|London is the largest city in Europe and a world class tourist destination. Greater London consists of the 33 inner and outer boroughs with over 8 million population. Metropolitan London includes parts of the surrounding counties, bringing the population figure up to 14 million.
There are a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London: The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Maritime Greenwich.
Transport throughout Greater London is provided by by the 12 lines of the Tube (the underground) and a connecting rail system. Unfortunately, most stations have lots of stairs.
Central London is Downtown London. It is composed of numerous districts whose boundaries are shown on the maps below.
Central London's West End is where London's major tourist attractions - Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament. the British Museum, Piccadilly Circus - are located. Hotels in that area are, therefore, very much favored by visitors. The West End Hotel Directory, as well as that of other areas, is arranged by district, permitting easy selection of a hotel in a district whose attractions are particularly appealing. The West End districts are described as follows:
Bloomsbury: Its heart is Russell Square, surrounded by moderately priced hotels. Close by is the British Museum, home of the famous Elgin Marbles. The district is a center of arts and education thanks to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and several colleges and universities.
Covent Garden:Renowned theaters and places of entertainment such as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is where many of the famous Broadway musicals had their London openings.
Holborn: The bastion of the law profession. The Old Bailey Courthouse is located there, steeped in British history and tradition.
Fitzrovia: A mixed residential-business area. Once the center of the furniture trade, it is now the home of many film and media companies. The close to 600ft tall British Telecom Tower on Cleveland Street, built in the 1960s, dominates the landscape. Pollock's Toy Museum occupies two joined together houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Marylebone: A London bedroom community with an abundance of moderately priced hotels.The northern end of Maylebone is a neighborhood called Lisson Grove. At one time it was London's worst crime-ridden slum, the supposed home of Eliza, the heroine of My Fair Lady. Of course, by now, things have much improved. In that area, right next to Regent's Park is London's Central Mosque. Near there, on Baker Street. is the Sherlock Holmes Museum, and, on Marylebone Rd. Madame Tussauds, the wax museum and the Royal Academy of Music.
Mayfair: The most fashionable district of London. It has many posh hotels and homes and upscale shops. It is also close to London landmarks and entertainment centers. Grosvenor Square is the site of the American Embassy and memorials to President Roosevelt and the victims of 9/11
Soho: It had to live down a seedy reputation to become a tourism center for dining and entertainment.
Chinatown is at its southern end, centered about Gerrard Street near Leicester Square. The latter is a pedestrians area, where half price theater tickets are for sale. Nearby is Piccadilly Circus, which is the very busy intersection of several major thoroughfares and the hub of London activity.
St. James's: Famous mansions and offices of large corporations. You will also find here the traditional British Gentlemen's Clubs and Christie's, the renowned auction house.
Westminster: This district is not to be confused with the much larger City of Westminster of which it is part. It contains important landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and Whitehall, the seat of British government. Trafalgar Square is a central location with Nelson's Column commemorating the British naval victory in the Battle of Trafalgar. On the Square are also the National Gallery and the famous church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. .
The Temple:A small area straddling the Cities of London and Westminster. It is another bastion of English law, housing two Inns of Court which are lawyers' organizations with extensive professional responsibilities.
West Central London is not to be confused with the West End. The latter is not an end at all, being east of West Central London. Its various districts are described as follows:
Belgravia: A quiet, highly fashionable residential neighborhood, home of many embassies. Much of the district's real estate is owned by the current Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, one of the richest men in Great Britain.
Bayswater/Paddington:A district with modestly priced accommodations. Paddington has an important railroad terminal that has recently been renovated.
Brompton: Home of many figures in the world of the arts, painters, actors, musicians and writers.
Chelsea: A district with an exciting history as the home of famous artists and music stars. There are magnificent 18th and 19th century buildings and a shopping mecca along King's Road. The annual Chelsea Flower Show is an important social event.
Earls Court: Once an area of cheap rentals. Since then it has been gentrified. There is the Exhibition Center hosting trade shows and concerts.
Holland Park: The district includes a park of the same name that is considered one of the nicest in all of London. The area is one of the most expensive residential neighborhoods and includes a number of embassies.
Kensington: A fashionable shopping area. Nearby Kensington Palace has been the home of royalty.
Knightsbridge: An exclusive area of expensive real estate and the top stores in the world of fashion. There is also Harrods the renowned department store.
Notting Hill: A fashionable neighborhood. It includes the Portobello Road Market which attracts masses of tourists. The Notting Hill Carnival takes place in August every year and is the largest of its kind in Europe.
South Kensington: The district has a number of fine museums, including the Victoria & Albert and the Natural History.
Victoria/Pimlico: Some regard Victoria as a small area around Victoria Station. Others expand it into the adjoining area of Pimlico. To play safe we have combined the two into Victoria/Pimlico. The dominating landmark of the area is Victoria Station, a complex of several important railroad terminals. Large blocks of apartments were constructed there in the last century.
West Brompton: Site of the Finborough Theatre, a noted pioneering playhouse.
South Central London has seen enormous changes in recent years. As a result it has become a major tourist destination. The area's districts are as follows:
Bankside: Here we find the Tate Museum of International Modern and Contemporary Art, the reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and the Bankside Gallery of the Royal Watercolour Society.
Bermondsey: An area of light industry that is changing into a residential neighborhood.
Elephant and Castle: A mall district around two nearby major intersections of thoroughfares. The area is currently in the midst of a major regeneration project.
Lambeth: A small district of the much larger borough of the same name. It is the site of the the Imperial War Museum.
The South Bank: Here we have an impressive selection of cultural and entertainment offerings: The London Eye, a 443 foot high ferris wheel providing a magnificent view of London, the Southbank Centre, consisting of the Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth Halls and the Hayward Arts Gallery, the National Theatre, the London Aquarium, the BFI Imax Cinema, the Garden and Florence Nightingale Museums, the Topolski Century Art Gallery, the London Studios, a giant production facility for the ITV television network.
The Borough: The district has been converting for the last 30 years from light industry to residential.
Waterloo: The heart of this district is London Waterloo Station, a major railroad terminal. Also here is the Old Vic Theatre.