London is the capital of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the seat of the Monarch, Government, Parliament and the Supreme Court and the political, cultural and economic center of the country. It spreads out on both banks of the river Thames in the south-east of the country. It occupies an area of almost 1.6 thousand square kilometers and has 12 million inhabitants. The whole city consists of own City of London and 32 boroughs.
The Celts settled the territory of today’s London as early as 800 years BC, but even earlier the site had been inhabited in the Stone Age. Although the place had been occupied by the Romans in the 1st century BC, only, later, in the 1th century AD did they establish Roman Londonium (the name probably comes from the old Celtic word Llyndum which means “a walled place situated high”). When the Romans left the island in the 5th century, it remained the capital of Britons. It kept its importance during the Anglo-Saxon times and later during the reign of the Danish kings in the 10th and 11th centuries.
During the 12th century reign of Norman kings (William the Conqueror was the first to come in 1066) the royal court moved from Winchester, the former capital, to London forever.
The city continued to grow and flourish and gradually extended beyond its walls to absorb the originally separate Westminster. The 17th century brought much suffering to London. In years 1640-1658 brought out the English Revolution, in which the King Charles I. from Stuart dynasty was behaeded in 1649. In 1666 the Great Fire of London destroyed four fifths of the city. During the following decades hectic building activity rebuilt the whole town.
The port had always been important for the existence of Britain, but during the first three decades of the 19th century it became the biggest in Britain. No until the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) did London acquire its present achitectural appearance. Many public building sprang up, including the larger part of the Houses of Parliament, the Covent Garden Opera House and the Crystal Palace.
German bombing during World War II. caused serious damage especially in the City, though this can’t be noticed nowadays.
Central London is where most of the famous sight are. There are chic chops, theatres, beautiful residental areas, great parks and the famous Trafalgar Square which many Londoners thing of as the center of their city. Near the West End, just to the South, is Westminster, where Buckingham Palace, Parliament and the Government of England are located. Nearby are Kensington and Belgravia, Knightbridge and Chelsea, the most stylish parts of London in which to live.
The Tower of London is the capital’s top tourist attraction. The Tower served till the 16th century as a royal home, a prison, an execution site and an observatory. Now it is a museum where tourists go to see an arsenal of weapons, the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House, the prison where many famous prisoners were kept. Next to the Tower stands Tower Bridge, the most famous and distinctive bridge of London which is raised in the middle to allow ships to pass up the river. The largest and best-known church of the City is St. Paul’s Cathedral. Almost 100 metres above the Houses of Parliament rises the clock tower called Big Ben, one of the best-known of London’s landmarks.