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London – A Megalopolis of People, Ideas and Attractions
London is the capital city of England. It is also the largest city in the United Kingdom with an area of 1, 572 square kilometres and a population of over 7.2 million!
It is also the largest financial centre in the world besides New York City. As a matter of fact, London has the largest Gross Domestic Product in Europe and the eighth richest city in terms of GDP in the whole world!
London is where you can find the top 100 powerful companies in UK and top 500 largest corporations in Europe.
Its influence and emphasis in education, science, arts, entertainment, finance, healthcare, sports, tourism, transport, culture and trade has defined its global position. These are also the major reasons which made London the most visited city.
Based on most documents historic documents, London was founded by the Romans in 43 AD. However, there are ancient scrolls that tell otherwise.
According to these manuscripts, the settlement in London began a thousand years before the Romans came to claim the land.
It was said that London was established by Brutus the Trojan around 1070 BC. Brutus was the great grandson of Aeneas. He was also a Trojan Prince and one of the few survivors of the Trojan War.
He founded London after a long search for new land after Troy was burnt to the ground by the Greeks.
The Middle Ages
After the Romans left England in the 5th century, an Anglo-Saxon settlement known as “Lundenwic” developed to the west of the old Roman city.
However, in the 9th century, the city was continuously attacked by the Vikings. The successive attacks forced the Anglo-Saxon community to find solace and protection behind the walls of the Old Roman city.
It was then at around the 10th century following the unification of England that London became an important political and trading centre.
During the reign of King Edward the Confessor in the 11th century, he re-founded Westminster and rebuilt Westminster Abbey which became his royal residence. From that day on, Westminster replaced London as the centre of the national government.
The 12th century marked the development of the City of Westminster. It has evolved and progressed as the true capital of government affairs. Meanwhile, London also flourished and became the largest city and commercial centre in England.
However, after a great progress, London suffered from the invasion of the Peasant Revolt in 1381. It further declined in the 14th century when the “Black Death” wiped one third of its population.
The most remarkable event in this period, is perhaps the fact that mercantilism grew in London. Many trading companies were established including the British East India Company. And trading also expanded to the New World (America).
In the 16th century, William Shakespeare inspired the city of London and the whole of England with his plays, poems and sonnets. This marked the rise of the theater industry in London.
From experiencing the Black Death, recovering from the Great Fire of London to surviving countless civil wars, aerial bombings and terrorist attacks, London has grown to become the leading financial and cultural centre in the world.
London is the leading tourist destination in the world. It offers a vast array of famous attractions, entertainments and activities that attracts tourists from other parts of the world.
It is estimated that London receives almost 15 million tourists per year! And according to the Government Office for London, the tourism revenue of the city makes up 10 percent of the GNP of London.
Moreover, the London Development Agency announced that tourists spend around £15B per year!
The British Museum
The British Museum houses more than seven million collections of fine arts and ancient masterpieces. It does not only feature the culture and history of London but also holds the national treasures of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Some of its famous and popular exhibits include the Rosetta Stone, “Ginger” (the pre-dynastic Egyptian man – the world's oldest mummy), Lindow Man, The Parthenon sculptures, etc.
Admission is FREE. However, tickets are required during special exhibitions.
The Tower of London
Her Majesty Royal Palace and Fortress (Tower of London) is a historical castle and the most favorite royal residence. It played an important role in London's history. During its 900 years of existence, The Tower of London served as an armoury, treasury, home of the Royal Mint, a menagerie and today home of the crown jewels of the United Kingdom.
The National Gallery houses a vast collection of Western European paintings, almost 2,300 paintings dating from the early 13th to the late 19th century. It is where one can find the greatest works of masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Constable, Van Eyck, Botticelli, Van Gogh, Titian, Stubbs and Renoir.
From the Long Line of directors of the gallery, all have agreed that the paintings and pictures featured in the gallery belong to the people. Thus, it is only right to offer FREE admission.
London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel located on the South banks of the River Thames. It is considered to be the tallest Ferris Wheel in Europe. It is also often described as the “tallest observation wheel” with 32 capsules that weighs 10 tonnes each!
The London Eye offers tourists the chance to view the panoramic skylines of the city. And it also provides breathtaking views of London's 55 most famous landmarks and tourist attractions in just 30 minutes!
London Zoo is the oldest scientific zoo in the world. It was first opened in April 1828 to be used as a centre for research and scientific study. It was later opened to public viewing in 1847.
Although London Zoo is located in the heart of the bustling metropolis, in Regent Park, it offers a diverse collection of animals of different species. It houses 750 animals including lions, camels, giraffes, butterflies, monkeys, tigers, meerkats, penguins, etc. Thus, it is considered as one of the largest zoos in United Kingdom.
London is one of the most popular vacation hubs in the world. And once you are in the city it will not take you long to figure out why.
From the moment you arrive, you will immediately notice great countryside sceneries or the classic Tube network of the city that has been around London since 1863.
