s -- and even some resident
s -- are not aware that
is actually composed of two cities
, as well as
31 regional boroughs
. The two cities are those of
, which contains many familiar
destinations such as the Houses of Parliament
and Trafalgar Square
, as well as consumer
s such as Soho
, Oxford Street
and Covent Garden
The City of London -- more commonly referred to simply as "the City" --
is a different beast altogether. This is the powerhouse of the
British economy and the financial centre of Europe: only
Wall Street is more important in world economic terms. The City
comprises pretty much the area that was once surrounded by the old
Roman and Medieval city walls which is a comparatively small
geographic area, a fact indicated by its other nickname
"The Square Mile".
But what a square mile. The main streets still follow the routes
set out by the Romans 2000 years ago, and although the old city walls
are long gone, it's still possible to view their approximate
positions on any map. Relics of the area's antiquity crop up all over
the place: from the Roman temple of Mithras and remains of the
amphitheatre, through to the
names of the streets which often
reflect their Medieval usages. The other giveaway that this was
once a walled city comes from the names of the streets close to
where the old city gates once were: we still have Aldgate,
Bishopsgate, Moorgate, Newgate, Ludgate and
The City was once dominated by the St. Paul's Cathedral.
Before the fire there were at least two
earlier cathedrals on this site, and it's likely that there has been
a church here since the early days of Roman Christianity.
The current St. Paul's, crowned by Wren's
amazing dome, is as much a symbol of London as any other
landmark and until the 20th Century it was visible from
throughout the City and beyond.
Much of the City was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666, and many
of the buildings that survived that were flattened in the blitz.
Even so, many old buildings survived and they often sit
side-by-side with modern steel and glass skyscrapers which
represent the physical side of the trillions of pounds which
get traded every day in the banks and stock markets here.
Personally as a Londoner I've always found the City a much more
fascinating place than the West End. Although "up west" you get the
neon lights and nightlife, to me the City represents the true
historical London. Every day when I walk from Liverpool Street station
to my job near Leadenhall Market I remind myself that I'm walking
down streets which were first laid out 2000 years ago, and down
which countless millions of people have travelled over the years.
And with the convoluted little alleyways and fascinating
street names -- who could not be interested in
finding out the history of somewhere called Seething Lane,
Poultry or Old Jewry, to give three examples -- I think there's
always something new to discover in the City.