As the nation’s capital, London is a city full of world class attractions and endless iconic buildings. Rich in heritage it is home to Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square and Westminster with more modern additions to its skyline including the Shard and 30 St Mary Axe, more commonly known as the Gherkin. With fantastic museums, beautiful parklands, a world renowned theatre district and a wealth of shops, hotels and restaurants, London really does have it all.
Londinium was a large walled roman settlement founded in 43AD and today this area is referred to as the square mile and forms the City of London, a city within a city. Evidence of earlier settlements have also be uncovered in the city dating back to the Bronze Age. 61AD would see the invasion led by Queen Boudica and the Iceni tribe, and a statue by Thomas Thornycroft can be found of Boudica leading the charge at Westminster Pier. After the invasion much of the settlement had been destroyed, however the area would later see Anglo-Saxons regenerate the area into a successful port.
As the area quickly developed further, trade activity increased rapidly and by the 11th century buildings such as Westminster Abbey were constructed, confirmation of the level of status that London now held. The Abbey would see the crowning of William Duke of Normandy as King of England and it was under his instruction that the Tower of London would be built. In the 12th century, London would be the central location for Government at Westminster with the Tower housing the Treasury.
London would be hit by the Black Death in the 14th Century, which would see a third of its population wiped out by this terrible disease. 1666 would see the city devastated by the Great Fire which began in Pudding Lane and would take a decade to recover from.
The magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral would be completed in 1708 the work of Christopher Wren, the Cathedral remains a breath-taking experience for those who visit this stunning place of worship.
During the 1700’s development of the wider London area was achieved and bridges across the Thames constructed to extend the port area and connect and develop the area now known as South London. 1762 saw George III acquire Buckingham House as a place of residence for Queen Charlotte. The house would be extensively built upon with the additions of three wings and the East front and became the official residence of the British Monarch by Queen Victoria in 1837.
London was heavily bombed throughout the First and Second World Wars, with many buildings destroyed and thousands of lives sadly lost. But the spirit of its people remained strong and 1948 would see London host the Summer Olympics.
London is a historic and cultural city, and has also been a focus in popular culture.
Films & TV
V for Vendetta (2005) – Starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, this action thriller focusses on a masked freedom fighter, seeking to overthrow those in charge of the country who are leading with force and fear. Based on a novel by Alan Moore, the films shows many of London’s landmarks to dramatic effect, including Trafalgar Square and Westminster.
A Hard Days Night (1964) – This Beatles film follows the group from Liverpool to London and features many locations in London including Scala Theatre, the South Bank, Charlotte Street, the Hammersmith Odeon and Les Ambassaduers Club in Mayfair.
The LadyKillers (1955) – This comedy classic starred Peter Sellers, Alec Guiness and Cecil Parker and followed a criminal gang planning to rob a bank, posing a musicians to their unassuming landlady. Set in London, scenes shot in the capital include Argyle Street and St Pancras Station.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens – the classic tale of the orphan Oliver Twist is world famous, with the child experiencing the harsh life in the workhouse as well as London’s criminal underworld as he encounters the likes of Fagin and the artful Dodger.
Absolute Beginners (1959) – Written by Colin MacInnes and set in London, this novel reflects on life of London’s youth in the capital during the 1950’s, from Mod culture to Teddy gangs, this cult classic went on to become a film success starring Patsy Kensit and David Bowie.
Brick Lane (2002) – Monica Ali’s novel tells the tale of Nazneen who following her arranged marriage sees her moved from her home in Bangladesh to a high-rise flat in London, and the challenges she faces in her new life.
Charlie Chaplin – Born in London on 16 April 1889, Charlie Chaplin was a British actor and filmmaker, whose role in The Tramp would lead to international acclaim and a successful film career which lasted for 75 years.
Sir Michael Caine – known for his London roots, Michael Caine was born in London on the 14 March 1933, and is a star of both stage and screen with films such as Zulu, Alfie and The Italian Job to his credit, in a career which has seen roles in over 100 films.
Daniel Radcliffe – Born in London on 23 July 1989, Daniel Radcliffe is famous for playing Harry Potter, his acting career has since included films and stage productions such as The Woman in Black, Equus, and How to Success in Business Without Really Trying.
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is home to the House of Commons and House of Lords, and one of the most famous of London’s landmarks with Big Ben located at the north end of the Palace. The amazing building features perpendicular gothic design and was rebuilt from 1840 following a fire which destroyed the Old Palace in 1834.
Tower of London
Set on the North Bank of the Thames, the Tower of London is a World Heritage Site and has been used as a royal residence, armoury and treasury as well as the previous location of the Royal Mint, in addition to famously being used as a prison from 1100 to 1952. The Tower guards the Crown Jewels which have been held there since 1303 and can be found in the Jewel House of the Tower.
A popular attraction for tourists, Trafalgar Square commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar and features Nelson’s Column, a monument built to Admiral Horatio Nelson who was killed in the Battle, one of a number of statues which are located within the Square. The National Gallery can also be found in Trafalgar Square, with the Square’s fountains traditionally a focus for New Year Celebrations. The Square itself leads to the Mall through Admiralty Arch, with Whitehall and the Strand also close by.