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33 Interesting, Fun Facts About London

33 Interesting, Fun Facts About London

London is one of the largest and most-visited cities in the world. The British and English capital attracts tourists from different regions each year. 

London is best known for its world-class museums, gigantic lush parks, red double-decker buses, banging nightlife, and cosmopolitan vibes. The city is also famous for its fascinating history concerning arts, architecture, royalty, warfare, politics, and science. 

Whether it’s shopping, world cuisine, modern & historical attractions, or the education you seek, you will find everything in this cosmopolitan city

Since London offers so much to explore, you must learn about the city’s quirkiness to catch its soul.  

Want to know more about London? This article features a list of interesting, fun facts about London to help you understand the city even better. 

But before directly jumping to fun facts, let’s start with the history of London. 

Table of Contents

History of London

London National History Museum

Whenever we think of London, we visualize a big city with magnificent green spaces, bustling streets, and architectural marvels. Nevertheless, the city has more than this.

London is known for its rich history, constitutional monarchy, and high-end fashion. The history of London extends over 2000 years.

However, the foundation of the capital city can be traced back to 43CE, when the Roman army gained dominance over Britain. They ruled much of Britain from 43AD to the 5th Century AD. During the 3rd Century, Romans gave the city the name Londinium.

Londinium was the capital of Roman Britain. It was a settlement on the banks of the River Thames. Romans chose this place because the River Thames was an easy way to transport goods between inland Britain and the Continent.

Romans built several public buildings in the area, such as temples, amphitheaters, and bathhouses. They also constructed a large fort, London Bridge, and a defensive London Wall. You can still see this wall built by Romans in the city, known as London Wall.

During the 5th Century, Londinium had to bear repeated Anglo-Saxon invasions. Ultimately, Londinium declined and became the capital of the Kingdom of Essex during the 8th Century.

In the 9th Century, the town faced several Viking attacks from Danish invaders. The Vikings were eventually subdued and allowed to remain if they converted to Christianity. Gradually they established themselves in the area and started trading and other businesses. Settlers transformed London into the prominent urban center of England.

Later in 1067, (following his victory at the battle of Hastings in 1066) William Duke of Normandy was crowned King of England in London.

He established several laws, rights, and privileges for the residents. William Duke also built the Tower of London during his reign.

In 1199, King John strengthened the self-government in the city. He appointed different mayors in London every year till 1215. For several years, England had no capital city. Nevertheless, the central government moved to Westminster. They expanded the trade in the area.

Old London Scenery

During the 14th Century, thousands of people died in London due to the plague. The incident is known as Black Death. The disease was spread by fleas living on rats that entered the city through commercial ships.

In the early 17th Century, James I became the king of England, (who had been the king of Scotland for 36 years). He ordered a new translation of the Bible that became popular as the King James’s Version of the Bible.

In terms of religious faith, James was quite accommodating. However, after the Gunpowder plot of 1605, he enforced several penalties on Roman Catholics.

The Gunpowder plot was a failed effort of Guy Fawkes, a devout English Catholic, to assassinate King James I. He wanted to return Catholic rule in England by killing the protestant King James.

However, these aspirations were crushed when James I declared in an address to Parliament that he ‘detested’ the Catholic faith. He ordered all Jesuit and Catholic priests to leave the kingdom.

As a result, Fawkes joined forces with other Catholic conspirators such as Robert Catesby to weaken the Protestant administration.

The 18th Century in London witnessed rapid industrial growth. It played a crucial role in the development of the British Empire. In 1707, the Scottish and English Parliaments were merged by an Act of Union to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 1825, London was the principal port for international trade. After a rise in crime, in 1829, the Home Secretary, Robert Peel, formed the Metropolitan Police that operated in the entire London. These “peelers” were the first police force in the world.

London became the world’s largest metropolis and the center of the civilized world throughout the 19th Century. It grew from 1 million people in 1800 to 6.7 million a century later.

See Related: Best Things to do in London, England

Recent History of London

City of London Skyline

London hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1908. In 1911, the population of London reached 7 million.

In 1926, the General Council of the Trades Union Congress called a general strike in the United Kingdom that lasted 9 days. The strike was against the wage reduction and poor conditions of coal miners. It was the biggest industrial conflict in British history.

The Great Depression had a considerable impact on the lives of Londoners in 1930. It was a period of a national economic downturn. It led to many people being unemployed, especially in the East End.

In 1940, Nazi Germany undertook an intense bombing campaign against the UK during World War II. The campaign is known as the Blitz, derived from the German “Blitzkrieg” (Lightning War). Thousands of civilians were killed.

