This article is about London in England. For other places of the same name, see London (disambiguation).

London is the capital of the United Kingdom and of England, and with over seven million inhabitants in the Greater London area, is the second-most populous conurbation in Europe (after Moscow). From being Londinium, the capital of the Roman province of Britannia, it rose to become the centre of the British Empire and to contribute today 17% of the GDP of the world's fourth largest economy. London has been one of the world's most important centres of commerce and politics for almost two millennia (although the capital of England was Winchester during most of the Dark Ages).

The [[Palace of WestminsterEnlarge

The [[Palace of Westminster

, the Clock Tower, and Westminster Bridge, on the River Thames, London

1 Location

2 History

3 Modern London

4 Government

5 Population

6 Airports

7 Public transport system

8 Sport

9 Culture

10 Business

11 London tourist attractions

12 Prominent exhibitions

13 London in the Arts

14 See also

15 External links

Table of contents


The term "London" was used for hundreds of years to refer to the conurbation centred on the small City of London in the historic county of Middlesex. Today, it usually refers to the administrative area known as Greater London, but can refer alternatively to the area within the London postal district, the area covered by the 020 phonecode (formerly 0171 and 0181; before that 071 and 081; even earlier 01), the area covered by an all-zone Transport for London Travelcard, the area within the M25 motorway, or the larger London commuter belt.


Main article: History of London

The city of Londinium was founded by the Romans on the north bank of the River Thames in around 50 AD. There is no evidence of a Celtic town prior to the Roman settlement. It is believed to have become the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in the early second century. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman city was virtually abandoned and a Saxon town named Lundenwic was established a mile or two west in the Aldwych area in the 7th century AD. The fortified Roman City of London was reoccupied around the late 9th-early 10th century, whereafter it resumed its role as England's biggest city (although not its capital - Winchester served as capital until the 12th century). By the 18th century London was the biggest city in the world.

Over the years, London has increased dramatically in size, absorbing meadows, woodlands, villages and towns and spreading outwards in every direction. Outward growth has been physically interrupted (though by no means halted) through the definition of a Green Belt. In recent years development has been concentrated in the London Docklands and Thames Gateway areas of East London.

Modern London

Today the Greater London administrative area comprises the City of London and 32 London boroughs including the City of Westminster. The City of London, also known as the "square mile", is predominantly the financial centre, and geographically a very small area. Although bustling during the working week, the City of London is usually much calmer on the weekends.

The London that most tourists see is Central London which comprises the historic City of London, the West End with all its theatres, shops and restaurants, the City of Westminster and its Royal palaces, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with its museum quarter and Hyde Park and the newly emerging Bankside area of Southwark with the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern and other attractions.

In contrast, the East End has played host to successive waves of immigrants for centuries and contains some of the UK's more deprived areas. The Isle of Dogs is however witnessing unprecedented commercial change and many restaurants, music and comedy clubs are injecting a more varied atmosphere. See also gentrification. The East End is centred on the Borough of Tower Hamlets and Hackney.


The elected Mayor of London is Ken Livingstone. Expelled from the Labour Party after standing as an independent, against the official Labour candidate, he was re-admitted in 2004, and then won the 2004 Mayoral election under the Labour banner later that year.

He is regulated to some extent by an Assembly elected by a proportional voting system, which is unusual in the British political context. Improvements in public safety and transport are his key priorities.

There is every likelihood that the Mayor and the Assembly will be in conflict with one or more Boroughs from time to time: they had each enjoyed "unitary status" and a fair degree of autonomy since the Greater London (county) Council, also led by Livingstone, was abolished by the Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher in 1986.


London was the most populous city in the world from 1825 until 1925, when it was overtaken by New York City.

The citizens of London are, and have been for many centuries, diverse in most respects. On census day, 2001, the City and the 32 boroughs (some 1579 km2 or 610 sq miles) had 7,172,036 inhabitants, making London one of the most populous cities in Europe alongside Moscow, Istanbul and Paris.

In the 2001 census 71% of these seven million people classed their ethnic group as white, 10% as Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, 5% as black African, 5% as black Caribbean, 3% as mixed race and 1% as Chinese. The largest religious groupings are Christian (58.2%) and No Religion (15.8%). 21.8% of inhabitants were born outside the European Union.

The London metropolitan area (6,267 sq miles, 16,043 sq kilometers) had a population of 13,945,000 - larger than the combined populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is the largest metropolitan area in Europe, and one of the World's largest 20. (external references: [1], [1])

Panorama of London taken from the [[London EyeEnlarge

Panorama of London taken from the [[London Eye



The airfields of London City Airport, Heathrow, Biggin Hill, Kenley Aerodrome and Northolt lie within the London boundary. Of these, Heathrow is the city's principal airport and is also a major international hub. It is currently the busiest international terminal in the world, and a fifth terminal (with a sixth being proposed) is currently being built on the site.

