London is the capital of United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. London is by far Europe's largest city, spreading over an area of more than 620 square miles (998 km).
London was founded by the Romans in 43 AD as Londinium following their conquest of Britain. After Queen Boudica stormed the city and torched it, London was rebuilt by the Romans; it prospered and became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia. At its height in the second century, the city had a population of more than 60,000. The city slowly declined in the 3rd century as the Roman Empire declined.
It was not until the seventh century when the Anglo-Saxons rebuilt London in the vicinity of Covent Garden that the city reemerged. After the devastating Viking invasions of the ninth century, Alfred the Great in 886 recaptured London, made peace with the Vikings, and the city again flourished. However during the next century, Viking raids resumed, and it was not until 1045, after Edward the Confessor became king, that London began to prosper and resemble early modern London.
From 1166 when Normandy controlled the Crown until the birth of the British Empire, the city survived plagues, revolts, civil wars and fires plus constant threats from Spain and France. By the early nineteenth century London was the world's largest city and the center of the world's greatest empire.
Population: Metro 13,063,441. Greater London 7,355,400
Land Area: 123 square miles (city).
Flight times: New York 6.5 hours, Chicago 7.5 hours, San Francisco 10 hours, Paris 1 hour, Rome 2.5 hours.
Airport transfers: 45 minutes from Heathrow Int'l to Center City (18 miles), one hour from Gatwich Int'l (28 miles) (medium traffic)
Climate: Temperate with cool but rainy winters and pleasant summers.
Most of London's attractions are north of the River Thames. However London is so diverse that no single area should be the focus for any visitor. London is an agglomeration of interesting neighborhoods and districts that are often miles apart therefore one must master London's public transport system, particularly the Tube or subway to enjoy most of London's highlights. Most immediately visit the fashionable West End which includes Soho, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Regent St.
CENTRAL LONDON'S MAIN SIGHTS
Westminster: the seat of British government since the 14th century and the site of Parliament.
Houses of Parliament: (0171) 219-4272 (House of Commons)
Banqueting House (Palace of Whitehall)
Buckingham Palace and the Queen's Gallery: (0171) 839-1377
Westminster Cathedral & Westminster Abbey: Church Parliament Square, SW1 (0171) 222 5152, (0171) 222-7110. This architecturally exquisitely Abbey is the site of coronations, funerals and the place of rest for royals.
Neighboring Westminster: To the west Belgravia, an elegant area, is home to embassies, consulates, townhouses, charming squares and monumental mansions. Within walking distance is Victoria Station, site of major rail, tube and coach terminals that exist beside quiet streets and Victorian houses that have been converted to hotels. Adjacent is St. James's Palace and Park which was built by Charles II in 1698. Chic shops and galleries along with some of the best restaurants, hotels and casinos are nearby on Jermyn Street and in Knightsbridge. Picadilly Circus is a block north of Jermyn St.
London Aquarium (www.londonaquarium.co.uk): Westminster Bridge Road London SE1 7PB. Features hundreds of varieties of fish and sea life from around the world. Open daily 10am-6pm. Admission: Adults- £13.25, Students and Seniors-£11.25, Children-£9.75. (0171) 709-0765.
Barbican Arts Centre (www.barbican.org.uk): Near Whitecross and Silk Streets. Walkways and labyrinths almost hide the home of the London Symphony Orchestra, the London chapter of the Royal Shakespeare Company and great repertory cinema, plus many levels where free jazz and classical concerts are performed.
Highgate Cemetery (www.highgate-cemetery.org): Victorian cemetery, Swains Lane, NW3 (0171) 340 1834. Karl Marx lies here.
Kensington Palace (www.kensingtonplace.co.za): Kensington Gardens London, W8 4PX . Open November-February daily 10 am-5 pm, March-October 10 am-6 pm. Admission: General-£12.30. (0171) 937-9561.
Madame Tussaud's Waxwork Museum (www.madametussauds.com/London): Located on Marylebone Road, near Baker Street underground station.World famous collection of wax figures of famous people. Open Monday-Friday 10 am-5:30 pm, Saturday-Sunday 9: 20 am-5:30 pm. Admission: Adults-£10, Children-£6.50. (0171) 935-6861.
Royal Opera House (www.roh.org.uk): Heart of the nation's artistic and cultural life. Open Monday-Saturday 10 am-3 pm. The history of the Royal Opera House is explored through a series of exhibitions, and a program of backstage tours and open ballet classes offers visitors the opportunity to experience the backstage life of the theatre.
Segaworld: World's largest indoor entertainment park, with six floors of video games, simulators and virtual reality. Rides cost £2-£3 each. Open daily from 10 am-12 am. Closes at 1 am on Friday and Saturday. Free admission.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (www.shakespeares-globe.org): Visitors can see the reconstructed Elizabethan theatre, built with materials, techniques and craftsmanship of 400 years ago. Open daily 10 am-5 pm. Admission:Adults- £6, Children-£4.
