The Palace of Westminster on the River Thames

The Palace of Westminster on the River Thames


London region shown within England

Coordinates: 51°30′25″N, 0°07′39″W
Sovereign state: United Kingdom
Constituent country: England
Region: London
Regional authority: Greater London Authority
Regional assembly: London Assembly
HQ: City Hall
Mayor: Ken Livingstone
Districts: City & 32 London boroughs
UK Parliament: 74 constituencies
London Assembly: 14 constituencies
European Parliament: London constituency
City of London
Area: 2.6 km² (1.00 sq mi)
Population: 9,200 (2005 est.)
Density: 3,172/km²
Greater London
Area: 1,579 km² (609 sq mi)
Population: 7.5 million (2005 est.)
Density: 4,761/km²
Wider population
Urban area: 8.5 million
London commuter belt: 12-14 million
Time Zone
Standard: GMT (UTC)
Summer: (DST) BST (UTC+1)
This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. For other articles with similar names, see London (disambiguation).

London (pronounced /ˈlʌndən/) is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. An important settlement for around two millennia, London is today one of the world's most important business and financial centres,[1] and its influence in politics, culture, education, entertainment, media, fashion, sport and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the key global cities.

London is the most populous city in the European Union[2] with a population of 7.5 million and a metropolitan area population of between 12 and 14 million. Its population is very cosmopolitan, drawing from a wide range of peoples, cultures and religions, speaking over 300 different languages. London is an international transport hub, with five international airports and a large port. It serves as the largest aviation hub in the world, [3] and its main airport, Heathrow, carries more international passengers than any other airport in the world. [4]

London is a major tourist destination, with iconic landmarks including the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye amongst its many attractions, along with famous institutions such as the British Museum and the National Gallery.



Defining London

London, also commonly known as the Greater London area is one of the regions of England; its local government is the Greater London Authority. The urban sprawl of the conurbation — or Greater London Urban Area — covers a roughly similar area, with a slightly larger population. Beyond this is the vast London commuter belt. At London's core is the small, ancient City of London which is commonly known as "The City" or "Square Mile". Within London, both the City of London and the City of Westminster have City status.

40% of Greater London is covered by the London postal area.[5] The London telephone area code covers a larger area, similar in size to Greater London, although some outer districts are omitted and some places just outside are included. The area within the orbital M25 motorway is sometimes used to define the "London area"[6] and the Greater London boundary has been aligned to it in places.[7] Greater London is split for some purposes into Inner London and Outer London.

London's metropolitan area ('the metropolis') grew considerably during the Victorian era and again during the Interwar period with expansion halted in the 1940s by World War II and Green Belt legislation and has been largely static since. The Metropolitan Police District, city-wide local government area and London transport area have varied over time, but currently broadly coincide with the Greater London boundary.

Unlike most capital cities, London's status as the capital of the UK has never been granted or confirmed officially — by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the UK's unwritten constitution.

The Romans may have marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone, still visible on Cannon Street. [8] The co-ordinates of the nominal centre of London (traditionally considered to be the original Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square and Whitehall) are approximately 51°30′29″N, 00°07′29″W. Trafalgar Square has also became a central point for celebrations and protests.


Geography and climate


Topography and climate

Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 km²), making it one of the world's largest cities by area. Its primary geographical feature is the Thames, a navigable river which crosses the city from the southwest to the east. The Thames Valley is a floodplain surrounded by gently rolling hills such as Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill. These hills presented no significant obstacle to the growth of London from its origins as a port on the north side of the river, and therefore London is roughly circular.

The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river 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.[9] The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level by the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound. In 1974, a decade of work began on the construction of the Thames Barrier across the Thames at Woolwich to deal with this threat, but a more substantial barrier further downstream may be necessary in the near future.

