London is the capital of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s oldest and largest cities. It is Great Britain’s economic , cultural and political centre. Its sights attract millions of tourists every year.
London lies on the River Thames , about 50 km from the North Sea . The river has influenced London for many centuries . Rising tides have flooded the city more than once. In the 1970s and 80s a large barrier was built in the eastern part of the city to stop incoming water from flooding the nation’s capital.
London is divided into three main sections.
- The City is London’s financial district and the oldest part of the capital . It is very small, with a size of only one square mile. Although only a few thousand people live here , hundreds of thousands pour into the City every day to work in the big office buildings of large banks and other institutions.
- The West End includes London’s government district Westminster as well as the famous shopping streets around Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. The city’s famous cinemas, theatres and bars are located in the West End. Most of London’s tourist attractions are concentrated here.
- The South Bank is the area south of the Thames River. It is a cultural district with many concert halls, museums, theatres and galleries.
London became one of the first megacities in the world. Since the end of World War II , however , the population of the city has begun to decrease because many people have been moving to the suburbs and new towns outside of London
London is a multicultural city. In the 19th century thousands of people began pouring into London as a result of the Industrial Revolution. At the beginning of the 20th century immigrants from other European countries came.
In the 1950s and 60s people from Britain’s colonies came to London. Indians , Pakistanis and West Indians are a common sight in the city today. About 25 % of London’s population are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
History of London
London has a 2000 year old history. In the first century A.D. the Romans came to Great Britain and founded a settlement near the mouth of the River Thames . They called it Londinium.
After they left London about four hundred years later the Saxons, a Germanic tribe , settled in the area. In the centuries that followed Vikings repeatedly attacked the city .
When William the Conqueror invaded Britain in 1066 London was already the biggest town on the island. William made the city its capital and crowned himself king in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. He also built the Tower of London to protect the city from invaders .
During the Middle Ages London grew steadily . It became one of Europe’s trading centers and its population grew to about 200,000 by the beginning of the 17th century . Then disaster struck the city twice. The Great Plague of 1665 killed about a fourth of the city’s population. A year later the Great Fire burned down most of the older part of the city. After this tragedy the city was rebuilt with houses made of stone and brick instead of wood.
London in the 16th century
At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution almost a million people lived in London. It was the largest city in the world and the centre of the British Empire , which, at that time was growing at a rapid pace .
As more and more people moved to the city from the countryside London needed more and better transportation systems. In 863 it became the first city in the world to start an underground railway system .
During the Second World War Nazi Germany bombed London heavily . 30,000 people were killed. The rebuilding of the city after World War II caused many problems. City planners did not want London to grow endlessly in all directions. A green belt was created around the city to stop its expansion . Outside of this green area new towns emerged . They became small cities which many people moved to later on.
In the second half of the 20th century London faced many problems that other megacities also have: air pollution, traffic jams and unemployment .
In the 1970s and 80s the Docklands in the eastern part of London were rebuilt. They were once part of the world’s largest harbour . The Docklands lost their importance as the British Empire lost its colonies. In the past decades new office buildings , shopping centers and a new airport have been created in an attempt to revitalize this region.
The London Docklands
Economy and Tourism
London is the UK’s main economic and financial centre. It is the centre of trade and banking.
Factories around the city produce all kinds of consumer goods —from clothes and electronic products to food and chemicals.
Trading companies were founded along the Thames river at a time when Great Britain was still the biggest colonial power in the world. Docks and wharfs in eastern London became the centre of world trade. New container terminals were built in the 60s, in order to handle the larger cargo ships that come to London.
London is Europe’s most important banking and financial centre. Almost all of the world’s large banks have regional headquarters in London. The Bank of England, located in the City of London, controls the country’s money supply and is responsible for the value of the British pound sterling.
Tourism is an important economic factor for the city. Every year millions of people from all over the world come to London to see the city’s well-known sights. Pupils and students from all over the world come here to learn English or to take language courses. Over 200 000 Londoners work in tourist related industries.
