London is the largest urban area in, and the capital of the United Kingdom. An important settlement for two millennia, London’s history goes back to its founding by the Romans. Since its settlement, London has been part of many important movements and phenomena throughout history, such as the English Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and the Gothic Revival. The city’s core, the ancient City of London, still retains its limited medieval boundaries; but since at least the 19th century the name “London” has also referred to the whole metropolis which has developed around it.
London is the world’s leading business, financial, and one of the worlds leading cultural centers, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion and the arts all contribute to its status as a major global city. London boasts four World Heritage Sites: The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church; the Tower of London; the historic settlement of Greenwich; and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
London’s diverse population draws from a wide range of peoples, cultures, and religions, and over 300 languages are spoken within the city. As of 2006, it has an official population of 7,512,400 within the boundaries of Greater London and is the most populous municipality in the European Union. London will be hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics.
London has a temperate marine climate, like much of the British Isles, so the city rarely sees extremely high or low temperatures.
Summers are warm with average high temperatures of 23°C (73°F) and lows of 14°C (57°F), however, temperatures could exceed 25°C (77°F) on many days. Winters in London are chilly, but rarely below freezing with temperatures around 2 – 8°C (36 – 46°F), while spring has mild days and cool evenings.
London has regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year, with average precipitation of 583.6 mm (22.98 in) every year. Snow is relatively uncommon, particularly because heat from the urban area can make London up to 5 °C (9 °F) hotter than the surrounding areas in winter. Light snowfall, however, is sometimes seen a few times a year, although it is not uncommon to have no snow during the colder months.
The centerpiece of the public transport network is the London Underground—commonly referred to as The Tube—which has eleven interconnecting lines. It is the oldest, longest, and most expansive metro system in the world, dating from 1863. The system was home to the world’s first underground electric line, the City & South London Railway, which began service in 1890. Over three million journeys a day are made on the Underground network, nearly 1 billion journeys each year. The Underground serves the central area and most suburbs to the north of the Thames, while those to the south are served by an extensive suburban rail surface network.
The Docklands Light Railway is a second metro system using smaller and lighter trains, which opened in 1987, serving East London and Greenwich on both sides of the Thames. Commuter and intercity railways generally do not cross the city, instead running into fourteen terminal stations scattered around its historic centre; the exception is the Thameslink route operated by First Capital Connect, with terminus stations at Bedford, Brighton and Moorgate. Since the early 1990s, increasing pressures on the commuter rail and Underground networks have led to increasing demands—particularly from businesses and the City of London Corporation—for Crossrail: a £10 billion east–west heavy rail connection under central London, which was given the green light in early October 2007.
High-speed Eurostar trains link St Pancras International with Lille and Paris in France, and Brussels in Belgium. Journey times to Paris and Brussels of 2h 15 and 1h 51 respectively make London closer to continental Europe than the rest of Britain by virtue of the newly completed High Speed 1 rail link to the Channel Tunnel. From 2009 this line will also allow for high speed domestic travel from Kent into London. The redevelopment of St. Pancras was key to London’s Olympic bid, as the station also serves two international airports through Thameslink, and will also provide direct rail links to the Olympic site at Stratford using British Rail Class 395 trains running under the Olympic Javelin name; these will be based on Japanese Shinkansen high-speed trains.
London’s bus network is one of the biggest in the world, running 24 hours, with 8,000 buses, 700 bus routes, and over 6 million passenger journeys made every weekday. In 2003, the network’s ridership was estimated at over 1.5 billion passenger trips per annum which is more than the Underground. Around £850 m is taken in revenue each year and London has the largest wheelchair accessible network in the world and, from the 3rd quarter of 2007, became more accessible to hearing and visually impaired passengers as audio-visual announcements were introduced. The buses are internationally recognized, and are a trademark of London transport along with black cabs and the Tube.