London overview

London: The Original Trendsetter, Reborn to Perfection, Again and Again

As Vivienne Westwood once said: “There’s no place like London.” Here, dreams do come true, and in the wildest and most imaginative ways possible.

Luke Abrahams
12 May 2023

London – there’s no city quite like it in the world. The capital of the United Kingdom and one of the most important financial hubs on the planet. Its humble beginnings as an early settlement for hunter-gatherers is a far cry from what it is today - a buzzing megalopolis of epic proportions. Today it continues its reputation as one of the world’s leading cities in the arts, entertainment, fashion, and finance.

London is the original trendsetter

London is wonderfully open-minded, and that’s what I love about it most. That said, it’s important to understand that it’s home to so many amazing groups of people from all over the world. Manners and respect will get you a long way. And if you don’t know or are unsure about something, ask us. We are a friendly bunch.

London is a deeply cosmopolitan city. Here, you can be anyone you want to be, and the opportunities to broaden your horizons are simply endless, thanks to a leading medley of global powerhouses, from the worlds of entertainment to the arts, sciences, and literature. In a nutshell, this bustling self-proclaimed capital of the world is a trendsetter.

London is where cultures collide

300 languages are spoken in London, making it one of the most culturally diverse capitals on the planet. From students and businesspeople to workers in all trades, almost 9 million people call the place home and have shaped the capital into what it is today.

London is home to the world, quite literally

English is the national (and most commonly spoken) language in the city. With such a diverse population, though, it’s common to hear many tongues spoken in this part of the world, from Gujarati to Polish, Italian to French, Turkish to Urdu, and much more.

London is a place where all faiths are practiced peacefully and respectfully

London has traditionally been Christian and is home to a large number of churches and famous cathedrals, which are dotted around the capital. That said, the city is one of the most religiously diverse on the planet and as a result, mosques, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist temples, synagogues, and numerous other places of worship co-exist peacefully.

Know your etiquette before visiting the British capital

Be careful when photographing

On the Tube, avoid taking photos, especially of people, and be mindful of your surroundings as pickpockets are a common problem on the Underground.

While London is arguably one of the most liberal cities on earth, there are a few things worth knowing before you visit. The British are all about manners, especially the older generations. Speaking loudly, leaning your elbows on the table, and eating with your mouth open are considered rude. The rules are generally unwritten and passed down unspoken from generation to generation, but overall, good manners and tight lips will serve you well in the city. Certain topics of conversation, especially anything personal or taboo, can also be frowned upon. Pushing in line is also a major no-no.

London is a leading global powerhouse and major financial hub

As one of the world’s major global hubs, London exerts an immense amount of authority and influence on the arts, fashion, entertainment, commerce, health care, medical, travel, tech, and science industries. It is the largest urban economy in Europe and, after New York, is the biggest financial center on the entire planet.

A brief journey in time

The ancient Romans are mostly responsible for what the city is today. Around 43 A.D., they founded the port settlement of Londinium, and just a few years later, the original London Bridge was built across the River Thames to help boost commerce and act as a gateway for incoming troops. That all changed, however, when Celtic Queen Boudica burned the city to the ground in a bloody siege that was one of the first of many great fires to destroy the capital.

Years passed and the city was eventually rebuilt, and after the fall of the Roman Empire was mercilessly attacked by the Vikings before it was eventually left to rot. With the help of Benedictine monks and the establishment of Westminster Abbey in 1065, London’s fortunes began to change. After William the Conqueror successfully won the Battle of Hastings, he was crowned King of England – during his reign, London was transformed from a weary wasteland into a thriving city with the construction of a new London Bridge made of stone and perhaps the world’s most famous prison, the Tower of London. Fast forward a few centuries to the royal Tudor and Stuart dynasties, and London was nearly unrecognizable. The city nearly tripled in size, and by the time the infamous Henry VIII became King of England, the population had grown to nearly 100,000.

After religious tensions grew between the Protestants and Catholics and Guy Fawkes had tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, catastrophe struck once again with the Great Plague killing hundreds of thousands in 1665. A year later, the Great Fire of London reduced the entire city to ashes. 200 or so years afterwards, it was Queen Victoria who oversaw the transformation of the city to the seat of the British Empire during her reign from 1837 to 1901. The Industrial Revolution transformed the city into a global powerhouse of culture and commerce. Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) was constructed, the London Underground opened as the world’s first subway system, and the introduction of the railways saw Britain grow into a global industrial superpower.

Then came the two World Wars. The Blitz saw much of the old city bombed to rubble. In its aftermath, London experienced a building boom that turned it into the grand mishmash of architecture it is today. Under the scepter of Queen Elizabeth II, modern British life was born, as cultures diversified, cuisines evolved, and different languages emerged. And with the economic boom of the 1980s, London quickly became a leading financial powerhouse, which transformed the landscape from terraced townhouses, palaces, and stately homes to towering skyscrapers.

The must-knows before visiting London

A little research will take you a long way in London.

London is very diverse, so it’s good to be mindful that you will encounter all walks of life and cultures when you visit. Some neighborhoods in particular are famous for being home to particular gangs, so if you plan on venturing out of the city, read up on the locale before you go.

Come rush hour, stand on the right and walk on the left. This will help you avoid any upset during your journey.

While London is a safe city and the risk of violent crime is low, it’s worth planning out your excursions to avoid wandering alone – especially if you’ve had a fun night out.

Let others know where you will be if you’re going out alone, and stay aware of your surroundings. Prudent planning and self-awareness are the best way to stay safe and have a great adventure in a new city – regardless of where you travel.

About the author

Luke AbrahamsLuke Abrahams is a London-based freelance journalist specializing in news, luxury lifestyle, and travel features. Luke was previously the features social media editor at the London Evening Standard. His work has appeared in more than 25 U.K. and U.S. publications, including British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, The Times, Town & Country, The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out, House & Garden, Suitcase, Elite Traveler, Insider, and more. So far, Luke has visited 82 countries. His favorite is Italy, and it always will be.