What is London

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With 10,000 years of history beneath your feet; London, itself almost 2,000 years old is chock-a-block with history and mystery.

london by night "Earth has not anything to show more fair". Wordsworth.
“Earth has not anything to show more fair”. Wordsworth.

London over the centuries is a city that has seen plunderers, builders, kings, queens, and peoples from all corners of the planet (and in some instances you would think from even beyond) :)

world cup 2010 london
all dressed up for the London 2010 World Cup

London the nerve-centre of the 2nd World War; stood alone and at bay in guarding the future of the civilised world, as the doors of Europe clanged shut.  A covert city of mystery; MI5, MI6, CIA; cloak and dagger – a murky nether world of “dead letter boxes”.

WW2 citadel - alongside The Mall near St James's Park and just off Horse Guards Parade
WW2 Citadel – alongside The Mall near St James’s Park and just off Horse Guards Parade

London is the financial capital of the world; both a disaster and a success story the greatest and the worst of both worlds are here.  A place where cutting-edge, 21st Century power and energy are tangible. Home to Westminster the forge of the national destiny; the place where the heart of the Empire beats; the Mecca of politicians throughout the ages.

houses of parliament
the wonderful Westminster Palace aka The Houses of Parliament

Constantly in the news, London shapes not only the United Kingdom; it shapes the history of other countries and cultures in far-flung corners of the planet.
London is the centre of a democratic country that like a shape-shifter changes her personality to suit the person who lives in her suburbs.
London is a city of contrasts; poor and rich; hot and cold; pretty and ugly; clean and filthy; old and new, quiet and noisy; of fun and laughter; terror and fear; slums and opulence; a paradox of artistic expression and social ferment and human mix; work-place and playground; Leicester Square; China Town; Soho and Covent Garden.

covent garden london
the world-famous Covent Garden, London

London; a time-honoured city is constantly reinventing itself; a changing landscape of development and progress; mixing the old with the new – Westminster; Southwark; Chelsea; Canary Wharf, Olympics 2012 Village.
London is time-less; ancient, modern – ever the same and constantly changing.  Yellow brick, worm-worn timbers, ancient terracotta tiles, pristine marble, a city of winding canals, twisting cobbled streets, narrow alley-ways, broad tree-lined avenues; cobwebbed and dynamic; a city redolent of antiquity with quirky and curious street names – gas-lit 1890’s streets; Bleeding Heart Yard; Cut Throat Alley; Cock Lane; Cardinal Cap Alley; Cloth Fair; Charter House; Crooked Usage; Cyclops Mews; Frying Pan Alley; Ha Ha Road; Tweezers Alley; Quaggy Walk; Bacon’s Lane; Threadneedle Street; Shoot-Up Hill; Little Britain; Haberdasher Street; Poultry Street; Crutched Frairs; Seething Lane; Pear Tree Lane (without a pear tree in sight); and  a circus that is not a circus but a traffic circle.

piccadilly circus london
the ever so busy and very famous Piccadilly Circus, a mecca for visitors to London

London is a city of pubs; Shakespeare’s Head; The Ten Bells (where the Ripper likely eyed his victims); Horseshoe; King’s Head & Eight Bells; Goose and Granite; The Gatehouse;

the gatehouse highgate
The Gatehouse, Highgate – an historic London pub

Green Man & French Horn; Moon under the water; Rat & Parrot; Hung Drawn and Quartered; The Lamb and Flag; Witness Box; and The Viaduct Tavern in Clerkenwell.

London is a city of priceless Jewels; Abbeys; Cathedrals;

the pearl of London - St Paul's Cathedral
the ever so wonderful St Paul’s Cathedral – the pearl of London

Palaces; Towers; Bridges; Squares; Parks; Gardens; Fountains;

fountains at trafalgar square
the wonderful fountains at Trafalgar Square

Lakes; Statues; Monuments; half-timbered Elizabethan dwellings; Terraced Georgian Houses; Victorian Mansions; Mediaeval and Gothic Churches and Cemeteries;

egyptian avenue highgate cemetery
the famous Egyptian Avenue at Highgate Cemetery

a Russian Cathedral, a Crystal Palace; a palace that isn’t a palace but an exhibition hall – Alexander Palace; Synagogues; Mosques; white stucco homes and 60’s Terraced Houses; Thatched Cottages; colour-washed Mews; Tudor Homes; Modern Sky-scrapers; Theatres; cosy old pubs; cobblestones; subways; a weird subway that inspired the greatest London poem ever; underground railways and forgotten tunnels; alleyways so narrow you can’t open an umbrella in them; cannons; silver dragons;

city of london griffon emblem
the City of London; Griffon marks the borders of the city

Chinese Lanterns; Flower Shows; the world’s largest nautical museum; Museums that are home to the Rosetta Stone, ancient Egyptian Mummies, 140billion frozen peas, a quarter of a million butterflies; Sutton Hoo treasure; and world-famous paintings housed in Galleries large and small; quaint Villages; busy Market Stalls; bustling river-side Piers; a place of a maypole; a centuries old peep-hole; Victorian sewage pipes; a 13th Century White Chapel; a most spectacular statue and the Cutty Sark, city of canals and boats;

nautical london river thames
the River Thames plays a major part in the life of the city

cafe’s; studios; zoos; hills, walls, woodland, fens and meadows – an urban enchanted forest.

London gave birth to Fair Maids, Feminists and Philantropists; Smugglers, Tars and Pirates; a place where 13 Knights performed three deeds of bravery –

order of the knights of malta
St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell – Order of the Knights of Malta

London is also the final resting place of Heroes; Inventors; Statesmen, Kings and Queens, Cardinals, and a Forgotten Soldier; a city of Robert Browning & Elizabeth Barrett, Oscar Wilde,  James Bond, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt, Philby, Shackleton and Livingston, Shakespear, Horatio Nelson, Christopher Wren, Charles Dickens,

charles dickens lived here highgate blue plaque
Charles Dickens lived here – Highgate

Jack the Ripper, Dick Whittington, Winston Churchill, rock-stars, film-stars, the haunt of the Beatles, home to Nuns and Friars, the Knights of Malta, The Knights Templar, and scarlet-coated Chelsea Pensioners, Sloane Rangers, Hooray Henry’s, Cockney’s, Hippies, Punks, Goths, artists, actors, the Krays, the Elephant Man, Geoffrey Chaucer, 11,000 beheaded virgins and ‘real’ people – citizens of a thriving metropolis.

London a city that today, despite the ravages of time; riots, bombings, fires and plagues, legends, monsters and mysteries, with a rich tapestry of the paranormal – is colourful and cosmopolitan; alive with Celebration, pagentry, age-old traditions,

the lord mayors show london
The Lord Mayor’s Show, and annual London event dating back nearly 800 years

spectacular fireworks, concerts, strikes, carnivals, street fairs, fairs in the Square, frost fairs on the Thames – the most celebrated was the one in 1683-4 that was attended by King Charles II when the Thames froze over.

London is the city that stands at the beginning of time on the Meridian Line;

the greenwich meridian line royal borough of greenwish
The Greenwich Meridian Line – Royal Borough of Greenwich

the city that inspired authors and artists;  playwrights and poets.

“Earth has not anything to show more fair”. Wordsworth.

5 thoughts on “What is London”

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information for travellers to london