London is the capital city of the United Kingdom.
It is also the most populous city in the European Union.
London produces 19.5% of the U.K.'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. Along with New York City, Tokyo and Paris, it is widely regarded as 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 in the world. Over 300 languages are spoken in London, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. 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.
A resident of London is referred to as a Londoner.
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
Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 km²). London used to be identified by its port on the Thames, which is a navigable river. The river had a major influence on the development of the city. London was founded on the north bank of the Thames and, for many centuries, there was only a single bridge, London Bridge. As a result, 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 around the Thames floodplain presented no obstacle to growth. Today, there are a few hills in London, examples being Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill; they provide fine prospects of the city centre without significantly affecting the directions of the spread of the city and London is therefore roughly circular.
The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands. It has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground. The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding. The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level by the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound. 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.
London has a temperate climate under the Köppen climate classification system. It has regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year. The mean daily high temperature during the summer months is 21.5°C (70.7°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 rarely settled to more than an inch (25 mm). London's average annual precipitation of less than 24 inches (600 mm) is lower than that of Rome or Sydney even though, as subtropical cities, Sydney and Rome have fewer rainy or overcast days. London's large built-up area creates a microclimate, with heat stored by the city's buildings: sometimes temperatures are 5°C (9°F) warmer in the city than in the surrounding areas.
Transport and infrastructure
Paddington Station, one of Central London's main railway terminals
Transport is one of the four areas of policy administered by the Mayor of London, but the mayor's financial control is limited. The public transport network, administered by Transport for London (TfL), is 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 under 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 .
Places of interest
•Horse Guards Parade
•The London Dungeon
•Tower of London
Markets and shopping areas
•Portobello Road Market
•Petticoat Lane Market
•Brick Lane Market
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, honoring 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 is the capital city of both the United Kingdom and of England, and the largest European city. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of 8 million people, although the figure of over for the city's metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is historically one of the great "world cities" and remains a global capital of politics, culture, fashion and finance.
The name "London" originally referred only to the once-walled "Square Mile" of the original Roman (and later mediæval) city, now the City of London. "London", however, has taken on a much larger meaning, to include all of the vast central part of the modern metropolis, "London" having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries. Reflecting the massive size of the metropolis, therefore, the term "Greater London" embraces central London together with all the outlying suburbs that lie in one continuous urban sprawl within the lower Thames valley. Though densely populated by New World standards, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city centre.
•the London Eye - a giant wheel on the South Bank of the river Thames with magnificent views
•the Tower of London - London's original royal fortress by the Thames, over 900 years old, containing the Crown Jewels, guarded by Beefeaters, and a World Heritage site
•St Paul's Cathedral - Sir Christopher Wren's great accomplishment, built after the 1666 Great Fire of London - the great dome still seated in majesty over the City
•Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - a fantastic modern reconstruction of the Tudor period Globe Theatre, scene of some fine Shakespearian moments
•Tower Bridge - the magnificent 19th century bridge, decorated with high towers and featuring a drawbridge. The up-and-coming area of Bankside sits to its west, and the regenerated Butler's Wharf area of shops, reasonably priced riverside restaurants and the London Design Museum lie to its east.
•Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) - seat of the British parliament and World Heritage site. Note that the Abbey itself charges tourists for entry -- but not worshippers. Attend a church service for free and enjoy some of the finest choral music in London from the choir. Evensong (see Abbey website) at 4PM or 5PM, depending on time of year, is an especially good bet
•Buckingham Palace - the official London residence of the Queen, one of several royal palaces in London. Open for tours during the summer months only.
•Somerset House - this magnificent 18th century building off the Strand, recently restored to the public, houses the collections of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Gilbert Collection and Hermitage Rooms. You'll also find shops, cafés, a restaurant and the spectacular Fountain Court, scene of public ice-skating in the winter.
•Trafalgar Square - home of Nelson's Column and the lions, and once a safe haven for London's pigeons. It recently attracted controversy over the 'Fourth plinth', previously empty, being temporarily home to a Marc Quin sculpture, 'Alison Lapper Pregnant'. Overlooked by the National Gallery, it's the nearest London has to a 'centre', and has recently been pedestrianised. Previously, traffic used to circle the entire fountain and statuary area.
•Leicester Square - Possibly one of the busiest areas in London. It houses the largest cinemas (frequently hosting star-studded premieres), as well as cafes and restaurants. Due to the huge influx of tourists, everything from cinema tickets to bottles of water are very expensive.
•Maritime Greenwich - home of Greenwich Mean Time, the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory - World Heritage site
•Royal Albert Hall - landmark location of many world-renowned concerts (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin), still plays host to top shelf entertainment. In summer, the BBC Proms are a somewhat eccentric series of concerts, and first-come first-served standing tickets can be had for £4 (2005 price). Turn up early (i.e., before noon) if you hope to get in standing for any Prom of particular note.
•Portobello Road - claimed to be the world's largest antiques market. For antiques, souvenirs and other knick-knacks or simply a walk through time. Camden Market is often claimed to be the new Portobello Road.
Museums and Galleries
•the British Museum - one of the world's great museums, founded in 1753 - a vast repository of the world's cultures
•the National Gallery - and the National Portrait Gallery just around the corner
•the Museum of London - a great place to visit to understand the history and development of the city
•the Tate Galleries - Tate Britain and Tate Modern - showcases of some of the best of British and Modern Art respectively
•the Victoria and Albert Museum
•the Natural History Museum
•the Science Museum
•the Sir John Soane's Museum
•the Saatchi Gallery
•the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory Greenwich
•the The Wallace Collection - home to Old Master Paintings, Furniture, Porcelain, Arms and Armour and other Fine Art.
•the Pollock's Toy Museum