London is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the most populous region, urban zone and metropolitan area in the United Kingdom and, until Brexit, was the most populous in the European Union. Standing on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its founding by the Romans, who named it Londinium. London's ancient core, the City of London, largely retains its mediaeval boundaries and in 2011 had a resident population of 7,375, making it the smallest city in England. Since at least the 19th century, the term London has also referred to the metropolis developed around this core. The bulk of this conurbation forms the London region and the Greater London administrative area, governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich (in which the Royal Observatory, Greenwich marks the Prime Meridian, 0° longitude, and GMT). Other famous landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, and The Shard. London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting events and other cultural institutions, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, British Library and 40 West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world.
- London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.
- Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography (2000).
- Ah! my poor dear child, the truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.
- Lo, where huge London, huger day by day,
O'er six fair counties spreads its hideous sway.
- Alfred Austin, The Golden Age: A Satire (London: Chapman and Hall, 1871), p. 66.
- London is a bad habit one hates to lose.
- Anonymous popular saying, as quoted by William Sansom in, Blue Skies, Brown Studies, Hogarth press, (1961).
- As I came down the Highgate Hill
I met the sun's bravado,
And saw below me, fold on fold,
Grey to pearl and pearl to gold,
This London like a land of old,
The land of Eldorado.
- Henry Howarth Bashford (1880-1961), English physician and writer. London, from Romances (1917).
- I've been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day.
- I have often amused myself with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They, whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit, view it only through that medium. A politician thinks of it merely as the seat of government in its different departments; a grazier, as a vast market for cattle; a mercantile man, as a place where a prodigious deal of business is done upon 'Change; a dramatick [sic] enthusiast as the grand scene of theatrical entertainments; a man of pleasure, as an assemblage of taverns, and the great emporium for ladies of easy virtue. But the intellectual man is struck with it as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.
- James Boswell (1740-95), from Life of Samuel Johnson (1795).
- London is a splendid place to live in for those who can get out of it.
- George Bruce, 7th Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The Observer (UK newspaper), Sayings of the Week, 1st October 1944.
- A mighty mass of brick, and smoke, and shipping,
Dirty and dusty, but as wide as eye
Could reach, with here and there a sail just skipping
In sight, then lost amidst the forestry
Of masts; a wilderness of steeples peeping
On tiptoe through their sea-coal canopy;
A huge, dun cupola, like a foolscap crown
On a fool's head—and there is London Town.
- After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year. There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? Were we down-hearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered.
- I don't know what London's coming to—the higher the buildings the lower the morals.
- Noël Coward (1899-1973), English playwright and actor. 'Law and Order', Collected Sketches and Lyrics.
- Cockney feet
Mark the beat of history
Pins a memory down.
Nothing ever can quite replace
The grace of London Town.
- Noël Coward (1899-1973), English playwright and actor. 'London Pride' (1941).
- London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.
- Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), British author. As stated by Dr. Watson, in A Study in Scarlet, Part 1. Ch. 1. (1887).
- London, thou art the flour of cities all!
- William Dunbar (1460?-1520?), London.
- London always reminds me of a brain. It is similarly convoluted and circuitous. A lot of cities, especially American ones like New York and Chicago, are laid out in straight lines. Like the circuits on computer chips, there are a lot of right angles in cities like this. But London is a glorious mess. It evolved from a score or so of distinct villages, that merged and meshed as their boundaries enlarged. As a result, London is a labyrinth, full of turnings and twistings just like a brain.
- James Geary, American journalist, author and aphorist. 'On London', All Aphorisms, All The Time. (James Geary website, 2009).
- London was nothing like Tokyo, where the past, all that remained of it, was nurtured with a nervous care…Here it seemed the very fabric of things, as if the city were a single growth of stone and brick, uncounted strata of message and meaning, age upon age, generated over the centuries to the dictates of some now-all-but-unreadable DNA of commerce and empire.
- Shorts, she thinks, drawing abreast of this trio, are somehow always wrong in London.
- Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I love London so;
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I think of her wherever I go.
I get a funny feeling inside of me,
Just walking up and down;
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I love London town.
- London doesn't love the latent or the lurking, has neither time, nor taste, nor sense for anything less discernible than the red flag in front of the steam-roller. It wants cash over the counter and letters ten feet high.
- Henry James, The Awkward Age (1899), Book I, Ch. 2.