Over the course of the war, London would play host to many Allied forces and governments in exile, as well as one of the world’s largest VE-Day celebrations in 1945.

In April 1981, during the Brixton riot, a series of clashes happened primarily between the Metropolitan police and black youths. The riot was the result of social and economic injustice to the black community. They felt discrimination, especially from the white police.

The Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena) in Greenwich was opened in 2000. The same year, the London Eye was completed, which now attracts millions of visitors per year.

London Eye

In 2011, a countrywide riot began after Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black British man, was shot dead by police in London. The incident set off the largest civil unrest ever in the United Kingdom. The police stated that they were trying to arrest Duggan for being suspected of planning an attack.

London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics and became the first city to host the modern games thrice.

Today, London is one of the top destinations for education, business, commerce, and tourism. It sparks the interest of many travelers across the globe and is still seen by many as the capital of the “civilized world”. 

Over the years, London has only flourished into one of the best cities in the world. It is a popular destination for sports, music, art, and culture.

The Tower Bridge of London

Tourists from every part of the world visit London and are mesmerized by the city’s unique charm. It offers the best of modern culture and rich history.

Although an old city, London is a destination that will never get old, and one visit to the city is never enough.

See Related: How to Take a Day Trip from London to Stonehenge

List of Fun, Interesting Facts About London

Facts

There are several unknown or hidden facts about the capital city of England. Even those living in this dynamic city might not be aware of them. Some of those interesting and fun facts about London are as follows: 

1. Big Ben is Not Called Big Ben

Big Ben, London

The best way to start with facts about London is with the city’s famous attractions. London is best known for the Clock Tower at the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament), which is NOT named Big Ben.

The attraction’s name is Elizabeth Tower (previously just named the Clock Tower), and the giant bell inside it is the actual Big Ben. There you have it; the most famous landmark of London operates under a false identity!

2. The Palace of Westminster is the UK’s Largest Palace

Palace of Westminster and Sunset

The Palace of Westminster is the largest in the UK. It serves as the meeting venue for the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The palace is located on the north bank of the Thames River and is the epitome of gothic revival architecture.

The palace is spread over an area of 112,476 square meters. It has several libraries, lobbies, committee rooms, bars, and dining rooms.

The history of the palace dates back to the 11th Century. However, most of its structure belongs to the 19th Century. The palace was rebuilt after a massive fire in 1834.

Also, it features the globally renowned Big Ben bell at its North end in the Elizabeth Tower.

See Related: How to Travel From London to Amsterdam

3. Dying in the Houses of Parliament in London is Illegal – or is it?

Palace of Westminster

Another interesting fact about London is that people think it is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament. However, it is just a myth. It comes from the idea that the parliament building is a Royal palace. Therefore, anyone who dies in the palace is entitled to a state funeral.

The Law Commission’s Statute Law Repeals team, accountable for repealing outdated laws, claims that dying in the Houses of Parliament is no longer illegal – but you probably ain’t getting that state funeral.

4. J.M. Barrie Gave the Rights of His Book, Peter Pan, to the Great Ormond Street Hospital

Great Ormond Street Hospital  Building
image by Reading Tom is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

J.M.Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, had donated the rights of his novel to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Since he did not have children, he wanted the hospital to earn royalties from his work.

GOSH is a world-renowned children’s hospital in the London Borough of Camden. The hospital has the biggest child heart surgery center in the United Kingdom.

See Related: Best Gardens in Europe to Visit

5. Drinking is Banned on Public Transport in London

Wine Toast

After a century of legal train drinks, London banned drinking on public transport from June 1st, 2008. On May 31st, 2008, there was a Circle Line party where revelers took a trip on the Circle Line in fancy dresses for the last time before the era of public transport prohibition began. 

6. Nelson’s Column is the Major Highlight of the Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

Nelson’s Column is the major attraction at Trafalgar Square, built between 1840-1843. It was constructed to honor British flag officer Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The square is the venue for several celebrations happening in the city throughout the year. Every year it features a lovely Christmas tree that comes from Norway. In gifting the tree, Norwegians thank the people of Britain for their assistance to the Norwegians in World War II.

You will also see a large number of pigeons in the square – the other major highlight!

See Related: Best & Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to Visit

7. London Has Several Underground Rivers

Tower Bridge

Another lesser-known London fact is that the city has numerous underground rivers. Over the years, several rivers have been built underground in London. They have become essential parts of London’s sewage system now. The Rom and Quaggy are two rivers that are partially underground in London.

