Quick facts for kids
Location of London in the United Kingdom
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|Sovereign State||United Kingdom|
|Settled by Romans||c.43 AD (as Londinium)|
|Counties||City & Greater London|
|Districts||City & 32 boroughs|
|• Type||Devolved authority|
|• Body||Greater London Authority|
|• Greater London||1,572 km2 (607 sq mi)|
|• Urban||1,737.9 km2 (671.0 sq mi)|
|• Metro||8,382 km2 (3,236 sq mi)|
|Elevation||35 m (115 ft)|
|• Greater London||8,673,713|
|• Density||5,518/km2 (14,290/sq mi)|
|• Total||£890 billion / $1.2 trillion|
|• Per capita||£119,300 / $162,200|
|Time zone||UTC (GMT)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+1 (BST)|
|Police||City of London Police and Metropolitan Police|
|International airports||Heathrow, City (both within Greater London) Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend (outside Greater London)|
For a long time, London was a small city. All its people lived inside the walls that were built by the Romans. This area is still called the City of London. There were many villages around the city. Gradually, more people came to live there. Then, step by step, the villages joined together into one huge city.
The city has a huge network of transport systems. The Victorians built a number of railway systems in the mid-19th century. Their main stations are in London, and the lines go to every corner of Great Britain. There were originally five major companies, which were merged into a national rail network in modern times.
There is also the world's first underground railway system, London Underground, which is the main way commuters get into London. There are five airports, though only one is actually in London (London City Airport). There is the London end of the London–Birmingham canal, which was important to the industrial 19th century.
Most people in London are British. However, London also has many immigrants. These people come from many different countries. They speak many different languages and have different religions and cultures. There are also many people from different countries who stay in London on business. Many people visit London as tourists. They may see the famous "Sights of London". These sights include palaces, churches and museums.
- National government
- Underground and DLR
The Romans built a city called Londinium on the River Thames in AD 43. The name Londinium (and then 'London') came from the Celtic language of the Ancient Britons. In the year AD 61, Queen Boudica (a British Celtic queen) and her army destroyed the city. Boudica killed herself when Romans trapped her. Then the Romans rebuilt London. London became an important trading city. After the Romans left Britain, few people lived in the city for a long time. This is because the Anglo-Saxons liked living in the countryside. In the 9th century, more people started living there again. It became the largest city in England. However, it did not become the capital city of England until the 12th century.
Another famous old part of Greater London is Westminster, which was always a different city from the City of London. In Westminster is Westminster Abbey (a cathedral), The Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament, with Big Ben), and 10 Downing Street (where the Prime Minister lives).
The administration of London is formed of two tiers: a citywide, strategic tier and a local tier.
Citywide administration is coordinated by the Greater London Authority (GLA), while local administration is carried out by 33 smaller authorities. The GLA consists of two elected components: the Mayor of London, who has executive powers, and the London Assembly, which looks at the mayor's decisions and can accept or reject the mayor's budget proposals each year.
London is the seat of the Government of the United Kingdom. Many government departments, as well as the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street, are based close to the Palace of Westminster, particularly along Whitehall.
There are 73 Members of Parliament (MPs) from London, elected from local parliamentary constituencies in the national Parliament. As of May 2015, 45 are from the Labour Party, 27 are Conservatives, and one is a Liberal Democrat.
Greater London encompasses a total area of 1,583 square kilometres (611 sq mi), an area which had a population of 7,172,036 in 2001 and a population density of 4,542 inhabitants per square kilometre (11,760/sq mi). The extended area known as the London Metropolitan Region or the London Metropolitan Agglomeration, comprises a total area of 8,382 square kilometres (3,236 sq mi) has a population of 13,709,000 and a population density of 1,510 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,900/sq mi).
Modern London stands on the Thames, its primary geographical feature, a navigable river which crosses the city from the south-west to the east. The Thames Valley is a floodplain surrounded by gently rolling hills including Parliament Hill, Addington Hills, and Primrose Hill. The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands; at high tide, its shores reached five times their present width.
