Welcome to London
- London is the natural meeting point for the world’s business networks. It’s a leading city in the global economy and a centre of international trade and finance.
- The city continues to nurture some of the finest research and technology developments, while its influence through medical schools, universities and hospitals is second to none.
- For decades, England’s capital has been the launch pad for new ideas and trends. It's a creative hub where there is always something new to see and do. Hotels, venues, restaurants, and attractions constantly update and improve. This means no matter how many times you visit, London always has something new in store.
Area: 1,572 km2
Population: 8, 982 milion
Time zone: UTC (Greenwich Mean Time)
Summer time (March to October): UTC+1
The history of what the Romans called Londinium dates back almost 2,000 years. This has always been a powerful place because of its position on the mighty River Thames, with easy access to the Thames estuary and to the ocean beyond. London's docks, now home to trendy apartments, were the key to its prosperity as the world's greatest trading city in the 19th century, at the very height of the British Empire. The grandest of the public buildings, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, are relics of this time, with a splendour at odds with Britain's 21st century political status.
London always adapts, continually re-inventing itself to suit changing conditions. While international political dominance has long declined, London has been transformed into one of the world's leading financial centres and a cultural hub. London's history as centre of the British Empire is reflected in the extraordinary collections of the British Museum and the National Gallery, while trading finds its focus in the grand shops of Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Knightsbridge. In all, London has survived fires, riots and successive rulers to become the extraordinary place it is today. As even the most casual visitor will discover, London's history is constantly evolving.
London includes many neighbourhoods - and two separate cities. The ancient City of London, also known as "The Square Mile", is home to the oldest parts of London, including the Tower of London. Today "The City", as Londoners call it, is dominated by financial institutions, the London Stock Exchange and the Bank of England. To the west, the City of Westminster is home to Westminster Abbey, the seat of government at the Palace of Westminster - and to the Queen's London home at Buckingham Palace. Westminster includes the famous West End, Soho and most of the major museums and galleries. The South Bank, which runs the length of the Thames in central London, includes a fine riverside walk, the National Theatre and, slightly further to the east, Tate Modern, one of the world's most popular modern and contemporary art museums, housed in the former Bankside Power Station.
London has more sunny days than its reputation suggests, but you're always advised to carry an umbrella. The months of May to August offer the best chance of a sunny day - but there can be heavy rain showers at any time of the year. Spring and autumn often deliver clear, cold days when the Thames sparkles and the low sun shows the finest buildings at their best. Winter temperatures rarely stray below 0º C and snow is a rarity.
London's many attractions have turned it into one of the world's most visited destinations, with some 28 million visitors a year. Whether visitors are seeking culture, shopping, palaces or a great night out, London has it all. London's easy to use public transport systems are another key to its popularity. The London Underground, known universally as "the tube", is simple to understand while the famous red buses are a great way to get to know London at street level. For the indulgent, no visit to London is complete without a ride in a black cab, driven only by those who have completed what's still called "The Knowledge" of all the best ways to avoid London's traffic congestion. London's cab drivers are among this magnificent city's greatest characters.