London

Short history

Initially established by the Romans in AD 47 as Londinium, it served as a critical commercial center. The city has navigated through various historical epochs, each leaving an indelible mark on its character. During the Medieval period, London emerged as a prominent political and economic hub, setting the stage for future growth. The Black Death in the 14th century and the Great Fire of 1666 were significant setbacks, yet they led to urban reforms and rebuilding efforts that shaped modern London. The Industrial Revolution expedited the city’s expansion and population growth, reinforcing its status as a global powerhouse. The 20th century, marked by World Wars, saw London enduring and overcoming immense challenges, leading to the contemporary era where it stands as a multicultural metropolis

Geography

London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is strategically situated in the southeastern part of the country. It rests on the banks of the River Thames, which meanders through the city. The city’s relief is relatively flat, making it conducive for expansion and the establishment of an extensive urban area.

The climate of London is classified as temperate maritime, characterized by mild temperatures throughout the year. Winters are generally cool with occasional cold snaps, while summers are moderately warm. Precipitation is distributed evenly throughout the year, with no distinct dry season, contributing to the city’s lush landscapes.

London’s urban layout is a complex mix of the old and the new, where historical landmarks intermingle with modern skyscrapers. The city is divided into 33 local authorities, including the ancient City of London and the City of Westminster

Population

With a population of approximately 8.8 million, London is not only the largest city in England and the United Kingdom but also the most populous city in Western Europe. In addition to English as an official and most widely spoken, more than 300 other languages can be heard in London, underscoring its status as a melting pot of cultures and traditions. White British are relative majority. However, ethnic minorities include sizable communities of Asian, African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern descent, which contribute to the city’s identity. This diversity is mirrored in the religious landscape of London, with Christianity being the largest religion, followed by significant numbers of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and Buddhists, alongside a growing population of individuals identifying with no religion. The rich interweaving of different cultures, traditions, and languages makes London a uniquely cosmopolitan city.

Main sights

  • The British Museum: Home to a vast collection of world art and artifacts, the British Museum is renowned for its historic pieces, including the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles.
  • The Tower of London: A historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London is famous for its history as a royal palace, prison, and treasury. Visitors can marvel at the Crown Jewels and hear tales of the tower’s past.
  • The London Eye: Offering spectacular views of the city, the London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel situated on the South Bank of the Thames. It stands as a modern symbol of London’s skyline.
  • The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben: Iconic symbols of London, the Houses of Parliament and the adjacent Big Ben (the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock) attract visitors with their beautiful Gothic architecture.
  • Buckingham Palace: The official London residence of the UK’s sovereigns since 1837, Buckingham Palace is a must-visit for the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
  • The Tate Modern: A leading modern art gallery, the Tate Modern houses collections of contemporary art from around the world. It’s located in a former power station on the South Bank.
  • The Shard: Renowned as Western Europe’s tallest building, The Shard offers breathtaking 360-degree views across London from its viewing platform.

Food

  • Fish and Chips: A classic British dish, consisting of fried battered fish, typically cod or haddock, served with thick-cut fried potatoes. It’s a staple of London’s casual dining scene, often enjoyed with mushy peas and tartar sauce.
  • Pie and Mash: A traditional London comfort food, featuring savory pies filled with minced meat or eel, accompanied by mashed potatoes and sometimes doused in a green, parsley-based liquor.
  • Full English Breakfast: A meal that includes eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, and tomatoes. Pubs and cafes across London serve this filling breakfast.
  • Sunday Roast: Typically served in pubs on Sundays, this meal consists of roasted meat (beef, chicken, or lamb), roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, vegetables, and gravy. It’s a quintessentially British way to gather and enjoy a leisurely afternoon.
  • Afternoon Tea: An elegant British tradition that has flourished in London. It includes a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries, and of course, tea. Many of London’s luxury hotels offer their unique takes on this delightful experience.

Fun facts

  • London buses were not always red. Before 1907, they were different colors based on the route.
  • Big Ben is not the name of the iconic clock tower but actually refers to the bell inside it. The tower itself was named the Elizabeth Tower in 2012.
  • The City of London, London’s ancient core, is actually the smallest city in England, covering just 1.12 square miles and has a population of around 7,000 residents.
  • More than 300 languages are spoken in London, making it one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the world.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the London Underground’s logo, also known as the ‘roundel’, was not designed specifically for the transit system. It was actually adopted in 1908 from the London General Omnibus Company.