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 capitals. London is pre-eminent in the culture, communications, politics, finance, and arts of its country, and has considerable influence worldwide. Alongside New York City, Paris, and Tokyo, London is often listed among the four major global cities.
The estimated population, as of 1 January 2005, was 7,421,228 in Greater London, and several million more in London's metro area (see the Demographics section below), easily making London the largest city in the UK. Its population includes a very diverse range of peoples, cultures, and religions, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, and the world. Many of the world's wealthiest people are also permanent or temporary residents.
London is the home of many institutions, organisations and companies, and as such retains an important 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 home of many embassies and consulates.
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 its heart, from which the city grew.
There are other definitions of "London" for special purposes, such as the area within the London postal district; the area within 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; and the London commuter belt.
The coordinates of the centre of London (traditionally considered to be Charing Cross, near Trafalgar Square) 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
Main article: Geography and 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.
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 .
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 33°C (91.4°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 Heat Wave of 2003. Heavy snowfalls are almost unknown. In recent winters, snow has generally only settled once or twice and it is rarely 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.
Main article: History of London
Although there is no evidence of a large pre-Roman settlement, the name London is thought pre-date the Romans, who founded a settlement called Londinium on the north bank of the Thames circa 50AD. This fortified settlement was the capital of the Roman province of Britannia.
After the fall of 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 AD. The old Roman city was then re-occupied 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 centuries, 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. Re-building 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. The development of London's local government system struggled to keep up with the city's expansion. From 1855 to 1889 the main city-wide body was the Metropolitan Board of Works, which as a central government department responsible for London's infrastructure. The elected London County Council was created in 1889. It covered the City of London and the areas covered by 12 of the 32 current London boroughs.
In the early part of the 20th century, Londoners used coal for heating their homes, which produced large amounts of smoke. In combination with climatic conditions this often caused a characteristic smog, and London became known for its typical "London Fog", also known as "Pea Soupers". London is also sometimes referred to as "The Smoke", probably because of this. The Clean Air Act 1956 was introduced following the five-day "pea souper" of 5 December to 9 December 1952, which killed over 4,000 people, mandating the creating of "smokeless zones" where the use of "smokeless" fuels was required.
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.
In 1865 London County Council was superseded by the Greater London Council (GLC). Greater London incorporated many additional suburbs into the capital, including 20 of the current London boroughs. The GLC was abolished in 1986 after conflicts between the Thatcher government and its left wing controlling group led by Ken Livingstone. The GLC's powers were delegated to the boroughs. In 2000 the pendulum swung the other way with the creation of the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the election for London first mayor, which Ken Livingstone won as an independent candidate. However the mayor and the GLA have limited responsibilities and little financial independence.
Today Greater London comprises the City of London, 32 London boroughs (including the City of Westminster), and the Inner and Middle Temples. 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, (known as the "Square Mile"), is an important financial centre. 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 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 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.
City of London (the "Square Mile")
The City of London is the principal financial district of the United Kingdom, and is one of the most important in Europe. 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 by buildings, including the tallest, 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. It primacy as the chief financial district has been directly challenged in recent years by Canary Wharf in East London.
The West End
The West End is the most popular shopping and entertainment district in London. Oxford Street is one of the best known shopping streets in the world. Running from Tottenham Court 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).
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, and the notorious sex industry. 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 saw much of London's early industrial development and much of it now is being extensively redeveloped as part of the Thames Gateway. It is also key to London's bid to host the 2012 Olympics. Further afield, there is much suburban development.
The East End
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 of 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 clichéd 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 Docklands, on the Isle of Dogs, 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 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 1993.
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 is a shopping mall 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 station. There is a huge sports and music venue nearby, London Arena.
There has also been a great deal of residential development in the area, extending west around Limehouse Basin and towards Wapping, where loft apartments are de rigeur for a community of bankers, software developers and others working in the financial service industries in and around Docklands.
West London includes many of the traditionally fashionable and expensive residential areas such as Notting Hill, made famous recently by a film of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Nearby 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.
South London contains such diverse districts as Wimbledon (famous as the home of the major tennis Wimbledon Championships), Bermondsey, and Dulwich. Redevelopment of Elephant and Castle, a road intersection and district close to the centre of the city, 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.
