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Basic information

  • Area: 1,706.8 km² (659 sq mi)
  • Calling Code: +4420
  • Currency: Pound Sterling - GBP (£)
  • Population (EST): 7,556,900
  • Official language: English
  • Time Zone: GMT (UTC+0)

London – Overview

London is a huge, cosmopolitan city covering around 600 square miles, with a multi-cultural population of around 7.5 million. The city is the capital of Great Britain, home of the Royal Family and is at the heart of British political, business and financial life. The city boasts a huge array of attractions, historic buildings, galleries and museums and attracts millions of domestic and foreign tourists every year.

Once the centre of a great Empire, London is a city where almost anything can happen and often does but that is why London is so exciting. Although the capital of Great Britain has seen foreign visitors from at least the time of the Romans, it was not until the mid 20th century that its cultural diversity took off in explosive proportions. This is now reflected by the fact that most high streets contain a variety of restaurants catering in the cuisine of so many different nationalities.

Like no other city around the world, London is a place of modern myths and legends borne from romantic illusions created in Hollywood. Common Londoners never have spoken with an accent as portrayed by Dick van Dyke in the 1964 cinema musical Mary Poppins. Pea Soupers (an almost whiteout fog/smog) are something that have not occurred for more than half a century.

As with any capital city in the world there are traditions, but some in London are daily such as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace or the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. Some ceremonies and events in the capital date back many centuries such as Beating the Retreat which has its origins in the 1600’s and some events such as The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts are more recent having began in 1895. The Proms is also one of the most watched and listened to musical events in the world as it is broadcast on television and radio around the world, in recent years the last night has been joined by events known as Proms in the Park around the UK.

London is famous the world over for both its history and its cultural diversity, which are evident in the range of choices it offers to visitors looking for a good night out: traditional pubs and chip shops sit alongside trendy bars and a wide range of restaurants. For centuries the pub has been a mainstay of British culture, and so it remains to this day. If a traditional English pub is what you're after, look out for Young's, Fullers and Shepherd Neame. All of these have numerous pubs around the capital, and while no two pubs are the same they generally cater for the more discerning, family-oriented drinker. Another chain to look out for is the Yorkshire brewer Samuel Smith, whose old-fashioned pubs are usually the cheapest in town. Districts in London that are rich in good places to drink include historic Hampstead, Highgate and London Bridge which offer plenty of traditional pubs ideal for a relaxing drink after wandering through the many narrow cobbled streets. If live music is what you're after, then a trip to Camden will be in order - gig venues and pubs with live music abound, as do tourists in Goth makeup. For a more upmarket culinary & drinking experience, Notting Hill is littered with bars & restaurants, particularly around Portobello Road, as well as galleries and other venues, such as the Notting Hill Arts Club.

Despite being the biggest and most densely populated city in Europe, London contains a surprising amount of green spaces, ideal destinations for a family day out. Hyde Park, one of the Royal Parks of London, is divided in two by the Serpentine Lake. The most notable feature of Hyde Park is its Speakers' Corner (in the north-east corner near Marble Arch), where public speakers and conspiracy theorists alike can air their views. South of the Serpentine is the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, an oval stone ring fountain. Richmond Park, near the Thames, is probably one of the nicest parks in Europe.

In 2012 London will host the Olympic Games for the third time, 1908 and 1948 being the previous games. Additionally the Paralympic Games, whose history began with the 1948 London Olympics will be held. In the run-up to the games the city has seen many areas made ready as well as major investment in related infrastructure. The site of the games is rejuvenating a once run down area of the city and by the time of the game’s, visitors from Europe will be able to travel directly to the doorstep of the games on Eurostar. When the games are over the area will still be an attraction, as many venues will be put to other uses.

Most visitors agree that London is truly one of the most exciting cities in the world!