London/City of London

The City of London, also known as The City, or The Square Mile (after its approximate size), is the area of London that originally lay within the ancient city walls. This independent part of Central London is known for its history and heritage, so is a must for anyone wishing to explore and understand London.

Understand

A dragon marking the boundary of the City

Although greater London grew from this area, the official City of London itself has barely changed its borders in centuries and still follows the line of the old city walls to a great degree. The walls around the city, originally built by the Romans, have largely disappeared but several vestiges are still visible (notably outside the Museum of London; just near the Tower of London; and running part of the way down Noble Street) and various place names and streets hint at their prior existence. Locations such as Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Ludgate and Moorgate are the sites of old gates in the city walls.

The City of London is not a London borough and has an ancient and unusual local governance, with rights and privileges greater than those of anywhere else in the United Kingdom. The local authority is the City of London Corporation and the chief position is the Lord Mayor. Whilst the rest of London has the Metropolitan Police, the City of London has its own police force.

The City of London does not technically include Tower Bridge or the Tower of London (they are in the London borough of Tower Hamlets), but Tower Bridge is owned and operated by the City Corporation. A number of bridges over the River Thames connect the City with Southwark and the two oldest of them, London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, are unusual in that the City of London's boundaries include the whole span of the bridge (the border otherwise runs along the middle of the Thames). Small statues of Dragons (sometimes described as Griffins), symbols of the City Corporation, mark the boundary of the City on several roads.

The Tower of London

The City is the world's leading centre of international finance. In British parlance, The City often refers to the financial sector, just as Americans might refer to Wall Street. This area contains 255 foreign banks, which is more than any other financial centre. It also is home to the Bank of England and houses other institutions such as Lloyd's and the London Stock Exchange. Every weekday approximately 300,000 workers come into the City to work in small and large business and financial institutions.

The City has a very small resident population of approximately 10,000 people. This means the City is very different on a weekend compared to a weekday.

Time your visit. The City is at its busiest during the week thanks to the large influx of workers. On the weekend the City is quieter with pockets of bustling activity – such as the areas around the Tower of London, Liverpool Street and St Paul’s, including the new shopping centre "One New Change" – and not all shops and restaurants are open. This means the weekend is a good time to visit if you want to walk at your own pace, admiring the architecture and character of the streets and buildings. You may also come across the filming of a TV advert, TV programme or even a film at this time.

Tourist Information Centre

The City Information Centre is London's only official tourist information venue. It offers brochures, guides, tickets, maps and more for visitors to the City, and is staffed by a multilingual team. The City Corporation's 'Visiting the City' pages also contain information for visitors, including lists of attractions, events, and walking tours.

Get in

Tower Bridge

From the airport

Underground services are connected to all major London airports, as well as express train services that take you directly to some of the main stations in the centre of London.

By tube

On foot

The City's small and compact nature means travelling on foot is a great way to get around – most attractions are within a short walk of each other. Walking can also help you find many of the City's hidden gems as long as you deviate from the main roads and explore the many alleys and courtyards. The street pattern can be quite chaotic in some parts (being medieval and unplanned) and there are many fun shortcuts and routes that take you away from main roads. However, you can quite easily get lost and miss out interesting features if you're new to the City. Buy and bring a detailed map, or pick up a free one from the City Information Centre!

By train

By boat

An increasingly popular way of travelling through London, by both tourists and residents, is by boat on the Thames itself. The City has two piers from which regular services operate to and from: Blackfriars Millennium Pier (in the west) and Tower Millennium Pier (in the east).

Get around

As with the rest of central London, the City is served by a dense network of underground lines and bus routes. The tube lines that run through the City are the Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and Northern Lines as well as the Docklands Light Railway. The heritage bus route 15 has most of its route in the City. You can ride aboard a vintage Routemaster bus from the Tower of London, west up Cheapside to St Paul's Cathedral, and then down Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street towards the West End, where the route terminates at Trafalgar Square. This can be a very rewarding way to see the City, as the route passes a number of sites of interest. This service functions as a shorter version of the standard bus route 15 and the usual TfL fares are used on it. However, since the City is only around a square mile in area, it is often quicker, easier and cheaper to walk. The Thames Path passes through the City, following the River Thames from the Temple in the west to the Tower of London in the east.