Other airports, such as London Gatwick Airport, London Luton Airport, and London Stansted Airport, as well as those at Manston and Southend, incorporate "London" in their name, but the towns of Crawley, Luton and Stansted where they are situated lie in the Home Counties at some distance from London.

Special train stations built at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted help to offset their physical remoteness from the capital and thus spread scheduled airline services in a safe and manageable way across the region.

Public transport system

Larger versionEnlarge

Larger version


The London public transport system is one of the few systems in the world to be a tourist attraction in its own right; its infrastructure, however, is, and historically has been, financially stretched and under-resourced, leading to frequent difficulties and delays in making journeys.

While Transport for London runs the London Underground (the world's first metro or underground rail network), also known as the Tube, the famous red double decker buses are now run by private companies, although it is a requirement that the buses are still painted (mostly) red. Government proposals to place the Underground network under a "public-private partnership" arrangement have encountered widespread opposition. Transport for London introduced a Congestion Charge levied on traffic entering Central London during peak hours in mid-February 2003 in order to alleviate chronic traffic congestion. See also Rail transport in the United Kingdom.


London is home to 11 professional football clubs, most of them named after the district in which they play. Those currently in the top division (the Premier League) are Arsenal (who play in Highbury), Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, and Tottenham Hotspur. Clubs outside the Premier League are Brentford, Millwall, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United - all of whom have at one time played in the top division - plus Leyton Orient. Wimbledon F.C, in an extremely controversial move, left London in 2003 to play in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, and the newly formed AFC Wimbledon inherited most of their support, despite playing at a much lower level in the football pyramid. London hosted the World Cup Final in 1966, the European Football Championship in 1996 and the European Cup final in 1968 & 1978.

London is also home to many major sporting venues including Lord's, home of Middlesex and the Marylebone Cricket Club, and The Oval, home of Surrey. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which hosts the Wimbledon Championships, is based in Wimbledon. Twickenham is the home of English Rugby Union and Wembley Stadium, currently being rebuilt, is the home for international football and Rugby League. London hosts one of the world's largest mass-participation road races, the London Marathon.

[[Buckingham PalaceEnlarge

[[Buckingham Palace


London has twice hosted the Summer Olympics, in 1908 and 1948. It is one of the cities bidding to host the 2012 Games.



London has five professional symphony orchestras; the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It has the world-famous Royal Opera House and is home to the English National Opera, as well as boasting the Royal Festival Hall, the South Bank and Barbican Centre complexes, and St. John's, Smith Square.


There are over a dozen major theatres, most concentrated in the West End (specifically, Theatreland) including the National Theatre, the London Palladium, the Almeida Theatre, and The Globe, which was the home stage of Shakespeare's troupe. London also boasts a vibrant fringe theatre culture including places such as the Battersea Arts Center, The Place, and Tricycle Theatre.


Satellite image of London, United Kingdom.<br/>A simulated-colour satellite image of west London taken on [[NASAEnlarge

Satellite image of London, United Kingdom.
A simulated-colour satellite image of west London taken on [[NASA

's Landsat 7 satellite]]

There are many art galleries, such as The National Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, Design Museum, White Cube, Saatchi Gallery, ICA, and the Dulwich Picture Gallery.


Museums include the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, Sir John Soane's house, now a museum of Georgian architecture.


The City of London or "Square Mile" is the financial centre of London, with many banks and financial institutions.

While the Port of London is now only the third largest in the United Kingdom, rather than largest in the world, it still handles 50 million tonnes of cargo each year.

London's economy generates 116,444 million pounds annually, and accounts for 17% of the UK's Gross Domestic Product - see Economy of the United Kingdom. (external link London Development Authority).

Tourism is one of the UK's largest industries, and in 2003 employed the equivalent of 350,000 full time workers in London [1].

London tourist attractions

[[London BridgeEnlarge

[[London Bridge


Other places of interest:
  • Tyburn was the location for many infamous executions by hanging.
  • Battersea Power Station and the Millennium Dome are two architecturally interesting buildings which currently stand empty, as no permanent use has been decided for them.

Prominent exhibitions

[[Trafalgar SquareEnlarge

[[Trafalgar Square

Full panoramic photo]]

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 eye-witness account of the Great Fire, and Charles Dickens, whose representation of a foggy, snowy, grimy London of street-sweepers and pickpockets is a major influence on people's vision of Victorian London.

Other famous works that feature London include A Journal of the Plague Year and Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot, The Apes of God by Wyndham Lewis, Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. See London in fiction for the main article.

Films featuring London

London has been the backdrop for many films. Genres of note include Ealing comedy, gangster films and the romantic comedies of Richard Curtis. Many films have also been made based on books set in London, such as those of Charles Dickens and the Sherlock Holmes novels. See the article London in film for further details.

London is also home to a world-class post-production and special effects industry.

TV shows featuring London

[[Tower BridgeEnlarge

[[Tower Bridge

Sequence showing the bridge opening]]

See also

External links