42 Top Facts About London

42 Top Facts About London

There are hundreds of interesting and captivating facts about London.

Maybe you are contemplating a move to the “big smoke,” or just looking to spend some time exploring this endlessly intriguing city.

There is no doubt, our capital city literally oozes history and culture. Small wonder it is one of the most visited cities in the world, hosting millions of travellers annually.

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

Here we explore some of the most curious, bizarre, and interesting facts and trivia 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:

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.

The Square Mile or The City. These names highlight the importance of London’s historic and financial centre, often referred to simply as “the City,” the hub of commerce and finance.

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.

The Great Wen. Coined by William Cobbett, this term 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.

The Swinging City. London was at the centre of everything during the 1960s. Music, fashion, and art of the era contributed to a cultural revolution across the globe.

London’s Underground Railway System

London Underground

The London Underground is the oldest underground railway system in the world. Image credit: Pixabay

Opened in 1863, the subterranean tube rail system crisscrossing the streets of the city was the world’s first underground rail system.

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.

At the last count, there were approximately 250 miles of underground railway tracks in London. This number is increasing annually as the system undergoes expansion and upgrading.

The whole system incorporates 11 lines which serve 270 stations. It is one of the largest metro systems in the world.

The tube map used today was originally designed in 1931 by Harry Beck. It has inspired similar transit maps worldwide.

The prize for the busiest station in the city goes to Kings Cross St Pancras. This station provides passengers with services both under and overground.

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 Monument

Great Fire of London Monument. Image credit: Depositphotos

In 1666, considered a number associated with the devil, the great fire of London started. Sweeping across the city destroying much of it. The fire had a profound impact on the city’s history and urban development thereafter.

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.
Though the exact cause is uncertain, folklore states that the fire started in a bakery situated on Pudding Lane close to London Bridge.
Many structures burned down including 87 churches, 13,200 houses, 44 Company Halls, the Royal Exchange, and numerous public buildings.
Incredibly there were only 6 reported deaths however, experts at the time suggested that many more deaths went unrecorded.

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 started.

Haunted London

The Tower of London at night

The Tower of London at night. Image credit: Unsplash

It comes as no surprise that a city as old as London has had more than its fair share of 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, London

The Gherkin, London. Image credit: Unsplash

The city is packed with architecture through the ages. From ancient structures to the most modern of skyscrapers.

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.

Dominating the London skyline is the Shard. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it is Western Europe’s tallest skyscraper. Reaching a height of 1,016 feet, it has 95 floors.

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. It seats 5,272 people.

Unveiled in 1858, Big Ben took 34 years to build. The bell chimes every 15 minutes and can be heard up to five miles away.

the official royal residence Buckingham Palace, was built in 1703. It was not until 1837 when Queen Victoria was crowned that a monarch actually lived there. The grounds of Buckingham Palace cover around 39 acres.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, St. Pauls Cathedral is the fourth church to stand on the site. The dome is the largest in the world.

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

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

London Eye. Image credit: Pixabay

Humans have occupied the city for two millennia.

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

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.

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

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.

Cleopatra’s Needle is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, one of an original pair, and is over 3,500 years old.

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

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.

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.

There are as many as 10,000 foxes living in the city!

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

The upmarket department store Harrods once sold the drug cocaine legally.

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.

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

In Conclusion

In conclusion, London is a dynamic and captivating city due to its mix of historical richness, cultural variety, modernism, and bright energy.

The fact that it receives over 30 million visitors each year attests to its continued popularity as a much-loved tourist destination.

Armed with fresh knowledge of London’s fascinating and unusual facts, you may enjoy the experience even more as you plan your subsequent trip there.

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

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