London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city stands on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea. London has been a major settlement for two millennia, and was originally called Londinium, which was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core and financial centre—an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile—retains boundaries that closely follow its medieval limits.[note 1] The adjacent City of Westminster has for centuries been the location of much of the national government. Thirty-one additional boroughs north and south of the river also comprise modern London. The London region is governed by the mayor of London and the London Assembly.[note 2]
London is one of the world's most important global cities. It exerts considerable influence upon the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transportation. It is one of the largest financial centres in the world and in 2019, London had the second highest number of ultra high-net-worth individuals in Europe, after Paris. And in 2020, London had the second-highest number of billionaires of any city in Europe, after Moscow. London's universities form the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe, and London is home to highly ranked institutions such as Imperial College London in natural and applied sciences, the London School of Economics in social sciences, as well as the comprehensive University College London. In 2012, London became the first city to have hosted three modern Summer Olympic Games.
London has a diverse range of people and cultures, and more than 300 languages are spoken in the region. Its estimated mid-2018 municipal population (corresponding to Greater London) was roughly 9 million, which made it the third-most populous city in Europe. London accounts for 13.4% of the U.K. population. Greater London Built-up Area is the fourth-most populous in Europe, after Istanbul, Moscow, and Paris, with 9,787,426 inhabitants at the 2011 census. The London metropolitan area is the third-most populous in Europe, after Istanbul and the Moscow Metropolitan Area, with 14,040,163 inhabitants in 2016.[note 3]
London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement in Greenwich where the Royal Observatory, Greenwich defines the Prime Meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time. Other landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and The Shard. London has numerous museums, galleries, libraries and sporting events. These include the British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, British Library and West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest rapid transit system in the world.
London is an ancient name, already attested in the first century AD, usually in the Latinised form Londinium; for example, handwritten Roman tablets recovered in the city originating from AD 65/70–80 include the word Londinio ('in London').
Modern scientific analyses of the name must account for the origins of the different forms found in early sources: Latin (usually Londinium), Old English (usually Lunden), and Welsh (usually Llundein), with reference to the known developments over time of sounds in those different languages. It is agreed that the name came into these languages from Common Brythonic; recent work tends to reconstruct the lost Celtic form of the name as *Londonjon or something similar. This was adapted into Latin as Londinium and borrowed into Old English, the ancestor-language of English.
The toponymy of the Common Brythonic form is much debated. A prominent explanation was Richard Coates's 1998 argument that the name derived from pre-Celtic Old European *Template:PIE, meaning "river too wide to ford". Coates suggested that this was a name given to the part of the River Thames which flows through London; from this, the settlement gained the Celtic form of its name, *Lowonidonjon. However, most work has accepted a Celtic origin for the name, and recent studies have favoured an explanation along the lines of a Celtic derivative of a Proto-Indo-European root *Template:PIE ('sink, cause to sink'), combined with the Celtic suffix *-injo- or *-onjo- (used to form place-names). Peter Schrijver has specifically suggested, on these grounds, that the name originally meant 'place that floods (periodically, tidally)'.
In writing, "London" is, on occasion, colloquially contracted to "LDN".[clarification needed] Such usage originated in SMS language, and is often found, on a social media user profile, suffixing an alias or handle.
The 2011 census recorded that 2,998,264 people or 36.7% of London's population are foreign-born making London the city with the second largest immigrant population, behind New York City, in terms of absolute numbers. About 69% of children born in London in 2015 had at least one parent who was born abroad. The table to the right shows the most common countries of birth of London residents. Note that some of the German-born population, in 18th position, are British citizens from birth born to parents serving in the British Armed Forces in Germany.
With increasing industrialisation, London's population grew rapidly throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was for some time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the most populous city in the world. Its population peaked at 8,615,245 in 1939 immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War, but had declined to 7,192,091 at the 2001 Census. However, the population then grew by just over a million between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses, to reach 8,173,941 in the latter enumeration.
However, London's continuous urban area extends beyond the borders of Greater London and was home to 9,787,426 people in 2011, while its wider metropolitan area has a population of between 12 and 14 million depending on the definition used. According to Eurostat, London is the most populous city and metropolitan area of the European Union and the second most populous in Europe. During the period 1991–2001 a net 726,000 immigrants arrived in London.
The region covers an area of 1,579 square kilometres (610 sq mi). The population density is 5,177 inhabitants per square kilometre (13,410/sq mi), more than ten times that of any other British region. In terms of population, London is the 19th largest city and the 18th largest metropolitan region.