London has a temperate climate with regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year - London is in fact amongst the driest of Europe's capitals, with water resources per head of population equivalent to Israel.[10] The warmest month is July, with an average temperature range at Greenwich of 13.6 °C to 22.8 °C (56.5 to 73.0 °F). The coolest month is January, averaging 2.4 °C to 7.9 °C (35.6 to 46.2 °F). Average annual precipitation is 583.6 mm(22.98 in), with February on average the driest month.[11] Snow is uncommon, particularly because heat from the urban area can make London 5 °C (9 °F) hotter than the surrounding areas in winter. London is in USDA Hardiness zone 9, and AHS Heat Zone 2.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg high °C (°F) 7.2 (45.0) 7.6 (45.7) 10.3 (50.5) 13.0 (55.4) 17.0 (62.6) 20.3 (68.5) 22.3 (72.1) 21.9 (71.4) 19.1 (66.4) 15.2 (59.4) 10.4 (50.7) 8.2 (46.8)
Avg low temperature °C (°F) 2.4 (36.3) 2.5 (36.5) 3.8 (38.8) 5.6 (42.1) 8.7 (47.7) 11.6 (52.9) 13.7 (56.7) 13.4 (56.1) 11.4 (52.5) 8.9 (48.0) 5.1 (41.2) 3.4 (38.1)


Main articles: Central London, City of London, West End, East London, East End, Docklands, West London, North London, South London
Part of the London skyline looking east from the South Bank of the Thames.
Part of the London skyline looking east from the South Bank of the Thames.

London's vast urban area is often described using a set of district names (e.g. Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Whitechapel). These are either informal designations, or reflect the names of superseded parishes and city wards. Such names have remained in use through tradition, each referring to a neighbourhood with its own distinctive character, but often with no modern official boundaries (the boundaries often overlap, allowing estate agents some leeway in defining the location of a property).

One area of London which does have a strict definition is the City of London (usually just called The City), the largest financial district and central business district (CBD) in Europe. The City has its own governance and boundaries, giving it a status as the only completely autonomous local authority in London. London's new financial and commercial hub is the Docklands area to the east of the City, dominated by the Canary Wharf complex. Other businesses locate in the City of Westminster, the home of the UK's national government and the famous Westminster Abbey.

The West End is London's main entertainment and shopping district, with locations such as Oxford Street, Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus acting as tourist magnets. The West London area is known for fashionable and expensive residential areas such as Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea — where some properties can sell for £5,000,000 and above.

The eastern side of London contains the East End — the area closest to the original Port of London, known for its high immigrant population, as well as for being one of the poorest areas in London. The surrounding East London area saw much of London's early industrial development; now, brownfield sites throughout the area are being redeveloped, including areas along the Thames (the Thames Gateway) and up the Lower Lea Valley, which is being developed into the Olympic Park for the 2012 Olympics. North London and South London are informal divisions of the capital made by the River Thames, although they can define varying areas.


Built environment

The density of London varies, with high employment density in the central area, high residential densities in inner London and lower densities in the suburbs. In the dense areas, most of the concentration is achieved with medium-rise and high-rise buildings. London's skyscrapers such as the famous "Gherkin", Tower 42 and One Canada Square are usually found in the two financial districts, the City of London and Canary Wharf.

In recent years, the development of tall buildings has been encouraged in the London Plan, which will lead to the erection of new skyscrapers over the next few years as London goes through a high-rise boom, particularly in the City of London and Canary Wharf.[12] The 72-storey, 310 m "Shard London Bridge" by London Bridge station, the 288 m Bishopsgate Tower and around 30 other skyscrapers over 150 m are either proposed or approved and could transform the city's skyline.

Other notable modern buildings include City Hall in Southwark with its distinctive oval shape, the British Library in Somers Town, the Great Court of the British Museum, and the Millennium Dome next to the Thames east of Canary Wharf. The disused (but soon to be rejuvenated) 1907 Battersea Power Station by the river in the southwest is a local landmark, whilst some railway termini are excellent examples of Victorian architecture, most notably St Pancras and Paddington (at least internally).

London is not characterised by any particular architectural style, having accumulated its buildings over a long period of time. Few structures predate the Great Fire of 1666, except for the Tower of London and a few scattered Tudor survivors in the City. Many buildings in London date from the Edwardian or Victorian periods.

Several monuments pay homage to people and events in the city. The Monument in the City of London provides views of the surrounding area whilst commemorating the Great Fire of London which originated nearby. Marble Arch and Wellington Arch, at the north and south ends of Park Lane respectively, have royal connections, as do the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall in Kensington. Nelson's Column is a nationally-recognised monument in Trafalgar Square, providing a focal point for the whole central area.


Parks and gardens

Kensington Gardens in Winter.
Kensington Gardens in Winter.

London has a number of open spaces. The largest of these in the central area are the Royal Parks of Hyde Park and its neighbours Kensington Gardens and Holland Park Gardens at the western edge of central London, and Regent's Park on the northern edge. This park is located near the tourist attractions of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and Baker Street, where the fictional Sherlock Holmes lived. Closer to central London are the smaller Royal Parks of Green Park and St. James's Park. Hyde Park in particular is popular for sports and sometimes hosts open-air concerts.

