Introduction

The capital of England and the United Kingdom, London is the largest city in Europe with a population of over seven million people.  It is also one of the most fascinating and exciting cities in the world in which to spend some time.

Founded nearly 2000 years ago, London has a history that is complex, intriguing and turbulent.  Over the centuries it has been governed by Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans, often only conceding rule after long and bitter struggles.  Today it is the seat of the British government and the home of the “Mother of Parliaments”, meeting daily in the striking medieval buildings of the Palace of Westminster.

London is a huge city.  Its west-end shops and theatres are world famous, as are its museums, galleries and parks, its orchestras, opera and ballet companies.  London is a major financial centre and the focus of national media, including film, television and publishing. 

Since its very beginnings, London has been a cosmopolitan city and much of the excitement of life here is derived from its cultural diversity: the foods, dress, languages, art and music of every continent can be experienced on its streets.

London’s architecture is awe-inspiring.  Many of its ancient buildings remain and can be visited today, including the 1000 year old Tower of London and Guildhall, Westminster Abbey in which William the Conqueror was crowned and parts of the Roman city wall dating back to 200AD.  These antiquities nestle alongside gleaming, massive skyscrapers and are often accessed along a maze of medieval streets.  The juxtaposition of old and new, the complex mingling of architectural styles from every period of history, has created a city unique in its splendour and diversity.

Through London’s heart flows the mighty river Thames, once the centre of London’s trade links with the rest of the world.  Although its commercial use has declined in recent years, the Thames remains a busy working river, used by shipping companies, commuters, tourists and pleasure boaters alike.  The sight of Tower Bridge rising to allow a massive ocean liner to sail up the river and dock in the city’s heart, is one you are unlikely to forget. 

Book after book has been written about London and it would be impossible to do the city justice here.  You will just have to get out and discover it for yourself.