Since the Victorian era the Thames 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 because of 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. While the barrier is expected to function as designed until roughly 2070, concepts for its future enlargement or redesign are already being discussed.
London has a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb ), similar to all of southern England. Despite its reputation as being a rainy city, London receives less precipitation (601 mm, 24 in, in a year) than Rome, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Naples, Sydney and New York. Temperature extremes for all sites in the London area range from 38.1 °C (100.6 °F) at Kew during August 2003 down to −16.1 °C (3.0 °F) at Northolt during January 1962.
Summers are generally warm and sometimes hot. London's average July high is 24 °C (75.2 °F). On average London will see 31 days above 25 °C (77.0 °F) each year, and 4.2 days above 30.0 °C (86.0 °F) every year. During the 2003 European heat wave there were 14 consecutive days above 30 °C (86.0 °F) and 2 consecutive days where temperatures reached 38 °C (100.4 °F), leading to hundreds of heat related deaths.
Winters are generally cool and damp with little temperature variation. Snowfall occurs occasionally and can cause travel disruption when this happens. Snowfall is more common in outer London. Spring and autumn are mixed seasons and can be pleasant. As a large city, London has a considerable urban heat island effect, making the centre of London at times 5 °C (9 °F) warmer than the suburbs and outskirts. The effect of this can be seen below when comparing London Heathrow, 15 miles west of London, with the London Weather Centre, in the city centre.
London's vast urban area is often described using a set of district names, such as Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Wembley and Whitechapel. These are either informal designations, reflect the names of villages that have been absorbed by sprawl, or are superseded administrative units such as parishes or former boroughs.
Such names have remained in use through tradition, each referring to a local area with its own distinctive character, but without official boundaries. Since 1965 Greater London has been divided into 32 London boroughs in addition to the ancient City of London. The City of London is the main financial district, and Canary Wharf has recently developed into a new financial and commercial hub in the Docklands to the east.
The West End is London's main entertainment and shopping district, attracting tourists.
The surrounding East London area saw much of London's early industrial development; now, brownfield sites throughout the area are being redeveloped as part of the Thames Gateway including the London Riverside and Lower Lea Valley, which was developed into the Olympic Park for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
London's buildings are too diverse to be characterised by any particular architectural style, partly because of their varying ages. Many grand houses and public buildings, such as the National Gallery, are constructed from Portland stone. Some areas of the city, particularly those just west of the centre, are characterised by white stucco or whitewashed buildings. Few structures in central London pre-date the Great Fire of 1666, these being a few trace Roman remains, the Tower of London and a few scattered Tudor survivors in the City. Further out is, for example, the Tudor-period Hampton Court Palace, England's oldest surviving Tudor palace, built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey c.1515.
Wren's late 17th-century churches and the financial institutions of the 18th and 19th centuries such as the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England, to the early 20th century Old Bailey and the 1960s Barbican Estate form part of the varied architectural heritage.
The disused - but soon to be rejuvenated - 1939 Battersea Power Station by the river in the south-west is a local landmark, while some railway termini are excellent examples of Victorian architecture, most notably St. Pancras and Paddington. The density of London varies, with high employment density in the central area, high residential densities in inner London, and lower densities in Outer London.
The Monument in the City of London provides views of the surrounding area while 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, one of the focal points of central London. Older buildings are mainly brick built, most commonly the yellow London stock brick or a warm orange-red variety, often decorated with carvings and white plaster mouldings.
In the dense areas, most of the concentration is via medium- and high-rise buildings. London's skyscrapers, such as 30 St Mary Axe, Tower 42, the Broadgate Tower and One Canada Square, are mostly in the two financial districts, the City of London and Canary Wharf. High-rise development is restricted at certain sites if it would obstruct protected views of St Paul's Cathedral and other historic buildings. Nevertheless, there are a number of very tall skyscrapers in central London (see Tall buildings in London), including the 95-storey Shard London Bridge, the tallest building in the European Union.
Other notable modern buildings include City Hall in Southwark with its distinctive oval shape and the British Library in Somers Town/Kings Cross. What was formerly the Millennium Dome, by the Thames to the east of Canary Wharf, is now an entertainment venue called the O2 Arena.
