What Is London, UK Known For?
London, a massive city in southeast England in the United Kingdom, has attracted people from all over the world for millennia. Today, London is a world-renowned city and continues to develop – but what exactly is this vibrant city known for?
London, UK, is known for its calamitous history, robust economy, cultural diversity, world-famous tourist attractions, architecture, museums, theaters, and historical sites. The city is renowned for its music scene and delicious fare, from traditional fish and chips to international cuisine.
From its elegant architecture to its breathtaking green parks, London, UK, has something to offer everyone from all walks of life. In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes London unique and famous. Read on to learn more about the city’s multi-faceted identity.
London is the Capital of the UK
London is the capital of the United Kingdom. The capital was Winchester, however when the Palace of Westminster was being built in London in the 12th and 13th centuries the capital changed to London.
Most Populated City in the UK
With over 7.5 million people living in the city, it is safe to say that London is the most populated city in the United Kingdom. The next most populated cities are Birmingham and Liverpool both with less than one million people each.
The “Swinging City” Has a Robust Economy
With a history steeped in tragedy and perseverance, London is no stranger to rebuilding and adapting to change, which makes it a powerful force in global trade.
Since the ancient Romans, London has established itself as an important trade center. By the time of the British Empire, the city had made an everlasting mark on world trade and would soon become a financial powerhouse.
Today, London is referred to as the “nerve center” of Europe and is one of the world’s largest financial centers. It is home to the majority of the United Kingdom’s top businesses and over 100 of Europe’s most powerful companies. In addition, London is the UK’s most vital transportation hub, as it lies directly in the center of both the road and railway networks.
London’s large population has quite a bit to do with the success of the economy. Coming in at number 37 on the list of largest cities globally, London hosts a population of more than nine million residents. Both inner and outer London continues to see steady growth. The Trust for London organization states that London’s population is expected to increase by 2030.
In 2019, London produced nearly ¼ of the United Kingdom’s entire GDP – over £503 billion ($690 billion). The largest metropolitan area in Europe, London Metropolitan, generated nearly £849 billion ($1 trillion).
As you can see, London is far more than a tourist destination (although tourism does contribute a great deal of money to its economy). This international powerhouse plays a vital role in global financial markets, and the local economy also continues to prosper.
The service industry in London now outweighs manufacturing. From healthcare and schools to shopping and attractions, the service sector in the city accounts for nearly half of all careers in the city and has a significant impact on its economy.
London Is Renowned for Its Cultural Diversity
London has been shaped for millennia by its immigrants, from Huguenots escaping religious persecution in the 1600s to Bangladeshis fleeing the Bangladesh Liberation War in the 1970s. Migration continues to this day, remaining a critical part of London’s history and economy.
In fact, it’s estimated that nearly ⅓ of international migration into the United Kingdom is into London.
Residents are composed of different nationalities, religions, and cultural backgrounds. The city is one of the most culturally diverse in the world, with over 300 languages spoken (including English, Turkish, Gujarati, Arabic, and Punjabi, to name a few). Despite the differences in backgrounds, the common culture of London unites them all.
London often hosts unique and varied events to honor and celebrate the city’s diversity, including festivals, galas, carnivals, and parades, ranging from the Chinese New Year to AWD’s Annual African Womens’ Gala Dinner. And, lest we forget, the Notting Hill Carnival, which originated in the Afro-Caribbean community, is one of the most beloved festivals in the city.
To be short and succinct, London does not just welcome migration – it is defined by migration.
The City Hosts Some of the World’s Most Famous Attractions
London has a sordid yet courageous history, is an economic powerhouse, and is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. It also draws people from all over with its world-famous attractions.
Initially built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, Buckingham Palace began as a simple three-story townhouse with two wings on each side. In 1826, George IV began transforming the building into a palace. Since 1827, Buckingham Palace has been the royal family’s official residence, with Queen Victoria being the first monarch to reside there.
In 1952, after her father’s death, Queen Elizabeth II took up residency in the palace, where she continues to reside to this day. When Her Majesty is at home, the royal flag (Royal Standard) flies atop the palace.
Buckingham Palace is more than just the Queen’s home, however. It also serves as the administrative office for the monarchy.
The Changing of the Guard
This 775-room palace draws visitors from around the world, many of whom hope to see the royal family or witness the Changing of the Guard. Every morning the Foot Guards, donning their vibrant red jackets and tall, furry hats, change positions. The palace has been guarded by Household Troops since 1660.