St. Paul's Cathedral (www.stpauls.co.uk): One of the world's most famous cathedrals, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it's open for sightseeing Monday-Saturday 8:30 am-4 pm, with the galleries opening at 9.30 am. Admission:Adults- £4, Children-£2. (0171) 236-4128
Tower Bridge (www.towerbridge.org.uk): One of the most famous bridges in the world with spectacular views from the high level walkways 140 ft. above the Thames. Open daily 10 am-6:30 pm. Admission: Adults-£6.15, Children- £4.15.
Tower of London (www.toweroflondontour.com): Visitors can see Traitors' Gate, the priceless Crown Jewels and the famous ravens. Admission: Adults- £10.50, Children-£6.90. Open Monday-Saturday 9 am-5p m and Sunday 10 am-5 pm. Underground station: Tower Hill.
London Zoo (www.zsl.org): One of the world's most famous zoos and is home to over 12,000 animals. Open daily 10 am-5:30 pm. Admission: Adults-£9, Children-£7. It's in Regent's Park. Underground station: Baker Street and Camden Town.
Apsley House (www.apsley-house.co.uk): The Wellington Museum, (0171) 499-5676.
British Library (www.bl.uk): library and museum. Euston Road, NW1 . Visit for its architecture and its collection of manuscripts, books stamps and more. (0171) 412-7000.
British Museum (www.britishmuseum.org): Great Russell Street, WC2, (0171) 636 1555. One of the greatest museums. Over a million exhibits that range from prehistoric artifacts to the Elgin Marbles.
Courtauld Institute Galleries (www.courtauld.ac.uk): (0171) 873-2526
Design Museum (www.designmuseum.org): (0171) 403-6933
Hayward Gallery (www.haywardgallery.org.uk): (0171) 928-3144
Imperial War Museum (www.iwm.org.uk): (0171) 416-5000
Institute of Contemporary Arts (www.ica.org.uk): (0171) 930-3647
Jewish Museum (www.jewishmuseum.org.uk): (0171) 284-1997
Linley Sambourne House (www.rbkc.gov.uk/linleysambournehouse): (0171) 937-0663
London Transport Museum (www.ltmuseum.co.uk): (0171) 379-6344
Museum of London (www.museumoflondon.org.uk): (0171) 600-3699
Museum of the Moving Image (www.movingimage.us): (0171) 401-2636
National Army Museum (www.national-army-museum.ac.uk): (0171) 730-0717
National Gallery (www.nationalgallery.org.uk): One of the greatest collections of Western painting from the 13th to the early 20th century. The new Sainsbury Wing houses the early Renaissance collection. On Trafalgar Square, near Charing Cross and Embankment Underground stations. Closed Good Friday, December 24-26 and January 1. (0171) 737-2885, (0171) 306-0055
Tate Gallery (www.tate.org.uk): The national collection of British painting from 1500 onwards and also home to the national collection of modern art and the Turner collection. Open daily from 10am to 5.50pm. Admission to the permanent collection is free. It's located on Millbank, SW1, close to Pimlico station. Closed December 24-26, open as normal on Good Friday and May and Summer Bank Holidays. (0171) 887-8000
Victoria and Albert Museum (www.vam.ac.uk): World's finest museum of decorative arts. Its collection spans 2,000 years and includes sculpture, fashion, textiles, ceramics and silver. Open daily from 10 am - 5:45 pm, with Wednesday Late View (seasonal program) from 6:30 - 9:30pm. (0171) 938-8500
Harrods (www.harrods.com): World famous department store. Brompton Rd., London SW3. (020) 7730-1234
Street Markets, many of which take place on weekends:
Old Spitalfields Market: The opposite of to out-of-town shopping malls. Many items are original, of excellent quality and value. Every weekday between 11 am and 4 pm. Nearest underground station: Liverpool Street.
Petticoat Lane : World famous Sunday market that sells clothes and household goods. Open from 9 am-2 pm. Nearest underground station: Liverpool Street.
Portobello Road Antiques and Flea Market: Open Saturday from 7 am-6 pm. Nearest underground station: Notting Hill Gate or Ladbroke Grove.
Camden Market: combination of markets, including Camden Lock Market, Stables Market and Camden Canal Market. Open weekdays, best Saturday and Sunday 8 am-6 pm. Nearest underground station: Camden Town or Chalk Farm.
Leadenhall Market: restored Victorian covered market
Open Monday-Friday 7 am-4 pm. Nearest underground station: Bank and Monument.
Berwick Street Market: sells fruit, vegetables, flowers, and bric-a-brac Open Monday-Saturday 9 am-6 pm. Nearest underground station: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road.
Gabriel's Wharf: Features crafts, bric-a-brac and jewellery. Also craft workshops, restaurants and entertainment on weekends. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.