A number of large parks lie outside the city centre, including the remaining Royal Parks of Greenwich Park to the south east, and Bushy Park and Richmond Park to the south west. Primrose Hill to the north of Regent's Park is a popular spot to view the city skyline. Some more informal, semi-natural open spaces also exist, including the 791-acre Hampstead Heath of north London. This incorporates Kenwood House, the former stately home and a popular location in the summer months where classical music concerts are held by the lake, attracting thousands of people every weekend to enjoy the music, scenery and fireworks.




Early London

Although there is some evidence of scattered pre-Roman settlement in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans in AD 43, following the Roman invasion of Britain. This settlement was called Londinium, commonly believed to be the origin of the present-day name, although a Celtic origin is also possible.

Westminster Abbey is one of London's oldest and most important buildings
Westminster Abbey is one of London's oldest and most important buildings

The first London lasted for just seventeen years. Around AD 61, the Iceni tribe of Celts led by Queen Boudica stormed London, burning it to the ground. The next, heavily-planned incarnation of the city prospered and superseded Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in AD 100. At its height in the 2nd century AD, Roman London had a population of around 60,000. However, by the 3rd century AD, the city started a slow decline due to trouble in the Roman Empire, and by the 5th century AD, it was largely abandoned.

By 600 AD, the Anglo-Saxons had created a new settlement (Lundenwic) about 1 km upstream from the old Roman city, around what is now Covent Garden. There was probably a harbour at the mouth of the River Fleet for fishing and trading, and this trading grew until disaster struck in 851 AD, when the city's defences were overcome by a massive Viking raid and it was razed to the ground. A Viking occupation twenty years later was short-lived, and Alfred the Great, the new King of England, established peace and moved the settlement within the defensive walls of the old Roman city (then called Lundenburgh). The original city became Ealdwīc ("old city"), a name surviving to the present day as Aldwych.

Subsequently, under the control of various English kings, London once again prospered as an international trading centre and political arena. However, Viking raids began again in the late 10th century, and reached a head in 1013 when they besieged the city under Danish King Canute and forced English King Ethelred the Unready to flee. In a retaliatory attack, Ethelred's army achieved victory by pulling down London Bridge with the Danish garrison on top, and English control was re-established.

Canute took control of the English throne in 1017, controlling the city and country until 1042, when his death resulted in a reversion to Anglo-Saxon control under his pious step-son Edward the Confessor, who re-founded Westminster Abbey and the adjacent Palace of Westminster. By this time, London had become the largest and most prosperous city in England, although the official seat of government was still at Winchester.


Norman and medieval London

The Great Fire of London destroyed large parts of the city in 1666.
The Great Fire of London destroyed large parts of the city in 1666.

Following a victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, the then Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in the newly-finished Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. William granted the citizens of London special privileges, whilst building a castle in the southeast corner of the city to keep them under control. This castle was expanded by later kings and is now known as the Tower of London, serving first as a royal residence and later as a prison.

In 1097, William II began the building of Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. The hall proved the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the prime royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government (persisting until the present day), whilst its distinct neighbour, the City of London, was a centre of trade and commerce and flourished under its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. Eventually, the adjacent cities grew together and formed the basis of modern central London, superseding Winchester as capital of England in the 12th century.

After the successful defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, political stability in England allowed London to grow further. In 1603, James VI of Scotland came to the throne of England, essentially uniting the two countries. His enactment of harsh anti-Catholic laws made him unpopular, and an assassination attempt was made on 5 November 1605 — the famous Gunpowder Plot.

Plague caused extensive problems for London in the early 17th century, culminating in the Great Plague in 1665-1666. This was the last major outbreak in Europe, possibly thanks to the disastrous fire of 1666. The Great Fire of London broke out in the original City and quickly swept through London's wooden buildings, destroying large swathes of the city. Rebuilding took over ten years.


Rise of modern London

A London street hit during the Blitz of World War II
A London street hit during the Blitz of World War II

Following London's growth in the 18th century, it became the world's largest city from about 1831 to 1925 [13]. This growth was aided from 1836 by London's first railways which put countryside towns within easy reach of the city. The rail network expanded very rapidly, and caused these places to grow whilst London itself expanded into surrounding fields, merging with neighbouring settlements such as Kensington. Rising traffic congestion on city centre roads led to the creation of the world's first metro system — the London Underground — in 1863, driving further expansion and urbanisation. [14] Because of this rapid growth, London became one of the first cities in human history to reach a population of one million.

