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London was not built as a city in the same way as Paris or New York. It began life as a Roman fortification at a place where it was possible to cross the River Thames. A wall was built around the town for defence, but during the long period of peace which followed the Norman Conquest, people built outside the walls.

In 1665 there was a terrible plague in London, so many people left the city and escaped to the villages in the surrounding countryside. In 1666 the Great Fire of London ended the plague, but it also destroyed much of the city. Although people returned to live in the rebuilt city after the plague and the Great Fire, there were never again so many Londoners living in the city centre.

London does not have just one centre, it has a number of centres, each with a distinct character: the financial and business centre called the City, the shopping and entertainment centre in the West End, the government centre in Westminster.


The City refer to a small area east of the centre, which includes the site of the original Roman town. It is the centre of trade and commerce.


The City of London is one of the major banking centres of the world and you can find the banks of many nations in the famous Threadneedle Street and the surrounding area. Here, too, you will find the Bank of England. Lloyds is the most famous insurance company in the world.


The centre of the country's judicial system is to be found in the western part of the City. The Old Bailey houses many courts and some of Britain's most famous murder trials have taken place here. Many solicitors and barristers have their offices (called 'chambers') nearby, particularly in the area known as the 'Temple'. All criminal trials in Britain are held before a judge and a jury consisting of twelve ordinary people. It is the jury, not the judge, who decides if a person is guilty or not. An accused person is considered innocent until proved guilty.


Fleet Street is famous as the home of the nation's newspapers but, in fact, only two of them - The Daily Express and The Daily Telegraph - are still in Fleet Street. However, people still say 'Fleet Street' to mean 'the press'. The British are a nation of newspaper readers.


St Paul's Cathedral was designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married there in July. When we are a London this Cathedral was closed.


The Tower of London was first built by William the Conqueror more than 900 years ago, and was famous as a prison. Two queens were executed here, and two princes murdered.


The West End is the name given to the area of central London north from The Mall to Oxford Street. It includes Trafalgar Square, the main shopping areas of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, and the entertainment centres of Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Shaftesbury Avenue.


Trafalgar Square was built early in the last century to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar. Admiral Lord nelson's statue stands on top of a column in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Behind Nelson's Column is the National Gallery, an art gallery in which you can find many old masters.


Leicester Square is a place to spend money, not to linger: street entertainers cry out for your small change, the mega-cinemas urge you to drop a few quid on the latest Schwarzenegger or Spielberg, the booth of the Society of West End Theatres pulls the queues for its half-price deals and touts haggle with hapless tourists over the price of dodgy tickets for the top shows.


Most of London's big department stores are in Oxford Street and Regent Street. In January and July, there are so many people that it is difficult to move and it is usually safer to go in the direction of the majority.


Piccadilly Circus is the centre of night life in the West End. It is actually quite small, and most people are rather disappointed when they see it for the first time because they had imagined it would be much bigger! (The Trocadero, in Piccadilly Circus, is the biggest and brightest entertainment centre in Europe).


To the north of Piccadilly Circus is Soho, which has been the foreign quarter of London since the 17th century. Now it has restaurants offering food from a variety of different countries, especially Chinese and Italian ones, as well as 'adult' entertainment.

London is famous for its live theatre, and there are over thirty theatres within a square mile. Naturally there is a great variety of shows to choose from; 'whodunnits', opera, musicals, drama, comedies and so on.


Chinatown, concentrated off the north side of the square in the roads around Gerrard Street, is a self-contained jumble of food shops, restaurants and booksellers, only slightly marred by ersatz touches such as the telephone kiosks rigged out as odas. Always worth a visit, the area is especially lively during the Chinese New Year celebrations (late Jan or early Feb), when residents greet the huge papier maché lions that dance through the streets.


To the northeast of Trafalgar Square lies Covent Garden, formerly the capital's main fruit and vegetable market, now an upbeat shopping area revolving round the sensitively preserved market building on Covent Garden piazza.


North of here, past stylish Floral Street, Neal Street brings you to the edge of Bloomsbury, an area of leafy squares, elegant town houses and intriguing old bookshops. Home to Britain's largest university, the University of London, and its most prestigious museum, the British Museum, the district has long been a magnet for artists and writers, from Dickens through Marx and Lenin to the upper-class Oxbridge-educated gang known as the Bloomsbury Set, who clustered round such luminaries as Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey and John Maynard Keynes.



Opposite the Houses of Parliament stands Westminster Abbey. A church has stood here since Saxon times when, in the year 750 AD., a Benedictine Abbey was founded. It was known as West Monastery (Westminster), from its position 3 miles (five kilometres) west of London's centre.

In Westminster Abbey you can't speak if you aren't a guide. There are tombs of Kings.


The most important building, but not the most beautiful, is Buckingham Palace, which is the official residence of the Queen.


The Houses of Parliament stands on the site of a palace built by Edward the Confessor.

The old palace burned down in 1834, and save for a few pieces buried deep within the interior, everything else is the work of Charles Barry, who won the subsequent competition to create something that expressed national greatness through the use of Gothic and Elizabethan styles. The resulting orgy of honey-coloured pinnacles, turrets and tracery, somewhat restrained by the building's blocky symmetry, is the greatest achievement of the Gothic Revival.

Although it's not the highest of the three towers, the landmark of the Houses of Parliament is the ornate clock tower known as Big Ben, although that's in fact the name of its thirteen-ton main bell. The massive clock looks particularly impressive at night, with the clock-face lit up; if Parliament is in session another light burns above the face.


Tower Bridge is just over a hundred years old, yet it ranks with Big Ben as the most famous of all London landmarks. Its neo-Gothic towers support a roadway that is still occasionally raised to allow tall ships access to the upper reaches of the Thames.

You can see: St. Catherine Docks, Millennium Air (ruota), Tower of London, Big Ben, Thames, Lloyd.


The street called Whitehall stretches from Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square.

Just a Westminster or the Palace of Westminster frequently stands for the Houses of Parliament, so Whitehall is often used as a name for the Civil Service.

Downing Street, which is a small side street off Whitehall, is the home of the Prime Minister, who lives at number ten; at number eleven lives the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is responsible for financial ning and the British economy.

In Whitehall are all the important ministries: the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the Treasury.


There are royal palaces, royal parks and colourful ceremonies.

The most important building, but not the most beautiful, is Buckingham Palace, which is the official residence of the Queen.


It overlooks St James's Park where the previous royal residence, St James's Palace, can be found. Running through the park, from Trafalgar Square to the front of Buckingham Palace is The Mall.

St James's Park is one of ten royal parks in and around London which are owned by the Crown but are open to the public free of charge.



Hyde Park (Speakers' Corner) was originally a hunting forest and is still popular with horseriders. This park is near HARRODS.


Regent's Park is now the home of London Zoo, and an open air theatre which delights summer audiences with performances of Shakespeare's plays.

This park is near MADAME TAUSSAUD'S.



It is an exclusive part of London where you can find many foreign embassies, large, glamorous hotels, and the department store that is the symbol of expensive and high-class living Harrods. You can buy anything in Harrods, including wild animals.

Harrods is not the only attraction here; there is the Albert Hall, where there is a festival of popular classical music concerts every summer known as 'the Proms'.


Three of London's most interesting museums - the Victoria and Albert, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum - are also in this area.

The Natural History Museum has exhibits of birds, animals and reptiles as well as life-size reconstructions of prehistoric animals. The Victoria and Albert was founded with the aim of improving design in British manufacturing. The Science Museum it covers every aspect of science and technology, and the collections are constantly being moved round to make room for new acquisitions. In many of the rooms there are machines and computers that visitors can work themselves.

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