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London's Location within England
London's Location within England

London is the capital of the United Kingdom and England. It is also the most populous city in the European Union. A resident of London is referred to as a Londoner. London is also known by other names in other languages. In July 2005, the International Olympic Committee chose London as the host city for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

London produces 19.5% 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 widely considered to be one of the world's major global cities.

London has an estimated population as of 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. Over 300 languages are spoken in London, making it one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the world.

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 transport hub. It has many important buildings and iconic landmarks, including world-famous museums, theatres, concert halls, galleries, airports, stadiums and palaces.

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 Houses of Parliament and the clock tower containing Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament and the clock tower
containing Big Ben
Part of the London skyline viewed from the South Bank
Part of the London skyline viewed from
the South Bank

Defining London

Today, "London" usually refers to the conurbation known as Greater London, which is divided into thirty-two London Boroughs and the county of 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.

The coordinates of the center of London (traditionally considered to be Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square, the Strand, Whitehall and the Mall) are approximately 51°30'N 0°8'W. The Romans may have marked the center of Londinium with the London Stone in the City.

London's Boroughs

London's Boroughs

  1. City of London †
  2. City of Westminster
  3. Kensington and Chelsea
  4. Hammersmith and Fulham
  5. Wandsworth
  6. Lambeth
  7. Southwark
  8. Tower Hamlets
  9. Hackney
  10. Islington
  11. Camden
  12. Brent
  13. Ealing
  14. Hounslow
  15. Richmond
  16. Kingston upon Thames
  17. Merton
  1. Sutton
  2. Croydon
  3. Bromley
  4. Lewisham
  5. Greenwich
  6. Bexley
  7. Havering
  8. Barking and Dagenham
  9. Redbridge
  10. Newham
  11. Waltham Forest
  12. Haringey
  13. Enfield
  14. Barnet
  15. Harrow
  16. Hillingdon


London is the largest urban area and capital city of the United Kingdom.

Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 square km). London is a port on the Thames, a navigable river. The river has had a major influence on the development of the city. London began on the Thames' north bank and for many centuries London Bridge was the only bridge in or close to the city. Because of this 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 presented no obstacle to growth.

Rivers and canals

The Thames was once a much broader shallower river than it is today. It has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground. The Fleet River is a good example of this. The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding by storm surges. The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level, caused by both the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound and the gradual rise in sea levels due to climate change. 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.


  • The River Thames
  • The River Brent
  • The River Cray
  • The River Lee (or River Lea)
  • The River Ravensbourne (tidal reach known as 'Deptford Creek')
  • The Wandle
  • The New River

Subterranean rivers

  • The Langbourne (dubious)
  • The Walbrook
  • The River Fleet
  • The Tyburn
  • The Tyburn Brook
  • The River Westbourne
  • Counter's Creek
  • Stamford Brook
  • The River Neckinger
  • The River Effra


  • Grand Union Canal
  • Regent's Canal
  • The River Lee Navigation
  • The Croydon Canal

Islands in the Thames

Note: Only the largest islands are listed here.

  • Canvey Island
  • Isle of Grain
  • Isle of Dogs
    • Millwall
    • Cubitt Town
    • Blackwall
  • Eel Pie Island

A Landsat 7 satellite image of west London. The prominent green space in the middle is Hyde Park, with Green Park and St. James's Park to its right
A Landsat 7 satellite image of west London.
The prominent green space in the middle is Hyde Park,
with Green Park and St. James's Park to its right


The hills in the City of London, from west to east, Ludgate Hill, Corn Hill and Tower Hill, are presumed to have influenced the precise siting of the early city, but they are very minor, and most of central London is almost flat. There are a few notable hills in Greater London, but none of them more than a few hundred feet high, and they have not impeded the development of the city in all directions. It is therefore very roughly circular.

  • Greenwich Hill
  • Hampstead Hill
  • Horsendon Hill
  • Ludgate Hill
  • Muswell Hill
  • Parliament Hill
  • Primrose Hill
  • Shooter's Hill
  • Tower Hill
  • Tyburn Hill


London has a temperate climate, with warm but seldom hot summers, cool but rarely severe winters, and regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year. Summer temperatures rarely rise much above 33 °C (91.4 °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 generally only settled once or twice and it is rarely more than an inch (25 mm) or so. London's average annual precipitation of 584 mm (22.9 inches) is lower than that of Rome or Sydney. London's large built-up area creates a micro climate ("heat island"), 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 following table shows average climate data for 1971-2000 at the Met Office station at Greenwich which is the closest station to the centre of London. It is generally felt that the British climate turned warmer in around the mid 1980s and if averages were available for more recent periods, they would probably show somewhat higher average temperatures.