London's local government system struggled to cope with the rapid growth, especially in providing the city with adequate infrastructure. Between 1855 and 1889, the Metropolitan Board of Works oversaw infrastructure expansion. It was then replaced by the County of London, overseen by the London County Council, London's first elected city-wide administration.

The London Eye (also known as The British Airways London Eye), one of the many symbols of modern London
The London Eye (also known as The British Airways London Eye), one of the many symbols of modern London

The Blitz and other bombing by the German Luftwaffe during World War II 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 architectural unity that has become part of London's character. In 1965 London's political boundaries were expanded to take into account the growth of the urban area outside the County of London's borders. The expanded area was called Greater London and was administered by the Greater London Council.

In the decades following World War II, large-scale immigration from Commonwealth countries and beyond, transformed London into one of the most racially and culturally diverse cities in Europe. Integration of the new immigrants was not always smooth, with events such as the Brixton Riots in the 1980s.

An economic revival from the 1980s onwards re-established London's position as an eminent trading centre. However, as the seat of government and the most important city in the UK, it has been subjected to bouts of terrorism. IRA bombers sought to pressure the government into negotiations over Northern Ireland, frequently disrupting city activities with bomb threats — some of which were carried out — until their 1997 cease-fire. More recently, a series of coordinated bomb attacks were carried out by Islamic extremist suicide bombers on the public transport network on 7 July 2005 — just 24 hours after London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics.




Local government

City Hall at night, headquarters of the Greater London Authority.
City Hall at night, headquarters of the Greater London Authority.

The administration of London takes place in two tiers — a city-wide, strategic tier and a local tier. City-wide administration is coordinated by the Greater London Authority (GLA), whilst local administration is carried out by 33 smaller districts.

The GLA is responsible for strategic planning, policing, the fire service, transport and economic development. It consists of two elected parts — the Mayor of London, who has executive powers, and the London Assembly, who scrutinise the Mayor's decisions and can accept or reject his budget proposals each year. The GLA is a recent organisation, having been set up in 2000 to replace the similar Greater London Council (GLC) which had been abolished in 1986.

The Mayor of London is Ken Livingstone, who is in his second term of office. He was elected in 2000 as an independent candidate and again in 2004 as a Labour candidate. Ken Livingstone was also the leader of the GLC when it was abolished.

The 34 local districts are the 33 London boroughs and the City of London. They are responsible for local services not overseen by the GLA, such as local planning, schools, social services, and refuse collection. The London boroughs each have a council which is elected every four years by local residents. The City of London does not have a conventional local authority, but is governed by the historic Corporation of London which is elected by both residents and businesses, and which has existed more or less unchanged since the Middle Ages.

The City of London also has its own police force: The City of London Police, which is independent of the Metropolitan Police Service which covers the rest of Greater London.

Health services in London are managed by the national government through the National Health Service, which is controlled and administered in London by a single NHS Strategic Health Authority[15].


National government

The Houses of Parliament at night.
The Houses of Parliament at night.

London is the home of the Government of the United Kingdom which is located around the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Many government offices are located close to Parliament, particularly along Whitehall and including the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.

The British Parliament is often referred to as the "Mother of Parliaments" because it has been the model for most other parliamentary systems, and its Acts have created many other parliaments. Many nations with parliaments have to some degree emulated the British "three-tier" model. Most countries in Europe and the Commonwealth have similarly organized parliaments with a largely ceremonial head of state who formally opens and closes parliament, a large elected lower house and a smaller, upper house.

London is represented in the national Parliament by 74 Members of Parliament (MPs) who correspond to local parliamentary constituencies. For a list of London constituencies, see List of Parliamentary constituencies in Greater London. Of these 74 MPs, 44 are from the Labour Party, 21 are Conservatives, 8 are Liberal Democrats and one is from the RESPECT party.



Further information: Economy of the United Kingdom, Economy of London, Media in London and Tourism in London
Bishopsgate, in the City of London.
Bishopsgate, in the City of London.