Age structure and median age (2018)
Children (aged younger than 14 years) constitute 20.6% of the population in Outer London, and 18% in Inner London; the age group aged between 15 and 24 years is 11.1% in Outer, and 10.2% in Inner London; those aged between 25 and 44 years are 30.6% in Outer London and 39.7% in Inner London; those aged between 45 and 64 years form 24% and 20.7% in Outer and Inner London respectively; while in Outer London those aged 65 and older are 13.6%, though in Inner London just 9.3%.
According to the Office for National Statistics, based on the 2011 Census estimates, 59.8 per cent of the 8,173,941 inhabitants of London were White, with 44.9 per cent White British, 2.2 per cent White Irish, 0.1 per cent gypsy/Irish traveller and 12.1 per cent classified as Other White.
20.9 per cent of Londoners are of Asian and mixed-Asian descent. 19.7 per cent are of full Asian descent, with those of mixed-Asian heritage comprising 1.2 of the population. Indians account for 6.6 per cent of the population, followed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis at 2.7 per cent each. Chinese peoples account for 1.5 per cent of the population, with Arabs comprising 1.3 per cent. A further 4.9 per cent are classified as "Other Asian".
15.6 per cent of London's population are of Black and mixed-Black descent. 13.3 per cent are of full Black descent, with those of mixed-Black heritage comprising 2.3 per cent. Black Africans account for 7.0 per cent of London's population, with 4.2 per cent as Black Caribbean and 2.1 per cent as "Other Black". 5.0 per cent are of mixed race.
As of 2007, Black and Asian children outnumbered White British children by about six to four in state schools across London. Altogether at the 2011 census, of London's 1,624,768 population aged 0 to 15, 46.4 per cent were White, 19.8 per cent were Asian, 19 per cent were Black, 10.8 per cent were Mixed and 4 per cent represented another ethnic group. In January 2005, a survey of London's ethnic and religious diversity claimed that there were more than 300 languages spoken in London and more than 50 non-indigenous communities with a population of more than 10,000. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, in 2010[update], London's foreign-born population was 2,650,000 (33 per cent), up from 1,630,000 in 1997.
The 2011 census showed that 36.7 per cent of Greater London's population were born outside the UK. A portion of the German-born population are likely to be British nationals born to parents serving in the British Armed Forces in Germany. Estimates produced by the Office for National Statistics indicate that the five largest foreign-born groups living in London in the period July 2009 to June 2010 were those born in India, Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Bangladesh and Nigeria.
According to the 2011 Census, the largest religious groupings are Christians (48.4 per cent), followed by those of no religion (20.7 per cent), Muslims (12.4 per cent), no response (8.5 per cent), Hindus (5.0 per cent), Jews (1.8 per cent), Sikhs (1.5 per cent), Buddhists (1.0 per cent) and other (0.6 per cent).
London has traditionally been Christian, and has a large number of churches, particularly in the City of London. The well-known St Paul's Cathedral in the City and Southwark Cathedral south of the river are Anglican administrative centres, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, principal bishop of the Church of England and worldwide Anglican Communion, has his main residence at Lambeth Palace in the London Borough of Lambeth.
Important national and royal ceremonies are shared between St Paul's and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is not to be confused with nearby Westminster Cathedral, which is the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England and Wales. Despite the prevalence of Anglican churches, observance is very low within the Anglican denomination. Church attendance continues on a long, slow, steady decline, according to Church of England statistics.
Notable mosques include the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, which is allowed to give the Islamic call to prayer through loudspeakers, the London Central Mosque on the edge of Regent's Park and the Baitul Futuh of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Following the oil boom, increasing numbers of wealthy Middle-Eastern Arab Muslims have based themselves around Mayfair, Kensington, and Knightsbridge in West London. There are large Bengali Muslim communities in the eastern boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham.
Large Hindu communities are in the north-western boroughs of Harrow and Brent, the latter of which hosts what was, until 2006, Europe's largest Hindu temple, Neasden Temple. London is also home to 44 Hindu temples, including the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London. There are Sikh communities in East and West London, particularly in Southall, home to one of the largest Sikh populations and the largest Sikh temple outside India.
