London is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its founding by the Romans, who named it Londinium. London's ancient core, the City of London, largely retains its square-mile mediaeval boundaries. Since at least the 19th century, the name London has also referred to the metropolis developed around this core. London is a leading global city, with strengths in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transport all contributing to its prominence. It is the world's leading financial centre alongside New York City and has the fifth-largest metropolitan area GDP in the world, and the largest in Europe (as of 2008). London has been described as a world cultural capital. It is the world's most visited city
Leisure and entertainmentSee also: List of annual events in London and West End theatre
Leisure is major part of London economy with a 2003 report contributing a quarter of entire UK leisure economy to London.Globally, the city is amongst the big four fashion capital of the world and according to official statistics London is the world's third busiest film production centre, presents more live comedy than any other city and has the biggest theatre audience of any city in the world.
Within the City of Westminster in London the entertainment district of the West End has its focus around Leicester Square, where London and world film premieres are held, and Piccadilly Circus, with its giant electronic advertisements. London's theatredistrict is here, as are many cinemas, bars, clubs and restaurants, including the city's Chinatown district (in Soho), and just to the east is Covent Garden, an area housing speciality shops. The city is the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose musicals have dominated the West End theatre since the late 20th century. The United Kingdom's Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Royal Opera and English National Opera are based in London and perform at the Royal Opera House, the London Coliseum, Sadler's Wells Theatre and the Royal Albert Hallas well as touring the country.
Harrods in Knightsbridge
Islington's 1 mile (1.6 km) long Upper Street, extending northwards from Angel, has more bars and restaurants than any other street in the United Kingdom. Europe's busiest shopping area is Oxford Street, a shopping street nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) long, making it the longest shopping street in the United Kingdom. Oxford Street is home to vast numbers of retailers and department stores, including the world-famous Selfridges flagship store. Knightsbridge, home to the equally renowned Harrods department store, lies to the south-west.
Shakespeare's Globe is a modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the River Thames
London is home to designers Vivienne Westwood, Galliano, Stella McCartney, Manolo Blahnik, and Jimmy Choo among others; its renowned art and fashion schools make it an international centre of fashion alongside Paris, Milan, and New York City. London offers a great variety of cuisine as a result of its ethnically diverse population. Gastronomic centres include theBangladeshi restaurants of Brick Lane and the Chinese food restaurants of Chinatown.
There is a variety of annual events, beginning with the relatively new New Year's Day Parade, fireworks display at the London Eye, the world's second largest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival is held during the late August Bank Holiday each year. Traditional parades include November's Lord Mayor's Show, a centuries-old event celebrating the annual appointment of a new Lord Mayor of the City of London with a procession along the streets of the City, and June's Trooping the Colour, a formal military pageant performed by regiments of the Commonwealth and British armies to celebrate the Queen's Official Birthday.
Literature, film and televisionMain articles: London in fiction, London in film, List of television shows set in London and London Television Archive
Keats House, where Keats wrote his Ode to a Nightingale. The village ofHampstead has historically been a literary centre in London.
London has been the setting for many works of literature. The literary centres of London have traditionally been hilly Hampsteadand (since the early 20th century) Bloomsbury. Writers closely associated with the city are the diarist Samuel Pepys, noted for his eyewitness account of the Great Fire, Charles Dickens, whose representation of a foggy, snowy, grimy London of street sweepers and pickpockets has been a major influence on people's vision of early Victorian London, and Virginia Woolf, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the 20th century.
Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, bearing the number 221B
The pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer's late 14th-century Canterbury Tales set out forCanterbury from London – specifically, from the Tabard inn, Southwark. William Shakespeare spent a large part of his life living and working in London; his contemporaryBen Jonson was also based there, and some of his work—most notably his play The Alchemist—was set in the city. A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) by Daniel Defoe is a fictionalisation of the events of the 1665 Great Plague. Later important depictions of London from the 19th and early 20th centuries are Dickens' novels, and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Modern writers pervasively influenced by the city include Peter Ackroyd, author of a "biography" of London, and Iain Sinclair, who writes in the genre of psychogeography.
