed, then London is the largest metropolitan area of Europe, along with Moscow (whose metropolitan area has somewhere around 14 million people), and above Paris (11.5 million people in the metropolitan area in 2004).

In 2004, the Greater London Authority defined a metropolitan region centred on London with a population of 18 million. This region extends to cover the commuter belt, and much of South East England and East of England, for example including the cities of Brighton and Oxford. (External references:[6],[7],[8])

Panorama of London taken from the London Eye
Panorama of London taken from the London Eye


City Hall at night. The Greater London Authority meets here
City Hall at night. The Greater London Authority meets here

Greater London is divided into the 32 London boroughs and the City of London. The boroughs are the most important unit of local government in London, and are responsible for running most local services in their respective areas. The City of London is run not by a conventional local authority, but by the historical Corporation of London.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) is the London-wide body responsible for co-ordinating the boroughs, strategic planning, and running some London-wide services such as policing, the fire service and transport. The GLA consists of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The mayor is elected by the Supplementary Vote system while the assembly is elected by the Additional Member System.

The incumbent Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was elected as an independent candidate in the 2000 election. Despite opposition from all the main political parties and the press, his popularity with Londoners has remained high. Livingstone was expelled from the Labour Party when he opposed the official Labour candidate Frank Dobson in the 2000 Mayoral election. Readmitted by that party in 2004, he was re-elected as Mayor as an official Labour candidate in the election later that year.

The GLA was created in 2000 as a replacement body for the former Greater London Council (GLC) which was created in 1965 and abolished in 1986 after political disputes between the GLC (then led by Ken Livingstone) and the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.

Previous London wide administrative bodies were the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) from 1855 to 1889; the London County Council (LCC) from 1889 to 1965; and the Greater London Council (GLC) from 1965 to 1986. When the GLC was abolished, most of its functions were devolved to the London boroughs, while others were taken over by joint-boards or other unelected bodies. The boroughs thus enjoyed "unitary status" and a degree of autonomy when the GLC was abolished, and although losing some powers which have been repatriated to the GLA they still retain many areas they did not control under the GLC.

London is represented in Parliament by 74 MPs. For a list of London constituencies see List of Parliamentary constituencies in Greater London.

The territorial police force for the 32 London boroughs is the Metropolitan Police Service, more commonly referred to as the Metropolitan Police, or simply "the Met". The City of London has its own police force, the City of London Police.

Health services in London are managed by the national government via the National Health Service (NHS). Greater London is divided into five Strategic Health Authorities [9].

Transport and infrastructure

For main article see Transport and infrastructure in London

Transport is one of the four areas of policy administered by the Mayor of London, but the mayor's financial control is limited. The executive agency which runs London's transport system is Transport for London (TfL). The public transport network is one of the most extensive in the world, but faces congestion and reliability issues. The network is one of the most complex transit systems in the world with just over 1 billion journeys used every year on the underground alone. London is most famous for its AEC Routemaster buses which have been in service in the capital since 1956. Routemasters will be phased out of service from TfL's main bus routes, with the last routemaster service being operated on the 9 December 2005 on Route 159. Two 'heritage' routes are planned for service to maintain Routemasters on London's streets.

The networks for transport in London include: Underground (commonly known as the tube); Bus; River Services; Docklands Light Railway (DLR); Croydon Tramlink; National Rail; Thameslink.

As of mid-2005, in preparation for the 2012 London Olympic Games a total of £7 billion ($12 billion) will be spent on refurbishment and expansion of city links, mainly on the London Underground. Although the main reason for this is because of the increased traffic flow that will be caused by the 2012 Olympics, the work would still be completed if London had not won the games. By 2013 a new service called Crossrail is due to be opened. Also in planning is the Cross River Tram (CRT). It will depart in the south suburbs, cross the River Thames, through to the City of London (the financial district), and continue its journey to the northern suburbs. It is speculated that it will be the world's longest tram.

The main Olympic arenas will be sited close to Stratford International station, which is currently being constructed as part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The new high-speed line, due to open in 2007, will be used by the regular 'Olympic Javelin' service with a journey time of 7 minutes between Stratford and St Pancras. This service was a key part of the Olympic bid and will provide access from northern areas of the UK via King's Cross and Euston.