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 a large Turkish community.
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 City.
Residents of London are known as "Londoners". In the 2001 census, the City and the 32 boroughs (some 1,579 km² or 610 square miles) had an official 7,172,036 inhabitants, making London one of the most populous cities in Europe alongside Moscow and Paris. 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 
In the 2001 census, 76% of these seven million people classed their ethnic group as white (classified as British White, Irish or "Other White" in the Census of 2001), 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%). 21.8% of inhabitants were born outside the European Union. 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: ) 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).
As for the metropolitan area of London: 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 the term "Greater London" for the political entity of the "City Proper", which is often confused as a 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: , ) 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 (11.2 million people in the metropolitan area in 1999). However, the definition used here for the metropolitan area of London should be taken with a lot of caution, as it includes areas quite far away from London, such as Dover, right by the English Channel, or Colchester, in the very north of Essex. Discounting eastern Kent, northern Essex, and West Berkshire, the figure is closer to 12 million to 12.5 million people.
In 2004, the Government of Greater London officially defined a metropolitan region centered on London covering 27,224 km² (10,511 square miles) with a population of approximately 18 million people, including a large portion (though not all of) the South East England and East of England regions (As described in the "London Plan" from the Mayor of London external link below). A metropolitan region is not the same as a metropolitan area. It is a region where there are a vast number of linkages and networks between all the urban settlements. Another metropolitan region is the one extending from Rotterdam to Cologne along the Rhine River, with about 30 million people in it. It should be noted, however, that the metropolitan region of London defined here bears little or no relation to what "London" is understood to be by the British public. (External references:,,)
Greater London is subdivided into 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. Re-admitted in 2004, he was re-elected as Mayor as an official Labour candidate in the election later that year.
Previous London wide administrative bodies were the Metropolitan Board of Works from 1855–1889; the London County Council from 1889–1965; and the Greater London Council (GLC) from 1965–1986. 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, which they have now lost to some extent.
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.
Transport and Infrastructure
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 serious congestion and reliability issues.
London's Underground Railway is the oldest in the world, and possibly one of the busiest. It is thought that more than 3 million people use the Underground every day. The Underground has in recent decades suffered from a lack of sufficient investment since the sums of money needed to keep it fully modernised are very high. This has led to congestion and delays for passengers in some areas of the network, although there have also been improvements, for example the opening of the Jubilee Line extension. Recently the London Rail and Tram network has received substantial funding.
London has the second largest urban rail system in the world after Tokyo. It includes:
Many of the UK's rail lines radiate from London. London's rail termini are: Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Euston, Fenchurch Street, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge (which also has through platforms), Marylebone, Paddington, St. Pancras, Victoria and Waterloo. With the exception of Fenchurch Street, all of these stations also have associated London Underground stations.
The Heathrow Express is not strictly a part of the public rail system, but is owned by BAA plc. As of 2005, Transport for London runs the London Underground (the world's first underground rail network or metro), commonly also known as "The Tube". The national government's recently introduced public–private partnerships to the Underground despite opposition from many parties, including the Mayor of London.
The largest project currently underway is the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, CTRL Phase 2, which will provide fast Eurostar rail services all the way from Stratford in East London to the CTRL Phase 1, which was completed in 2003, and on via the Channel Tunnel to Paris, Brussels and other destinations in continental Europe. Currently Eurostar operates out of Waterloo International Terminal at Waterloo, and Eurostar trains have to traverse a circuitous route over old railway tracks through Vauxhall, Clapham and Brixton before connecting to the CTRL Phase 1 at Ebbsfleet in Kent. The CTRL Phase 2 project involves a huge civil engineering project to construct a tunnel from Stratford to St Pancras Station (now completed), where a major renovation and redesign of the terminal will open for Eurostar train services in 2007. Eurostar will then run from London to Paris on high speed track for its entire journey. The CTRL project is significant in that it represents the first new rail line to be built in the UK for over 100 years.
An ambitious project is Crossrail, which proposes a new east-west tunnel traversing central London. Financing for this has not yet been agreed. Smaller projects include extensions to the East London Line of the Underground, and to the Docklands Light Railway. The tram system is also being extended, particularly in Croydon, in South London.
