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A snapshot guide to London

London

London Zoo, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Hyde Park, Madame Tussauds, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street… The list goes on! London is, of course, England’s capital and it’s a city like nowhere else in the world. Often described as innovative, forward-thinking and influential, it’s one of the most powerful and most visited cities globally, with something to appeal to every age and nationality. 

The city skyline is flush with remarkable buildings which each tell a story concerning London’s unique history, from The Shard (which is the tallest building in the whole of the UK), to the iconic O2 arena (formerly the Millennium Dome). Everywhere you look, London has something new to discover, wherever your interests lie.

For those with a passion for art and history, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to museums and galleries. The British Museum, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum are some of the city’s most popular destinations, offering an ever-changing programme of exhibitions and displays. If you’re a theatre-goer, you’ll love wandering around London’s West End. The theatres around Leicester Square and Covent Garden are home to some of the most hotly-anticipated shows and productions worldwide, attracting huge audiences night after night.

Other highlights on the tourist trail include shopping havens, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Hamleys toy shop – if you have little ones in tow, Hamleys is not to be missed! This city is one of the best shopping destinations in the world, with the attraction of the High Street favourites of much-loved Oxford Street, together with the fashion houses of trendy Bond Street.

Eating out? The only problem you’ll have is choosing which restaurant to visit. Every cuisine is catered for, so simply take your pick! Why not indulge in afternoon tea at one of the capital’s finest hotels, from Claridge’s to The Ritz, or dine on board a cruise along the River Thames, taking in all the city sights as you tuck in?

When it comes to London’s economy, the city boasts one of the biggest financial centres worldwide. London has five major business districts – the City, Westminster, Canary Wharf, Camden & Islington and Lambeth & Southwark, of which the City and Canary Wharf are the two biggest players. Here you’ll find all the main banking corporations, given London’s largest industry is the finance sector. Over 325,000 people are employed in financial services across London’s 480 banks (it has more banks than any other city in the world). It is also the world’s biggest currency trading centre and home to the Bank of England, London Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s of London insurance market. However, over 85 per cent of the employed population of Greater London work in the city’s service industries (given its vast numbers of tourists), and that’s not to mention London’s booming media companies (including the BBC and national newspapers) and growing number of tech organisations.

Like many large cities, congestion is a problem for central London and driving by car can be a bit of a nightmare. The best ways to get around are by London’s famous black cab, bus or underground. An iconic symbol of the capital, London’s bus network runs 24 hours a day, with around 8,500 buses and more than 700 bus routes, so you’re sure to find a bus that’s going your way. Alternatively, the London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world, commonly referred to as ‘the Tube’. Over four million journeys are made each day on the underground, which equates to over one billion per year. For travelling further afield, London’s suburban, regional and intercity trains depart from several termini around the city centre. You can easily access Birmingham, Brighton, Reading, Bristol, Cardiff, Chester, Holyhead, Derby, Nottingham, Exeter, Sheffield, York, Southampton, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Cambridge, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow with a direct train from the capital. What’s more, the Eurostar, departing from St Pancreas International, has made travel to Europe much easier. As for air travel, London has the busiest city airport system as measured by passenger traffic, and London Heathrow is the most hectic. Other airports serving the capital include London Stansted, London Luton, London City, London Southend and London Gatwick.      

London’s universities form the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe, with an international student population of around 110,000. Imperial College London is a world-leading research university, along with University College London, King’s College London, the London School of Economics, the London Business School, Brunel University, Kingston University, London Metropolitan University, the University of East London, the University of West London, the University of Westminster, London South Bank University, Middlesex University and University of the Arts London. London is also home to medical schools, business schools and specialist arts education institutions including the Central School of Ballet, RADA and the Royal College of Music. In terms of primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges, the majority are controlled by the London boroughs or otherwise state-funded, while there are also a number of private schools and colleges, some old and famous. Leading examples are City of London School, Harrow, St Paul’s School, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, University College School, The John Lyon School, Highgate School and Westminster School.    

Thinking of buying in London? You might want to think again! The city has the highest property prices of any European city according to the Office for National Statistics and the European Office of Statistics, higher than equivalent prices for Berlin, Rome and Paris!

That said, London remains a wonderful, vibrant city, and a great place to call home. This is one of the many reasons why London was chosen as the site for the Summer Olympics back in 2012, and what an Olympic Games it was!