The majority of British Jews live in London, with significant Jewish communities in Stamford Hill, Stanmore, Golders Green, Finchley, Hampstead, Hendon and Edgware in North London. Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London is affiliated to London's historic Sephardic Jewish community. It is the only synagogue in Europe which has held regular services continuously for over 300 years. Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue has the largest membership of any single Orthodox synagogue in the whole of Europe, overtaking Ilford synagogue (also in London) in 1998. The community set up the London Jewish Forum in 2006 in response to the growing significance of devolved London Government.
Cockney is an accent heard across London, mainly spoken by working-class and lower-middle class Londoners. It is mainly attributed to the East End and wider East London, having originated there in the eighteenth century, although it has been suggested that the Cockney style of speech is much older. John Camden Hotten, in his Slang Dictionary of 1859, makes reference to "their use of a peculiar slang language" when describing the costermongers of the East End. Since the turn of the century the Cockney dialect is less common in parts of the East End itself, with modern strongholds including other parts of London and suburbs in the home counties.
Estuary English is an intermediate accent between Cockney and Received Pronunciation. It is widely spoken by people of all classes in London and south-eastern England, associated with the River Thames and its estuary.
Multicultural London English (MLE) is a multiethnolect becoming increasingly common in multicultural areas amongst young, working-class people from diverse backgrounds. It is a fusion of an array of ethnic accents, in particular Afro-Caribbean and South Asian, with a significant Cockney influence.
Received Pronunciation (RP) is the accent traditionally regarded as the standard for British English. It has no specific geographical correlate, although it is also traditionally defined as the standard speech used in London and south-eastern England. It is mainly spoken by upper-class and upper-middle class Londoners.
London is a major global centre of higher education teaching and research and has the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. According to the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, London has the greatest concentration of top class universities in the world and its international student population of around 110,000 is larger than any other city in the world. A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers report termed London the global capital of higher education.
A number of world-leading education institutions are based in London. In the 2021 QS World University Rankings, Imperial College London is ranked #8 in the world, University College London (UCL) is ranked 10th, and King's College London (KCL) is ranked 31st. The London School of Economics has been described as the world's leading social science institution for both teaching and research. The London Business School is considered one of the world's leading business schools and in 2015 its MBA programme was ranked second-best in the world by the Financial Times. The city is also home to three of the world's top ten performing arts schools (as ranked by the 2020 QS World University Rankings): the Royal College of Music (ranking 2nd in the world), the Royal Academy of Music (ranking 4th) and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (ranking 6th).
With Template:HESA student population students in London and around 48,000 in University of London Worldwide, the federal University of London is the largest contact teaching university in the UK. It includes five multi-faculty universities – City, King's College London, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway and UCL – and a number of smaller and more specialised institutions including Birkbeck, the Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmiths, the London Business School, the London School of Economics, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Royal Academy of Music, the Central School of Speech and Drama, the Royal Veterinary College and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Members of the University of London have their own admissions procedures, and most award their own degrees.
A number of universities in London are outside the University of London system, including Brunel University, Imperial College London,[note 4] Kingston University, London Metropolitan University, University of East London, University of West London, University of Westminster, London South Bank University, Middlesex University, and University of the Arts London (the largest university of art, design, fashion, communication and the performing arts in Europe). In addition there are three international universities in London – Regent's University London, Richmond, The American International University in London and Schiller International University.
London is home to five major medical schools – Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry (part of Queen Mary), King's College London School of Medicine (the largest medical school in Europe), Imperial College School of Medicine, UCL Medical School and St George's, University of London – and has many affiliated teaching hospitals. It is also a major centre for biomedical research, and three of the UK's eight academic health science centres are based in the city – Imperial College Healthcare, King's Health Partners and UCL Partners (the largest such centre in Europe). Additionally, many biomedical and biotechnology spin out companies from these research institutions are based around the city, most prominently in White City.There are a number of business schools in London, including the London School of Business and Finance, Cass Business School (part of City University London), Hult International Business School, ESCP Europe, European Business School London, Imperial College Business School, the London Business School and the UCL School of Management. London is also home to many specialist arts education institutions, including the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, Central School of Ballet, LAMDA, London College of Contemporary Arts (LCCA), London Contemporary Dance School, National Centre for Circus Arts, RADA, Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, the Royal College of Art and Trinity Laban.
Primary and secondary education
The majority of primary and secondary schools and further-education colleges in London are controlled by the London boroughs or otherwise state-funded; leading examples include Ashbourne College, Bethnal Green Academy, Brampton Manor Academy, City and Islington College, City of Westminster College, David Game College, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, Leyton Sixth Form College, London Academy of Excellence, Tower Hamlets College, and Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre. There are also a number of private schools and colleges in London, some old and famous, such as City of London School, Harrow, St Paul's School, Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, University College School, The John Lyon School, Highgate School and Westminster School.