London is a major centre for international business and commerce and is one of three "command centres" for the global economy (along with New York City and Tokyo).[16]

As Europe's largest city economy, year-by-year, London's economy generates approximately 19% of the UK's GDP[17] or £219 billion in 2005; whilst the entire London metropolitan area generates approximately 30% of UK GDP or £345 billion in 2005.[18]

London shifted to a mostly service-based economy earlier than other European cities, particularly following the Second World War. London's success as a service industry and business centre can be attributed to many factors: English becoming the new lingua franca; its former position as the capital of the British Empire; its close relationship with the U.S. and various countries in Asia; English law being the most important and most used contract law in international business, the multi-cultural infrastructure (schools, places of worship, cultural and social organisations); relatively low taxes, particularly for foreigners (non-UK domiciled residents do not get taxed on their foreign earnings); a business friendly environment, good transport infrastructure, particularly its aviation industry and a deregulated economy with little intervention by the government. [citation needed]

Over 85% (3.2 million) of the employed population of greater London works in service industries. Another half a million employees resident in Greater London work in manufacturing and construction, almost equally divided between both.[citation needed]

London has five major business districts: the City, Westminster, Canary Wharf, Camden & Islington and Lambeth & Southwark.

Business District Office Space (m²) Business Concentration
The City 7,740,000 finance, broking, insurance, legal
Westminster 5,780,000 head offices, real estate, private banking, hedge funds, government
Camden & Islington 2,294,000 creative industries, finance, design, art, fashion, architecture
Canary Wharf 2,120,000 banking, media, legal
Lambeth & Southwark 1,780,000 accountancy, consultancy, local government

London's largest industry remains finance, and its financial exports make it a large contributor to the UK's balance of payments.[19] Over 300,000 people are employed in financial services in London. London has over 480 overseas banks, more than any other city in the world. More funds are invested in the City of London than in the next top 10 European cities combined. The City is the largest financial and business centre in Europe, home to banks, brokers, insurers and legal and accounting firms. A second, smaller financial district is developing at Canary Wharf to the east of the City which includes the global headquarters of HSBC, Reuters, Barclays and many of the largest law firms in the world. London handled 31% of global currency transactions in 2005 — an average daily turnover of US$753 billion — with more US dollars traded in London than New York, and more Euros traded than in every other city in Europe combined.[20] [21]

The Bank of England, the central bank of the United Kingdom.
The Bank of England, the central bank of the United Kingdom.

More than half of the UK's top 100 listed companies (the FTSE 100) and over 100 of Europe's 500 largest companies are headquartered in central London. Over 70% of the FTSE 100 are located within London's metropolitan area, and 75% of Fortune 500 companies have offices in London.

Along with professional services, media companies are concentrated in London (see Media in London) and the media distribution industry is London's second most competitive sector.[22] The BBC is a key employer, while other broadcasters also have headquarters around the city. Many national newspapers are edited in London, having traditionally been associated with Fleet Street in the City, they are now primarily based around Canary Wharf. Soho is the centre of London's post-production industry.

Tourism is one of London's prime industries and employed the equivalent of 350,000 full-time workers in London in 2003[23], whilst annual expenditure by tourists is around £15bn.[24] London is a popular destination for tourists, attracting 27 million overnight-stay visitors every year, second only to Paris.[25]

From being the largest port in the world, the Port of London is now only the third-largest in the United Kingdom, handling 50 million tonnes of cargo each year.[26] Most of this actually passes through Tilbury, outside the boundary of Greater London.



Piccadilly Circus at night.

With increasing industrialisation, London's population grew rapidly throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and was the most populated city in the world until overtaken by New York in 1925. Its population peaked at 8,615,245 in 1939.

There were an estimated 7,517,700 people living in Greater London in mid-2005.[27] However, London's continuous urban area extends beyond the borders of Greater London and was home to 8,278,251 people at the 2001 UK census,[28] whilst its wider metropolitan area has a population of between 12 and 14 million depending on the definition of that area[29] [30]. As per Eurostat, London is the most populous city and metropolitan area of the European Union [31].

The region covers an area of 1,579 square kilometres. The population density is 4,761 people per square kilometres, more than ten times that of any other English region.



In the 2001 census, 71.15% of these seven and a half million people classed their ethnic group as white (classified as White British (59.79%), White Irish (3.07%) or "Other White" (8.29%)), 12.09% as Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or "Other Asian" (mostly Sri Lankan, Arab and other South Asian ethnicities), 10.91% as Black (5.28% as Black African, 4.79% as Black Caribbean, 0.84% as "Other Black"), 3.15% as mixed race, 1.12% as Chinese and 1.58% as other (mostly Filipino, Japanese, and Vietnamese). 21.8% of inhabitants were born outside the European Union. The Irish, from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, constitute the largest group of London's population born outside Great Britain, numbering approximately 200,000.

