This article was originally published on The Boutique Adventurer
When a man is tired of London he is tired of life. So said Samuel Johnson in 1777 and as a Londoner, I firmly believe that these words still hold true today – although of course, I would like to change man to person. I think that my hometown is the most amazing and fascinating city in the world and I can’t imagine getting bored with London.
To help convince you that I am correct here are 67 fascinating facts about London!
67 Fascinating Facts About London
1. Time Starts in London
Specifically, time starts in the London borough of Greenwich. Greenwich is home to the Royal Observatory. The Royal Observatory is the point from which GMT or Greenwich Mean Time is calculated. Or you may know this figure as UTC or Coordinated Universal Time. It is also the point of 0 degrees longitude – the Prime Meridian.
2. London is home to the oldest underground railway in the world
The tube or London’s underground is the oldest underground railway in the world, dating back to 1863 when the first line between Paddington and Farringdon was started.
3. 20 Rivers run under London
These underground rivers are part of the Thames and the River Lea. All of these rivers are now used as part of London’s sewer system.
4. There is a Platform 9 3/4
In the Harry Potter books the train to Hogwarts leaves from Kings Cross Station in London, Platform 9 3/4. You can’t actually catch a train from Platform 9 3/4 but you can get a photo with the disappearing trolley.
5. London is the most popular tourist destination in the world.
More than 30 million tourists visit London every year.
6. London’s famous fire started in a bakery
In 1666, fire tore through London in what is now referred to as the Great Fire of London. The fire started in a bakery in the appropriately named Pudding Lane. Most of London was made of wood at this time and burnt quite quickly.
This allowed for the city to be re-made in more substantial materials like stone and brick. It also may have helped to end the Great Plague which took place in 1665 and 1666.
7. London isn’t the largest city in the world but it used to be
From 1831 to 1925 London was the largest city in the world. Today it has slipped all the way back to the 32nd largest city in the world.
8. London has lots of billionaires
There are over 70 billionaires who call London home, one of the highest numbers of resident billionaires in the world.
9. London Underground escalators travel the distance of the circumference of the earth each week
That’s over 80,000 kms every week.
10. You can also cross Abbey Road
The Beatles Album Abbey Road shows the four members of the band walking across a pedestrian crossing. That pedestrian crossing is still there (it is outside the studio where they made the album) and tourists and locals are regularly taking photos of themselves crossing it. And today Paul McCartney lives quite close by in St John’s Wood.
11. London is home to the world’s first-ever public zoo
And London Zoo is still operating and open today.
12. London’s weather isn’t actually that bad
As someone that lives in London I can vouch for the fact that London often has some lovely weather. It has a reputation for being an exceptionally rainy city but it is actually drier than the world average. And it receives less rain than New York City, Tokyo and Rome.
13. London was once flooded with beer
In 1814 a vat of beer exploded and created a beer tidal wave that killed eight people.
14. Westminster Abbey Features the Oldest Anglo Saxon Door in England
15. The Mystery Prayer
Each daily session in the House of Commons starts with a four minute prayer during which MPs must face the wall. Nobody knows why this is done.
16. London has hosted the Olympics more than any other city
London has hosted the modern Olympics more times than any other city in the world – 1908, 1948 and 2012. The only other city to have hosted three Olympics in total is Athens.
17. Don’t feed the pigeons
In 2003 it became illegal to feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. They were making quite a mess.
18. The Tower of London once had a zoo
In the 13th century the Tower of London was home to a zoo which included polar bears, elephants and kangaroos.
19. Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Germans 9 times during World War II and withstood all of them.
20. London was the worst hit city in the Great Plague of 1665
Over 100,000 people in London died from the Great Plague and mass graves are being discovered to this day.
21. In medieval times, Cock Lane was the only street in London that was licensed for prostitution.
22. The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree comes from Norway
As a thank you for the support given to them in World War 2, each year Norway gives London a tree that is over 20 metres tall and has been aged between 50 and 60 years. This tree is placed in Trafalgar square.
23. There’s a time capsule under Embankment
In 1878 a time capsule was placed Cleopatra‘s Needle on the Embankment.
24. The Houses of Parliament are actually a Palace.
25. Banks had to located within a 10 minute walk of the Bank of England
This was the case until 1980. This was to allow the Governor of the Bank of England to call a meeting and have everyone in attendance within 30 minutes if there was an emergency.
26. 5 Tube Stations are named after Pubs
They are Angel, Elephant and Caslte, Manor House, Swiss Cottage and Royal Oak.
27. Don’t be late for Parliament
There are not enough seats for all of the United Kingdom‘s members of parliament so if you don’t get there early you have to stand.
28. London is a forest
When you think of London I very much doubt you think of parks. However, more than 45% of London is green space and open water. More than 60 species of birds can be found in London and it is home to more than 2000 different types of flowering plants.
And in 2019 London was recognised as a forest by the Forestry Commission in 2019 and became the world’s first National Park City.
29. Some of the best things in London are free
London is also known as being one of the world’s most expensive cities. However, it is also home to a large number of museums and galleries that you everyone can visit for free. These include the Tate and the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and several more.
30. Aldgate Station sits over a mass grave
It is estimated that 1,000 bodies are buried in a mass grave under Aldgate Station. They were victims of the Great Plague.
31. 6 Babies have been born on the Tube
32. The NYPD operates in London
The New York Police Department is operational in London. Its base is Scotland Yard.
33. London’s speed limits haven’t changed since there were horse-drawn carriages
Cars in London today are asked to observe the same speed limits as was asked of the horse and carriage. I believe the traffic doesn’t move any faster today either.