Bank of England

See

The City sustained a great deal of damage from German bombing during the 'Blitz' of World War II, so there are far fewer older buildings than one might expect from so ancient a settlement. The Great Fire of London in 1666 also fairly comprehensively destroyed the City's medieval building stock. Nonetheless, many interesting older buildings remain, including the domed St. Paul's Cathedral (heroically saved by firefighters when it was bombed during the Second World War), nineteenth-century buildings at Leadenhall, Smithfield, and Spitalfields, the Gothic-style Guildhall, many monuments (including one built to remember the Great Fire of London), and the Temple Inns of Court. Remarkably, the City also retains its medieval street pattern, which you do not find so clearly preserved in other large British city centres. You will find many narrow streets, passages, alleys and courtyards between the main thoroughfares.

Landmarks

West portico of St Paul's Cathedral
Tower of London and Tower Bridge

Churches, graveyards and open spaces

The City of London, considering its small size, has a huge number of churches in its area. Some, but by no means all, are listed below.

Museums and Galleries

Other points of interest

Lloyd's of London and The Gherkin

Thanks to the City's association with banking and finance, the City offers some of the most fascinating modern architecture in London. A tour of London's financial institutions and markets is very worthwhile, even if you're not an investment banker. The bad news is that very few of the buildings are open to the public, although some do have "open weekends" at certain times of the year. The annual Open House Weekend – usually held on the third weekend in September, is when many London's most famous buildings (including many of those in the City) are open for public tours.

Do

John Stuttard, Lord Mayor 2006-07, at the Lord Mayor's show

Bus tours

Late night bus tours are a nice way to see the sights around the city in the evening after attending Wikimania.

Buy

One New Change

Although not known for the best shopping opportunities in London (these are securely held by the West End), the City nonetheless has an above average shopping offer, with plenty of high-street names and many smaller independent shops. Lunchtime hours can be very busy, as this is the time when workers shop in their thousands, so it's worth considering avoiding the crowds by visiting at a quieter time. Again, at weekends many outlets may be closed. A number of retail venues stand out:

Places to buy food and any general household goods you may need:

Eat

There are a great many bars, coffee houses, cafes, restaurants and pubs, mainly catering for City workers during the week (and therefore possibly closed at the weekend). Sit down restaurants in this district tend to be expensive and aimed towards business lunches. The vast number of take-away places though are reasonably priced. During the week (in good weather) you can find some outdoor eating areas in places, such as on Walbrook.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

If you're spending more than a few days in London, visiting the area at night (especially around 10PM-11PM) can provide a decidedly un-touristy atmosphere. You'll see part of London life that few people who do not live or work in the City experience, and if you have the confidence to introduce yourself you may even get into conversation with local workers out for a late drink – the area is enough off the tourist route that you will be something of a novelty. Thursday and Friday are naturally busier but at the same time a bit less friendly; earlier in the week is quieter and you have more chance of meeting locals just out for a drink.

Note that some pubs in the City are not open on Saturday or Sunday.

The City has some of the oldest traditional pubs in London, and a host of newer pubs and bars. This list is by no means exhaustive, but there are plenty of online guides available to search for somewhere specific to your tastes.

Pubs

Bars

Clubs

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

As the Barbican is part of the City of London, it is covered by The Cloud’s City WiFi Network. Search for _The Cloud in the available networks. FastConnect App available for smartphones and tablets. Free and unlimited access for all users.

The Barbican's WiFi is also provided by The Cloud and operates in the same way.

Cope

Health

Visitors to the UK are entitled to free emergency treatment on the NHS. However, you may be charged for further hospital care, depending on the nature of the care and your country of origin. Check the NHS website if you need to know more. The nearest medical services are, in ascending order of severity:

As anywhere in the UK, 999 is a multi-purpose emergency phone number. See United_Kingdom#Connect for additional numbers.

Go next

Go south, crossing the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge, to access the central part of South Bank, home to the Tate Modern gallery and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Or head west down Fleet Street then Strand towards Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square or to Westminster, home of the British government and royal family.

Routes through City of London

Bloomsbury-Soho Holborn-Clerkenwell  W  E  East End East London
Bloomsbury-Camden Holborn-Clerkenwell ← north side of loop  W  E  Continues on south side of loop
Westminster Holborn-Clerkenwell ← south side of loop  W  E  Continues on north side of loop
Westminster Holborn-Clerkenwell  W  E  East End East London
Bloomsbury-Camden Holborn-Clerkenwell  W  E  East End East London
Bloomsbury-Camden Holborn-Clerkenwell  W  E  END
Bloomsbury Holborn-Clerkenwell  N  S  South Bank South London
END South Bank  W  E  END
END  W  E  East End East London / Greenwich / Southwark-Lewisham


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, February 09, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.