Main Article: Education in London

London is home to a diverse number of universities, colleges and schools, and is a leading centre of research and development.

A view of central London from St Paul's Cathedral
A view of central London from St Paul's Cathedral


The British media is concentrated in London and is sometimes accused of having a "London bias". All the major television networks are headquartered in London including the BBC, which remains Britain's most influential media organisation. Partly to counter complaints about London bias, the BBC announced in June 2004 that some departments (BBC Sport, CBBC, Cbeebies, BBC Three and BBC Radio Five Live) are to be relocated to Manchester. Other major networks include ITV and BSkyB, Channel 4 and Five are also based in London. Like the BBC, these produce some programmes elsewhere in the UK, but London is their main production centre.

The English newspaper market is dominated by national newspapers, all of which are edited in London. Until the 1970s, most of the national newspapers were concentrated in Fleet Street, but in the 1980s they relocated to new premises with automated printing works. Most of these are in East London, most famously the News International plant at Wapping. The move was resisted strongly by the printing trade union SOGAT 82, and strike action at Wapping in 1986 led to violent skirmishes. The last major news agency in Fleet Street, Reuters, moved to Canary Wharf in 2005, but Fleet Street is still commonly used as a collective term for the national press. Regional Editions of most national newspapers are available, including editions for northern England, Scotland and Wales.

London is at the centre of British film and television production industries, with major studio facilities on the western fringes of the conurbation and a large post-production industry centred in Soho. London is one of the two leading centres of English-language publishing alongside New York. Globally important media companies based in London range from publishing group Pearson, to the information agency Reuters, to the world's number two advertising business WPP Group.

The local media generally have a lower profile than the national media in London as in the rest of England, but there are some important local outlets. London has its own local daily evening newspaper, the Evening Standard, and a free newspaper called Metro, distributes a London edition in the morning, mainly at railway stations. The independent weekly listings guide Time Out Magazine has been providing concert, film, theatre and arts information since 1968. The BBC operates BBC London radio, and there are several independent radio stations, including Capital FM, Kiss 100 and Resonance FM.


When Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to bring England into the Catholic fold in 597, it was intended that the envoy should become "Archbishop of London", as the city was remembered as the capital of Roman Britain. In the event, the saint received his most hospitable reception in the Kingdom of Kent, and the archiepiscopal see was founded at Canterbury. Nonetheless London has been at the centre of England's religious life for much of its history, and each Archbishop of Canterbury has traditionally spent much of his time in London, where he has an official residence at Lambeth Palace. London's two Anglican bishops are the Bishop of London, whose see is London north of the Thames, and whose throne is in London's grandest church, the baroque St Paul's Cathedral (designed by Sir Christopher Wren), and the Bishop of Southwark, who tends to Anglicans south of the river. Important national and royal ceremonies are divided between St Paul's and Westminster Abbey, a gothic church on the scale of a cathedral. As in the rest of the UK, religious attendance in London is low, and the Church of England has borne the brunt of this decline.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster is generally regarded as the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Other traditional Protestant denominations whose headquarters are in London include the United Reformed Church and the Quakers. Many of London's immigrant groups have established denominations in the city, for example Greek Orthodoxy. In addition various evangelical churches exist.

London is the most important centre of Islam in the United Kingdom. Two London boroughs contain the highest proportion of Muslims in the UK: Tower Hamlets and Newham. The London Central Mosque is a well-known landmark on the edge of Regent's Park, and there are many other mosques in the city. London also has the largest Hindu population outside of India. Southall, in West London is home to many Hindus. The Hindu temple at Neasden, Neasden Temple is the largest Hindu temple outside of India and a remarkable example of a modern building in a traditional style. Much of the enormously elaborate and intricate marble sculpture used in the building was carved in India. Over two-thirds of British Jews live in London, which ranks thirteenth in the world as a Jewish population centre [10].


London hosts one of the world's largest mass-participation marathons, the London Marathon, and has hosted the Olympic Games in 1908 and 1948. In July 2005 London was chosen to host the Games in 2012. London will be the first city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times.