There are far fewer Underground rail lines in South London than in North London. This is partly because the underlying geology of South London is much less favourable for tunnelling than it is north of the Thames. It also reflects the concentration of the network on Central London, which was focused to north of the Thames to a greater extent when most of the underground lines were built than is the case today. South London relies on over-ground commuter lines to a greater extent, but these tend to offer less frequent services.
Until 2003 there was also an underground railway for mail transport, the London Post Office Railway.
Most of the streets of central London were laid out before cars were invented and London's road network is often congested. Attempts to tackle this go back at least to the 1740s, when the New Road was built through the fields north of the city; it is now just another congested central London thoroughfare. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, new wide roads such as Victoria Embankment, Shaftesbury Avenue and Kingsway were created. Some drastic plans for motorways in the heart of the city were put forward in the decades immediately after World War II, but they came to little due to the costs involved and objections to the mass demolitions required. By the end of the 20th century policy swung towards a preference for public transport improvements.
The most significant road scheme in the London area in the late 20th century was probably the M25 orbital motorway, many sections of which are outside the boundaries of Greater London. There is also an inner circular route, comprised of the North Circular (the A406 from Gunnersbury to West Ham) and the South Circular (the A205). This route is narrow and inadequate in places, especially in South London.
Many of the UK's motorways radiate from London. These are: M1 (to the north); M11 (north east); M2 and M20 (south east); M23 (south); M3 (south west); M4 (west); M40 (north west). Various other trunk roads start in London, for example the A1 (The Great North Road) and the A10 (to Cambridge).
Buses and taxis
Main article: Buses in London
London's famous red double decker buses are now run by private companies, although it is a requirement that the buses still be painted red. However the iconic red "Routemaster" bus has now almost disappeared.
There have been major improvements to the bus service in recent years, and passenger journeys are now more than 5 million a day, which is around 2 million more than on the Underground. Another icon, the famous London taxi black cab remains a common sight.
In February 2003, Transport for London (TfL) introduced a radical scheme to charge private motorists £5.00 per day for driving vehicles within a designated area of Central London during peak hours: the Congestion Charge. This scheme has succeeded in significantly reducing traffic congestion, but remains controversial. The charge will rise to £8 in July 2005.
Heathrow, 10 miles west of London, is London's principal airport and a major hub. It is currently the busiest international airport in the world, with four terminal buildings. A fifth terminal will open in 2008.
London Gatwick Airport and London Stansted Airport are also large international airports, with approximately 30 million and 20 million passengers a year respectively. They are both outside the boundaries of Greater London, as is the fourth largest airport which serves London, London Luton Airport. Dedicated direct rail services serve Gatwick and Stansted, Luton is served by fast Thameslink trains with only one or two intermediate stops, and the Heathrow Express and London Underground Piccadilly Line both serve Heathrow. London's fifth largest international airport, and the one closest to the city centre, is London City Airport in Docklands.
The River Thames is navigable to ocean going vessels as far as London Bridge, and to substantial craft well past Greater London. Historically, the river was one of London's main transport arteries. This is no longer the case, but there are still small scale passenger services, and a large number of leisure cruises operate on the river. Additionally some bulk cargoes are carried on the river, and the Mayor of London wishes to increase this use.
London also has several canals, including the Regent's Canal which links the Thames to the Grand Union Canal and thus to the waterway network across much of England. These canals are no longer used to transport goods, but they are popular with leisure cruisers.
Electric power supply
Several power stations were built to generate electricity in the centre of London, including the famous power stations at Bankside and Battersea (both now disused). Bankside power station has now been converted into Tate Modern, but still houses part of a large electricity transformer substation (you can hear it humming when you visit Tate Modern).
HVDC Kingsnorth has been a unique element of the London power grid since 1975, the first urban high voltage direct current transmission system in the world. It was subsequently converted to standard 3-phase alternating current.
The Thames Water Ring Main supplies much of London with water. Sewage disposal was historically a problem, causing major pollution of the Thames and potable water supplies. London suffered from major outbreaks of cholera and typhus well into the mid-1800s. Indeed, the problem was so severe that Parliament was suspended on occasion due to the stench from the river. These problems were solved when Sir Joseph Bazalgette completed his system of intercepting mains to divert sewage from the Thames to outfalls east of London, where the tide would sweep the sewage out to sea.