London has played a significant role in the film industry, and has major studios at Ealing and a special effects and post-productioncommunity centred in Soho. Working Title Films has its headquarters in London. London has been the setting for films including Oliver Twist (1948), Scrooge (1951), Peter Pan (1953), The 101 Dalmatians (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), Mary Poppins (1964), Blowup (1966), The Long Good Friday (1980), Notting Hill (1999), Love Actually (2003), V For Vendetta (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2008) and The King's Speech(2010). Notable actors and filmmakers from London include; Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, Gary Oldman, Christopher Nolan, Jude Law,Tom Hardy, Keira Knightley and Daniel Day-Lewis. As of 2008, the British Academy Film Awards have taken place at the Royal Opera House. London is a major centre for television production, with studios including BBC Television Centre, The Fountain Studios and The London Studios. Many television programmes have been set in London, including the popular television soap opera EastEnders, broadcast by the BBC since 1985.
Museums and art galleries
The British Museum
London is home to many museums, galleries, and other institutions, many of which are free of admission charges and are majortourist attractions as well as playing a research role. The first of these to be established was the British Museum in Bloomsbury, in 1753. Originally containing antiquities, natural history specimens and the national library, the museum now has 7 million artefacts from around the globe. In 1824 the National Gallery was founded to house the British national collection of Western paintings; this now occupies a prominent position in Trafalgar Square.
In the latter half of the 19th century the locale of South Kensington was developed as "Albertopolis", a cultural and scientific quarter. Three major national museums are there: the Victoria and Albert Museum (for the applied arts), the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856 to house depictions of figures from British history; its holdings now comprise the world's most extensive collection of portraits. The national gallery of British art is at Tate Britain, originally established as an annexe of the National Gallery in 1897. The Tate Gallery, as it was formerly known, also became a major centre for modern art; in 2000 this collection moved to Tate Modern, a new gallery housed in the former Bankside Power Station.
The Royal Albert Hall hosts concerts and musical events
London is one of the major classical and popular music capitals of the world and is home to major music corporations, such asEMI and Warner Music Group as well as countless bands, musicians and industry professionals. The city is also home to many orchestras and concert halls, such as the Barbican Arts Centre (principal base of the London Symphony Orchestra and theLondon Symphony Chorus), Cadogan Hall (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) and the Royal Albert Hall (The Proms). London's two main opera houses are the Royal Opera House and the London Coliseum. The UK's largest pipe organ is at the Royal Albert Hall. Other significant instruments are at the cathedrals and major churches. Several conservatoires are within the city:Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Trinity Laban.
Abbey Road Studios, 3 Abbey Road,St John's Wood, City of Westminster
London has numerous venues for rock and pop concerts, including large arenas such asEarls Court, Wembley Arena and the O2 Arena, as well as many mid-sized venues, such as Brixton Academy, the Hammersmith Apollo and the Shepherd's Bush Empire.Several music festivals, including the Wireless Festival, South West Four, Lovebox, and Hyde Park's British Summer Time are all held in London. The city is home to the first and original Hard Rock Cafe and the Abbey Road Studios where The Beatlesrecorded many of their hits. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, musicians and groups like Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie,Queen, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Small Faces, Iron Maiden, Fleetwood Mac,Elvis Costello, Cat Stevens, The Police, The Cure, Madness, The Jam, Dusty Springfield, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart and Sade, derived their sound from the streets and rhythms vibrating through London.
London was instrumental in the development of punk music, with figures such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Vivienne Westwood all based in the city. More recent artists to emerge from the London music scene include George Michael, Kate Bush, Seal, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bush, the Spice Girls, Jamiroquai, Blur, The Prodigy, Gorillaz, Mumford & Sons, Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Ed Sheeran and One Direction. London is also a centre for urban music. In particular the genres UK garage, drum and bass, dubstep and grime evolved in the city from the foreign genres of hip hop and reggae, alongside local drum and bass. Black music station BBC Radio 1Xtra was set up to support the rise of home-grown urban music both in London and in the rest of the UK.
Parks and open spacesMain articles: Parks and open spaces in London and Royal Parks of London
See also: List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Greater London and List of Local Nature Reserves in Greater London
Aerial view of Hyde Park
St. James's Park lake with the London Eye in the distance
The largest parks in the central area of London are three of the eight Royal Parks, namely Hyde Park and its neighbourKensington Gardens in the west, and Regent's Park to the north. Hyde Park in particular is popular for sports and sometimes hosts open-air concerts. Regent's Park contains London Zoo, the world's oldest scientific zoo, and is near the tourist attraction ofMadame Tussauds Wax Museum. Primrose Hill in the northern part of Regent's Park at 256 feet (78 m) is a popular spot to view the city skyline.