Leisure and entertainment
Leisure is a major part of the London economy. A 2003 report attributed a quarter of the entire UK leisure economy to London at 25.6 events per 1000 people. Globally the city is one of the big four fashion capitals of the world, and according to official statistics, it is the world's third-busiest film production centre, presents more live comedy than any other city, and has the biggest theatre audience of any city in the world.
Within the City of Westminster in London, the entertainment district of the West End has its focus around Leicester Square, where London and world film premieres are held, and Piccadilly Circus, with its giant electronic advertisements. London's theatre district is here, as are many cinemas, bars, clubs, and restaurants, including the city's Chinatown district (in Soho), and just to the east is Covent Garden, an area housing speciality shops. The city is the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose musicals have dominated the West End theatre since the late 20th century. The United Kingdom's Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Royal Opera, and English National Opera are based in London and perform at the Royal Opera House, the London Coliseum, Sadler's Wells Theatre, and the Royal Albert Hall, as well as touring the country.
Islington's 1 mile (1.6 km) long Upper Street, extending northwards from Angel, has more bars and restaurants than any other street in the United Kingdom. Europe's busiest shopping area is Oxford Street, a shopping street nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) long, making it the longest shopping street in the UK. Oxford Street is home to vast numbers of retailers and department stores, including the world-famous Selfridges flagship store. Knightsbridge, home to the equally renowned Harrods department store, lies to the south-west.
London is home to designers Vivienne Westwood, Galliano, Stella McCartney, Manolo Blahnik, and Jimmy Choo, among others; its renowned art and fashion schools make it an international centre of fashion alongside Paris, Milan, and New York City. London offers a great variety of cuisine as a result of its ethnically diverse population. Gastronomic centres include the Bangladeshi restaurants of Brick Lane and the Chinese restaurants of Chinatown.
There is a variety of annual events, beginning with the relatively new New Year's Day Parade, a fireworks display at the London Eye; the world's second largest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival, is held on the late August Bank Holiday each year. Traditional parades include November's Lord Mayor's Show, a centuries-old event celebrating the annual appointment of a new Lord Mayor of the City of London with a procession along the streets of the city, and June's Trooping the Colour, a formal military pageant performed by regiments of the Commonwealth and British armies to celebrate the Queen's Official Birthday. The Boishakhi Mela is a Bengali New Year festival celebrated by the British Bangladeshi community. It is the largest open-air Asian festival in Europe. After the Notting Hill Carnival, it is the second-largest street festival in the United Kingdom attracting over 80,000 visitors from across the country.
Literature, film and television
London has been the setting for many works of literature. The pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer's late 14th-century Canterbury Tales set out for Canterbury from London—specifically, from the Tabard inn, Southwark. William Shakespeare spent a large part of his life living and working in London; his contemporary Ben Jonson was also based there, and some of his work, most notably his play The Alchemist, was set in the city. A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) by Daniel Defoe is a fictionalisation of the events of the 1665 Great Plague.
The literary centres of London have traditionally been hilly Hampstead and (since the early 20th century) Bloomsbury. Writers closely associated with the city are the diarist Samuel Pepys, noted for his eyewitness account of the Great Fire; Charles Dickens, whose representation of a foggy, snowy, grimy London of street sweepers and pickpockets has been a major influence on people's vision of early Victorian London; and Virginia Woolf, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the 20th century. Later important depictions of London from the 19th and early 20th centuries are Dickens' novels, and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Also of significance is Letitia Elizabeth Landon's Calendar of the London Seasons (1834). Modern writers pervasively influenced by the city include Peter Ackroyd, author of a "biography" of London, and Iain Sinclair, who writes in the genre of psychogeography.
London has played a significant role in the film industry. Major studios within or bordering London include Twickenham, Ealing, Shepperton, Pinewood, Elstree and Borehamwood, and a special effects and post-production community centred in Soho. Working Title Films has its headquarters in London. London has been the setting for films including Oliver Twist (1948), Scrooge (1951), Peter Pan (1953), The 101 Dalmatians (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), Mary Poppins (1964), Blowup (1966), The Long Good Friday (1980), The Great Mouse Detective (1986), Notting Hill (1999), Love Actually (2003), V For Vendetta (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2008) and The King's Speech (2010). Notable actors and filmmakers from London include; Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, Gary Oldman, Christopher Nolan, Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Keira Knightley and Daniel Day-Lewis. Since 2008, the British Academy Film Awards have taken place at the Royal Opera House. London is a major centre for television production, with studios including BBC Television Centre, The Fountain Studios and The London Studios. Many television programmes have been set in London, including the popular television soap opera EastEnders, broadcast by the BBC since 1985.