As Europe’s gateway overseas London has two big international airports. Heathrow, in the western part of the city, is the main airport for international flights. Gatwick, halfway between London and the southern coast was opened in 1958 in an attempt to get some of Heathrow’s traffic away from the city. Stansted, in the north of London, handles regional flights and flights of budget airlines . London’s new City Airport is only 15 minutes from the city centre and is used especially by business travelers.
There is probably no other city in the world that has such a dense public transport system than London. The Tube, London’s underground railway, is the oldest in the world. The red double-decker buses are well-known around the globe and a symbol of inner city transportation. All together, about 5 million people use London’s public transport every day.
London has 6 railway stations that handle over 1.5 million commuters who travel in and out of the city every day. Fast trains from Paris and Brussels arrive in London daily through the Channel Tunnel.
London Underground Station
London is well known for its museums, art galleries and concert halls.
The British Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world. It contains over seven million artifacts from all continents, cultures and civilizations.
The National Gallery, situated on Trafalgar Square, is home to a great selection of European paintings. Tate Gallery has works of British and modern art.
London’s theatres perform works of Shakespeare and other great dramatists. The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden is host to performances of London’s big orchestras.
- Facts on London - Fill in the missing words
- London - Multiple Choice Quiz
- London - Multiple Choice Quiz 2
- London Sights - Picture Matching
- London Sights - Matching Exercise
Downloadable Text and Worksheets
- London - Sights and Places to See
- London Underground
- Tower of London
- Golden Future for London's Olympic Park
- Thames Barrier - Protecting London From Flooding
- A.D .= after the birth of Christ
- although = while
- artefact = an object that was made in the past and is historically important
- attempt = try
- attract = catch the attention of, make people come
- barrier = an object that keeps something out
- brick = a hard block of baked clay used for building houses
- budget airlines = airlines that sell cheaper tickets and do not have as much service as other, larger airlines
- capital = an important city, where the government is
- cargo = goods
- cause = lead to, produce
- century = a hundred years
- coast = place where the sea and land meet
- colonial power = big country that has many colonies all over the world
- common sight = something that can be seen very often
- commuter = someone who travels a long distance to work every day
- concentrate = many things come together here
- consumer goods = products that we buy for everyday use
- contain = to have in it
- crown = to become king
- decade = ten years
- decrease = go down
- dense = complex
- disaster = a sudden event that causes a lot of damage
- district = area of a town or city
- economic =everything connected with the production of goods, trading and money
- emerge = come up, appear
- empire = a group of countries or colonies controlled by one ruler
- especially = above all
- expansion = growth
- face = deal with
- flood = to cover with water
- found = start, create
- found—founded = start, create
- gateway = here: a city that connects cities in other countries
- globe = world
- green belt = an area of land around a city where building houses is not allowed
- handle = control, deal with a job
- handle = here: load and unload
- harbour = place where ships load and unload goods and products
- headquarters = main building of a company or bank
- heavy = here: very hard
- host = to organize events
- however = but
- include = a part of something larger
- incoming = arriving, coming in
- influence = to have an effect on
- invade = to enter a country with an army and take control of it
- located = situated, to be found
- main = most important
- megacity = a very big city with millions of people
- money supply = all the money that exists in a country
- multicultural = people from a lot of countries with many different languages and religions
- overseas = in another country that is across the ocean
- pace = speed
- performance = when you play music or act in front of people
- plague = a very serious illness that killed many people during the Middle Ages
- pour = flow
- protect = guard
- public transport = buses, trains, subways that everyone can use
- rapid = fast
- repeatedly = over and over again
- responsible = here: the job of an institution
- revitalize = to make something new; to put new power into a place
- settle = to start living in a new place
- settlement = a new town in a place where few people have lived before
- situated = located, to be found
- size = how big something is
- steadily = slowly, little by little
- strike—struck = hit
- suburb = area where people live, outside the city centre
- tide = the rising and falling of the sea
- tourist—related = everything that has to do with tourism
- traffic = here: the landing and taking off of planes
- traffic jam = a long line of cars on the street that move along very slowly
- tribe = group of people of the same race. They have the same customs , traditions and language
- unemployment = to be out of work or have no job
- value = how much something is worth
- wharf = an object that is built out into the water so that boats and ships can stop next to it