- London acquired a deserved reputation as the greatest city on earth, a great jiving funkapolitan melting-pot, where, provided you did nothing to damage the interests of others and provided you obeyed the law, you could make of your life pretty much what you wanted. And that’s why we lead in all those creative and cultural sectors and that’s why we have the best universities. Because the best minds from across the world are meeting in some of the best pubs and bars and nightclubs, like subatomic particles colliding in a cyclotron. And they are producing those flashes of innovation that are essential for long term economic success.
- Boris Johnson's speech to the Conservative party conference, 2nd October 2016
- By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.
- You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
- Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.
- London faces its toughest Christmas since the war and the whole city will need to pull together to see us through this terrible period
- Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London , London's mayor: Government made 'irresponsible promises' about Christmas December 19, 2020
- Home of the Cockney and postwar socialism, London is no longer a city of aspiration for the working and middle classes; it now exists mainly for investors, their student offspring, and highly educated professionals who are taking over the traditional blue-collar areas like Hackney. Today only three of the city's thirty-two boroughs are affordable for people of median income. While many of the world's richest people live in London, four of its boroughs rank among the twenty poorest in England, and 27 percent of the city's population live in poverty. London's polarized economic landscape is typical of "superstar" cities. Other leading cities of Europe—Oslo, Amsterdam, Athens, Budapest, Madrid, Prague, Riga, Stockholm, Tallinn, Vienna, Vilnius—also suffer widening gaps between the top and the bottom of the social hierarchy.
- Joel Kotkin, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020), p. 133
- Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life. I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others – that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail. In the days that follow, look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential. They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
- We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives. And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub. So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city.
- The London News Review, "A Letter To The Terrorists, From London" (7 July 2005).
- I see you, London. Heathrow, immune from change during long spells of absence, oblivious to the distance of lovers, you seem to welcome me back with no less warmth than when I left. I see you, London. How I despised you and loved you. How I hated everything you stood for, and yet when deprived of your familiarity, your openness, how I missed you miserably. At once head of the colonial snake that poisoned my people and snared my lands, yet also bastion of justice, rule of law, and fair play. And even now, as I rush to embrace you again, your boots stamp on my people in Iraq and Afghanistan, while I know that my boots are nowhere safer than resting on your green parks. Why do you confuse me so, beating me with one hand while drying my tears with the other? How I tried for thirteen years to rip you out of my soul, to deny you, to bury you, but how I've longed for you to claim me from the hell that I just returned from. London, I see you.
- Maajid Nawaz, Radical: My Journey out of Islamic Extremism (2013), p. 199
- Spending the night out of doors has nothing attractive about it in London, especially for a poor, ragged, undernourished wretch. Moreover sleeping in the open is only allowed in one thoroughfare in London. If the policeman on his beat finds you asleep, it is his duty to wake you up. That is because it has been found that a sleeping man succumbs to the cold more easily than a man who is awake, and England could not let one of her sons die in the street. So you are at liberty to spend the night in the street, providing it is a sleepless night. But there is one road where the homeless are allowed to sleep. Strangely, it is the Thames Embankment, not far from the Houses of Parliament. We advise all those visitors to England who would like to see the reverse side of our apparent prosperity to go and look at those who habitually sleep on the Embankment, with their filthy tattered clothes, their bodies wasted by disease, a living reprimand to the Parliament in whose shadow they lie.
- George Orwell, "Beggars in London", in Le Progrès Civique (12 January 1929), translated into English by Janet Percival and Ian Willison
- During part of 1941 and 1942, when the Luftwaffe was busy in Russia, the German radio regaled its home audience with stories of devastating air raids on London. Now, we are aware that those raids did not happen. But what use would our knowledge be if the Germans conquered Britain? For the purpose of a future historian, did those raids happen, or didn't they? The answer is: If Hitler survives, they happened, and if he falls they didn't happen. So with innumerable other events of the past ten or twenty years. Is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion a genuine document? Did Trotsky plot with the Nazis? How many German aeroplanes were shot down in the Battle of Britain? Does Europe welcome the New Order? In no case do you get one answer which is universally accepted because it is true: in each case you get a number of totally incompatible answers, one of which is finally adopted as the result of a physical struggle. History is written by the winners.
- To the person who has anything to conceal — to the person who wants to lose his identity as one leaf among the leaves of a forest — to the person who asks no more than to pass by and be forgotten, there is one name above others which promises a haven of safety and oblivion. London. Where no one knows his neighbour. Where shops do not know their customers. Where physicians are suddenly called to unknown patients whom they never see again. Where you may lie dead in your house for months together unmissed and unnoticed till the gas inspector comes to look at the meter. Where strangers are friendly and friends are casual. London, whose rather untidy and grubby bosom is the repository of so many odd secrets. Discreet, incurious and all-enfolding London.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, Unnatural Death (1927), Chapter 17
- You are now
In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow
At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more.
