Here is a must know before you travel to London. Noisy, vibrant and truly multicultural, London is a megalopolis of people, ideas and frenetic energy. The capital and largest city of both England and of the United Kingdom, it is also the largest city in Western Europe.
The largest city in Europe, London is home to about seven million people. Founded by the Romans in the first century AD as an administrative center and trading port, the capital is the principal residence of British monarchs, as well as the center of government and business, and is rich in historic buildings. In addition to its many museums and galleries, London is an exciting city, with a vast array of entertainments. The city will host the Olympic Games in 2012 so major building Work and public transport development is underway in preparation for them.
Most residents of Greater London are very proud of their capital and the multiculturalism of the city.Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of a little over 8 million. However, London’s urban area stretched to 9,787,426 in 2011, while the figure of 14 million for the city’s wider metropolitan area more accurately reflects its size and importance. Considered one of the world’s leading “global cities”, London remains an international capital of culture, music, education, fashion, politics, finance and trade.London’s vast urban area is often described using a set of district names, such as Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Wembley and Whitechapel.
These are either informal designations, reflect the names of villages that have been absorbed by sprawl, or are superseded administrative units such as parishes or former boroughs. Such names have remained in use through tradition, each referring to a local area with its own distinctive character, but without official boundaries. Since 1965 Greater London has been divided into 32 London boroughs in addition to the ancient City of London.
The City of London is the main financial district, and Canary Wharf has recently developed into a new financial and commercial hub in the Docklands to the east. The West End is London’s main entertainment and shopping district, attracting tourists. West London includes expensive residential areas where properties can sell for tens of millions of pounds. The average price for properties in Kensington and Chelsea is over 2 million, with a similarly high outlay in most of central London.
The East End is the area closest to the original Port of London, known for its high immigrant population, as well as for being one of the poorest areas in London. The surrounding East London area saw much of London’s early industrial development
Attractions in London
House of Parliament
Since the 16th century this site has been the seat of the two Houses of Parliament:
the House of Commons,made up of elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and the upper house, the House of Lords.
The latter, formerly filled with hereditary peers, bishops, and life peers, was reformed in 2000. The present Neo-Gothic building by Sir Charles Barry replaced the original palace,
which was destroyed by fire in 1834. Westminster Hall survived the fire, and still has a 14th-century roof.
To hear debates in either of the houses from the visitors’ galleries, you can stand in
line on the day. Debates start at 2:30pm.
Westminster Abbey has been the burial place of Britain’s monarchs since the 11th century and the setting for many coronations and royal weddings. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in London, with an exceptionally diverse array of architectural styles, ranging from the austere French Gothic of the nave to the astonishing complexity of Henry VII’s chapel. Half national church, half national museum, the abbey is crammed with an extraordinary collection of tombs and monuments honoring some of Britain’s greatest
public figures, from politicians to poets.
The Queen’s official London home is a very popular attraction. Conversion of the 18th-century Buckingham House was begun for George IV in 1826, but the first monarch to occupy the palace was Queen Victoria, in 1837.
When the monarch is in residence the Royal Standard flag is flown.
The palace tour takes visitors up the grand staircase and through the splendor of the state rooms. The royal family’s private apartments are not open to the public.
In the Music Room royal babies are christened, and state guests presented. The Queen carries out many formal ceremonies in the richly gilded Throne Room, and the Ballroom is used for state banquets and investitures.
Valuable works of art, such as The Music Lesson (c.1660) by Dutch master Jan Vermeer, are on display in the Picture Gallery.
A selection of works from the monarch’s art collection, one of the finest and most valuable in the world, is displayed in the Queen’s Gallery, a small building located to one side of the palace.
The famous Changing of the Guard takes place on the palace forecourt. Crowds gather to watch the coloful halfhour parade of guards, dressed in red jackets and tall, furry hats called bearskins, exchanging the palace keys.
Founded in 1897. the Tate Gallery. now called Tate Britain. focuses primarily on British art. Many of the moderm works formerly kept here have been moved to the Tate Modern further down the Thames river.
Recently expanded, Tate Britain shows the World’s largest display of British art, ranging from Tudor times to the present day, in line with the original intention of the gallery’s sponsor, magnate Sir Henry Tate.
London leading art museum the National Gallery has over 2.300 paintings. Most on permanent display.
The collection was started in 1824 when the House of Commons agreed to purchase 38 major paintings. These became the Core of a national collection of European art that now ranges from Giotto in the XIII century to the XIX century Impressionists.
In 1991 the modern Sainsbury Wing was added to the main Neoclassical building (1834-8) to house the impressive Early Renaissance collection (1260-1510).
The Leonardo Cartoon (c.1500). a chalk drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of the Virgin and Child, St. Anne, and John the Baptist, has been moved to a more position prominent near the Trafalgar Square entrance.
Other Italian painters represented include Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, and Botticelli
The superb Dutch collection gives two rooms to Rembrandt. Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio are strongly represented among Italian painters. Spanish artist Diego
Velázquez’s only surviving female nude, The Rokeby Venus (1647-51), is one of the
most popular and well-known.
The West End
The West End is the city’s social and cultural center. Right next to the London home of the royal family.
From the edge of Hyde Park to Covent Garden.
this district activity all day and late into the night. If you are looking for art, history, or café-lite, it is the most worthwhile area in which to begin an exploration of the city. Monuments, shops, cinemas and restaurants radiate out from Trafalgar Square, and
the entertainment scene is at its liveliest in the busy streets around Chinatown, Soho, and Leicester Square.