50 Top Facts About London

50 Top Facts About London

There are hundreds of interesting and captivating facts about London, some you may already know, others we are sure you won’t.

Maybe you are contemplating a move to the “Big Smoke,” or just looking to spend some time exploring this endlessly intriguing city, whatever your plans there is sure to be something interesting to learn around every corner!

Our capital city oozes history and culture, making it one of the most visited cities in the world, hosting millions of tourists each year.

Whether you’re a foodie, a fan of the arts and theatre, a fashionista, or simply want to soak up the atmosphere and freedom to express yourself, London has something to offer everyone.

Here we explore some of the most curious, bizarre, and interesting trivia and facts London has to offer.

London’s Many Alternative Names

Over the centuries, the city has garnered a number of different nicknames, here are a few of them:

1.) The Big Smoke

The Big Smoke or Old Smoke harks back to the time when the city was shrouded in smog. A thick fog of pollution hung in the air during the Industrial Revolution period and the name was born.

2.) The Square Mile

The Square Mile or The City, refers to London’s historic and financial centre, highlighting its importance as the hub of commerce and finance.

3.) Londinium

This was the name that the Romans gave to the city when it was founded in AD43, serving as a reminder of its historical roots.

4.) The Great Wen

Coined by William Cobbett, this name reflects criticism of London’s rapid urbanisation and perceived corruption during the 19th century. It expresses a sense of disdain toward the city’s expansion, which is rather ironic considering the massive size it has continued to grow to!

5.) The Swinging City

London was at the center of everything during the 1960s, influencing global music, fashion, eventually leading to the cultural revolution known as the swinging sixties.

London’s Underground Railway System

London Underground

London’s underground rail network is the oldest in the world.

6.) First Opened in 1863

The underground tube rail system that crisscrosses the streets of the capital was in fact the world’s first underground rail system.

7.) Underground Rivers

Few people know that there are several subterranean rivers which flow under London, the River Fleet, Moselle, and Walbrook are just a few of them.

8.) Over 250 Miles Long

At the last count, there were approximately 250 miles of underground railway tracks in London, with this number increasing annually as the system undergoes continual expansion and upgrades.

9.) There are 272 Stations

The whole system incorporates 11 lines which serve 272 stations, making it one of the largest metro systems in the world!

10.) The Tube Map

The tube map used today was originally designed in 1931 by Harry Beck and has inspired similar transit maps worldwide every since, making London the founding father of modern transport maps!

11.) What is the Busiest Station?

The prize for the busiest station in the city goes to Kings Cross St Pancras. The station provides passengers with services both under and overground, perhaps one to avoid during rush hour!

12.) Longest Escalator

The escalator at Angel Station on the Northern Line is one of the longest on the network, with a vertical rise of 27.5 meters or (90 feet).

Great Fire of London

Great Fire of London

The Monument to the Great Fire of London

In 1666, strangely enough, a number associated with the devil, the great fire of London started.

Sweeping across the city and destroying many of the buildings, the fire had a huge impact on the city’s history and urban development in the years thereafter, although believe it or not there were also some benefits to the fire.

13.) Four Days of Fire

The Great Fire of London began on September 2, 1666, and continued to rage until September 6, 1666, for a total of four days.

Several factors helped fuel the intensity of the fire. Strong winds and the predominance of wooden buildings were certainly key.

14.) Pudding Lane

Though the exact cause is uncertain, folklore states that the fire started in a bakery situated on Pudding Lane close to London Bridge.

15.) Massive Destruction 

Many structures burned down including 87 churches, 13,200 houses, 44 Company Halls, the Royal Exchange, and numerous public buildings.

16.) Low Casualty Rate

Incredibly there were only 6 reported deaths however, experts at the time suggested that many more deaths went unrecorded. There was also one strange benefit of the fire, with the destruction also stopping the Great Plague in its tracks!

17.) Monument

The Monument to the Great Fire of London, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is not only a memorial but also a giant sundial.

Its height, 202 feet, is the same as the distance from its base to the site where the Great Fire of London was supposed to have started!

Haunted London

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the most haunted spots to visit in London.

Unsurprisingly, a city as old as London has had more than its fair share of reported hauntings!

These ghostly stories have captivated the imagination of both locals and visitors, contributing to the city’s reputation for paranormal activity and ghostly encounters, so keep your eyes peeled for anything super natural when exploring these storied streets.

Here are some of the most haunted areas to visit, if you are feeling brave enough:

18.) The Tower of London

The topmost haunted attraction is the Tower of London. A fortress and former royal palace it is said to be regularly haunted by Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey.

19.) Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace visitors have spotted the ghost of Catherine Howard, another of King Henry’s wives screaming as she makes her way through the palace hallways.

20.) Theatre Royal

The famous Theatre Royal in Drury Lane has a ghostly reputation, with tales of a “Man in Grey” who appears before major productions as a harbinger of good luck.

21.) The Savoy Hotel

The Savoy Hotel may have a reputation as being one of the most upmarket in London, however, there have been numerous reports of ghostly apparitions, including the ghost of Richard D’Oyly Carte, who once managed the Savoy Theatre.

22.) The Clink Prison

The Clink Prison Museum is located on the site of the notorious Clink Prison; this museum is said to be haunted by the tormented spirits of former inmates.

London’s Architectural Facts

The Gherkin

The Gherkin is one of the most iconic buildings in the city.

The city is packed with architecture through the ages, from ancient churches to the most modern of skyscrapers, London’s growth and diversity are clear to see in its range of buildings.

