London is the capital city of the United Kingdom and of England. London produces 17% of the UK's GDP, and is one of the world's major business, political and cultural centres. London is a leader in international finance, politics, communications, entertainment, fashion and the arts and has considerable influence worldwide. London is one of the world's major global cities (along with New York City, Tokyo and Paris).
Initially a Roman town known as Londinium, nowadays London is the most populous city in the European Union, with an estimated population on 1 January 2005 of 7.5 million and a metropolitan area population of between 12 and 14 million. London's population includes an extremely diverse range of peoples, cultures, and religions, making it one of the most cosmopolitan, vibrant and energetic cities on earth. A resident of London is referred to as a Londoner. Over 300 languages are spoken in London, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. London is known by these names in other languages.
London is the home of many global organisations, institutions and companies, and as such retains its leading role in world affairs. A city where cutting-edge meets tradition, London is a major tourist destination and an international transportation hub. It has many important buildings and iconic landmarks, including world-famous museums, theatres, concert halls, galleries, airports, sports stadia and palaces.
London's status as the Capital has never been granted or confirmed officially —by statute or in written form. Nonetheless, it remains the de facto capital and, through common law, part of the UK's unwritten constitution.
Today, "London" usually refers to the conurbation known as Greater London, which is divided into thirty-two London Boroughs, the City of Westminster and the City of London and forms the London region of England. 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. The metropolitan area of the County of London was previously covered by the Metropolitan Board of Works.
There are other definitions of "London" which cover varying areas, such as the London postal districts; 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.
Geography and climate
Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 km²). London used to be identified by its port on the Thames, which is a navigable river. The river had a major influence on the development of the city. London was founded on the north bank of the Thames and, for many centuries, there was only a single bridge, London Bridge. 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. Today, there are a few hills in London, examples being Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill, they provide 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 with extensive marshlands. 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. It has regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year. Summer temperatures rarely rise much above 33°C (91°F), though higher temperatures have become more common recently. The highest temperature ever recorded in London was 38.1°C (100.6°F), measured at Kew Gardens during the European Heat Wave 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.
The name London is commonly thought to have come from the Latin name Londinium, as London was founded by the Romans during their reign over the land, around AD 43– 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"; the root is 'Lond' meaning 'wild' (i.e. overgrown or forested) place. This fortified Roman settlement was the capital of the province of Britannia. According to findings displayed in The Museum of London, the initial language of London was Latin with much Greek spoken due to the presence of Greek speaking Roman soldiers and businessmen. 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 Boudica 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, Roman Londinium was abandoned and a Saxon village named Lundenwic was established approximately one mile to the west in what is now Aldwych, in the 7th century, probably using the mouth of the River Fleet as a trading ship and fishing boat harbor. The old Roman city (then called Lundenburh) was reoccupied during the late-9th or early-10th century because a fortified place was needed during the Viking attacks.
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 neighboring 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, 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 and 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.
On 7 July 2005, there was a series of coordinated bomb attacks by Islamic extremist suicide bombers on three underground stations and a bus, killing 52 people and injuring over 700. 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 attempted/fake bombings also took place on 21 July 2005; however in the latter incident there was no fatalities.
Today Greater London comprises the City of London and the 32 London boroughs (including the City of Westminster). 12 of these boroughs are defined as Inner London, the remaining 20 defined as Outer London. The dominant centre of activity in London is the City of Westminster (including the West End) which is the main cultural, entertainment and consumer 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 at the center of international finance, and is Europe’s main business center. The headquarters of more than 100 of Europe’s 500 largest companies are all 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 is one of the most visited cities on earth. Tourist attractions are located mainly in Central London, comprising the historic City of London; the West End with its many cinemas, bars, clubs, theaters, shops and restaurants; the City of Westminster with Westminster Abbey, the royal residences of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and St. James's Palace; 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 South Bank and Bankside areas of Southwark with the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern; London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and the Tate Britain on the Embankment; and the British Museum in Bloomsbury. There are many other places of interest across the city.
London is an international center of culture in all its forms - music, theater, arts, museums, festivals and much more.
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 skyscrapers, 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.
The West End
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 and busiest 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. West of the City, Covent Garden is home to the Avenue of Stars, London's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
South of Oxford Street's eastern end is Soho, a network of small streets crowded with restaurants, pubs, clubs, smaller shops and boutiques, and theaters 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 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
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, Millwall 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. East end of London is also home to the longest street market in europe- Walthamstow market.
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.
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. The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event led by members of the Caribbean community, many of whom have lived in the area since the 1950s. The carnival attracts up to 1.5 million people, making it the largest street festival in the world.
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 Europe's largest and busiest airport, London Heathrow.
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.