No matter how you feel about a modern monarchy, the United Kingdom is one of the few remaining countries that utilize this governmental structure. The picturesque Buckingham Palace is a must-see for history buffs and those who appreciate the beauty of Neo-classical architecture.
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is the seat of the United Kingdom Parliament, including the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It’s situated on the River Thames in central London. Its namesake is due to its proximity to the Westminster Abbey – “Westminster” is often used as a metonym for the British government.
Both the beauty and deep history of the Palace of Westminster attract tourists every year. Visitors can enter the building to watch the United Kingdom Parliament in action or look on in awe as Big Ben strikes the hour.
Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower
When you think of Big Ben, you probably imagine the grandiose clock tower in London. While it’s true that Big Ben is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London, Big Ben is not the name of the clock – it’s the name of the bell that strikes every 60 minutes.
Located on the north side of the Palace of Westminster, the tower itself is actually called Elizabeth Tower. This iconic landmark is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London.
Tower of London
Built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London played a critical role in the history of the United Kingdom. When it was first established as part of the Norman Conquest, it was not well-received by the people – it was viewed as a symbol of governmental oppression, signaling that they were under Norman control.
Located on the northern end of the River Thames, the Tower of London was in a prime location, making it susceptible to attack during sieges. In fact, the castle was besieged numerous times. Control of the tower became an integral part of controlling England as a whole.
Over the past centuries, the castle has served as a prison, execution center, armory, weapons factory, treasury, mint, and records office, among other things.
Today, the Tower of London is a popular tourist attraction. Both the armor displays and Royal Menagerie are the most frequented areas.
Compared to the modern buildings nearby, the Tower of London offers a unique experience when admiring the London skyline.
The British Crown Jewels
Located in the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels are under armed guard. The Crown Jewels were worn by the British Kings and Queens at their coronation ceremonies and consist of 142 objects, from rings, robes, crowns, a staff, an armlet, swords, alter plates, secular plates, and so much more.
Founded by Benedictine monks in 960 A.D., Westminster Abbey has over 1,000 years of history.
With its sharply pointed, stained-glass windows, towering spires, and flying buttresses, Westminster Abbey is a true reflection of Gothic architecture. Built of marble, sandstone, and limestone, the majestic building is a constant reminder of the relationship between England and the Christian Church.
The building has been host to coronations, royal weddings, and funerals, including that of Princess Diana. It is where both Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens were laid to rest.
The church remains operative to this day.
Often referred to as the symbol of London, the Tower Bridge offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city below through the Glass Floor walkway. Completed in 1894, Tower Bridge was considered the largest and most sophisticated “seesaw” bridge in the world.
Over the years, the Tower Bridge has been the site of many exciting stunts.
The London Eye is a well known attraction by all! This cantilevered observation wheel, also known as the Millennium Wheel, sits on the east side of the River Thames and is the tallest cantilevered observation wheel in all of Europe. It brings in over 3 million people each year making it the most popular paid attraction in London.
The Marble Arch
Built in the 19th century, this arch was constructed as the state entrance to the coeur d’honneur of Buckingham Palace. It was later relocated when the palace was expanded for the royal family. It is now at the north eastern corner from Hyde Park.
St Paul’s Cathedral
One of the most recognizable attractions of London, this Anglican church was built over 300 years ago in the 1700’s and was the tallest building in the city up until 1963. The cathedral is a dedication to Paul the Apostle and is the second biggest in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral.
The National Maritime Museum
Located in Greenwich, London, the National Maritime Museum is a part of a network of museums called the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. The museum has a display of over 2 million items.
The River Thames
London would be nothing without the River Thames. The river has long been a major source of drinking water for the city. The river has seen the city grow around it. Turning London from a Roman port into the mega city that it is today. Today many of the city’s top sights and attractions can be found just feet away from the River Thames.
Some well known sights that you can find within a few blocks of the river include.
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- Eye of London
- Big Ben
- Battersea Power Station
- The London Peace Pagoda
These are just to name a few, there are tons more.
The Shard is a 72 story skyscraper in Southwark, also known as the Shard of Glass and Shard London Bridge, that was completed in 2012. The building is currently the second tallest freestanding structure in the United Kingdom.
The Gherkin, also called the Pickle, is a commercial skyscraper located in the City of London, London’s financial district. The building was completed in 2003 and won the Emporis Skyscraper Award the same year. It has become a well known landmark in the city and it is a good example of contemporary architecture.