Besides the River Thames, only two London rivers are entirely above the ground. These are River Wandle and the River Brent.

8. London Hosts Thousands of Music Events Every Year

London Music Event and Party

One of the most interesting London music facts is that more than 17,000 music performances are held every year across different venues. It’s possible for thousands of live music performances to be happening per day in London!

9. The City of London is the Smallest in the UK

London Streets

The City of London, a historic financial district, is one of the smallest cities in the UK. The city is a small part of the Greater London metropolis, comprising 32 London Boroughs. While the City of London is a prominent part of central London, it is not included in the London boroughs.

The City of London (aka the Square Mile) keeps a special status even if it comes under the jurisdiction of Greater London. The city has a separate police force, mayor, and local government.

Historically, the presence of a cathedral was crucial for a town to get the status of a city, which the City of London does possess in the form of St. Paul’s. However, as per the new criteria of 1907, any UK town will be accepted as a city if it meets the following conditions:

  • A population of at least 300,000
  • A track record of effective local governance
  • A local metropolitan character

See Related: Best Castles in London You Need to See

10. The Transportation System of London is Exceptional

Red bus and white car on the road in London

Another fascinating fact about London is its exceptional transportation system. From cabs to Boris bikes to double-decker and bendy buses, they are essential parts of the London public transport system. 

The Tube is one of the convenient ways to transport to and from Central London. Also, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a driverless railway line in London that connects with the Tube at different junctions. 

Similarly, traveling through red London buses is another cost-effective way to go from one point to another in the city. 

Even if you have never been to London, you have probably seen this iconic transit system in films.

11. Apsley House or ‘Number 1, London’ was Home to the 1st Duke of Wellington

Big Ben and London Scenery

‘Number 1, London’ is an address in London. This Grade I listed Georgian building was home to Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, for years.

He was a legendary Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman. Wellesley was a prominent military and political figure in 18th and 19th Century Britain, most famous for his victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The building is open to visitors who want to take a peek into the best example of a traditional English residence.

See Related: Best Vacations for a Group of Friends

12. The London Eye is a GIANT Attraction

London Eye Sunset

London Eye is among the most popular Ferris wheels in the world. Formerly known as the Millennium Wheel, this Ferris wheel has a height of 443 feet and has been copied around the world.

The London Eye was opened to the public in 2000. The wheel rotates at a speed of 0.6 mph and takes around 30 minutes to complete one rotation. It used to be an hour long – which was mercifully reduced.

London Eyes is among the best sights to see on o London river cruise.

One can have a bird’s eye view of the surroundings from the London Eye, and it can even be booked out for private events!

13. London is One of the Most Linguistically Diverse Cities in the World

Reading English Dictionary

London is one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the world, with over 250 languages spoken. It is a multicultural city where residents belong to different cultural backgrounds. 

In a survey, 850,000 children in London schools were asked about their first language spoken at home. According to the result, 40 languages were common in the city. These include English, Polish, Turkish, Bengali, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, to name a few.

14. Becoming a Black Cab Driver is the Hardest Job in London

Black Cab

The hardest job in London is becoming a black cab driver. Every candidate needs to pass a very tough geography exam – The Knowledge.

The test requires the applicants to learn the 320 routes, 20,000 landmarks within a 6-mile radius of Charing Cross, and all 25,000 streets on the routes. It takes about 2 to 4 years to memorize this information.

On the plus side, this means that every time you step into a black cab, you’re with the best tour guide in town!

See Related: Ultimate Packing Checklist for Traveling to London

15. Wearing an Armor Suit in the Houses of Parliament is Illegal

Armor Suit in London

According to the Armour Act, which dates back to 1313, Members of Parliament can’t enter the House of Parliament wearing armor suits. Edward II enacted this law to discourage nobles from threatening to use force when parliament was summoned.

16. Winnipeg of London Zoo

Winnipeg and Harry Colebourn Statue
image by S Pakhrin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Winnie-the-Pooh, the fictional character of the book, Finding Winnie by A.A. Milne and E.H Shepard, is inspired by Winnipeg. Winnipeg was a female black bear that lived at London Zoo from 1915 to 1934.

Harry Colebourn rescued the bear from a hunter. Colebourn was a cavalry veterinarian and soldier in the Canadian Army during World War I. He bought the bear cub for CA $20 in White River, Ontario, as the cub’s mother had been killed.

When Harry Colebourn was called up to serve in the First World War, he donated Winnie to the London Zoo. Winnipeg was also adopted as a mascot for the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade and the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps.