Max temp (C)
Min temp (C)
Air frost (days)
Sunshine (hours)
Rainfall (mm)
Days with rain >1 mm


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 initially defended by the sub-Roman administration and used as a base of operations during the early campaigns against the Jutes in Kent led by Hengist. After Kent had been abandoned in 456 desperate attempts were then made to repel Saxon invasion which came from the south and east. These campaigns were not successful and the city and its environs became indefensible. If the language of Gildas who lived at this time is to be believed, the fight for the beleaguered city was probably savage indeed. Besieged and battered by c.571 the city of Caer Llundain was evacuated by the Romano-Britons and remained a largely uninhabited ruin for more than a generation afterwards.

Although the old city was not settled the surrounding farms were taken by the Middle Saxons. Initially this would have been an active frontier between Saxons and the Britons who were regrouping in Calchwyned and Caer Celemion and was the scene of raids by both sides. In the early 7th Century the East Saxons came into ascendancy and Lundencestir became subject to their authority. In 604 the city received Mellitus as it's first bishop since the conquest when Saeberht of the East Saxons converted to Christianity. Mellitus founded the first St. Paul's Cathedral amid the crumbling ruins on the site of the old Temple of Diana. This would have only been a modest chapel at first and may well have been destroyed after he was briefly expelled from the city by Saeberht's pagan successors. Later in the 7th Century 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 harbour.

The new town came under direct Mercian control in c.730 and the East Saxons kingdom of which it had once been part was gradually reduced in size and status. Mercian lordship was replaced by that of Wessex after 825. Over the years that followed the trading city of Lundonwic became an important trading centre.

Disaster struck in 851 when the new city's ramshackle defences were overcome by a massive Viking raid and was razed to the ground. The old Roman city (then called Lundenburh) was reoccupied during the this time because a fortified place was now essential for it to be better defended against further Viking attacks.

The tale of the next century is a confused one, with first English, then Danish, then Norman kings controlling the city. The Danes were ousted from the city by Alfred the Great in 886, and Alfred made London a part of his kingdom of Wessex. In the years following the death of Alfred, however, the city fell once more into the hands of the Danes.

The Danes did not have it all their own way. In 1014 they were occupying the city when a large force of Anglo-Saxons and Norwegian Vikings sailed up the Thames to attack London. The Danes lined London Bridge and showered the attackers with spears.

Undaunted, the attackers pulled the roofs off nearby houses and held them over their heads in the boats. Thus protected, they were able to get close enough to the bridge to attach ropes to the piers and pull the bridge down. There is some speculation that the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down" stems from this incident.

The attacks ceased when the Danish king Canute came to power in 1017. Canute managed to unite the Danes with the Anglo-Saxons, and invited Danish merchants to settle in the city. London prospered under Canute, but on his death the city reverted to Anglo-Saxon control under Edward the Confessor. Edward had been raised in Normandy, so his rule brought French influence and trade.

London was now the most prosperous, and largest city in the island of Britain - but it was not the capital of the realm. The official seat of government was at Winchester, although the royal residence was generally at London.

After the disaster of 1066 when the English king Harold II was slain in battle by the Duke of Normandy the city saw dramatic scenes as the boy prince Edgar Aetheling was declared king and he with the people of London barricaded London Bridge to stop the forces of Duke William entering the city. Their efforts were in vain as a few weeks later Edgar was compelled to submit.

In some ways the medieval history of London can be said to have begun on Christmas Day, 1066, when William the Conqueror was crowned king of England in a ceremony at the newly finished Westminster Abbey, just three months after his victory at the Battle of Hastings.

William granted the citizens of London special privileges, but he also built a castle in the southeast corner of the city to keep them under control. This castle was expanded by later kings until it became the complex we now call the Tower of London.

The Tower acted as royal residence, and it was not until later that it became famous as a prison. During the medieval period it also acted as a royal mint, treasury, and housed the beginnings of a zoo.