North London includes suburbs such as Hampstead and Highgate, which retain a village atmosphere. North London is hillier 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 Muslims, the Green Lanes area of Harringay and the Finsbury Park area have 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.
South London contains such diverse districts as Wimbledon (famous as the home of the major tennis Wimbledon Championships), Bermondsey, Clapham, Eltham, Lewisham, Woolwich, Blackheath, Southwark, New Cross 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, Lewisham 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.
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 610 square miles or 1,579 km²) had an estimated 7,421,228 inhabitants in 2004, 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 .
In the 2001 census, 71% of these seven million people classed their ethnic group as white (classified as British White (60%), Irish White (3%) or "Other White" (8%) in the 2001 census), 12% as Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or "Other Asian" (mostly Sri Lankan and other South Asian ethnicities), 5% as black African, 5% as black Caribbean, 1% as "Other Black", 3% as mixed race, 1% as Chinese and 2% as Other (mostly Filipino, Japanese, and Vietnamese). The largest religious groupings are Christian (58.2%), No Religion (15.8%), Muslim (7.2%), Hindu (4.1%), Jewish (2.1%), and Sikh (1.5%). 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).
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 (in 2001) ; larger than the combined populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 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). 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 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 ,,.
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.
Business and economy
London serves as an enormous engine for the global economy. As Europe's largest city economy, it generated $365 billion in 2004 (17% of the UK's Gross Domestic Product) although this only refers to the city proper. The economic impact of the entire London metropolitan area is far higher, year-on-year accounting for approximately 30% of the UK's GDP  or $642 billion (estimate) in 2004. If it were it a country, the London metropolitan area would be the 13th largest economy in the world - higher than the GDP of Australia. London is also a large financial exporter making it a large contributor to the UK's balance of payments.
The City of London is the largest financial centre in 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 smaller than City of London, but has equally prestigious occupants, including the global headquarters of HSBC, Reuters, Barclays and the largest law firm in the world, Clifford Chance.
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.
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.
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 public transport network, administered by Transport for London (TfL), is one of the most extensive in the world, but faces congestion and reliability issues. It is one of the most complex transit systems anywhere on the planet, with just over 1 billion journeys each year on the Underground alone.
In preparation for the 2012 London Olympic Games, a total of £7 billion (€10 billion) will be spent on refurbishment and expansion of city links, mainly on the Underground. Although winning the Games has acted as a catalyst for action, most of the work would still be completed if the bid had been unsuccessful.
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.
London is home to a diverse number of universities, colleges and schools, and is a leading centre of research and development. This includes prominent universities such as Imperial College London, King's College London, University College London and the London School of Economics.
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 contact teaching university in the United Kingdom and in Europe. 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.
Secondly, there are other universities not part of the University of London, some of which were polytechnics until UK polytechnics were granted university status in 1992, and others which were founded much earlier.
London is a major international communications centre with a virtually unrivaled number of media outlets. 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 one of the world's most influential media organisations. Partly to counter complaints about London bias, the BBC announced in June 2004 that some departments are to be relocated to Manchester. Other networks headquarted in London include ITV, Channel 4, Five and BSkyB. Like the BBC, these produce some programmes elsewhere in the UK, but London is their main production centre. Local programming including news is provided by all main networks via city-based local station variants (eg: BBC One London or ITV London).
There is a huge choice of radio stations available in London. Local city-wide stations include music-based stations such as Capital FM, Heart 106.2 and Kiss 100 and popular news/talk stations include BBC London, LBC 97.3 and LBC News 1152.
The London 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.
London has three daily newspaper titles - the popular Evening Standard, plus two free titles, Metro and Standard Lite (published by the Evening Standard) which are distributed every morning at London tube and railway stations. The independent weekly listings guide Time Out Magazine has been providing concert, film, theatre and arts information since 1968.
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.
There are a vast number of local newspapers in the London area, often covering a small section of the city.
With computers and technology playing a key part in the economy, companies have created a large number of datacentres within Greater London, many of which are in the Docklands area. As a result, London now hosts key parts of the Internet, including LINX (London INternet eXchange), the largest Internet Exchange Point in the world carrying over 82Gb/sec (12/2005) of internet traffic - an estimated 96% of UK internet traffic.
Style and fashion
London is one of the "big four" fashion capitals (alongside Paris, Milan and New York) and is home to some of the finest haute couture in the world. Burberry, French Connection FCUK, Laura Ashley, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney are all famous London designers. London Fashion Week takes place twice a year.
Some of the world's most renowned department stores are based in London including Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. The Mayfair district, which includes Bond Street, is home to many exclusive designer stores and boutiques. The famous street markets of London, that shot to fame in the 1960s are also well known and include Carnaby Street, Notting Hill and Camden Town.