The most popular spectator sport in London is football, and London has several of England's leading football clubs. Historically the London clubs have not accumulated as many trophies as those from the North West of England, such as Liverpool and Manchester United, but at present Arsenal (founded at Woolwich Arsenal but moved to Highbury in 1913), and Chelsea (who play in Fulham) are regarded as two of the Premier League's "Big three" alongside Manchester United. In 2003-04 they became the first pair of London clubs to finish first and second in the top flight, with Arsenal winning. In 2004-05 they did so again, this time with Chelsea winning.

London clubs are able to charge higher ticket prices than clubs in other parts of the country (particularly for corporate facilities), and this has swung English football's balance of power towards London. Before Chelsea's recent rise in fortunes the two highest profile London clubs were Arsenal and their long-standing North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom were considered to be members of English football's "Big five" for most of the post-war period. In 2005-06 there are six London clubs in the Premier League: Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, plus Charlton Athletic, Fulham and West Ham United.

There are also five London clubs in the fully professional Football League (the level below the Premiership), namely Brentford, Crystal Palace (who play in South Norwood), Leyton Orient, Millwall and Queens Park Rangers (QPR)—all of whom have previously played in the top division. In a controversial move, Wimbledon left London in 2003 to play in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, changing their name to Milton Keynes Dons; the newly formed AFC Wimbledon inherited most of their support, despite playing at a much lower level in the football pyramid. There are also numerous London clubs playing outside the top four divisions of English football, one or two of which are fully professional and many of which are part-time professional.

Wembley Stadium in north-west London is the national football stadium, traditionally the home of the FA Cup Final as well as England national side's home matches. Currently, Wembley is being completely rebuilt, so Cardiff's Millennium Stadium has been the venue for recent FA Cup finals, while England play at various venues around the country. Wembley was one of the venues for the 1966 World Cup, and the 1996 European Championship, and hosted the final of both tournaments. It also was the venue for the European Cup final in 1968, 1978 and 1992. As well as football matches, Wembley has hosted many other sporting events, including the Rugby League Challenge Cup final.

Rugby Union is also well established in London, especially in the middle-class suburbs to the north and west of the city. The English national Rugby Union stadium is in Twickenham. Three of the twelve clubs in the elite Guinness Premiership have London origins. London Irish, Saracens and Wasps share football grounds just outside the boundaries of Greater London, but in the metropolitan area. Harlequins, relegated to National Division One after the 2004/05 season, still play in Greater London. The Northern England based sport of rugby league has maintained a top division club now known as Harlequins Rugby League in the capital in recent years as part of its expansion efforts. However, the club has struggled to be viable; partly because of this, it entered into a business partnership with the long-established union club of the same name in 2005. There are also London teams in the top-flight British leagues in ice hockey (London Racers) and basketball (London Towers), but neither of these sports draws nearly the large number of spectators that football and rugby union do.

There are two Test cricket grounds: Lord's, home of Middlesex and the Marylebone Cricket Club, located in the leafy suburb of St John's Wood, just north of Regent's Park; and The Oval, home of Surrey, in South London.

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, home of the Wimbledon Championships, is in Wimbledon in South West London.


The buildings of the City of London, the modern financial district, and heart of the city in past centuries.
The buildings of the City of London, the modern financial district, and heart of the city in past centuries.

The City of London is the financial centre of London, home to banks, brokers, insurers and legal and accounting firms. A second financial district is developing at Canary Wharf to the east of central London. This is much smaller than City of London, but has equally prestigious occupants, including the global headquarters of HSBC.

Non-financial business headquarters are located throughout central London. Some are in City of London, but more are located further west, in and around Mayfair, St. James's, the Strand and elsewhere. More than half of the UK's top 100 listed companies (the FTSE) are headquartered in central London, and more than 70% in London's metropolitan area. London is a leading global centre for professional services, and media and creative industries. 31% of global currency transactions occur in London, with more US Dollars traded in London than New York, and more Euros traded there than every city in Europe combined.

Tourism is one of the UK's largest industries, and in 2003 employed the equivalent of 350,000 full-time workers in London [11].

While the Port of London is now only the third-largest in the United Kingdom — rather than largest in the world, as it once was — it still handles 50 million tonnes of cargo each year. The main docks are now at Tilbury, which is outside the boundary of Greater London.

