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London - England

London, England
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City Overview

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With its red 'Routemaster' buses, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and more recent urban icons like the London Eye, England's capital is a city whose symbols are known around the world. Put quite simply, London is one of the world's truly global cities. With 37 distinct immigrant groups - each consisting of more than 10,000 people - and a population pushing inexorably towards the ten million mark, London is endlessly eclectic and dynamic, constantly adapting to its ever changing circumstances.

Today's London is a far cry from the ramble of dwellings that first sprouted up along the banks of the River Thames to house river traders during their voyages towards the sea. It was the Romans who really kicked things off, by establishing 'Londinium' as an important fortress town in the southeast of this then untamed island, guarding over the Thames and protecting against any incursions by fierce Celtic tribes. The Romans brought with them forts, roads and the rule of law prompting Roman historian Tacitus to boast of an AD60 city 'filled with travellers and a celebrated cLondon, England pictureentre of commerce'. Over the ages, London grew against all odds as its resilient citizens faced up to a myriad of dangers that would undoubtedly have sunk a lesser place. The Great Plague, the Great Fire, the bitter English Civil War and a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament to name but a few. Even as London was taking its place on the 20th-century's world stage, the German Luftwaffe attempted to bomb it off the face of the Earth during the World War II 'Blitz'. But once again the city survived to emerge in the post-war years as one of the world's most significant cities.

The sheer scale of Greater London can be daunting at first, sprawling 1500 sq kilometres (580 sq miles) across a voluminous plain, swallowing villages and towns as it goes. The city's importance to the United Kingdom cannot be overstated. Despite recent devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, London is still the hub of British business, political and financial life, the seat of government, the home of the royal family and the city where the majority of tourists converge on to spend most of their time and money. The 'City' is the heart of London's business life, with many major banks and financial companies forming a considerable part of this global economic hub. The main tourist activity is focused around the West End and Westminster, which between them boast most of the major tourist attractions. London has never been more confident with a feisty, independent mayor, Ken Livingstone, at the helm and moves to construct a splash of skyscrapers as part of the creation of a bold, new 21st-century skyline.

In summer, the city's bountiful green spaces fill up with office workers and tourists enjoying the frequent and surprisingly balmy days. In the depths of winter, when the grey skies and rain clouds descend, there are always the numerous cosy pubs to hide away in. After decades of neglect, even London's lifeblood river is re-emerging after a major clean up and the addition of many new riverside tourist attractions (most far more successful than the ill-fated Millennium Dome in North Greenwich). A new River Festival now cements the Thames in London's psyche while river cruises, the Thames-side Tate Modern art gallery and riverside walkways are quickly being added to the endless list of attractions that make London so renowned in all corners of the world.

 

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