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 Religious Society of Friends (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. Hare Krishna monks are a common sight in the city centre and the Hindu temple at Neasden, Neasden Temple is the largest Hindu temple outside of India, built in the 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 .
The most popular spectator sport in London is football, and London has several of England's leading football clubs. Arsenal and Chelsea are regarded as two of the Premier League's "big three" alongside Manchester United, and regularly play in the UEFA Champions League; the other London clubs in the top flight are Charlton Athletic, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.
Wembley Stadium (which is currently being rebuilt) has traditionally been the home of the England football team, and serves as the venue for the FA Cup final, as well as rugby league's Challenge Cup final. Twickenham Stadium in west London is the national rugby union stadium, and three Guinness Premiership sides (London Irish, Saracens and Wasps) all originate from London, although they are now all based just outside the Greater London area.
Two Test cricket grounds are located in London: Lord's, home of Middlesex, in St John's Wood, and The Oval, home of Surrey, in Kennington. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, home of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships is in Wimbledon in the south. London also hosts the annual London Marathon, one of the largest mass-participation marathons in the world, and the Oxford v. Cambridge Boat Race.
Places of interest
- Buckingham Palace
- Camden Town
- Covent Garden
- Downing Street
- Horse Guards Parade
- Leicester Square
- The London Dungeon
- London Aquarium
- 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 (Home of Swiss Re, and also known as "The Gherkin" or even the "Erotic Gherkin")
- Albert Memorial
- Alexandra Palace
- Bank of England
- Battersea Power Station
- British Library
- Broadcasting House
- BT Tower (Formerly known as the Post Office Tower and Telecom 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
- National Portrait Gallery, London
- National Gallery, London
- Palace of Westminster (Parliament and tower containing Big Ben)
- Royal Albert Hall
- Royal Courts of Justice
- Royal Exchange
- Royal Festival Hall
- Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Greenwich Meridian
- Royal Opera House
- Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden
- St Pancras Station
- St Paul's Cathedral
- Somerset House
- Syon House
- Tate Gallery (now known as Tate Britain)
- Tate Modern (formerly Bankside Power Station)
- Temple of Mithras
- Tower 42 (formerly known as the Natwest Tower)
- Westminster Abbey
Parks and gardens
London is well endowed 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's 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 achievements in the entertainments industry.
- Highgate Cemetery is an interesting cemetery where many famous people are buried, for example Karl Marx and Michael Faraday.
London in the arts
Literature featuring London
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
London has appeared as the setting for many films, for example Notting Hill, and the Ealing comedies. Gangster films such as the Krays & Let Him Have It depicted London not long after the second world war and in the late 1990s the films of Guy Ritchie showed parts of the capital more familiar to Londoners rather than the world wide audience. Adaptations of Dickens and the Sherlock Holmes novels abound. Rene Zellweger made the area of Borough Market more popular than it already was by appearing as the love seeking character Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones's Diary. And when Danny Boyle decided to make his succesfull 28 Days Later, the streets in central London were seen for the first time as deserted and unhabited. Woody Allen's 2006 film Match Point is set and filmed on location in London.
- The official website of the Mayor of London, the London Assembly and the Greater London Authority.
- Transport for London
- ... including The London Underground (The Tube)
- London 2012 Olympic Games.
- The Office of National Statistics 2001 census overview for London.
- The London Plan 2004, abbreviated and in full.
- VisitLondon The Official Website for London
- The Open Guide to London, a project to document all of London in a wiki.
- 350 pictures with maps of itineraries for walks to do in London
- Online text of Finlay Murihead's 1927 guide to London and its environs
- the London Link, information for foreigners living in London.
- London Pictures Pictures of attractions and areas in London
- Urban Path: Nice things in London
- CityMap of London from ITMaps.
- World66 Guide to London, a travel guide written by its users.
- Worst London Tourist Attractions - a guide of a different kind - where not to go, for tourists
- World Music Central guide to London - for cultural travelers interested in local music artists, venues, recording industry, CD shops, instrument makers, etc.
- Frommer's London Hotel, restaurant and attraction reviews
- LondonNet.com Featuring club, pub and bar listings; ticket sales; current happenings in London.
- London URL Map - map of geotagged websites around London.
- First chapter of the book "London: The Biography" by Peter Ackroyd
- Novels set in London reviewed by Century of setting
- The social history of 19th century London
- Londinium.com, the original site for London
- An Explanation of the Name of London (PostScript file)
- Local News & information website
- "This Is London" - Evening Standard website
- "Time Out London" - City guide to London
- London at NASA's Earth Observatory
- Photo Essay of The London Underground
- Michael Pead :: Photos of London - collection of pictures taken around London.
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