Aside from the beautiful landscape, London is also famed for its wide variations of accommodations. You can find scads of deluxe hotels, from 5 stars to standard hotel accommodation to affordable London hostels, cheap bed and breakfast and budget apartments.
Also, London ensures you have a comfortable stay and the best vacation in your lifetime. Thus, the city offers a range of accommodation that is close to major attractions and commercial establishments in the city.
As a matter of fact, some of these hotels have easy access to London's premiere shopping centres. Or if you are looking for designer labels at bargain prices, there are also budget hotel and apartment accommodations near Regent and Carnaby Streets as well as in Oxford Circus.
Meanwhile if you are more interested in the city's history, culture and tradition, you can find many deluxe hotels from 5 star, 4 star, 3 star and standard hotels that resemble houses in the Charles Dickens stories.
There are also other hotel accommodations that are close to the House of Parliament and Cabinet War Rooms. They are also a few minutes away from finest city parks and cultural attractions in the city like The British National Museum, Tate Modern Gallery and the National Gallery.
On the other hand, if you are visiting London to close a deal or business transactions, there is also a range of accommodation you can choose from. You can find various London Hotels which are close to the city's main banking and financial district. Or close to London's key buildings like the Tower 42, Gherkin and Canary Wharf.
So whether you are in the city to explore its famed tradition, history and culture, invade its hundreds of trendy shopping boutiques or just in the city for a business trip, you can surely find a London accommodation that will fit your purpose, lifestyle and budget.
Transportation in the City
The transport system in London is surprisingly efficient and accessible. You can get from one major attraction, commercial establishment or zone to another in just one ride.
The Tube is a popular Subway in London. It is the oldest and second largest metro in the world. You can take the tube to visit all the major attractions in the City of which are all located in Zone one.
Fare starts from £3 in cash. Meanwhile, you can also buy a one-day Travel card for £4.90. You can use the Travel card to get unlimited travel from zone 1 (where all the major attractions of London are) to zone 2 (residential area).
You can also use the Oyster card. The cheapest fares in the oyster card are £1.50 in Zone 1 and £1 in zone 2. Peak times are during 8:00 am to 9:30 am and 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm.
Double Decker Buses
Riding the bus is a great way to view beautiful streetscape of the city. You can get off and get on from one station and visit the shops and sights of the city conveniently.
London's bus network consists of 8,000 busses, 700 bus routes and can accommodate 6 million passengers in a week. These double-decker buses link the areas that tube tracks cannot go to. Their routes cover the residential areas of London. They also pass through Zone 1 as an alternative to the Tube.
Regular fare is £1.50 and only 80p on an Oyster card.
Black cabs are famously shaped taxis in London. They offer a better way to get around the city but it can be expensive if used as your primary mode of transportation. Fares are metered and starts at £1.40 and 20p for every 219 metres travelled. There are also additional charges for front-seat baggage, extra passengers and if you call for a cab by phone.
Just remember that Black cabs are only available when the yellow sign above the widescreen is lit. Just stick out your arm if you need one.
The National Rail is the above ground equivalent of the Tube. The trains can be an excellent alternative to the tube if you live out of zone 1. They can also be a better mode of transport if you want a speedier option than the bus. If you prefer to use this service, you need to buy a National Rail Travel Card.
London on Foot
One of the best ways to explore the city is to see it on foot. Aside from being able to save money, walking can burn up your extra calories and tone up your legs! You will also be able to see London's famous shops, restaurants, theaters and pubs tucked away from the street that you would miss when riding a bus. You can follow one of London's sign-posted paths such as the Thames Path, grab a map and plan your route around the city or simply walk down the streets of London and see all the glory the city can offer.
London is considered to be one of the safest tourist destinations in the World. It may be because few police carry guns on the streets. Armed Policemen are only seen at main railway and underground stations, airports, government buildings and embassies, especially if there is a terrorist threat.
The most common crimes in the city are pick pocketing and bag snatching. Violent crimes are very uncommon in London so you should not worry about it when you are spending your holidays in the city.
Nevertheless, it will not hurt if you take common precautions. It is common sense not to flash large amounts of money or expensive mobile phones and fine jewelries.
Also be wary of people who are offering a free ride. Never accept a ride from drivers who are claiming to be a minicab driver. REMEMBER THAT MINICABS ARE ORDERED BY PHONE AND PRE-BOOKED.
And in case you need police, fire brigade or ambulance assistance, just dial 112 or 999.
Interesting Facts about London
Did You Know?
If London is a country, it is the eighth largest country in the world!
It only takes 62 seconds for the Tower Bridge to open and it opens 1,000 times a year!
That London has 300 languages!
London has only 4 Christian Cathedrals
The city boasts of 31 Michelin-starred restaurants
There are 30,000 shops in London
Her Majesty, the Queen is not allowed in the House of Commons because she is not a commoner!
So for a great vacation to one of the greatest and grandest cities in the world, visit London today!