The London Natural History Society suggest that London is "one of the World's Greenest Cities" with more than 40 percent green space or open water. They indicate that 2000 species of flowering plant have been found growing there and that the tidal Thames supports 120 species of fish. They also state that over 60 species of bird nest in central London and that their members have recorded 47 species of butterfly, 1173 moths and more than 270 kinds of spider around London. London's wetland areas support nationally important populations of many water birds. London has 38 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), two National Nature Reserves and 76 Local Nature Reserves.
Amphibians are common in the capital, including smooth newts living by the Tate Modern, and common frogs, common toads, palmate newts and great crested newts. On the other hand, native reptiles such as slow-worms, common lizards, grass snakes and adders, are mostly only seen in Outer London.
Among other inhabitants of London are 10,000 foxes, so that there are now 16 foxes for every square mile (2.6 square kilometres) of London. These urban foxes are noticeably bolder than their country cousins, sharing the pavement with pedestrians and raising cubs in people's backyards.
Foxes have even snuck into the Houses of Parliament, where one was found asleep on a filing cabinet. Another broke into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, reportedly killing some of Queen Elizabeth II's prized pink flamingos. Generally, however, foxes and city folk appear to get along.
Other mammals found in Greater London are hedgehogs, rats, mice, rabbit, shrew, vole, and squirrels, In wilder areas of Outer London, such as Epping Forest, a wide variety of mammals are found including hare, badger, field, bank and water vole, wood mouse, yellow-necked mouse, mole, shrew, and weasel, in addition to fox, squirrel and hedgehog.
The 2011 census recorded that 2,998,264 people or 36.7% of London's population are foreign-born making London the city with the second largest immigrant population, behind New York City, in terms of absolute numbers. The table to the right shows the most common countries of birth of London residents. Note that some of the German-born population, in 18th position, are British citizens from birth born to parents serving in the British Armed Forces in Germany.
During the period 1991–2001 a net 726,000 immigrants arrived in London.
According to the Office for National Statistics, based on the 2011 Census estimates, 59.8 per cent of the 8,173,941 inhabitants of London were White, with 44.9 per cent White British, 2.2 per cent White Irish, 0.1 per cent gypsy/Irish traveller and 12.1 per cent classified as Other White.
20.9 per cent of Londoners are of Asian and mixed-Asian descent. 19.7 per cent are of full Asian descent, with those of mixed-Asian heritage comprising 1.2 of the population. Indians account for 6.6 per cent of the population, followed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis at 2.7 per cent each. Chinese peoples account for 1.5 per cent of the population, with Arabs comprising 1.3 per cent. A further 4.9 per cent are classified as "Other Asian".
15.6 per cent of London's population are of Black and mixed-Black descent. 13.3 per cent are of full Black descent, with those of mixed-Black heritage comprising 2.3 per cent. Black Africans account for 7.0 per cent of London's population, with 4.2 per cent as Black Caribbean and 2.1 per cent as "Other Black". 5.0 per cent are of mixed race.
The 2011 census showed that 36.7 per cent of Greater London's population were born outside the UK.
There are many accents that are traditionally thought of as London accents. The most well known of the London accents long ago acquired the Cockney label, which is heard both in London itself, and across the wider South East England region more generally. The accent of a 21st-century Londoner varies widely; what is becoming more and more common amongst the under-30s however is some fusion of Cockney with a whole array of ethnic accents, in particular Caribbean, which form an accent labelled Multicultural London English (MLE).
The other widely heard and spoken accent is RP (Received Pronunciation) in various forms, which can often be heard in the media and many of other traditional professions and beyond, although this accent is not limited to London and South East England, and can also be heard selectively throughout the whole UK amongst certain social groupings.
The City of London
London's largest industry is finance, and its financial exports make it a large contributor to the UK's balance of payments. Around 325,000 people were employed in financial services in London until mid-2007.
Media and technology
Media companies are concentrated in London and the media distribution industry is London's second most competitive sector.
The BBC is a significant employer, while other broadcasters also have headquarters around the City. Many national newspapers are edited in London.
