One of the trickiest things about moving to the UK is deciding where you and your family will live. It may be only small, but Great Britain has a huge number of cities to choose from!
Over the next few weeks, we'll introduce you to each one, complete with its history, famous peoples, landmarks and dialects. This week, we're kicking off with the most famous of them all - London, the Capital City of England.
"I have sailed the world,
Beheld its wonders
From the Dardanelles,
To the mountains of Peru,
But there's no place like London!"
London is widely acknowledged to have been founded by the Romans after their invasion of the British Isles in AD 43. There is some evidence of settlements in the area before this time, but the Romans are best known as the group who built, expanded and named the town 'Londinium'. 20 years later, Londinium was stormed by the Iceni tribe - led by the famed warrior Queen Boudicca - and burned to the ground. Over the next few hundred years, the settlement would be re-built, abandoned, re-populated and attacked by various invaders until around AD 950, when activity in the area truly began to boom.
By the 11th century, it was by far the largest town in England. Westminster Abbey, rebuilt in the Roman style by King Edward the Confessor, was one of the grandest churches in Europe. In Saxon England (a period between the 5th and 11th centuries) Winchester in the south-east of England was the country's Capital. This changed towards the end of the period - after the Norman invasion of 1066, London became the main forum for foreign traders and a military defence base in time of war.
During the Middle Ages, there were more changes. The town continued to grow in size and housed some of the most important and powerful people in the country. The Royal family, Court and Central Government all spent most of their time in London, predominately in Westminster. In the mid-14th Century, population growth was stunted by the tragedy of the black plague: a disease that succeeded in wiping out almost a third of the London population. Between 1530 and 1605, the population of London more than tripled, as London became the principal North Sea Port.
In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed large areas of the City, which would take over a decade to rebuild. This paved the way for development of luxury areas like Mayfair, new bridges over the River Thames and further improvements to the Port of London, which was by now a bustling centre of maritime trade. The ever-widening use of the printing press gave way for the development of Fleet Street, the famed home of the UK's newspaper press and print industry.
The Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era would see hundreds of thousands flock to London in search of work. By now, the City was a crowded mass of buildings, factories and smoke, with huge communities of both dazzling affluence and abject poverty. As the city grew and became increasingly difficult to navigate, foundations for the London Underground - the world's first underground passenger railway - were established, although the network would not be completed until 20th Century. When Second World War (1939 - 1945) arrived, large areas of London were destroyed by German air-bombing campaigns (otherwise known as the 'London Blitz'). The City was rebuilt after the war, and would be continuously improved and remodelled for decades to come.
London is located in the South East of England. Identifying the exact geography of London can be difficult for those who have never been, as it is so vast in size, and is made up of many areas. Whilst we recognise all of Greater London as just 'London', The City of London is technically only a small metropolitan area in its centre, based on the original ancient settlement. It is within this city that you will find landmarks like the London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral, London Bridge and the Old Bailey. In the borough of Westminster, there is a sizable area known as Chinatown: a popular tourist attraction, it borders Soho to the North and the West End ('Theatreland') to the East and South. For those who hail from China, this haven of Chinese shops, restaurants, businesses and people will surely feel like something of a home away from home.
Outside the centre, London stretches for 606 square miles and is made up of 32 boroughs. The River Thames flows through the area and, for those who love to be beside the sea, the English coast lies just a handful of kilometres to the east of London. The more affluent boroughs of London include Kensington and Chelsea (home of Buckingham Palace), Westminster and Camden - if you've been to London, it's likely that you've visited at least one of these boroughs, as they are all popular tourist destinations.
Less affluent areas like Tower Hamlets and Newham are more prone to crime and, despite boasting their own unique brand of arts, music and culture, are altogether less desirable areas for new residents. According to a survey by the Sunday Times, the best places to live in London for price and atmosphere are Victoria Park (Hackney), Ealing, Bermondsey (Southwark) and Winchmore Hill (Enfield).
Speech & Dialect
As the Nation's capital, London is a hugely diverse city where over 300 languages are spoken.
In terms of English dialect, you may notice that different areas of London approach their spoken English in a different way. The video below is a great example of three of the most common London accents.
It may not come as a surprise that, as the largest City in the UK, London also has the largest number of museums, galleries, theatres and cultural attractions.
For theatre fans, the West End is London's established theatre district - despite only comprising of a handful of streets, the area boasts a whopping 39 theatres, each within walking distance of one another. The West End is also a hub of glitzy celebrity events, as it plays host to film premieres and fashion events throughout the year.
In terms of art galleries, the TATE is a family of four different institutions dotted around the country, with two in the Capital. Each gallery has a different theme: the Tate Britain houses a definitive collection of British art, spanning from 1500 to the modern day, whilst the Tate Modern is a haven of contemporary pieces.
For more information on London's inumerable activities and tourist hotspots, there's a handy guide over at Visit London.
London is a major global centre for higher education, and has the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. According to the QS World University Rankings 2015 - 16, London has the greatest concentration of top class universities in the world, and its international student population of around 110,000 is larger than any other city in the world.
There are also a vast number of brilliant independent schools in London. Many of these schools are old, well-established and high-ranking, such as Harrow, St Paul's School, Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, Highgate School and Westminster School.
If you asked a UK citizen where the best jobs in the UK are, most of them will tell you that London is the place to be. The City of London is one of largest and most illustrious financial centres in the world.
In 2018, the City's gross regional product was almost £500 billion, around a quarter of all UK GDP. There are five major business districts: the City, Westminster, Canary Wharf, Camden & Islington and Lambeth & Southwark. One way to get an idea of their relative importance is to look at how much office space they have. In 2001, Greater London had 27 million square metres of office space, with the tiny area of the City of London boasting a huge 8 million of those square metres. London is also the media centre of the UK, as it is home to the BBC and many other international media brands.
Salaries are higher in London than anywhere else in the UK: however, it is important to note that this is largely due to the fact that the cost of living is also higher. Buying or renting property in London is an expensive venture but - as many would argue - thoroughly worth it.
If you're looking to move to London, we have a huge bank of resources, advice and guidance to offer. Sound good? Book your free consultation with us today and find out how UTT can help you on your UK business and immigration journey!