Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abbey. Trafalgar Square. The Tate Modern. From historic to modern to up-and-coming, cultural to recreational, the attractions in London have made this amazing city one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. From world-changing events such as the English Reformation and the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and the Beatles' "British Invasion," London has and continues to make waves as a center for culture, politics and commerce, envied by cities across the globe that continuously strive to emulate its iconic style.
Between 1831 and 1925, London's population skyrocketed, due to its expanding railways and rapid industrialization; it was then the world's largest city. Though it no longer holds that title, Greater London is home to over eight million people, with a total of more than 15 million people residing in the metropolitan area. At 1,577 square kilometers, London is the 37th largest urban area in the world, defined most notably in its geography by the Thames River, which runs across the city from the west to the east.
Walking the streets of London, guests will experience a diverse range of architectural styles, though most buildings trace their roots to the Georgian, Edwardian or Victorian periods. From red bricks to stucco to limestone, the face of London is an attractive mix of traditions with modern twists. Many of its traditional landmarks, such as St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, however, still dominate the skyline, due to strict regulations on building heights.
Just as its architecture is a melange of styles, the city itself is a veritable melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. One of the most cosmopolitan capitals in the world, London can claim that over 300 languages are spoken in the city. About 31 percent of the population is foreign-born, with residents hailing from India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia and Germany, among many others. Home to the Houses of Parliament, the city is governed by the Mayor of London and it contains 32 Boroughs, each with its own local government.
With its historic past, it's no surprise that London boasts a dizzying array of cultural attractions. Watch the popular Changing of the Guards held throughout the year at Buckingham Palace. Stroll the 487 acres of Regent's Park, making stops at the indoor and outdoor activity center "The Hub" and the Queen Mary's Rose Garden. Or, take the entire city in from the views atop the 135-meter-tall London Eye. So as not to risk missing a single hotspot, attraction or landmark, guests can grab a seat on the Original Tour's iconic red double-decker buses, which make stops at over 90 locations across the city.
Over the years London has loosened its collar somewhat; today, a vibrant nightlife, theater, shopping and dining scenes complement the traditional historic and cultural attractions. Guests can indulge in some traditional fare, such as the classic "Fish and Chips," deep-fried fish with French fries dressed in malt vinegar, or one of many pies or puddings from steak and kidney pie to "Shepherds' Pie," a minced lamb, made with vegetable and mashed potato. (Rules, the oldest restaurant in the capital, is the place to savor some of these traditional favorites.) True to its diverse population, London also boasts a wide range of international fare - from Lebanese at Al Waha, Ethiopian at Lalibela, Japanese at Ubon to Turkish at Gallipoli. Guests can also leave it to the experts, opting to stop by one of the several recipients of Michelin stars, the oldest and best-known restaurant guide rating in Europe, such as Pied a Terre, Wild Honey, La Trompette and Hibiscus.