Universities and Colleges
London has the largest student population of any British city, although not the highest per capita. Universities in London may be divided into two groups:
First, the federal University of London, which, with over 100,000 students, is the largest university in the United Kingdom. It comprises over 50 colleges and institutes with a high degree of autonomy. Constituent colleges have their own admissions procedures, and are effectively universities in their own right, although all degrees are awarded by the University of London rather than the individual colleges. The largest and most prestigious colleges include University College London, (UCL), Imperial College, King's College London, Queen Mary, University of London and the London School of Economics, while smaller schools and institutes include the School of Oriental and African Studies, the Institute of Education, and Birkbeck College, which specialises in part time and mature students.
London is Britain's leading centre for arts education. London's four music conservatories are the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, and Trinity College of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Other drama schools include Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts ("RADA"), and the Central School of Speech and Drama. Art schools include Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Chelsea School of Art, and Camberwell School of Art, (all part of the University of the Arts), and Goldsmith's College and the Slade School of Art (both part of the University of London), and The Royal College of Art. The former Hornsey School of Art is now part of Middlesex University.
The Royal Institution is an historic and important repository and proponent of the acquisition of scientific knowledge through research and study.
Most state schools in London are run by the London Boroughs. In common with other large cities in the UK, there are problems in some inner city schools, particularly those in less affluent areas. It is difficult to retain teachers in struggling schools. London's high property prices mean that teachers are often unable to afford to buy their own homes, which forces many to moving to more affordable parts of the country. There are many private schools in Greater London including some of England's best known public schools such as Harrow and Westminster.
The British media is concentrated in London. This fact is sometimes accused of creating a "London bias" in the media's output. The BBC, which remains Britain's most respected news and media organisation, is based in London, though it also has centres in many other UK cities, from which much regional broadcasting emanates. Other TV companies including ITV and BSkyB, are also London based. Channel 4 and Five are also London based, as are a great many TV production companies.
The English newspaper market is dominated by national newspapers, and the majority of them are edited in London. Until the 1970s, most of the national newspapers were concentrated in Fleet Street, but the 1980s, with the advent of computerised printing technologies saw most move away from the confines of Fleet Street to larger premises with automated printing works, notably to Wapping, near Tower Bridge. The move was resisted strongly by the printing trade unions SOGAT 82, and strike action at the News International buildings in Wapping in 1986 saw violent skirmishes. The last major news agency in Fleet Street, Reuters, moved to Canary Wharf in 2003, but Fleet Street is still commonly used as a collective term for the national press.
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 has 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, is distributed in the morning, mainly at railway stations. The BBC's operates BBC London radio, and there are several independent radio stations, including Capital FM and Kiss FM.
When Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to bring England into the Catholic fold in 597 CE, 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. However, 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 UK 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, while other large mosques have been built in Whitechapel and Finsbury Park. London also has a large Hindu population. Southall, in West London is home to many Hindus. The Hindu temple at Neasden, Neasden Temple is remarkable as the largest Hindu temple outside of India. 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 .
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, 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 3". In 2003/04 they became the first pair of London clubs to finish first and second in England's top football league, and in 2004/05 they did so again.
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 5" for most of the post-war period. In 2004/5 there are six London clubs in the Premier League in total: Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, and Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace (who play in South Norwood), and Fulham.
There are five London clubs in the fully professional Football League, namely Brentford, Millwall, Queens Park Rangers (QPR), Leyton Orient and West Ham United—all of whom have previously played in the top division. In a controversial move, Wimbledon F.C. left London in 2003 to play in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, changing their name to Milton Keynes Dons, and the newly formed AFC Wimbledon inherited most of their support, despite playing at a much lower level in the football pyramid. There are also many 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.
London was one of the venues for the World Cup in 1966, and the European Football Championship in 1996, and hosted the final of both tournaments. London also hosted the European Cup final in 1968, 1978 and 1992.