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%).

In January 2005, a survey of London's ethnic and religious diversity claimed that there were more than 300 languages spoken and 50 non-indigenous communities with a population of more than 10,000 in London.[33]


Foreign born

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, as of 2006, London's foreign-born population is 2,288,000, up from 1,630,000 in 1997. [34].

The table below shows the 'Country of Birth' of London residents in 2001, the date of the last UK Census. (Top 21) [35]. Note that a portion of the German-born population are likely to be British nationals born to parents serving in the British army in Germany.[36]

Country of Birth Population
United Kingdom United Kingdom 5,230,155
India India 172,162
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland 157,285
Bangladesh Bangladesh 84,565
Jamaica Jamaica 80,319
Nigeria Nigeria 68,907
Pakistan Pakistan 66,658
Kenya Kenya 66,311
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 49,932
Error creating thumbnail: Ghana 46,513
Cyprus Cyprus 45,888
South Africa South Africa 45,506
United States United States 44,622
Australia Australia 41,488
Germany Germany 39,818
Turkey Turkey 39,128
Italy Italy 38,694
France France 38,130
Somalia Somalia 33,831
Uganda Uganda 32,082
New Zealand New Zealand 27,494

It is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the industrialised world, with more than 300 languages spoken and 50 non-indigenous communities with a population of more than 10,000 living in London.[37] The 2001 census showed that about 27% of London's population were born outside the UK, and about 29% were classified as non-white.[38]



In terms of religion, London has traditionally been dominated by Christianity, and has a large number of churches, particularly in the City. The famous St Paul's Cathedral in the City and Southwark Cathedral south of the river are Anglican administrative centres, whilst important national and royal ceremonies are shared between St Paul's and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is not to be confused with nearby Westminster Cathedral, a relatively recent edifice which is the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England and Wales. Despite the prevalence of Anglican churches, observance is very low within the Anglican denomination and yet considerably higher among London's Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox communities.[39] [40]

London is also home to sizeable Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish communities. Many Muslims live in Tower Hamlets and Newham; the most important Muslim edifice is London Central Mosque on the edge of Regent's Park. London's large Hindu community is found in the north-western boroughs of Harrow and Brent, the latter of which contains one of Europe's largest Hindu temples, Neasden Temple.[41] Sikh communities are located in East and West London, which is also home to one of the largest Sikh Temples in the world, outside India. The majority of British Jews live in London, with significant Jewish communities in Stamford Hill (the most Orthodox Jewish area outside New York City and Israel) and Golders Green in North London.[42]



Paddington Station, one of London's main railway terminals.
Paddington Station, one of London's main railway terminals.

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 the most extensive in the world, but faces congestion and reliability issues, which a large investment programme is attempting to address, including £7 billion (€10 billion) of improvements planned for the Olympics. London has recently been awarded the city for best public transport.



The centrepiece of the public transport network is the London Underground, the oldest and largest metro system in the world, dating from 1863.[14] The Metro system was home to the world's first underground electric line, the City & South London Railway, which began service in 1890.[43] Nearly 1 billion journeys are made each year on the London Underground system.[44] The Underground serves the central area and most suburbs to the north of the Thames, whilst those to the south are served by an extensive suburban rail network. Commuter and intercity railways generally do not cross the city, instead running into fourteen terminal stations scattered around its historic centre. The London bus network caters for most local journeys and carries even more passengers than the Underground. These internationally recognised buses are the trademark of London transport along with black cabs and the underground. Eurostar trains link London Waterloo station with Lille and Paris in France, and Brussels in Belgium.



Heathrow Airport The world's busiest airport for number of international passengers.
Heathrow Airport The world's busiest airport for number of international passengers.