One of London’s top known marvels lies beneath the streets. The iconic London Tube, is the city’s underground rapid transit system. The Tube has been in use since 1863. The London Tube system is one of the best in Europe and globally.
The tube served as bomb shelters during WW2 Nazi air raids.
The tube system gave the world an ingenious way to travel throughout our cities without too much congestion. The London Tube network runs 249 miles (400km) it is one of the busiest in the world with millions using the tube daily.
The London Underground isn’t just an entanglement of tunnels, shuffling people around it has given us one of the most iconic phases of the century and is so incredible English. Mind The Gap a simple phrase that is uttered every time the doors of the trains open and why the phrase it is because at some stops there are massive gaps between the platform and the train cars.
Mind the Gap.
Owned by the Football Association, Wembley Stadium plays host to major football matches in the city. The stadium opened in 2007 after the demolition of the old Wembley Stadium in 2003. It holds 90,000 spectators when seated and up to 15,000 people for standing concerts.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park & Stadium
Located in Stratford, Old Ford, Leyton, and Hackney Wick, London, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opened in 2012 for the London Summer Olympics. The park now continues to host music and sporting events.
A major park in Central London and the largest of the four Royal Parks and the Central Parks. It is also known for it’s speaker’s corner where the likes of Marx and Orwell would speak to the crowds and try to persuade them of their thoughts and ways.
Another of the Royal Parks, Regents Park is within the City of Westminster and the Borough of Camden. The park is home to the ZSL London Zoo, an open air theatre, Regent’s University, and Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are located in Richmond. The gardens is a research and education institute employing over 1,100 people. The garden contains flowers and trees from all over the world.
Covent Garden is a neighborhood in London, UK known for its shopping and entertainment. You can find shops of all kinds in this neighborhood, from crafts to fashion and beyond. The Royal Opera House and St Paul’s Church also call this neighborhood home.
Located in the West End, Soho is a well known and popular spot for shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Known for it’s high-end boutiques and fine dining along King’s Road, Chelsea is located just south of Hyde Park. The National Army Museum and the Duke of York’s Headquarters are also in Chelsea.
Just north of the Regent’s Park is Camden Town, this little neighborhood is known for its location straddling the Regent’s Canal and its many markets. Camden has a bustling nightlife scene with live music and alternative clubs scattered throughout the area.
Not just known for the major motion picture starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, Notting Hill is known for its trendy style and boho vibes. Especially along Portobello Road where you can find many antique shops and vintage fashion boutiques. Also known for the Notting Hill Carnival held annually each August.
London is well known for its many department stores. From Liberty’s and Harrod’s to Fenwick’s and Selfridges, London has no shortage of places to shop with many treasures to be found.
London Is Home to Dozens of Museums and Theatres
London has remained an international destination for art, design, and culture for centuries. Its museums, galleries, and theatres continue to keep London on the cutting edge of the art industry.
William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
After achieving fame as a playwright for the Queen and King, William Shakespeare built The Globe. Unfortunately, the theatre was destroyed by fire in 1613, later rebuilt, only to be shut down again during the English Civil War.
In 1997, the theatre was once again reconstructed. Today, it is known as William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and visitors come from all over the world to watch Shakespeare’s plays unfold on the very site where he founded his first-ever theatre.
The United Kingdom boasts not one but four Tate art galleries, with the most popular being Tate Modern in London. This incredible building hosts an impressive tower that rises above the River Thames. The art collections are ever-changing, allowing visitors to see something new every time they visit. Tate Modern offers some of the world’s best contemporary art.
Museum of Natural History
While many cities throughout the world are home to a natural history museum, London’s Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s most famous. It includes an intriguing collection of artifacts dating back to the prehistoric era. Here, you’ll be able to explore the history of our world, from sea creatures to dinosaurs.
The City Offers Up a Rich Music Scene
The city of London is no stranger to incredible sounds. In the 1960s, London experienced a British Rock revolution, and by the 1970s, punk rock exploded in the city.
Post-punk and new wave sound emerged in the 1980s, with British hip-hop dominating by the 1990s. By the early 2000s, grime reigned supreme, and it continues to experience success with the rise of artists like Stormzy.
