Ahh, London. Mysterious, singular, ageless and forever changing – once you live here, even for a short time, it becomes a part of you for life.
One of the great things about being a Londoner is that you’re always learning new and interesting facts about London, from stories about the Tower of London to our black cab drivers’ encyclopedic knowledge of the city streets. Alarmingly, many of these facts fly in the face of everything you thought you knew about the city.
Today is London History Day, so in order to celebrate we wanted to explore some of the strange, outrageous and hilarious facts about London that are, nonetheless, absolutely true. Dive into the strange world that we Londoners inhabit every day.
1) London is the smallest city in England
That’s right. The megacity that most of us know as London is actually called ‘Greater London’, whilst the City of London itself is a small portion of this sprawling metropolis. It has a population of only 9,123 people, making it the smallest in England.
2)…and it’s technically a forest
We’ve spoken before about how green the capital is. It’s hard to grasp unless you’ve visited, but the amount of greenery and green space you can enjoy in London is enormous. So much so, in fact, that the density of trees it has per square mile qualifies it as a forest as per the United Nations definition.
3) Over half of the London Underground runs above ground
So really it should be called the Overground. Except we already have an Overground. Ah well, I think I’ll stick to calling it ‘the tube’.
4 ) ‘Big Ben’ isn’t actually called Big Ben
Tourists from all over the world come to stand on Westminster Bridge and take a selfie next to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, not one of them ever leaves with a picture of it. This world-famous landmark is actually named the Elizabeth Tower – Big Ben is the name of the bell that lives inside. So you won’t snap a photo of Big Ben but if you’re lucky you might get to hear it.
5) Rainy London isn’t very rainy
The capital is known worldwide for being a rainy city. Except for the fact, that it’s not true at all. London actually sees less rain than Rome, Miami, and Sydney both in terms of volume and number of rainy days.
6) Most Londoners don’t live in London
Walk the streets of London and most of the people around you probably won’t be ‘true’ Londoners. The resident population of the city of Greater London is just over 8.5 million people. However, the city gets over 16 million visitors every year – a staggering number!
7) It has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai
Even though technically every restaurant in Mumbai is an Indian restaurant, London has so many excellent eateries that it far outweighs its culinary rival. If you want a great curry, you’re better off going to London over India.
8) Traffic hasn’t improved in one-hundred years
If, that is, you’re going by speed of movement across the city. Vehicles driving through the city centre average a top speed of 7.4 miles an hour – about the same speed as a horse and cab. Next time you head out on a trip to the London Eye, we suggest you walk it.
9) You can drive on the right side of the road, which is the wrong side of the road
Everybody knows that English people drive on the left-hand side of the road. However, there is one street in the UK where visitors can get back to their roots. Savoy Court is a road just off the Strand on which drivers are required by law to drive on the right-hand side of the road.
10) Wait, which city are we talking about?
The capital of the UK isn’t the only city in the world called London. The U.S. has ten, Canada one, France one – there is even an asteroid called London. Make sure you know where you’re going next time you book tickets!
For some different ways to explore this remarkable city, take a look at our London Tours page. No matter what you love to do, there’s a little there for everyone.