Winnie was the star attraction at the London Zoo. She was exceptionally friendly, especially among children.

Curiously, Winnie is not the only bear military mascot that was then donated to a British zoo in the 20th Century.

See Related: Best Warm Winter Destinations in Europe

17. Kite Flying in Public Places is Illegal in London

Kite Flying

It might surprise you but flying a kite in public places is illegal in London. It is an offense under the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 and is applicable even today!

The law was enacted because flying a kite in public “can cause obstruction and pose danger to the people”. The 19th Century sounds terrifying.

If you break this law, you might face a fine of up to £500 ($609 USD).

18. Around 3 Million People Use London Underground Every Day

London Underground Tunnel

When it comes to London facts and information, you cannot overlook the London Underground, also known as the Tube. It is an underground rapid transit system that serves Greater London and several parts of the counties of Buckinghamshire.

Founded in 1863 as the first of its kind, the London Underground is used by close to 3 million people every day. The transit serves 272 stations.

During the Second World War, many stations were used as bomb shelters. Among them, the Highgate tube station was used as a bomb shelter, and, Jerry Springer, the prominent US talk show personality, was born there!

19. People Drive on the Right Side at Savoy

Savoy Hotel
image by Booking.com

One another fun fact about London is that there is one specific road in London where you have to drive on the wrong side. This road leads to the entrance of the famous Savoy Hotel.

It is simply because the building of the Savoy Court is on the right side of the road and rich people are apparently just far too damned important to walk across a street.

See Related: Ultimate List of Harry Potter Things to do in London

20. The Great Plague of London

London Great Plague
image by Wellcome Collection gallery is licensed under CC BY 4.0

The Great Plague of London was one of England’s major plague epidemics since the Black Death in 1348. It spread from 1665 to 1666. In 18 months, the Great Plague killed about 100,000 people—nearly a fourth of London’s population.

It affected London significantly due to the lack of sanitation and narrow streets.

The plague was caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium. It is generally transferred to humans by fleas or louse bites. While it had a lower impact than the Black Death pandemic, it got the name “Great Plague” as it was the last widespread outbreak of bubonic plague.

21. Ravens of the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London

There are six ravens inside the Tower of London, widely known as the Ravens of the Tower of London. Charles II ordered ravens to be placed in the tower.

It is believed that the ravens protect The Crown and the Tower. As per the official historians of the Tower of London, the raven mythology is associated with the Victorian flight of fantasy.

It is said that if the ravens ever leave the tower, the monarchy and Britain will fall. To safeguard against this, all ravens have their wings clipped; therefore, they can’t fly too far!

They are also fed a daily ration of best beef from a local butcher – making them the real “Beefeaters” at the Tower of London!

22. The Royal Family Has a Unique Standard – The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom

Buckingham Palace

The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom refers to two flags used by King Charles III as Sovereign of the United Kingdom. One flag is used for general purposes in England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Crown dependencies, and British Overseas Territories. Another one is used in Scotland, paying homage to the monarchy’s Scottish roots.

When the King is in residence, the Royal Standard is flown on one of the royal palaces and his airplane, car, and the Royal Yacht. If you notice the Union Flag above Buckingham Palace, Sandringham House, or Windsor Castle, it indicates that the King is not in residence.

See Related: Most Beautiful Cities in the World to Visit

23. Cleopatra’s Needle is A Time Capsule

Cleopatra's Needle
image by Chris Talbot is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Cleopatra’s Needle is an Egyptian artifact on the Victoria Embankment. It is a time capsule. Erected in London in 1877, there were many things placed underneath, including copies of the Bible, children’s toys, amap of London, a painting of Queen Victoria, and portraits of 12 pretty women!

24. Feeding Pigeons at Trafalgar Square is Not Allowed

Trafalgar Square

Renowned for housing thousands of feral pigeons, which tourists often fed and posed with, Trafalgar Square does not allow pigeon feeding anymore. In 2003, a ban was put on feeding pigeons or selling feed near the square.

25. London was and still is Home to Many Notable Personalities

The View from The Shard

London has been home to some of the most famous people in the world. Some notable names throughout history include Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, David Bowie, Karl Marx, Amy Winehouse, The Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, Samuel Pepys, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Hendrix, and many more.

Today’s top celebrities with homes in London, include David & Victoria Beckham, Adele, Tom Hardy, Rod Stewart, Simon Cowell, Kate Moss, Robbie Williams, and many, many more.

