“Seeing London, I learned as much about life as the whole world can show.”
Without a doubt, London is the quintessence of the entire United Kingdom, it strikingly combines English stiffness and centuries-old traditions with an adventurous spirit of cosmopolitanism and the most advanced trends. The majestic Palace of Westminster rising above the dark waters of the Thames, the legendary Big Ben tower, the formidable Tower or the pompous changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace perfectly coexist with the bohemian customs of Soho, trendy nightclubs, enchanting West End musicals and mind-blowing designer creations by Vivienne Westwood. London impresses, fascinates and beckons with a fantastic interweaving of great history, great art and great modernity. No wonder the famous English writer Benjamin Disraeli called this unique city “modern Babylon.”
Geography and location
London – the capital of Great Britain, is located on the zero or Greenwich (by the name of the area that it crosses) meridian. London covers an area of 1706.8 km² and is the largest city in the British Isles and the second largest city in Europe. From the southwest to the east London is crossed by the River Thames, the historical center of the city is Westminster, and the population of the metropolis is more than 8 million people. Administratively, London, or as it is called “Greater London”, is divided into 33 districts, which include the City and the 32 large urban administrative districts surrounding it, while the majority of the London population is British (English, Scots, Welsh), about 3% – Irish and approximately 40% of the city’s residents belong to so-called “ethnic minorities”.
Oscar Wilde once said, “The fogs of London did not exist until art discovered them.” And indeed – the constant fog standing over the city is rather an associative symbol of London and an old myth. However, the climate in London is actually humid and mild, temperate maritime – with warm, but not hot summers and cool, but not very frosty winters. Such softness of the city’s climate is ensured by the winds blowing from the Atlantic Ocean, which bring coolness in summer and warmth in winter. And another feature of the London climate is a small inter-seasonal amplitude of temperature fluctuations: from +5.1 ° C in January to +18.1 ° C in July (13 ° C).
A bit of history
The foundation of London dates back to 43 AD, when the Romans founded the settlement of Londinium on the north bank of the Thames, which soon became the most important settlement of Roman Britain. From the 9th to the 11th centuries, either the Vikings, or the Normans, or the British rule in London, but in the middle of the 11th century, King Edward the Confessor asserts Anglo-Saxon possession over London. The medieval history of London begins in 1066, namely, with the coronation of William the Conqueror as King of England in Westminster Abbey, thanks to which London becomes the largest and richest city in the kingdom. During these times, the Tower, Westminster Hall, which served as the basis of the Palace of Westminster, were built, St. Paul’s Cathedral was rebuilt, and in 1176 the famous stone London Bridge was erected. Also in the Middle Ages, London was divided into two parts that still exist today – Westminster and the City. In the XV-XVI centuries, during the reign of the Tudors, the era of absolute monarchy begins in London and a rapid flowering begins. The legendary London parks – Hyde Park and Kensington Garden – were created, the grandiose East India Company was founded in 1600, the Royal Exchange was founded in 1560, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater was built in 1599. However, during these years, London was not spared by catastrophes – the Great Plague that occurred in 1665-1666. and claimed more than 60 thousand lives, and the Great Fire of London in 1666, in which 60% of the buildings were destroyed. And, finally, in 1707 London becomes the capital of Great Britain. In the XIX century, “Victorian” London becomes a city of contrasts: on the one hand, it is an industrial and financial center, and on the other – a city with slums and entire neighborhoods of the poor. At the same time, the population of London grows to 6 million people, the first city railway is being laid here, stations are being built, in 1863 the world’s first line of the London Underground opens, in 1830 Trafalgar Square is being built, on which the National Gallery is being built two years later, in 1859 – the symbol of London, the famous Big Ben. In the 20th century, London was subjected to devastating bombing during the Second World War, huge flows of immigrants moved here from different countries of the former British Empire, in 1946 the first flight was made from the new Heathrow Airport, and in 1956 the first double-decker red buses.
The main sights of London
It is hardly possible to even briefly describe all the sights of London – the British capital is so multifaceted and grandiose. However, its main historical, cultural, architectural monuments and places cannot be missed. So:
Architectural monuments of London, represented by different styles:
The Tower of London (Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, Tower of London) – the historical center of London, a Norman-style fortress built by William I on the north bank of the Thames. A unique monument of history and architecture, the former residence of the English monarchs and the famous prison. Today, the Tower is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Westminster Abbey is a grandiose Gothic church built from 1245 to 1745, the coronation site of British monarchs and the burial place of English monarchs. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Palace of Westminster– a majestic building on the banks of the Thames, the former residence of the English kings, rebuilt in neo-Gothic style after a fire in 1834. The palace has 1200 rooms, 100 stairs and 5 kilometers of corridors. The Houses of Parliament are also located here, as well as the legendary Big Ben, built in 1858, and the Victoria Tower, built in 1860, on the southwest corner of the palace. The Palace of Westminster is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Trafalgar Square– the famous historical square in the center of London, created by the architect John Nash in the style of classicism and named after the victory of England in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1905. In the center of the square rises erected in 1840-1843. the monumental 46-meter Nelson Column topped with a statue of Admiral Nelson. The facets of the column’s pedestal are decorated with frescoes made from captured and melted down Napoleonic cannons, and its top is decorated with a leaf-shaped bronze ornament cast from English cannons. Around the square are: London’s National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields – a parish church visited by members of the royal family, the majestic Admiralty Arch and several embassies.
Famous museums of London:
The British Museum is one of the largest museums in the world, founded in 1763, the main historical and archaeological museum of Great Britain. The 94 galleries of the museum with a total length of 4 km contain unique works of art from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, works of medieval masters of Asia and Europe, as well as medals, drawings, engravings, coins and books from different eras.
London’s National Gallery – opened in 1839 and presents more than 2,000 examples of Western European painting of the XIII – early XX century.
Tate Gallery – founded in 1891 by industrialist Henry Tate, is the world’s largest collection of works of English art of the XVI-XX centuries.
Victoria and Albert Museum or V&A– founded in 1852, the world’s largest museum of decorative and applied arts, which has an extensive exposition of design objects – glassware, porcelain, ceramics, precious metals, textiles. In addition, the museum exhibits large collections of paintings, sculptures, as well as photographic masterpieces.
Madame Tussauds is a legendary wax museum founded by the sculptor Marie Tussauds and has branches in various cities around the world.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum is the home-museum of the famous character from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, located on Baker Street. The museum includes the apartment of Sherlock Holmes with the things of the famous detective, as well as the restaurant “At Mrs. Hudson’s” and a souvenir shop.