Museums, art galleries and libraries
London is home to many museums, galleries, and other institutions, many of which are free of admission charges and are major tourist attractions as well as playing a research role. The first of these to be established was the British Museum in Bloomsbury, in 1753. Originally containing antiquities, natural history specimens, and the national library, the museum now has 7 million artefacts from around the globe. In 1824, the National Gallery was founded to house the British national collection of Western paintings; this now occupies a prominent position in Trafalgar Square.
The British Library is the second largest library in the world, and the national library of the United Kingdom. There are many other research libraries, including the Wellcome Library and Dana Centre, as well as university libraries, including the British Library of Political and Economic Science at LSE, the Central Library at Imperial, the Maughan Library at King's, and the Senate House Libraries at the University of London.
In the latter half of the 19th century the locale of South Kensington was developed as "Albertopolis", a cultural and scientific quarter. Three major national museums are there: the Victoria and Albert Museum (for the applied arts), the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum. The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856 to house depictions of figures from British history; its holdings now comprise the world's most extensive collection of portraits. The national gallery of British art is at Tate Britain, originally established as an annexe of the National Gallery in 1897. The Tate Gallery, as it was formerly known, also became a major centre for modern art. In 2000, this collection moved to Tate Modern, a new gallery housed in the former Bankside Power Station, which was built by the Basel-based architecture firm of Herzog & de Meuron.
London is one of the major classical and popular music capitals of the world and hosts major music corporations, such as Universal Music Group International and Warner Music Group, as well as countless bands, musicians and industry professionals. The city is also home to many orchestras and concert halls, such as the Barbican Arts Centre (principal base of the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus), the Southbank Centre (London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra), Cadogan Hall (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) and the Royal Albert Hall (The Proms). London's two main opera houses are the Royal Opera House and the London Coliseum (home to the English National Opera). The UK's largest pipe organ is at the Royal Albert Hall. Other significant instruments are at the cathedrals and major churches. Several conservatoires are within the city: Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Trinity Laban.
London has numerous venues for rock and pop concerts, including the world's busiest indoor venue, The O2 Arena and Wembley Arena, as well as many mid-sized venues, such as Brixton Academy, the Hammersmith Apollo and the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Several music festivals, including the Wireless Festival, South West Four, Lovebox, and Hyde Park's British Summer Time are all held in London. The city is home to the original Hard Rock Cafe and the Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles recorded many of their hits. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, musicians and groups like Elton John, Pink Floyd, Cliff Richard, David Bowie, Queen, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Small Faces, Iron Maiden, Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Costello, Cat Stevens, The Police, The Cure, Madness, The Jam, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club, Dusty Springfield, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Adam Ant, Status Quo and Sade, derived their sound from the streets and rhythms of London.
London was instrumental in the development of punk music, with figures such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Vivienne Westwood all based in the city. More recent artists to emerge from the London music scene include George Michael's Wham!, Kate Bush, Seal, the Pet Shop Boys, Bananarama, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bush, the Spice Girls, Jamiroquai, Blur, McFly, The Prodigy, Gorillaz, Bloc Party, Mumford & Sons, Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Paloma Faith, Ellie Goulding, One Direction and Florence and the Machine. London is also a centre for urban music. In particular the genres UK garage, drum and bass, dubstep and grime evolved in the city from the foreign genres of house, hip hop, and reggae, alongside local drum and bass. Music station BBC Radio 1Xtra was set up to support the rise of local urban contemporary music both in London and in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Royal Albert Hall hosts concerts and musical events.
Parks and open spaces
A 2013 report by the City of London Corporation said that London is the "greenest city" in Europe with 35,000 acres of public parks, woodlands and gardens. The largest parks in the central area of London are three of the eight Royal Parks, namely Hyde Park and its neighbour Kensington Gardens in the west, and Regent's Park to the north. Hyde Park in particular is popular for sports and sometimes hosts open-air concerts. Regent's Park contains London Zoo, the world's oldest scientific zoo, and is near Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Primrose Hill, immediately to the north of Regent's Park, at 256 feet (78 m) is a popular spot from which to view the city skyline.