Yet in its depth what treasures!
- Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), British poet. From a letter to Maria Gisborne, 1820.
- How different was my arrival in London from that to which I had been accustomed for many years past! In the capitals and most of the other towns of the Latin Republics the governors and mayors and the town bands were at the station to accord me a ceremonial welcome, as though I were a queen or a foreign representative of high rank. But chilly London!
- Luisa Tetrazzini, My Life of Song (1921): quoted in The Oxford Companion to Music by Percy A. Scholes (1955).
- I don't want to go to London, I told you I don't care. I don't want to go to London: To live there, I don't want to go to London.
- At one end, then, the London Corresponding Society reached out to the coffee-houses, taverns and Dissenting Churches of Piccadilly, Fleet Street, and the Strand, where the self-educated journeyman might rub shoulders with the printer, the shopkeeper, the engraver or the young attorney. At the other end, to the east, and south of the river, it touched those older working-class communities—the waterside workers of Wapping, the silk-weavers of Spitalfields, the old Dissenting stronghold of Southwark. For 200 years “Radical London” had always been more heterogeneous and fluid in its social and occupational definition than the Midlands or Northern centres grouped around two or three staple industries. Popular movements in London have often lacked the coherence and stamina which results from the involvement of an entire community in common occupational and social tensions. On the other hand, they have generally been more subject to intellectual and “ideal” motivations. A propaganda of ideas has had a larger audience than in the North. London Radicalism early acquired a greater sophistication from the need to knit diverse agitations into a common movement. New theories, new arguments, have generally first effected a junction with the popular movement in London, and travelled outwards from London to the provincial centres.
- E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1963), pp. 20-21
- We looked o'er London, where men wither and choke,
Roofed in, poor souls, renouncing stars and skies,
And lore of woods and wild wind prophecies,
Yea, every voice that to their fathers spoke.
- You've got the temperament of a scholar, and you live on your own and write books. You don't have anything to do with civilization. You've been in London a few days and you can't wait to get back home. But how about the people who can't write books -- people there's no outlet for in this civilization? What about your new men who don't know what to do?
- Colin Wilson in The Glass Cage (1966), p. 200
- I love this great polluted place
Where popstars come to live their dreams
Here ravers come for drum and bass
And politicians plan their schemes
The music of the world is here
The city can play any song
They came to here from everywhere
'Tis they that made the city strong
- Benjamin Zephaniah, The London Breed (1998).
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 462.
- As I came down the Highgate Hill,
The Highgate Hill, the Highgate Hill,
As I came down the Highgate Hill
I met the sun's bravado,
And saw below me, fold on fold,
Grey to pearl and pearl to gold,
This London like a land of old,
The land of Eldorado.
- Henry Bashford, Romances.
- Veni Gotham, ubi multos,
Si non omnes, vidi stultos.
- I came to Gotham, where I saw many who were fools, if not all.
- Richard Brathwait, Drunken Barnaby's Journal.
- London is the clearing-house of the world.
- Joseph Chamberlain, speech, Guildhall, London (Jan. 19, 1904).
- If the parks be "the lungs of London" we wonder what Greenwich Fair is—a periodical breaking out, we suppose—a sort of spring rash.
- Charles Dickens, Greenwich Fair.
- London is the epitome of our times, and the Rome of to-day.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits, Result.
- He was born within the sound of Bow-bell.
- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia.
- London! the needy villain's general home,
The common sewer of Paris and of Rome!
With eager thirst, by folly or by fate,
Sucks in the dregs of each corrupted state.
- Samuel Johnson, London, line 93.
- Then in town let me live, and in town let me die
For I own I can't relish the country, not I.
If I must have a villa in summer to dwell,
Oh give me the sweet shady side of Pall Mall.
- Captain Morris, The Contrast.
- The way was long and weary,
But gallantly they strode,
A country lad and lassie,
Along the heavy road.
The night was dark and stormy,
But blithe of heart were they,
For shining in the distance
The lights of London lay.
O gleaming lights of London, that gem of the city's crown;
What fortunes be within you, O Lights of London Town!
- George R. Sims, song in Lights of London.
- The lungs of London.
- William Windham, referring to the parks of London in a debate in House of Commons (June 30, 1808), attributes it to Lord Chatham.