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London is home to plenty of cultures. Here are some of the most interesting, fun nicknames for London (you likely won’t know all of them).
London, founded by the Romans in AD 43 and the capital city of the United Kingdom, is globally renowned for its splendid ancient buildings, food, fashion, and wealth of culture & history.
Standing on the River Thames, the city’s rich history has many good and bad backstories that gave London numerous funny yet exciting nicknames.
In today’s post, we will learn about those nicknames for London and their fascinating stories. We can bet some of them will surely surprise you! So, without any further delay, let’s get started.
Interesting Nicknames for London, England
1. The Swinging City
The Swinging City is a popular nickname for London given to the city during the Cultural Revolution, which flourished in the 1960s. It was a period of hedonism and optimism. The time saw growth in music, fashion, and art all across London.
Some experts believe the cultural revolution helped Britain recover from financial crises after World War 2. The term “Swinging” is used for the sense of fashion that flourished during the Cultural Revolution. Due to this revolution, the city was given this nickname.
Even Time Magazine defined the terms “Swinging London” and “Swinging City” in its issue of 15 April 1996. Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief at Vogue magazine, also stated, “London is the most swinging city in the entire world.”
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2. Where Royalty Lives
We all know that London is a residence of the British Royal Family comprised of King Charles III and his close relations. For that reason, London is recognized by the nickname “Where Royalty Lives.”
Buckingham Palace, the residence and administrative headquarters of the monarchy of the UK, is located in the City of Westminster (inner London).
Originally, the palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham (at the beginning of the 18th century). Later on, King George 3 acquired this palace in 1761 for Queen Charlotte. The Tower of London was previously The Royal Family’s main castle and residence.
Throughout the 19th century, the palace was enlarged by architects Edward Blore and John Nash. They added three wings around a central courtyard.
And then, it was the year 1837 when Buckingham Palace became the residence of Queen Victoria (British monarch). She was the first British monarch to use this palace as an official residence.
It is important to mention that Buckingham Palace is not the only property the Royal Family holds. Their property extends throughout the United Kingdom, including luxury hotels, castles, forests, and farms.
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Did you know Londinium was London’s original name given by the Romans? The Londinium settlement was formed by the Romans on the current site of the city of London in 43 AD. Until the 5th century, Londinium was served as an important commercial center.
Londinium is used to cover all the surrounding regions of the River Thames. You can still find traces of the Romans in London across the city.
Roman chose this spot because the River Thames was an ideal way to transport goods between the city and the continent. Romans first built the London Bridge and then the town of Londinium.
In AD 61, Queen Boudicca stood up against the Romans and burnt the town. However, the Romans regained command over the town and rebuilt Londinium. At that time, Londinium had a population of around 60,000 people and was the largest city in Britannia.
Romans also built a 3-mile-long defensive wall called the London Wall around the city. The wall was about 20 feet high and 8 feet wide. These walls still exist. You can see it in several locations around London.
The name Londinium varies based on translations and language. Some examples include c.150 Londinio, c.115 Londinion, Lundinium (4th century), Londini early (2nd century).
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4. The Great Wen
Since the wen means sebaceous cyst, it is one of the loathsome nicknames for London. William Cobbett discovered the nickname of Great Wen in the year 1820. He was a pamphleteer, farmer, and journalist.
Born in 1763, Cobbett was the son of a farmer. Throughout his life, he advocated for rural people, farmers, and rural life. In 1820, when industrial growth started rapidly in London, he named this practice “Swelling on the face of the nation.”
In his book “Rural Ride” and various other writings, he quoted the phrase “The Great Wen” when speaking of London.
Reykjavik is another disparaging nickname for London that economists gave in 2008, largely targeting London’s financial district. Indeed, Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. Their banking system suffered a substantial financial crisis between 2008 and 2011.
According to some economists, the United Kingdom had the same banking system. Due to the characteristics of Iceland’s banking and massive financial services industry, they gave this nickname to London.
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6. The Smoke, the Old Smoke, or the Big Smoke
The story behind the origin of the Big Smoke and the Old Smoke nicknames for London is quite sad. These nicknames date back to when the Industrial Revolution peaked in London.
