London is the capital and most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south east of the island of Great Britain, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. It was founded by the Romans, who named it Londinium. London's ancient core, the City of London, largely retains its 1.12-square-mile (2.9 km2) medieval boundaries.
Since at least the 19th century, "London" has also referred to the metropolis around this core, historically split between Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Kent, and Hertfordshire, which today largely makes up Greater London, governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
London is a leading global city in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism, and transportation. It is crowned as the world's largest financial centre and has the fifth- or sixth-largest metropolitan area GDP in the world. London is a world cultural capital.
It is the world's most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the world's largest city airport system measured by passenger traffic. London is the world's leading investment destination, hosting more international retailers and ultra-high-net-worth individuals than any other city. London's universities form the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. In 2012, London became the first city to have hosted the modern Summer Olympic Games three times.
London has a diverse range of people and cultures, and more than 300 languages are spoken in the region. Its estimated mid-2015 municipal was 8,673,713 the largest of any city in the European Union and accounting for 12.5% of the UK population.
London's urban area is the second most populous in the EU, after Paris, with 9,787,426 inhabitants at the 2011 census. The city's metropolitan area is the most populous in the EU with 13,879,757 inhabitants while the Greater London Authority states the population of the city-region as 22.7 million. The city-region therefore has a similar land area and population to that of the New York metropolitan area. London was the world's most populous city from around 1831 to 1925.
Madame Tussaud's: Most large towns have waxworks museums, and this is just another one, albeit much bigger. It's a big crowd puller - the queues can be horrendous - but you can pre-book a ticket online and walk jauntily by the unfortunates if you wish.
London Eye: A huge modern version of Vienna's Prater ferris wheel which dominates the river skyline opposite Parliament. Queues were horrendous, but the new ticketing system has improved things markedly.
London Aquarium: If it's just fish you're after then the aquarium in County Hall (vide infra) has great atmosphere and is quite beautiful, with its Easter Island statues immersed in a multi-story pool.
London Zoo: Currently spearheading the cultural transition from 'Zoo' in the Victorian sense to 'Conservation resource' this is still a great way to see animals in their more or less natural environment. Nationally, and internationally it cedes to Chester Zoo, where 'cruelty free captivity' was pioneered.
Changing of The Guard: Happens at all the Royal Palaces so you don't have to endure the crush at Buckingham Palace. Smaller ceremonies are held at St James' Palace and Windsor. Doesn't happen every day at Buckingham Palace and some of the guards regiments are quite dowdy in. But when there's a full ceremony with the regimental band marching out of the Guards' Barracks and the soldiers are dressed in red with full busbees it can be all Pomp and Circumstance.
St Pauls: Built on the site of a Roman Temple to Diana, this impressive part of the London skyline was raised by Sir Christopher Wren in 1697, after the previous one had been destroyed in a the Great Fire of London.
Tower Bridge: it's a real achievement of Victorian engineering, and looks great, especially at night when it's well illuminated. We don't think it's necessary to go inside to appreciate it, though the engines that lift the two drawbridges are a miracle.