In 1097 William II began the building of Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. The hall was to prove the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the prime royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. 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). On William's death his brother Henry needed the support of London merchants to maintain his dubious grip on the throne. In exchange, Henry I gave city merchants the right to levy taxes and elect a sheriff.

By the early 12th century the population of London was about 18,000 (compare this to the 45,000 estimated at the height of Roman Britain).

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 until 1925.

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.

Until their 1997 ceasefire, London was regularly a target for IRA bombers seeking to pressure the British government into negotiations with Sinn Féin on Northern Ireland.

On 7 July 2005, there were 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 bombings also took place on 21 July 2005; however in the latter incident there was no fatalities.

St. Paul's Cathedral during the World War II bombings of London
St. Paul's Cathedral during the
World War II bombings of London
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901

Modern London

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 centre of international finance, and is Europe’s main business centre. 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.

The British Museum, one of London's top tourist attractions
The British Museum, one of London's top tourist attractions
Buckingham Palace with the Union Flag projected onto it
Buckingham Palace with the Union Flag projected onto it

London Districts

Central London

Central London is a much-used but unofficial and vaguely defined term for the most inner part of London, the capital of the United Kingdom. There are many definitions and each has its own notional boundary. Some are defined by clear boundaries, others less so. All definitions have in common the notion that central London is smaller than, and a subset of, Inner London.

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,London is home to very mordern 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 skyline is set to change further over the next few years as more high-profile skyscrapers are being built in the City of London as the pressure for office space continues. 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 City of London viewed from Tower Bridge
The City of London viewed from Tower Bridge

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 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.

A red Routemaster bus crosses Piccadilly Circus
A red Routemaster bus crosses Piccadilly Circus

East London

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. The East End of London is also home to the longest street market in Europe, Walthamstow market.

The Hackney Empire in London's East End
The Hackney Empire in London's East End


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. Many more skyscrapers are being built in the area over the next decade.

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.

Further east in the London Borough of Newham are London City Airport and the ExCeL Exhibition Centre.

The Canary Wharf complex viewed from the City of London
The Canary Wharf complex viewed from the City of London

West London

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.

London Underground "Roundel" sign at Notting Hill Gate
London Underground "Roundel" sign at Notting Hill Gate

North London

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.

Park Crescent near Regent's Park
Park Crescent near Regent's Park

South London

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 migrated 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 (by 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.

The city and the 32 boroughs (some 610 square miles or 1,579 km²) had an estimated 7,429,200 inhabitants as of July 1, 2004, making London the second most populous city in Europe behind Moscow (10,415,400 inhabitants in 2005).

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), 10% 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).

In January 2005, The Guardian newspaper published a survey of London's ethnic and religious diversity, which claimed that there were more than 300 languages spoken and 50 non-indigenous communities of more than 10,000 population in London.

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. London's 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 some 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, 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). Other definitions which exclude the outer areas, put the figure at around 12 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, which includes much of South East England and part of the East of England, including satellite cities such as Brighton and Oxford.

London by night as seen from the International Space Station
London by night as seen from the International Space Station


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 historic 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.

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.

Health services in London are managed by the national government via the National Health Service (NHS). Greater London is divided into five Strategic Health Authorities.

City Hall at night. The Greater London Authority meets here
City Hall at night. The Greater London Authority meets here.

Business and Economy

London is a major engine of 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 [10] or $642 billion (estimate) in 2004. If it were 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.

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

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.

Bishopsgate, City of London
Bishopsgate, City of 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.

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


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, School of Oriental and African Studies, University College London, the London School of Economics and London Business School.

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.

Senate House, designed by Charles Holden home to the University of London's central administrative offices and its library
Senate House, designed by Charles Holden home to the
University of London's central administrative offices and its library


London is a major international communications centre with a virtually unrivaled number of media outlets. Much of 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 stations (eg: BBC 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, Kiss 100 and Xfm. Popular news/talk stations include BBC London, LBC 97.3 and LBC News 1152.

The London newspaper market is dominated by London editions of the 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 day 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.

BBC London, the flagship local TV station of the BBC television network
BBC London, the flagship local TV station of the BBC television network


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, New York and Milan) and is home to some of the finest haute couture in the world. Burberry, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano 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 Knightsbridge district and the Mayfair district (which includes Bond Street) are 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.