These names first appeared in 1874 and became popular among visitors who visited London from rural areas. As country people approached London, they witnessed thick smoke wrapping the city due to coal burning.
Air pollution in the city was increasing day after day. In 1952, clouds of smoke covered the whole sky of London and stayed in the air for several months. It caused breathing problems and skin allergies to the majority of citizens in London.
For this reason, London got these new names, and the most commonly known one is the Big Smoke. In the first decade of the 20th century, most people in London used coal to heat their homes, resulting in large amounts of smoke.
And when this smoke got blended with climatic conditions, it turned the entire London into a gas chamber. Fortunately, the Clean Air Act was introduced in 1956, which stated that only smokeless fuels could be burnt in London.
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7. Home of The Big Ben
London is also known as the home of Big Ben. For those who don’t know, Big Ben is a bell that hangs in the clock tower at the end of the Palace of Westminster.
English architecture, Augustus Pugin designed this tower in the neo-Gothic style. When completed in 1859, it was one of the finest and largest towers in the world.
The total height of the tower is 96 meters. Since it is the most iconic landmark in London, the city got this nickname, i.e., Home of Big Ben.
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8. London Town
Although London has been a city since its birth, the term “London Town” was made famous by a viral British romantic song titled “A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.”
Written by Eric Maschwitz and composed by Manning Sherwin, this song was published in 1940. Singer Vera Lynn made this song famous during the Second World War.
Nightingales are known for their singing capabilities and have been popular symbols for poets and singers. Though the chances of hearing a nightingale’s song in London are next to impossible, this song describes a nightingale singing in London.
Later, this song became part of the “London Town” album by Sir Paul McCartney.
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9. The Square Mile and The City
The people of London use these terms for the region called “The City of London.” It is a city and county encircled by Great London. Although this area is only a small part of the London metropolis, it is still an important part of central London.
The City of London is called The Square Mile as a financial district. After all, this area contains the central business district and the historic center. Most people associated with the financial industry use these terms.
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10. William IV Plaza
William IV Plaza is a former name for Trafalgar Square. However, some localities still call it William IV Plaza. It is a public square in the city of Westminster. Though it’s not a nickname for London yet, as Trafalgar is an integral part of Central London, we have given it a place in this post.
Till 1835, the Square was to be named for William IV, who was the king of Great Britain and Ireland from 1830 until he died in 1837. King William was succeeded by his niece, Queen Victoria. Speaking of Trafalgar Square, it is built around Charing Cross.
At present, the Square is used for political demonstrations and community gatherings. Whenever you visit Central London, don’t forget to explore Trafalgar Square. Some must-see attractions near Trafalgar Square include Somerset House, the National Portrait Gallery, and St James’s Park.
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11. Shore’s Ditch
Shoreditch is a district in London located in the east end. According to folks, the place was originally called Shore’s Ditch because Jane Shore, the mistress of Edward IV, died and was buried in this area.
Some people also think that Shoreditch is a nickname for London’s east end. No matter the truth, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Shoreditch is one of the most happening areas in east London.
The area is packed with trendy bars and coffee shops. The place is also known for its street art. Unlike Central London, where art is mostly found in museums, Shoreditch depicts its art in its street.
Walking up to Shoreditch from Brick Lane, you can see some impressive creative murals. Shoreditch is one of the areas that is often ignored by people visiting London, but it’s the best place to take pleasure in, from cool bars to street art.
Numerous cities worldwide have nicknames or aliases that speak to their cultural, societal, and geographical characteristics. In this post, we familiarized you with different nicknames for London that the city received during different periods. We hope you enjoyed reading this post!
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Alex is a travel writer for ViaTravelers currently living in Amsterdam. She has lived in three countries, 4 states, and visited over 15 countries worldwide. She enjoys top-tier restaurants, old books, and uncovering historic sites around the globe. She specializes in European destinations, particularly her favorites, Paris, Amsterdam, and Vienna and is an expert at family travel after visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks before her daughter turned 2 years old.