London or Greater London, is the capital of England and stands on the banks of the River Thames. It covers around 1,600 square miles and is home to around 7.5 million people of every conceivable race, creed, colour and ethnic origin. The city is made up of 32 boroughs and the famous square mile of the City of London. It is Western Europe's largest city and is the home of countless palaces, museums, churches, cathedrals, castles and other marvels that draw around 25 million tourists each year.
The site on which London now stands was established by the Romans in the 1st century. They called it Londinium. Some three decades later the new settlement was burnt to the ground by the British Icini tribe under the rebellion led by Queen Boudica. The arrival of the Normans saw the fortification of London and the Tower of London was built under the direction of the Conqueror who recognised the strategic and commercial importance of the site.
Over the following centuries London has shrugged off fire, plague, warfare and attacks by terrorists. It has gradually expanded, becoming one of the world's greatest cities. It is a global financial leader with a foreign exchange market dealing in around £250 billion of transactions per day. One fifth of the largest companies in Europe have their headquarters in the 'square mile' and Lloyds of London are still the worlds leaders as 'names' in insurance.
As well as the financial sector, London is home to every conceivable industry. The UK's media has its headquarters here and naturally the service industry and the civil service are huge employers. Tourism and retail are a major source of the city's economy.
Places of Interest
Every nook and cranny of old London has a special interest, but of course the most famous are:
- Buckingham Palace
- The Tower of London
- The Palace of Westminster
- Westminster Cathedral
- Any one of the major galleries and museums
- London's parks
- The London Eye
- Kew Gardens and Windsor Castle both a short drive to the west of the city
Living in London - Education, Shopping and Travel Links
As one might expect from such a vast city, London maintains thousands of schools from nursery to secondary across both public and private sectors. All religious faiths are catered for in all areas. There is a similar massive choice of further education presented by the city's many universities and colleges. Adult education is well subsidised and actively encouraged by the local authorities.
Shopping opportunities in London are on a huge scale. From the stylish boutiques of Chelsea and Knightsbridge to the central areas of Regent Street and Oxford Street and beyond, the choice is endless. Traditional street markets are to be found in every borough providing fresh produce. Bargains can be had in the famous Portobello Road, Camden and Covent Garden markets.
London's internal transport systems are the underground rail network and the bus. It is only fair to say that both are notoriously congested, although since the city won the right to host the 2012 Summer Olympic games, massive work to streamline both systems has been undertaken. Mainline rail systems provide links to all points of the UK and Europe (via the Channel Tunnel) from the capital. The city has its own 'City Airport' servicing mainland Europe and a choice of international airports on the doorstep including Heathrow and Gatwick that are linked to London by fast rail networks.