London's economy generates $365 billion annually, and accounts for 17% of the UK's Gross Domestic Product although this only refers to the city proper and the economic impact of the entire London metropolitan area is likely to be far higher, perhaps as much as $600 billion (equivalent to the GDP of The Netherlands ; see Economy of the United Kingdom, List of countries by GDP (nominal)

London tourist attractions

Places of interest

This is a subjective list. See also: London attractions.

Buildings and monuments

The Palace of Westminster seen across the River Thames.
The Palace of Westminster seen across the River Thames.

For large buildings, see Tall buildings in London.

Museums and galleries

Markets and shopping areas

There are many diverse shopping areas in various parts of London; see also London markets.

Parks and gardens

See also: London parks and commons.

London is well endowned with open spaces. The eight Royal Parks of London are former royal hunting grounds which are now open to the public. Green Park, St James Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens form a green strand through the West End. Regents Park is on the northern edge of central London, while Greenwich Park, Bushy Park, and Richmond Park are in the suburbs. Many of the smaller green spaces in central London are garden squares which were built for the private use of the residents of the fashionable districts, but in some cases are now open to the public.

Most of London's council-owned parks were developed between the mid 19th century and the Second World War. Examples include Victoria Park, Alexandra Park and Battersea Park. Some of the other major open spaces in the suburbs, such as Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common and Epping Forest have a more informal, semi-natural character. The leading paid entrance garden in London is the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. Hampton Court Palace also has a celebrated garden.

Other places of interest

  • The Old Bailey The Central Criminal Court with famous trials but inconvenient for the unprepared tourist since personal items prohibited include bags and mobile phones.
  • Tyburn was the location for many infamous executions by hanging. Now near the site of Marble Arch and Hyde Park.
  • Battersea Power Station and the Millennium Dome are two architecturally interesting buildings which currently stand empty. However mixed use developments centred on both buildings are due to commence in 2005. The Millennium Dome will become an indoor sports hall, and Battersea Power Station will become a shopping and leisure facility.
  • The Avenue of Stars is a walkway based on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, honouring those who have made notable achievments in the entertainments industry.

London in the arts

London's Chinatown, near Leicester Square.
London's Chinatown, near Leicester Square.

Literature featuring London

Main article: London in fiction

London has been the setting for many works of literature. The two writers who are perhaps most closely associated with the city are the diarist Samuel Pepys, famous among other things for his eyewitness account of the Great Fire, and Charles Dickens, whose representation of a foggy, snowy, grimy London of street sweepers and pickpockets is a major influence on people's vision of early Victorian London.

James Boswell's 'Life of Samuel Johnson' is the most notable biography in English. Most of it takes place in London. The famous aphorism of Samuel Johnson, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life!" features alongside many other sayings and quips.

Other famous works that feature London include A Journal of the Plague Year and Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot, The Apes of God by Wyndham Lewis, Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Among contemporary writers perhaps the most pervasively influenced by the city is Peter Ackroyd in works such as London: The Biography, The Lambs of London and Hawksmoor.

Films featuring London

Main article: London in film

London has appeared as the setting for many films, for example Notting Hill, and the Ealing comedies. There are gangster films and the romantic comedies of Richard Curtis. Adaptations of Dickens and the Sherlock Holmes novels abound.

London is home to a very large film post-production and special effects industry.

Television programmes featuring London

Main article: London in television

Songs featuring London

Main article: List of songs about London

Video Games featuring London

Major exhibitions staged in London

See also

External links

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Crest of Greater London Greater London | London | City of London Flag of the City of London

London boroughs: Barking and Dagenham | Barnet | Bexley | Brent | Bromley | Camden | Croydon | Ealing | Enfield | Greenwich | Hackney | Hammersmith and Fulham | Haringey | Harrow | Havering | Hillingdon | Hounslow | Islington | Kensington and Chelsea | Kingston | Lambeth | Lewisham | Merton | Newham | Redbridge | Richmond | Southwark | Sutton | Tower Hamlets | Waltham Forest | Wandsworth | City of Westminster

Sui generis: City of London

Enclaves: Inner Temple | Middle Temple

See also: Greater London Authority | London Assembly | Mayor of London

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