London is a major retail centre and in 2010 had the highest non-food retail sales of any city in the world, with a total spend of around £64.2 billion.
London is one of the leading tourist destinations in the world and in 2015 was ranked as the most visited city in the world with over 65 million visits. It is also the top city in the world by visitor cross-border spending, estimated at US$20.23 billion in 2015. Tourism is one of London's prime industries, employing the equivalent of 350,000 full-time workers in 2003, and the city accounts for 54% of all inbound visitor spending in the UK. As of 2016[update] London is the world top city destination as ranked by TripAdvisor users.
- Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben)
- Buckingham Palace
- Millennium Dome
- London Eye
- Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square
- Tower Bridge
- London Underground
- Natural History Museum
- St. Paul's Cathedral
- Palace of Westminster
Underground and DLR
The London Underground, commonly referred to as the Tube, is the oldest and second longest metro system in the world. The system serves 270 stations and was formed from several private companies, including the world's first underground electric line, the City and South London Railway. It dates from 1863.
Over four million journeys are made every day on the Underground network, over 1 billion each year.
London's bus network is one of the largest in the world, running 24 hours a day, with about 8,500 buses, more than 700 bus routes and around 19,500 bus stops. In 2013, the network had more than 2 billion commuter trips per annum, more than the Underground. Around £850 million is taken in revenue each year. London has the largest wheelchair accessible network in the world and, from the 3rd quarter of 2007, became more accessible to hearing and visually impaired passengers as audio-visual announcements were introduced. The distinctive red double-decker buses are an internationally recognised trademark of London transport along with black cabs and the Tube.
London is a major global centre of higher education teaching and research and has the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. According to the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, London has the greatest concentration of top class universities in the world and its international student population of around 110,000 is larger than any other city in the world.
A number of world-leading education institutions are based in London.
The Culture of London concerns the engineering, music, museums, festivals and other entertainment in London, the capital city of the United Kingdom. London is widely believed to be the culture capital of the world, although this title is disputed with a number of other cities internationally. The city is particularly renowned for its theatre quarter, and its West End theatre district has given the name to "West End theatre", the strand of mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres in London. London is also home to notable cultural attractions such as the British Museum, the Tate Galleries, the National Gallery, the Notting Hill Carnival and The O2.
A variety of landmarks and objects are cultural icons associated with London, such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the tube map. Many other British cultural icons are strongly associated with London in the minds of visiting tourists, including the red telephone box, the AEC Routemaster bus, the black taxi and the Union Flag.
The city is home to many nationalities and the diversity of cultures have shaped the city's culture over time.
Parks and open spaces
The largest parks in the central area of London are three of the eight Royal Parks, namely Hyde Park and its neighbour Kensington Gardens in the west, and Regent's Park to the north. Hyde Park in particular is popular for sports and sometimes hosts open-air concerts.
Regent's Park contains London Zoo, the world's oldest scientific zoo, and is near the tourist attraction of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Primrose Hill, immediately to the north of Regent's Park, at 256 feet (78 m) is a popular spot from which to view the city skyline.
Close to Hyde Park are smaller Royal Parks, Green Park and St. James's Park.
Epping Forest is a popular venue for various outdoor activities, including mountain biking, walking, horse riding, golf, angling, and orienteering.
London's most popular sport is football and it has fourteen Football League clubs, including five in the Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United. Other professional teams in London are Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, Brentford, Millwall, Charlton Athletic, AFC Wimbledon, Barnet and Leyton Orient. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are the only London clubs to have won the League.
From 1924, the original Wembley Stadium was the home of the English national football team. It hosted the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, with England defeating West Germany, and served as the venue for the FA Cup Final as well as rugby league's Challenge Cup final. The new Wembley Stadium serves exactly the same purposes and has a capacity of 90,000.
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. Played in late June to early July, it is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and widely considered the most prestigious.
Other key events are the annual mass-participation London Marathon, in which some 35,000 runners attempt a 26.2 miles (42.2 km) course around the city, and the University Boat Race on the River Thames from Putney to Mortlake.
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