Close to Hyde Park are smaller Royal Parks, Green Park and St. James's Park. A number of large parks lie outside the city centre, including Hampstead Heath and the remaining Royal Parks of Greenwich Park to the southeast and Bushy Park and Richmond Park (the largest) to the southwest, Hampton Court Park is also a royal park, but, because it contains a palace, it is administered by the Historic Royal Palaces, unlike the eight Royal Parks.
Close to Richmond Park is Kew Gardens, which has the world's largest collection of living plants. In 2003, the gardens were put on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. There are also parks administered by London's borough Councils, including Victoria Park in the East End and Battersea Park in the centre. Some more informal, semi-natural open spaces also exist, including the 320-hectare (790-acre) Hampstead Heath of North London, and Epping Forest, which covers 2,476 hectares (6,118 acres) in the east. Both are controlled by the City of London Corporation. Hampstead Heath incorporates Kenwood House, a former stately home and a popular location in the summer months when classical musical concerts are held by the lake, attracting thousands of people every weekend to enjoy the music, scenery and fireworks.
Epping Forest is a popular venue for various outdoor activities, including mountain biking, walking, horse riding, golf, angling, and orienteering.
Walking is a popular recreational activity in London. Areas that provide for walks include Wimbledon Common, Epping Forest, Hampton Court Park, Hampstead Heath, the eight Royal Parks, canals and disused railway tracks. Access to canals and rivers has improved recently, including the creation of the Thames Path, some 28 miles (45 km) of which is within Greater London, and The Wandle Trail; this runs 12 miles (19 km) through South London along the River Wandle, a tributary of the River Thames.
Other long-distance paths, linking green spaces, have also been created, including the Capital Ring, the Green Chain Walk, London Outer Orbital Path ("Loop"), Jubilee Walkway, Lea Valley Walk, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk.
St. James's Park lake with the London Eye in the distance
London has hosted the Summer Olympics three times: in 1908, 1948, and 2012, making it the first city to host the modern Games three times. The city was also the host of the British Empire Games in 1934. In 2017, London hosted the World Championships in Athletics for the first time.
London's most popular sport is football and it has six clubs in the English Premier League as of the 2021–22 season: Arsenal, Brentford, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United. Other professional teams in London are AFC Wimbledon, Barnet, Bromley, Charlton Athletic, Dagenham & Redbridge, Fulham, Leyton Orient, Millwall, Queens Park Rangers and Sutton United.
From 1924, the original Wembley Stadium was the home of the English national football team. It hosted the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, with England defeating West Germany, and served as the venue for the FA Cup Final as well as rugby league's Challenge Cup final. The new Wembley Stadium serves exactly the same purposes and has a capacity of 90,000.
Two Premiership Rugby union teams are based in London, Harlequins and London Irish. Ealing Trailfinders, Richmond and Saracens play in the RFU Championship and other rugby union clubs in the city include London Scottish, Rosslyn Park F.C., Westcombe Park R.F.C., and Blackheath F.C.. Twickenham Stadium in south-west London hosts home matches for the England national rugby union team and has a capacity of 82,000 now that the new south stand has been completed.
While rugby league is more popular in the north of England, there are two professional rugby league clubs in London—the London Broncos in the second-tier RFL Championship, who play at the Trailfinders Sports Ground in West Ealing, and the third-tier League 1 team, the London Skolars from Wood Green, Haringey.
One of London's best-known annual sports competitions is the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, held at the All England Club in the south-western suburb of Wimbledon. Played in late June to early July, it is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and widely considered the most prestigious.
London has two Test cricket grounds, Lord's (home of Middlesex C.C.C.) in St John's Wood and the Oval (home of Surrey C.C.C.) in Kennington. Lord's has hosted four finals of the Cricket World Cup and is known as the Home of Cricket. Other key events are the annual mass-participation London Marathon, in which some 35,000 runners attempt a 26.2-mile (42.2 km) course around the city, and the University Boat Race on the River Thames from Putney to Mortlake.
- See also: Independent city § National capitals.
- The London Mayor is not to be confused with the Lord Mayor of London, who heads the City of London Corporation, which administers the City of London.
- According to the European Statistical Agency (Eurostat), London had the largest Larger Urban Zone in the EU. Eurostat uses the sum of the populations of the contiguous urban core and the surrounding commuting zone as its definition.
- Imperial College London was a constituent college of the University of London between 1908 and 2007. Degrees during this time were awarded by the federal university; however, the college now issues its own degrees.
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