London is a major international air transport hub. No fewer than eight airports use the words London Airport in their name, but most traffic passes through one of five major airports. London Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the world for international traffic[45] and handles a mixture of full service domestic, European and inter-continental scheduled passenger flights. Similar traffic, with the addition of some low-cost short-haul flights, is also handled at London Gatwick Airport. London Stansted Airport and London Luton Airport cater mostly for low-cost short-haul flights. London City Airport, the smallest and most central airport, is focused on business travellers, with a mixture of full service short-haul scheduled flights and considerable business jet traffic.[46]



Although the majority of journeys involving central London are made by public transport, travel in outer London is car-dominated. The inner ring road (around the city centre), the North and South Circular roads (in the suburbs) and an orbital motorway (the M25, outside the built-up area) encircle the city and are intersected by a number of busy radial routes — but very few motorways penetrate into inner London. A plan for a comprehensive network of motorways throughout the city (the Ringways Plan) was prepared in the 1960s but was mostly cancelled in the early 1970s. In 2003, a congestion charge was introduced to reduce traffic volumes in the city centre. With a few exceptions, motorists are required to pay £8 per day to drive within a defined zone encompassing much of central London. Motorists who are residents of the defined zone can buy a season pass which is renewed monthly.



Home to a range of universities, colleges and schools, London has a student population of about 378,000[47] and is a centre of research and development. Most primary and secondary schools in London follow the same system as the rest of England.

With 125,000 students, the University of London is the largest contact teaching university in the United Kingdom and in Europe.[48] It comprises 20 colleges as well as several smaller institutes, each 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. Its constituents include multi-disciplinary colleges such as UCL, King's and Queen Mary and more specialised institutions such as Imperial, the London School of Economics, SOAS, the Royal Academy of Music and the Institute of Education.

London's other universities, such as Brunel University, City University, London Metropolitan University, Middlesex University, UEL, the University of Westminster and London South Bank University, are not part of the University of London. Some were polytechnics until these were granted university status in 1992, and others which were founded much earlier. London also is known globally for its business education, with London Business School (ranked #1 in Europe - Business Week) and Cass Business School (Europe's largest finance school) both being top world-rated business schools.

London is home to many museums and other institutions which are major tourist attractions as well as playing a research role. The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum (dealing with fashion and design) are clustered in South Kensington's "museum quarter", whilst the British Museum houses historic artefacts from around the world. The British Library at St Pancras is the UK's national library, housing 150 million items.[49] The city also houses extensive art collections, primarily in the National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern.


Society and culture


Leisure and entertainment

Bond Street, one of Mayfair's main shopping streets.
Bond Street, one of Mayfair's main shopping streets.

Within the City of Westminster, the entertainment district of the West End has its focus around Leicester Square, where London film premieres are held, and Piccadilly Circus, with its giant electronic advertisements. London's theatre district is here, as are many cinemas, bars, clubs and restaurants, including the city's Chinatown district, and just to the east is Covent Garden, an area housing speciality shops and London's "Avenue of Stars" which honours achievers in the entertainment industry. Shoreditch and Hoxton in the East End form a second, less mainstream, focus of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and galleries. Angel Islington's 2km long Upper Street has more bars and restaurants than any other street in the UK. It was also the first street in the UK to have wireless enabled for its cafes.

London's busiest shopping area is Oxford Street, a shopping street nearly 2 km long which makes it the largest shopping street in the world. The adjoining Bond Street in Mayfair is a more upmarket location along with the Knightsbridge area - home to the Harrods department store - to the southwest. The districts of Knightsbridge (Sloane Street), Mayfair (Bond Street, Brook Street), and Chelsea (King's Road) represent London's prestigious role in the world of fashion, being an international centre of fashion alongside Paris, Milan, New York and Tokyo. London also has a number of markets, including Camden Market for fashions, Portobello Road for antiques and Borough Market for foods.

London offers a huge variety of cuisine as a result of its ethnically diverse population. Gastronomic centres include the Bangladeshi restaurants of Brick Lane and the Chinese food of Chinatown. Soho offers a variety of restaurants, whilst more upmarket restaurants are scattered around central London, with concentrations in Mayfair. Across the city, areas home to particular ethnic groups are often recognisable by restaurants, food shops and market stalls offering their local fare, and even the large supermarkets stock such items in areas with sizeable ethnic groups.

The Caribbean-descended community in Notting Hill in West London organises the colourful Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's biggest street carnival, every summer. The beginning of the year is celebrated with the relatively new New Year's Day Parade, whilst traditional parades include November's Lord Mayor's Show, a centuries-old event celebrating the annual appointment of a new Lord Mayor of the City of London with a procession along the streets of the City, and June's Trooping the Colour, a very formal military pageant to celebrate the Queen's Official Birthday.