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, the Salvation Army 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.

A view of St Paul's Cathedral from Ludgate Hill
A view of St Paul's Cathedral from Ludgate Hill


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

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.

The London 2012 logo
The London 2012 logo

Places of Interest

  • Buckingham Palace
  • Camden Town
  • Chinatown
  • 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
  • Theatreland
  • Tower Bridge
  • Tower of London
  • Trafalgar Square
The London Eye is a recent addition to the London skyline
The London Eye is a recent addition
to the London skyline
Trafalgar Square
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

Paternoster Square in the City of London
Paternoster Square in the City of London
The Palace of Westminster seen across the River Thames.
The Palace of Westminster seen across the River Thames.

Markets and Shopping Areas

  • West End
  • Knightsbridge
  • Borough Market
  • Portobello Road Market
  • Petticoat Lane Market
  • Brick Lane Market
  • Covent Garden
  • Harrods
Harrods store at night-time, February 2005
Harrods store at night-time, February 2005


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.
  • Tiny police stations - Wellington Arch and Marble Arch both once housed one, and there is also one in a 'pepper-pot' underneath a ship lamp in Trafalgar Square.

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.

London's Chinatown, near Leicester Square.
London's Chinatown, near Leicester Square.

Films featuring London

London has appeared as the setting for many films, for example Notting Hill, and the Ealing comedies. Crime films such as The Krays and 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 worldwide audience. Adaptations of Dickens and the Sherlock Holmes novels abound. Renée 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 horror film 28 Days Later, the streets of central London were shown deserted and unhabited. The Academy Awards-nominated film, Closer, which starred Jude Law and Julia Roberts was also filmed in London.

Woody Allen's 2006 film Match Point is also set and filmed on location in London.

London is home to a very large film post-production and special effects industry.

Television programmes featuring London

  • Absolutely Fabulous
  • The Apprentice
  • Are You Being Served?
  • Bad Girls
  • The Bill
  • Bottom
  • Doctor Who
  • EastEnders
  • Family Affairs
  • Gimme Gimme Gimme
  • Hotel Babylon
  • Keen Eddie
  • Little Britain
  • London's Burning
  • Man About The House
  • Match Point
  • Men Behaving Badly
  • Minder
  • Only Fools and Horses
  • Spaced
  • Spooks
  • Ultraviolet
  • Yes Minister
  • Yes Prime Minister
  • The Young Ones

Songs featuring London

  • "Doing the Lambeth Walk", Music Hall favourite
  • "London" by The Smiths
  • "London" by Pet Shop Boys
  • "London Calling" by The Clash from the album London Calling
  • "London's Burning" by The Clash
  • "London Bridge is falling down", traditional nursery rhyme
  • "Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner" by Hubert Gregg
  • "Streets of London" by Ralph McTell
  • "Swinging London" by London from the album Animal Games
  • "No Place like London" by Stephen Sondheim from the musical Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks (recently voted London's 'national anthem' by Time Out magazine)
  • "Lullaby of London" by The Pogues
  • "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant
  • "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon
  • "London" by Queensryche
  • "London Leatherboys" by Accept

Video Games featuring London

  • The Getaway & The Getaway: Black Monday
  • Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 and Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961
  • Godzilla: Save The Earth
  • Midnight Club: Street Racing
  • Midtown Madness 2
  • Nightmare Creatures
  • Tomb Raider 3
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
  • Project Gotham Racing
  • Project Gotham Racing 3
  • London Taxi
  • 007: Agent Under Fire

Major exhibitions staged in London

  • 1851 – Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations — The Crystal Palace
  • 1862 – International Exhibition (1862)
  • 1871-74 – Four Annual International Exhibitions
  • 1886 – Colonial and Indian Exhibition (1886)
  • 1899 – Greater Britain Exhibition (1899)
  • 1908 – Franco-British Exhibition (1908)
  • 1924 – British Empire Exhibition at Wembley
  • 1951 – Festival of Britain
  • 2000 – Millennium Dome


  • New Year’s Day Parade
  • Lord Mayor's Show
  • Notting Hill Carnival

Tower Bridge crosses the River Thames next to the Tower of London.
Tower Bridge crosses the River Thames next to the Tower of London.

This article is about the English administrative county. For the Kentucky city, see London, Kentucky.

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