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Londonis one of the largest cities inEurope, the U.K’s seat of government, and the center of commerce, education, and arts. Like all cities,Londonattracts people of all backgrounds who come for many reasons, both to visit and to live. As a city which has been preeminent for centuries, it is full of a rich and varied history.
The nameLondonhas no specific meaning. It was originally used to describe the city ofLondonproper, still referred to as “the City,” and now the financial and banking center ofLondon. Today, the heart of the city consists of “the City” and the Borough of Westminster, also known commonly as the “West End.” With the steady growth of the capital since the Middle Ages, surrounding districts were absorbed into the huge metropolis of today. The latest census (1994) showed thatLondonhad a population of nearly 7 million in an area of157,944 hectares.
GreaterLondonactually consists of 32 semi-independent boroughs (plus “the City”). Each has dozens of business, residential, and cultural centers of its own. GreaterLondonhas followed extensive coordinated postwar reconstruction programs, including successful intensive efforts to clean facades of famous surviving buildings.
All major religions are represented inLondon. The Church of England is the established church, but various Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and other faiths have houses of worship in theLondonarea. TheAmericanChurchinLondon(Protestant) offers independent, interdenominational services specifically intended for Americans resident inLondon. It has Sunday school classes, fellowship meetings, Bible study, and youth groups. The Saturday Times lists the times of services for the following Sunday.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Londonis well known as a sightseer’s paradise. Whatever personal interests you have,London’s museums, art galleries, libraries, historic places, pageantry, and parks are bound to fulfill them. Sightseers can explore the city by bus, on foot, and by boat on theThames. A full calendar of daily events is available in several weekly publications.
Culturally,Londonis one of the richest cities on Earth. It has symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and pop and rock concerts. The theater inLondonis unrivaled. World-famous British, American, and international artists are often on stage. Productions routinely move from Broadway toLondonand vice versa. There are yearround offerings of opera, ballet, and symphonic music at the Royal Opera House, the Sadler’s Wells Hall, the Barbican andSouthBankCenters, and the Royal Festival Hall. In addition to top-quality resident companies, famous continental and American groups often visit.Central Londonoffers a wide range of first-run films at theaters, film clubs, and art theaters. Going out to the movies is as easy and informal as in theU.S.
Restaurants, cafes, and tearooms of every size and price range abound here. Food ranges from fast food fare to exclusive English and international cuisine. Pubs and afternoon tea are two English traditions that should not be missed.
Museums and art galleries inLondoncontain some of the most comprehensive collections of objects of artistic, archeological, scientific, historical, and general interest ever to exist in one city. The most notable are theBritishMuseum,VictoriaandAlbertMuseum, National Gallery, Tate Gallery, National Portrait Gallery,ImperialWarMuseum,MuseumofLondon, Wallace Collection,BritishMuseumof Natural History,GeologicalMuseum, andScienceMuseum.
The British seem to go out of their way to provide entertainment for children. This is especially true during summer and at Christmas. Some of the popular outings are special theater productions, pantomimes and puppet shows, the zoo, concerts, and film festivals.