34. London still has sheriffs
The tradition of sheriffs in London dates back to the 7th century. Today the sheriffs carry out the instructions of the High Court of Justice and provide support for the Lord Mayor. They only have these powers in the City of London.
35. London is home to the oldest tennis tournament in the world
Wimbledon was first held in 1877 at the All England Club in southwest London. It remains possibly the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world today.
36. George Washington sits on American soil in London
There is a statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square. As Washington famously said that he would never set foot on British soil again, soil was brought over from America to be placed under the statue.
37. The London Eye has a capsule for each borough of London
London has 32 boroughs. The London Eye chose to have 32 capsules to represent this fact. However, the number of capsules goes up to 33 as no one wants to ride in capsule 13 so it doesn’t exist.
38. London’s Buses haven’t always been red
The buses of London used to be a different colour which depended on their route. They all changed to red in 1907.
39. Winnie the Pooh really did live in the London Zoo
And was from Winnipeg, Canada. But she wasn’t yellow. Apparently, AA Milne’s son Christopher was very fond of Winnie and you know the rest.
40. Black Cab Drivers know where they’re going
To become a London black cab driver you need more than a driver’s license. On average it takes two to four years for new drivers to memorize every street in London to attain what is known as, appropriately, the knowledge. This practice began in 1865 and despite uber and other ride-sharing apps (don’t bring these up in a London black cab) remains in place today.
41. An Asylum was once London’s top tourist attraction
In the 18th century the Bedlam Asylum was one of the most popular attractions in London. People literally paid to come and see the patients. Feels a little politically incorrect.
42. Waterloo is the busiest London Underground Station
It is used by over 95 million passengers each year.
43. Navy Ships are required to give rum when they enter London
It is still a requirement that navy ships provide a barrel of rum when they enter the Port of London. Alas, this law is not actually acted on.
44. The tube has its own species of mosquito
A unique species of mosquito is only found in the London underground.
45. It is against the law to wear a suit of armour in London Parliament
46. Jack the Ripper was never found
Jack the Ripper may be the most famous serial killer in the world. In 1888 he terrorised East London. Many suspects were questioned but to this day his identity is unknown.
47. London was founded by the Romans
And they named it Londonium.
48. The largest number of international phone calls in the world are made from the City of London
49. The Queen needs permission to enter the city of London
The Queen has to ask the Mayor of London for permission to enter the City of London. The mayor generally grants permission.
50. Big Ben isn’t what you think it is
The clock tower which is home to Big Ben is called Elizabeth Tower. The bell that tolls on the hour is Big Ben.
51. There is one road in London where it is appropriate to drive on the right hand side
The small street leading up to the Savoy Hotel has drivers keeping right rather than left. It has been said that this was done so that ladies could easily disembark from cars.
52. Over 300 languages are spoken in London
It is a truly international city!
53. London was once home to 6 Governments
During World War 2, London was home to governments from six countries: France, Belgium, Poland, Holland and Norway. Plus its own of course.
54. Much of the Underground is Over ground
More than half of the London underground actually runs overground.
55. London Buses travel over 300 million miles a year
That’s over 12,000 times the circumference of the earth. They spend at least half of that stuck in London traffic. That isn’t a fact that is just my belief.
56. London is the smallest city in England
What is known as the City of London is only 2.9km square. This is the heart of London and where the financial district is located. And the population of the City of London is only 9000 people. Greater London is the area that we commonly think of as London and it has a few more people.
57. London really loved its Gin
There was a major gin craze in London in the first half of the 18th century. The government was keen for residents to stop drinking so much brandy as that meant sending money to France so they allowed people to distill their own gin. Londoners embraced this but weren’t as on top of the health and safety standards around this process. Many illnesses and alcoholics were the results.
The law was changed to ban small-scale production of gin in London. This law was only repealed in 2009 by local brewers Sipsmiths as part of the craze towards craft brewing.
58. The tallest building in London is The Shard
At nearly 310 metres the Shard is London’s tallest building and the 6th tallest building in Europe. It is also home to the highest bar in Europe at the wonderful Shangri-La hotel.
59. University College London was the first to allow women to study.
What is now known as University College London was the first university that allowed women to not just enrol but also to graduate.
60. The Queen keeps everyone up to speed with her whereabouts
If the Queen is at Buckingham Palace the Royal Standard Flag will be raised. If the Queen is not staying at Buckingham Palaces the Union Flag flies. The same thing happens when she is at nearby Windsor Castle.
61. London Bridge is in both London and Arizona
In 1967 American Robert P McCulloch bought what was London Bridge, dismantled it and sent it to Arizona to become one of the more well known bridges in America. Today there is a London Bridge that crosses the Thames River.
However, it is quite a plain bridge. The pretty bridge that most people around the world tend to associate with London is actually Tower Bridge. This is the one that opens. Got all that?
62. Harrods sold cocaine until 1916
63. London’s last execution was in 1941
The last execution at the Tower of London was conducted by firing squad in 1941. The deceased was Germany spy Josef Jakobs.
64. Over 10,000 foxes live in London
And I hear them many nights! Most Londoners would not be surprised to hear this as the foxes love to prowl the streets of London at night and can cause havoc – particularly with garbage.
65. A Hospital Owns Peter Pan
JM Barrie wrote Peter Pan. He gifted the rights to Great Ormond Street Hospital when he passed away. Great Ormond Street Hospital is located in the heart of London and is most well known for its amazing work with children.
66. The Lord Mayor is inducted in silence
The ceremony in which the Lord Mayor is given power is known as the Silent Ceremony.
67. 6 Black Ravens keep the UK going
Six black ravens are always at the Tower of London. Legend has it that if these ravens leave the Tower of London both the Crown and Britain will fall.