“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, that I love London so” goes the famous cockney song and there is most certainly much to love about London and its two-thousand-year history. Samuel Johnson the eighteenth century sage said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life for there is in London all that life can afford”. Only the very best elite escorts are sufficiently knowledgeable to give you a serious tour of UK’s capital.
London and New York share the distinction of being the two largest financial centers in the World as well as having the best theater and being the most cosmopolitan cities on earth. Over three hundred languages are spoken in London which has a population of approximately eight million and has more tourists each year than it has inhabitants. For over a century until 1825 London was the largest city in the world and still has the busiest air space and the most passengers of any metropolitan city.
The museums and art galleries of London are legendary. It has been said and, not always jokingly, that the British Museum has more Egyptology on display than there is in Egypt. Also shown are the much disputed Elgin Marbles artifacts which Greece has been reclaiming for more than a century. The National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, the Courtauld collection, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert to mention just a few, are all among the finest in the world.
The Tower of London which survived the great fire of London in 1666 has myriad stories and also houses the Crown Jewels. One of London’s great tourist attractions, it dates back to the twelfth century. Here the little princes were murdered. Guarded by the famous Beefeaters the tower is history book by itself.
As the seat of the mother of all Parliaments London’s contribution to democracy and to the United Kingdom’s unwritten constitution is monumental. Westminster, which was the Royal home before the Hanoverian acquisition of Buckingham Palace is still the center of British government, and also the home of the Protestant Westminster Abbey the home of many Royal weddings and funerals and its Roman Catholic equivalent Westminster Cathedral. Along with Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral which was completed at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Abbey, on which the Normans started construction in the eleventh century, is London’s most famous church.
As capital of the largest Empire known to man for some two hundred years, London also enjoys the distinction of being the capital of the only European country not to have been invaded for over nine hundred years. This in turn is the source of many legends. The Blitz of 1940 during which the German’s bombed London killed some thirty thousand people and as the Royal Air Force battled the Luftwaffe over London Prime Minister Winston Churchill coined the immortal phrase “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” which was Broadcast by the BBC (the world’s first television station started in 1936) from 10, Downing Street the famous home of British Prime Ministers also in Westminster.
As you drive up Whitehall past the Cenotaph commemorating the fallen of the first world war you pass Westminster Palace on your left where Charles the 1st was beheaded in 1649 uttering his immortal last word “Remember”. A little further o you reach Trafalgar Square, built to commemorate Nelson’s famous victory of 1805 a victory in which he lost his life and where his alleged last words “Kiss me Hardy” have been misquoted and argued about ever since. Not too far away at the end of the Strand is Somerset House on of the great private houses of the 17th century overlooking the Thames which house among other things the Courtauld Collection and used to be the headquarters of the Inland Revenue. Another much later masterpiece is Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath built by the Guinness Family; it is home to the most famous of the Rembrandt self portraits and also to one of the very rare paintings by Vermeer.
London is built on the Thames (which used to be much wider and more subject to flooding than it is now) and on a number of glorious Royal Parks: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regents Park (which also house the world’s first public scientific zoo) Green Park, St James Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park. The Botanical Gardens in Richmond are another of London’s world heritage sights.
Whether it is Shakespeare’s Globe theater or the contemporary National Theater London has a tradition of great theater. The West End is renowned for its theater all over the world. The Windmill theater was the first London theater to show nudity and fan dancing and became famous during the second world war staying open throughout the Blitz with it motto “We never clothed”.
London is also renowned for its great concert halls among which are the Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall of which Sir Thomas Beecham the renowned conductor said, referring to its notorious echo. Said “Any composer should have the premiere of his work played at the Royal Albert Hall it is the only guarantee that it will be heard twice.
Most Londoners (58.2%) say they are Christian 8.5% are Muslim a fast growing presence 4.1% Hindu 1.5% Buddhist 2% Jewish and 1.5% Sikh. Over 15% say they have no religion at all.
The most extensive Underground system (over three million journeys a day) is part of the world’s largest public transport system which include the famous Double Decker busses and, although constantly criticized by the population, is the envy of many other cities and countries.
Nearly 70% of Londoners are white, mostly white British, although 2.5% are white Irish and nearly 11% are Black roughly half of African descent and 40% Caribbean in origin.