See Related: Best Theme Parks in Europe to Visit

26. London was the Capital of Six Countries during World War II

Tower Bridge

London functioned as the capital of 6 countries during the Second World War. The list includes the United Kingdom, France, Holland, Poland, Belgium, and Norway.

27. Tourists of London are Double Than the Population of the City

Crowd in a Park in London

Around 19 million people visit London each year, and the population of the city is around 9 million. That means the number of tourists is more than double the population.

28. The Shard is London’s Tallest Building

The Shard and London Citylights

Made of around 11,000 glass panels, The Shard is the tallest building in London. The structure is 1,016 feet or 309.6 meters high. It is also the seventh-tallest building in Europe and the 96th-tallest building in the world.

29. London Has Hosted the Olympic Games Three Times

Olympic Rings, London

London is the first city in the world to have hosted the Olympics 3 times: 1908, 1948, and 2012.

Not just this, but the 1908 Olympics lasted 187 days, making it the longest event in Olympics history. It also had events we no longer see today, like poetry!

30. The London Eye is Not the First Big Wheel in London

Great Wheel

Most people think the London Eye is the first big wheel in London. But this is not the case. The Great Wheel is the first big wheel. Constructed in 1895, it was demolished in 1907.

See Related: Best Honeymoon Destinations in the World.

31. London Has 6 Globally Popular Orchestras

London Philharmonic Orchestra Perfromance
image by Quincena Musical is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are six globally-renowned orchestras in London. If you love live music concerts and want to experience captivating music, you must visit them. These are the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and Royal Opera House Orchestra. You can attend a lot of concerts while in London.

32. The Great Fire of London Recorded Only Six Verified Deaths 

London Great Fire

The Great Fire in 1666 was one of the most horrible events in the history of London. The fire started on 2nd September and ended on 6th September in 1666.

The fire destroyed over 13,000 houses, The Royal Exchange, and 87 parish churches. However, for this horrifying fire incident, the death toll is extremely low; only six verified deaths.

Famed diarist Samuel Pepys’ parmesan cheese was also saved. But that’s another story.

33. Don’t Mess with Guardsmen!

Queen's Guard

Throughout London, you’re bound to run into the red tunic, bearskin-wearing foot guards, and the shiny helmeted cavalry troops of the Household Division guarding critical sites around the city.

Do not mess with them!

Don’t impede them, don’t obstruct them, don’t harass them, don’t talk to them, don’t make fun of them, don’t touch them! It’s not just good manners, but it will also save you from some real trouble.

These guys are not tourist attractions or Disney cast members; they are professional on-duty soldiers with every legal right and permission to ruin your day if you get in their way!

The same can be said for “Beefeaters”. Although they are no longer active military, they are all veterans with a minimum of 22 years of service.

See Related: Best Places to Get Married in Europe

Final Thoughts

These are 30 interesting and fun facts about London you might not have known. We hope this list of facts will increase your curiosity to discover more about this gorgeous city.

So, if you want to know the city even more closely, plan a trip to London with your family or friends. This buzzing capital of England is well worth your visit as it offers endless opportunities to every tourist, regardless of age.

FAQs

What are the highlights of London?

Steeped in history, London is an innovative, modern, and iconic city. Spread over 600 square miles, the city is well-known for its gorgeous landmarks, historic palaces, high-end museums, and picturesque gardens.

Some top tourist attractions include The London Eye, Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast, Westminster Abbey, SEA LIFE London, Madame Tussauds London, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and, of course, the British Museum.

This capital city is also famous for its cultural icons and vibrant cultures, such as West End shows, red buses, literary figures, financial districts, the British Royal Family, and film icons, including Harry Potter and James Bond.

It’s also a cultural melting pot, with virtually every global culture represented in some capacity.

What is the best time to plan a trip to London?

London is home to several magnificent architectures, historic places, and seasonal events occurring one after the other. Since this capital city offers so much to do to locals and tourists, it is a perfect destination to explore all year round.

If you want to visit the city during a pleasant time, plan your trip between June and August – the summer season. With a mix of sunshine and rain, the temperature of London varies from 13ºC to 30ºC during this period, making it the best time for sightseeing and enjoying festivals.

Moreover, do your research and list down places you want to see or things you want to do to make the most of your time in this iconic city.

Is London safe for tourists?

Though the crime rate in London has been increasing, it is a very safe city to travel to with family and friends. There are several areas in and around Greater London that you should avoid to ensure a smooth experience.

Some common crimes you may face in the city are pickpocketing, mugging, and tour scams.

However, most parts are completely safe to explore, making it a safe city for tourists.

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