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. Four of the twelve clubs in the elite Zurich Premiership have London origins. Harlequins still play in Greater London, and London Irish, Saracens, Wasps, share football grounds just outside the boundaries of Greater London, but in the metropolitan area. The Northern England based sport of rugby league has maintained a top division club called the London Broncos in the capital in recent years as part of its expansion efforts, but the club has struggled to be viable. 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 do.
There are two Test Match 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.
Wembley Stadium, currently being rebuilt, is the national football stadium, traditionally the home of the FA Cup Final as well as major international football matches, and Rugby League matches. During the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium, Cardiff's Millennium Stadium has been the venue for the FA Cup Final.
London hosts one of the world's largest mass-participation marathons, the London Marathon, and has twice hosted the Olympic Games, in 1908 and 1948, and is one of the cities bidding to host the 2012 Games.
London has five professional symphony orchestras; the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. There are also several chamber orchestras, some of which specialise in period instrument performances, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
The principal orchestral music venues are the Royal Festival Hall, and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which are both in the South Bank Centre; the Barbican Centre; and the Royal Albert Hall, which hosts the Proms each summer. Chamber music venues include the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre; the Wigmore Hall and St. John's, Smith Square.
The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden is home to the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies. The other main opera company is the English National Opera. In the summer opera is performed in a temporary pavilion by Opera Holland Park, and there are occasional performances by visiting opera companies and small freelance professional opera companies. The major venues for contemporary dance productions include the Sadler's Wells Theatre and the Barbican Centre.
London hosts several festivals, fairs and carnivals throughout the year. The most famous is the Notting Hill Carnival, the world's largest carnival. The carnival takes place over the August bank holiday weekend, and attracts almost 2 million people. It has a distinctly Afro-Caribbean flavour, and highlights include a competition between London's steelpan bands and a 3 mile street parade with dancing and music.
There are also large parades held on St. George's Day (23rd April) and St. Patrick's Day (17th March). The Dance Umbrella is held every October, and features a variety of dance companies putting on displays across London. In addition there are many smaller fairs and parades, including the Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre, a fair held annually to promote animal rights.
There are over three dozen major theatres, most concentrated in the West End (see the articles West End Theatre and List of London venues). West End theatres are commercial ventures and show musicals, comedy and serious drama. The subsidised or non-commercial theatre includes the National Theatre, which is based at the South Bank; the Royal Shakespeare Company which is based in Stratford, but presents seasons in London; The Globe, a modern reconstruction of the home of Shakespeare's troupe; The Royal Court Theatre which specialises in new drama; the Old Vic; and the Young Vic. London also boasts a vibrant fringe theatre culture including places such as the Battersea Arts Centre, The UCL Bloomsbury, The Place, and Tricycle Theatre.
The British National collection of Western Art to 1900 is held at The National Gallery. Other major collections of pre-1900 art are The Wallace Collection; the Courtauld Gallery at the Courtauld Institute of Art; and Dulwich Picture Gallery. The national collection of post-1900 art is at Tate Modern and the national collection of British Art is at Tate Britain. The National Portrait Gallery has a major collection of portraits of all periods.
Main article: List of London museums
There are over 260 museums in London. Among the more important are the British Museum (antiquities from all over the world), the Victoria and Albert Museum (applied and decorative arts), the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum, and the Museum of London.
Apart from the pubs and clubs, there are many music venues. Among the best known are Shepherds Bush Empire, Brixton Academy, Hammersmith Apollo, Wembley Arena, The Marquee, The UCL Bloomsbury, Mean Fiddler, Albert Hall and the London Astoria.
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.
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 tourist attractions
Places of interest
This is a selective list. See also: London attractions.