London has many streets and blocks famed for music. In Soho, visitors can attend local clubs and experience authentic jazz music, whereas at the Ain’t Nothin But Blues Bar, patrons can enjoy live music any day of the week. Fopp, a music store, offers a plethora of CDs and DVDs and regularly hosts autograph-signing events and performances.
Denmark Street, commonly known as Tin Pan Alley, is home to London’s top-rated musical instrument shop. Further down the block, you’ll find Regent Sounds Studio, where the famous Rolling Stones once recorded music.
Today, EDM has become a major player throughout the city. The UK is even one of the countries with the best rave scene worldwide.
As you can see, London’s musical heritage runs deep in the city’s veins, but the true testament to that fact is the Covent Garden’s Royal Opera. The original theatre was constructed in 1732 but rebuilt numerous times after London’s fires. Today, the world-renowned theatre hosts both opera and ballet performances.
London also has some of the top music schools in the world.
London Is a Global Gourmet Destination
Thanks to its diverse culture, London offers a massive variety of different cuisines. From authentic Chinese dumplings to Malaysian flatbreads, there’s no wonder why London is often referred to as a “global gourmet destination.”
In Camden at Burger & Beyond, you’ll find American favorites like burgers, Philly cheesesteak, buffalo wings, and even some southern US signature dishes, including gumbo.
Visitors and residents of Soho will enjoy Australian brunches from Scarlett Green, including smoked salmon atop a croissant with smashed avocado. The Koya Bar, also in Soho, offers traditional Japanese dishes, including okonomiyaki and udon noodles.
Mama’s Jerk Pop Brixton provides patrons with flavorful Afro-Caribbean cuisine, including jerk chicken, bean cakes, goat soup, steamed fish, and deliciously unique mango mayonnaise.
For a taste of Latin America, head over to the West London Taqueria for a pancita. This slow-roasted pork belly taco is topped with a savory chipotle garlic sauce.
That’s not all London has to offer either – there are Brazilian steakhouses, Peruvian diners, South African eateries, and Middle Eastern delights.
In addition to the international fare offered in London, the “traditional” London dishes are also available, including fish and chips (The Golden Chippy is rated as one of the best fish and chips restaurants). Considered one of the most popular dishes, this crispy, perfectly made dish provides you with a delicious taste of authenticity.
London’s world-renowned culinary scene owes much of its success to the contributions of its immigrants.
Bars and Pubs
For over 500 years, pubs have been a staple in British culture. These London hotspots are well-known – some even world-renowned – for their ales and lagers.
Native Londoners know that it’s difficult to imagine this bustling city without thinking of beer. In fact, London has the largest number of bars and pubs in all of the UK and is often cited as the cocktail capital of the world.
London pubs are not just a place to grab a drink – these are places of regular socialization. Relationships and friendships are nearly guaranteed within these friendly venues. People often meet up at pubs to hang out with friends and enjoy friendly chatter among fellow pub-goers.
The Red Telephone Box
One of the most well known things about the English Capital are it’s iconic red telephone boxes. These telephone boxes are actually still in use, although the number is in decline. The boxes haven’t been used the way they once were but now are mainly used to contact emergency services. The red kiosks which have been on the streets of London since the 1920s are not as popular as they once were but they are making a comeback in a more urban way.
Check out this article by the Guardian sharing how people are giving these old icons a new purpose. Click Here.
Double Decker Buses
These red buses are considered a national symbol of London as they are used so commonly throughout the city. The top half of the bus is either fully or half open and often comes with commentary, either from a live tour guide or a pre-recorded speech.
Hackney Carriage (Black Cabs)
The Hackney Carriage is a black car for hire in London. They are black taxi cabs. The name is said to come from the French word “hacquenée” which means a horse suitable for hire. After the second World War the cabs were sold only in black and now London is known for their black taxi cabs.
Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips is a hugely popular dish in London and England as a whole. Most Londoners will eat fish and chips at least once a week. There was even a war, the Cod War, that was started over the fishing rights off the coast of Iceland to feed the Brits insatiable appetite for fish and chips!
British meat pies, also known as a pasty, are another common food in London. Known to Americans as hand pies, these are folded pastries with a seasoned meat and vegetables filling.
Bangers and Mash
Also known as sausage and mash, this dish is an incredibly well known and popular meal in London and the whole of England. It is made with pork, beef, or lamb sausages and mashed potatoes with an onion gravy and is sometimes served with fried onions and peas.
