London is the capital of and largest city in England and the United Kingdom, and the largest city in the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. “London” is an ancient name, attested already in the first century AD, usually in the Latinised form Londinium for example, handwritten Roman tablets recovered in the city originating from AD 65/70-80 include the word Londinio (“in London”).
London has a diverse range of people and cultures, and more than 300 languages are spoken in the region, Its estimated mid-2016 municipal population (corresponding to Greater London) was 8,787,892, the most populous of any city in the European Union and accounting for 13.4% of the UK population.
London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church; and the historic settlement in Greenwich where the Royal Observatory, Greenwich defines the Prime Meridian, 0° longitude, and Greenwich Mean Time. Other landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and The Shard. London has numerous museums, galleries, libraries and sporting events.
London’s gross regional product in 2016 was £408 billion, around a quarter of UK GDP, while the economy of the London metropolitan area—the largest in Europe—generates about 30 per cent of the UK’s GDP (or an estimated $669 billion in 2005). London has five major business districts: the City, Westminster, Canary Wharf, Camden & Islington and Lambeth & Southwark. One way to get an idea of their relative importance is to look at relative amounts of office space: Greater London had 27 million m2 of office space in 2001, and the City contains the most space, with 8 million m2 of office space.
London is one of the leading tourist destinations in the world and in 2015 was ranked as the most visited city in the world with over 65 million visits. It is also the top city in the world by visitor cross-border spending, estimated at US$20.23 billion in 2015. Tourism is one of London’s prime industries, employing the equivalent of 350,000 full-time workers in 2003 and the city accounts for 54% of all inbound visitor spending in the UK. As of 2016 London is the world top city destination as ranked by TripAdvisor users.
In 2015 the top most-visited attractions in the UK were all in London. The top 10 most visited attractions were: (with visits per venue)
- The British Museum: 6,820,686
- The National Gallery: 5,908,254
- The Natural History Museum (South Kensington): 5,284,023
- The Southbank Centre: 5,102,883
- Tate Modern: 4,712,581
- The Victoria and Albert Museum (South Kensington): 3,432,325
- The Science Museum: 3,356,212
- Somerset House: 3,235,104
- The Tower of London: 2,785,249
- The National Portrait Gallery: 2,145,486
The number of hotel rooms in London in 2015 stood at 138,769, and is expected to grow over the years.
Transport is one of the four main areas of policy administered by the Mayor of London, however the mayor’s financial control does not extend to the longer distance rail network that enters London. In 2007 he assumed responsibility for some local lines, which now form the London Overground network, adding to the existing responsibility for the London Underground, trams and buses. The public transport network is administered by Transport for London (TFL).
The lines that formed the London Underground, as well as trams and buses, became part of an integrated transport system in 1933 when the London Passenger Transport Board or London Transport was created. Transport for London is now the statutory corporation responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London, and is run by a board and a commissioner appointed by the Mayor of London.