London, the capital of the United Kingdom, is a metropolis on the southeast of England. It is located on the banks of the river Thames, at a Latitude of 51°30’26.66″N and Longitude of 0°° 7’39.35″W (key this location on Google Earth to find it). When people talk about London, they usually mean Greater London, a metropolitan area that covers 609 square miles (1579 square kilometers). Right at the heart of Greater London is the City of London, the original city that traces its history back to Roman times. Today, the City of London, also called the Square Mile, is the financial centre for London. Along with 32 boroughs, it forms part of Greater London.
London is the most affluent region in the United Kingdom, enjoying the highest GDP per capita. It is the center for business, financial, politics, entertainment, fashion, education and cultural activities, among others, not only for the United Kingdom, but also has great influence globally. With a population of 7.5 million, Greater London is the most populous municipality in the European Union.
It is unclear how the name “London” came about. There are several possibilities. One source, Geoffrey of Monmouth, as documented in Historia Regum Britanniae, the name of the city was attributed to King Lud from the pre-Roman times, who named the place Kaerlud. Over time, the name Kaerlud became Kaerludein, and eventually became London. According to Richard Coates, a lingustics professor, the name London came from the pre-Celtic word “plowonida”, which means “a river too wide to ford”. The name Plowonida became Lundonjon, then Lundein. It was Latinised into Londinium, and from there, the Anglo-Saxons called in Lundene.
Originally located on the north bank of the river Thames, London has grown to encompass both banks of the river. The Thames enters London from the southwest and flows out from the east. It is surrounded by a few hills including Parliament Hill, Addington Hills and Primrose Hill.
London was one of the fastest growing city in the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was only overtaken by New York in 1925, though its population continued to grow, peaking at 8.6 million people in 1939. Today, there are about 7.5 million people living in Greater London, although the whole metropolitan area has as much as 14 to 15 million inhabitants in total. Not only is London the biggest city in the United Kingdom, it is 8 times bigger than the second largest British city, Birmingham, and 10 times larger than Glasgow, in No.3 spot.
Although London comprises 32 boroughs, to most visitors, the major sightseeing places are in Central London. The name Central London refers to a number of places in London including, in alphabetical order, Bloomsbury, (The) City of London, Clerkenwell, Holborn, Marylebone, Mayfair, South Bank, St. James’s and West End (which comprises Soho, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Leicester Square, Chinatown and Trafalgar Square). Together, the aforementioned places are within the boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Islington, Lambert, Southwark and the whole of the City of London.
With a history that stretches well before Roman time, London has many historical sites. Four are inscribed as Unesco World Heritage Sites, namely The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church; the Tower of London; the historic settlement of Greenwich; and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. For lovers of history, London has some of the best museums in the world, some of which are admission free. It has plenty of parks and theatres as well as state-of-the-art attractions such as the London Eye.
To cater to the number of visitors entering and leaving London, the city is served by at least five major airports of which Heathrow and Gatwick are the largest and second largest in the United Kingdom. One can also get to London by train, taking the Eurostar from Paris and Brussels. The journey takes about two hours and passes through the 22-mile (35-km) Channel Tunnel. A network of international and domestic long-distance bus services connects London with the rest of the United Kingdom and many cities in Europe. Most of these services serve the Victoria Coach Station or the Green Line Coach Station across the street.