- Covent Garden
- Downing Street
- Horse Guards Parade
- Leicester Square
- The London Dungeon
- London Eye
- London Planetarium
- London Zoo
- Madame Tussaud's
- Piccadilly Circus
- South Bank
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- Trafalgar Square
Buildings and Monuments
- 1 Canada Square (the centrepiece of Canary Wharf)
- 30 St Mary Axe (also known as "The Gherkin" and the "Swiss Re Building")
- Albert Memorial
- Alexandra Palace
- Bank of England
- Battersea Power Station
- British Library
- Broadcasting House
- BT Tower (Formerly known as the Post Office Tower)
- Buckingham Palace
- Bush House
- City Hall
- Clarence House
- Cleopatra's Needle
- Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
- Hampton Court Palace
- Lambeth Palace
- Kensington Palace
- Lloyd's building
- Marble Arch
- Millennium Dome
- The Monument (to the Great Fire of London)
- Nelson's Column
- Palace of Westminster (Parliament and tower containing Big Ben)
- Royal Albert Hall
- Royal Courts of Justice
- Royal Festival Hall
- Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Greenwich Meridian
- Royal Opera House
- St Pancras Station
- St Paul's Cathedral
- Somerset House
- Syon House
- Temple of Mithras
- Tower 42 (formerly known as the Natwest Tower)
- Westminster Abbey
Museums and galleries
Markets and shopping areas
- West End
- Borough Market
- Portobello Road Market
- Petticoat Lane Market
- Brick Lane Market
- Covent Garden
There are many diverse shopping areas in various parts of London.
Parks and gardens
- Alexandra Park
- Battersea Park
- Brockwell Park
- Chelsea Physic Garden
- Green Park
- Greenwich Park
- Hampstead Heath
- Hampton Court
- Holland Park
- Hyde Park
- Kensington Gardens
- Primrose Hill
- Regents Park
- Richmond Park
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (known as Kew Gardens)
- St. James's Park
- Victoria Park
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.
- 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.
London in the arts
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 eye-witness 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.
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.
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.
TV shows featuring London
Main article: London in television
- Are You Being Served?
- The Bill
- Doctor Who
- Family Affairs
- Only Fools and Horses
- Men Behaving Badly
Songs featuring London
Main article: London in music
- Cities by Talking Heads from their 1979 album Fear of Music.
- Down in the Tube Station at Midnight by The Jam
- Doing the Lambeth Walk Music Hall favourite
- Emit Remmus by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
- I'm Going To Get Lit Up When The Lights Go On In London by Hubert Gregg
- London by Tangerine Dream (words by William Blake)
- London Calling Album and title song by The Clash
- London Bridge is falling down Traditional nursery rhyme
- London Town Album by Paul McCartney and Wings
- Lullaby of London by The Pogues
- Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner by Hubert Gregg
- A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square by Eric Maschwitz
- Pop Music by M
- Streets of London by Ralph McTell
- The Sights and Sounds of London Town by Richard Thompson from his album Mock Tudor
- Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks (some would say it is one of Ray Davies best songs, and it was recently voted London's 'national anthem' by Time Out magazine)
- Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon
Major exhibitions staged in London
- 1851 – Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations — The Crystal Palace
- 1862 – International Exhibition (1862)
- 1871 – First Annual International Exhibition (1871)
- 1872 – Second Annual International Exhibition (1872)
- 1873 – Third Annual International Exhibition (1873)
- 1874 – Fourth Annual International Exhibition (1874)
- 1886 – Colonial and Indian Exhibition (1886)
- 1899 – Greater Britain Exhibition (1899)
- 1908 – Franco-British Exhibition (1908)
- 1924 – British Empire Exhibition at Wembley
- 1951 – Festival of Britain
- 2000 – Millennium Dome
- Hidden London
- List of churches and cathedrals of London
- List of heads of London government
- List of places in London
- London in fiction
- London markets
- London postal districts
- Mayor of London
- Subterranean London
- Subterranean rivers of London
- Tall buildings in London
- University of London
- Photographs of London
- City status in the United Kingdom
- Travel guide to London from Wikitravel
- The Open Guide to London is a project to document all of London in a wiki.
- London Guide from Englandguide.co.uk
- National Statistics Online (UK) listing the official 2001 population review.
- World66 Guide to London A travel guide written by its users.
- First chapter of the book "London: The Biography" by Peter Ackroyd
- Novels set in London reviewed by Century of setting
- Londinium.com The original site for London
- Mayor of London, the London Assembly and the Greater London Authority official web site for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. www.london.gov.uk
- London at NASA's Earth Observatory
- An Explanation of the Name of London (PostScript file)
- London from Evening Standard
- Transport for London
- London Underground (The Tube)
- Photo Essay of The London Underground
- Urban Path: Nice things in London
- The London Plan – from the Mayor of London (abbreviated)
- The London Plan 2004 – from Mayor of London (full)
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