Londoners Love Tea
Tea is part of British culture, throughout the day and every day, many Londoners will have their kettles on for their cuppa. The English are among the top tea drinking people in the world, up there with China, Ireland, and Turkey. English Breakfast black tea is the most popular type of tea for Londoners, followed by Earl Grey and Oolong.
British Broadcasting Corporation
The BBC is the United Kingdom’s national broadcaster headquartered in London. It is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world and is recognized worldwide.
Located in the neighborhood of Southwark, this market is a popular staple for many Londoners. There are tons of shops in the market, each with its own individual culture and feel. It’s also a great spot for foodies to come and find foods from all different area’s of the globe.
Football is the most popular spectator sport in London as well as the most popular sport played by Londoners. London is also home to several of England’s football clubs. Popularity is likely due to the fact that the sport was invented in England.
Jack the Ripper
The gruesome history of the serial killer from the late 1800s is unforgettable. A serial killer went around the Whitechapel district of London killing and mutilating prostitutes. They never caught him and to this day no one knows who he was.
Rainy & Clouds
London is known for it’s grey and gloomy weather. It rains approximately 156 days of the year and the sun only shines about 61 days of the year. That leaves about 148 days of clouds, without rain, for the rest of the year.
London Has Persevered Throughout History
Founded by the Romans
London’s history stretches back over 2,000 years. Ancient Romans first settled on the site of modern-day London in 43 A.D. Only twenty years later, the Celtic army burnt the city to the ground. This wouldn’t be the last fire to ravage London.
By 125 A.D., a fire left the city in ruins yet again. Despite the devastation, London rebuilt, and its population continued to flourish, reaching nearly 40,000 people.
In 476 A.D., the Roman Empire collapsed. As a direct result, Vikings sacked the city. Shortly thereafter, London was all but abandoned.
It wasn’t until 1065 – when Westminster Abbey was constructed – that the city began to grow again significantly. By the time of Henry VIII in 1509, London’s population had exploded, reaching over 100,000 residents. Unfortunately, dark times were on the horizon.
Despite the prosperous reign of Elizabeth I, religious tensions between Protestants and Catholics began to rise. In 1605, Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the British House of Parliament because of his belief that Catholicism reigned supreme.
Sixty years later, the Great Plague swept through London, wreaking havoc on the city. Over 100,000 residents perished. Again, London persevered – but its peace would be short-lived.
Great Fire of London
After reaching a population of over 500,000 people, London was reduced to ashes in the Great Fire of London. The people of London continued to show immeasurable strength, and only nine years later, St. Paul’s Cathedral was constructed.
Three decades after the Great Fire of London, the city became an international financial center – and so began the rise of the great city. By 1840, the population had expanded to over two million people. Big Ben rose above London in 1859, and the first underground transit began in 1863.
Things seemed to be looking up for the city – that is, until Jack the Ripper created chaos after killing at least five women.
Role in World War I and II
World War I and World War II weren’t far behind. Nearly 32,300 people perished during the fighting in the city, and Londoners were relieved when it was over. Again, however, tragedy was right around the corner with The Great Smog of 1952.
The severe air pollution event caused the death of over 4,000 London residents, with an additional 100,000 becoming sick. After four days, the smog dispersed to the glee of citizens.
London has fallen victim to misfortune in more recent times as well. In 2005, a terrorist attack claimed the lives of 56 people after a bombing on the transit system during rush hour. In 2017, eight people fell victim to terrorists who drove a vehicle into a crowd on the London Bridge and then staged a knife attack.
Over the centuries, this bustling city has withstood many natural and man-made disasters, epidemics, wars, and attacks. Despite its hardships, London continues to stand strong, even hosting the Olympics in 2012.
Throughout the city today, you can see reminders of London’s deep, rich, and often tragic history. There are the remains of an ancient amphitheater, built in 70 A.D., located underground in the Guildhall Yard. On Walbrook, you’ll find a Roman Mithraeum (temple), and beneath Liverpool Street lies the Bedlam burial ground for plague victims.
Despite its deep, calamitous history, London continues to stand tall as an indomitable force in the world. Its economy strengthens with each passing year, and at the same time, cultural diversity continues to flourish.
London’s world-famous attractions are still frequented by tourists every year, only driving the economy to further success. The historic sites, theatres, and museums keep people delving into the intriguing history of the land, keeping London’s legacy alive.
From its elegant architecture to its phenomenal food scene, London, UK, keeps people coming back for more.