Literature and film

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), whose works formed a pervasive image of Victorian London
Charles Dickens (1812-1870), whose works formed a pervasive image of Victorian London

London has been the setting for many works of literature. Two writers closely associated with the city are the diarist Samuel Pepys, famous for his eyewitness account of the Great Fire, and Charles Dickens, whose representation of a foggy, snowy, grimy London of street sweepers and pickpockets has been a major influence on people's vision of early Victorian London. James Boswell's biographical Life of Johnson mostly takes place in London, and is the source of Johnson's famous aphorism: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." The earlier (1722) A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a fictionalisation of the events of the 1665 Great Plague. William Shakespeare spent a large part of his life living and working in London; his contemporary Ben Jonson was also based in London, and some of his work -- most notably his play The Alchemist -- was set in the city. Later important depictions of London from the 19th and early 20th centuries are the afore-mentioned Dickens novels, and Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Sherlock Holmes stories. The 1933 novel Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell describes life in poverty in both cities. A modern writer pervasively influenced by the city is Peter Ackroyd, in works such as London: The Biography, The Lambs of London and Hawksmoor. Along with Bloomsbury, the hilly area of Hampstead has traditionally been the literary heartland of London.

London has played a significant role in the film industry, and has major studios at Pinewood, Shepperton, Elstree and Leavesden, as well as an important special effects and post-production community. Many films have also used London as a location and have done much to shape international perceptions of the city. See main article London in film.

The city also hosts a number of performing arts schools, including the Central School of Speech and Drama, whose past students include Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (educators of Jim Broadbent and Donald Sutherland amongst others) and the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (past students including Joan Collins and Roger Moore).

The London Film Festival is held in the city each October.



London is one of the major classical and popular music capitals of the world and is home to one of the five major global music corporations, EMI.

London and its surrounding Home Counties have spawned iconic and popular artists through the years. London is also home to the first and original Hard Rock Cafe and EMI's Abbey Road Studios.



No. 1 Court at the All England Club in Wimbledon
No. 1 Court at the All England Club in Wimbledon

London has hosted the Summer Olympics twice, in 1908 and 1948. In July 2005 London was chosen to host the Games in 2012, which will make it the first city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times.[50] London was also the host of the British Empire Games in 1934.

London's most popular sport (for both participants and spectators) is football.[51] London has 12 League football clubs, including six in the Premiership (Arsenal, Charlton Athletic, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and current champions Chelsea), plus a further six in the remaining three divisions (Barnet, Brentford, Crystal Palace, Leyton Orient, Millwall and Queens Park Rangers), plus countless non-league and amateur football teams.

London has a unique place in the history of football. In the sixteenth century the headmaster of St Paul's School Richard Mulcaster is credited with taking mob football and transforming it into organised and refereed team football. London was home to Ebenezer Cobb Morley who was a founding member of the Football Association; he wrote to Bell's Life newspaper proposing a governing body for football. This led to the first meeting at the Freemason's Tavern in central London that created the FA, the English governing body of football and the first of its kind in the world. He wrote the first set of rules of true modern football at his house in Barnes. These were adopted by the FA and spread world-wide.

London also has four rugby union teams in the Guinness Premiership (London Irish, Saracens, Wasps and NEC Harlequins), although only the Harlequins play in London (all the other three now play outside Greater London), as well as a rugby league Super League club in Harlequins RL. London also has many famous other rugby union clubs in lower leagues, including Richmond F.C., Blackheath R.C., Rosslyn Park F.C. and Barnes R.F.C.

Wembley Stadium (which is being rebuilt and is expected to have a capacity of 90,000) has been the home of the English national 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 has a capacity of 82,000 now that the new south stand has been completed.

Cricket in London centres on its two Test cricket grounds at Lord's (home of Middlesex CC) in St John's Wood, and The Oval (home of Surrey CC) in Kennington.

One of London's best-known annual sports competitions is the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, held at the All England Club in the south-western suburb of Wimbledon. Other key events are the annual mass-participation London Marathon which sees some 35,000 runners attempt a 42 km course around the city, and the Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race on the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake.



London has twin city agreements with the following cities:[52]


See also

Tower Bridge crosses the River Thames next to the Tower of London. See also: Sequence showing the bridge opening.
Tower Bridge crosses the River Thames next to the Tower of London. See also: Sequence showing the bridge opening.
Part of the London skyline viewed from St Paul's Cathedral.
Part of the London skyline viewed from St Paul's Cathedral.


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