23.) The Gherkin

The Gherkin, aptly named as it resembles the pickle. Its distinctive shape, glass structure and energy-efficient design were the brainchild of Norman Foster. A symbol of contemporary London architecture consisting of 41 floors and rising to a height of 590 feet.

24.) The Shard

Dominating London’s skyline for the last 15 years, the Shard was designed by architect Renzo Piano and is Western Europe’s tallest skyscraper. Reaching a height of 1,016 feet, it has 95 floors and offers some of the best views of the city.

25.) Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall showcases an impressive circular design and a beautiful terracotta exterior. The Victorian structure is made up of more than six million red bricks and 80,000 blocks of terracotta, seating 5,272 people it remains a popular venue to this day!

26.) Big Ben

Unveiled in 1858, Big Ben took 34 years to build and has since become one of London’s most iconic landmarks. The bell chimes every 15 minutes and can be heard up to five miles away, 5 years of construction and maintenance work on the clock tower has recently finished so you can see it in its full glory again!

27.) Buckingham Palace

The official royal residence Buckingham Palace, was built in 1703. However, it was not until 1837 when Queen Victoria was crowned that a monarch actually lived in the palace. Visitors can get guided tours of the palace and soak up some of Britain’s history while exploring its famous halls.

28.) St Paul’s Cathedral

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the wake of the great fire, the current St. Pauls Cathedral is in fact the fourth church to stand on this very site! Its impressive dome is the largest in the world and once dominated the skyline before skyscrapers took over.

St. Pauls’ acoustics are so unique that you can whisper on one side of the massive dome and be heard on the other!

29.) The British Museum

The British Museum first opened to the public in 1759 at Montagu House on the current site and displays human history, art, and culture. Housing eight million works, it is the largest permanent collection in the world.

Weird and Curious London Trivia

London Eye

The London Eye has a viewing capsule for each of the city’s boroughs!

30.) An Ancient City

Humans have occupied the city for two millennia.

31.) A Rather Strange Zoo

The Tower of London was once used to house the exotic and unusual animals presented to royalty including bears, elephants, and Lions.

33.) Underground Rivers

Few people know that there are several subterranean rivers which flow under London, the River Fleet, Moselle, and Walbrook are just a few of them.

34.) The Oldest Tennis Court

The Royal Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace is one of the oldest tennis courts in the world, dating back to the 16th century.

35.) The Nose Scavenger Hunt

British artist Rick Buckley created seven sculpted noses and secretly placed them around the Soho area in London. Finding all seven is a fun scavenger hunt.

36.) Cleopatra’s Needle

Cleopatra’s Needle is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, one of an original pair, and is over 3,500 years old. It was moved from the ruins of the Caesareum of Alexandria, in Egypt, to London’s Victoria Embankment in the 19th century.

37.) Letters to the Dead

In the 19th century, a post box was installed in the Highgate Cemetery for mourners to send letters to the deceased. It remains there.

38.) One of Europe’s Oldest Theatres

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, located in the attic of St. Thomas’ Church, is one of the oldest surviving operating theatres in Europe.

39.) Ravens

According to legend, if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the kingdom will fall. To ensure this does not happen, the tower keeps at least six ravens at all times.

40.) Foxes

There are as many as 10,000 foxes living in the city. These urban survivalists thrive in the city and you will often see them digging through rubbish bins!

41.) A Multicultural City

The diverse city is home to people from all over the world, 300 languages are spoken in London.

42.) Harrod’s Dark Past

The upmarket department store Harrods once sold the drug cocaine legally. Whilst this is certainly no longer the case it is still the city’s most premium shopping spot.

43.) Pigeons

In 2003, due to overwhelming numbers of pigeons nesting in the city, a law was introduced making it illegal to feed them in Trafalgar Square, in an effort to reduce their numbers.

44.) The London Eye

The London Eye, an incredibly popular attraction has 32 viewing capsules – one for each of London’s Boroughs.

45.) The Blitz

Starting on September 7, 1940, and continuing for 57 consecutive nights, German forces targeted the city, aiming to break the spirit of the British people. The bombings caused widespread destruction, damaging or destroying over a million homes and killing around 20,000 civilians.

46.) Churchill’s Bunker

Winston Churchill used the Down Street station as a secret bunker during the war, visitors can now explore the Churchill War Rooms, a fascinating look at wartime Britain.

47.) Policeman’s Helmet Law

Pregnant women can legally urinate in a policeman’s helmet, one of many strange ancient laws that are still in place, although we would not recommend testing this law!

48.) Hyde Park Pet Cemetary

Established in the 1880s for Victorian pets, this rather unique cemetery was the first of its kind and is home to over 1,000 cats and dogs that have been laid to rest here.

49.) The Wobbly Bridge

The Millennium Bridge was given the nickname the “Wobbly Bridge” thanks to the excessive and clearly visible swaying on opening day! Don’t worry, the bridge is still there and is perfectly safe to cross, providing excellent views along the Thames.

50.) A Fake House

At number 23/24 Leinster Gardens you will find a rather mysterious fake house.  First built in 1855 to hide a railway line, the fake house is now a Grade II listed building.

Did You Enjoy These Fun Facts About London?

London’s blend of history, culture, modernism, and vibrant energy makes it a captivating city.

With over 30 million visitors annually, it remains a beloved tourist destination.

Now you are armed with this fresh knowledge and interesting facts about London, you can enjoy your experience even more.

Everyone who explores London’s streets will have an amazing experience thanks to the city’s distinctive mix of the ordinary and spectacular.

Are you Planning to Move to London?

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