Close to Hyde Park are smaller Royal Parks, Green Park and St. James's Park. A number of large parks lie outside the city centre, including the remaining Royal Parks of Greenwich Park to the south-east and Bushy Park and Richmond Park (the largest) to the south-west, Hampton Court Park is also a royal park, but, because it contains a palace, it is administered by the Historic Royal Palaces, unlike the eight Royal Parks.
Close to Richmond Park is Kew Gardens which has the world's largest collection of living plants. In 2003, the gardens were put on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. There are also numerous parks administered by London's borough Councils, including Victoria Park in the East End and Battersea Park in the centre. Some more informal, semi-natural open spaces also exist, including the 320-hectare (790-acre) Hampstead Heath of North London, and Epping Forest, which covers 2,476 hectares (6,118.32 acres) in the east. Both are controlled by the City of London Corporation. Hampstead Heath incorporates Kenwood House, the former stately home and a popular location in the summer months where classical musical concerts are held by the lake, attracting thousands of people every weekend to enjoy the music, scenery and fireworks.Epping Forest is a popular venue for various outdoor activities, including mountain biking, walking, horse riding, golf, angling, and orienteering.
Carshalton Ponds, on the Wandle Trail in the London Borough of Sutton
Walking is a popular recreational activity in London. Areas that provide for walks include Wimbledon Common, Epping Forest,Hampton Court Park, Hampstead Heath, the eight Royal Parks, canals and disused railway tracks. Access to canals and rivers has improved recently, including the creation of the Thames Path, some 28 miles (45 km) of which is within Greater London, and The Wandle Trail; this runs 12 miles (19 km) through South London along the River Wandle, a tributary of the River Thames.Other long distance paths, linking green spaces, have also been created, including the Capital Ring, the Green Chain Walk,London Outer Orbital Path ("Loop"), Jubilee Walkway, Lea Valley Walk, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk.
SportMain article: Sport in London
Wembley Stadium, home of the England football team, has a 90,000 capacity. It is the UK's biggest stadium
Twickenham, home of the England rugby union team, has an 82,000 capacity, the world's largest rugby union stadium
Centre Court at Wimbledon. First played in 1877, the Championships is the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
London has hosted the Summer Olympics three times: in 1908, 1948, and 2012. It was chosen in July 2005 to host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, making it the first city to host the modern Games three times. The city was also the host of the British Empire Games in 1934. In 2017 London will host the World Championships in Athletics.
London's most popular sport is football and it has fourteen League football clubs, including five in the Premier League: Arsenal,Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United. Among other professional teams based in London include Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, Millwall and Charlton Athletic. In May 2012, Chelsea became the first London club to win the UEFA Champions League. Aside from Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, none of the other London clubs have ever won thenational league title.
From 1924, the original Wembley Stadium was the home of the English national football team. It hosted the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, with England defeating West Germany, and served as the venue for the FA Cup Final as well as rugby league's Challenge Cup final. The new Wembley Stadium serves exactly the same purposes and has a capacity of 90,000.
Five Aviva Premiership rugby union teams are based in London, (London Irish, Saracens, Wasps, London Welsh andHarlequins), although currently only Harlequins and Saracens play their home games within Greater London. London Scottish play in the RFU Championship club and other rugby union clubs in the city include Richmond F.C., Rosslyn Park F.C.,Westcombe Park R.F.C. and Blackheath F.C.. Twickenham Stadium in south-west London is the national rugby union stadium, and has a capacity of 82,000 now that the new south stand has been completed.
While rugby league is more popular in the north of England, there are two professional rugby league clubs in London – the second tier Championship One team, the London Broncos, who play at the Trailfinders Sports Ground in West Ealing, and the third tier League 1 team, the London Skolars from Wood Green, Haringey; in addition, Hemel Stags from Hemel Hempstead north of London also play in League 1.
One of London's best-known annual sports competitions is the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, held at the All England Clubin the south-western suburb of Wimbledon. Played in late June to early July, it is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and widely considered the most prestigious.
Cricket in London is served by two Test cricket grounds Lord's (home of Middlesex C.C.C.) in St John's Wood and the Oval(home of Surrey C.C.C.) in Kennington. Lord's has hosted four finals of the Cricket World Cup. Other key events are the annual mass-participation London Marathon, in which some 35,000 runners attempt a 26.2 miles (42.2 km) course around the city, and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake.