London town is a global icon. You’ve seen it in films, you know the red buses, Big Ben, and quaint little taxi cabs, but how well do you really know England’s capital? These 9 fun facts will have you looking a little deeper.
1. London is built on ruins
London has a storied history, dating all the way back to 43 AD. Back then it was the Roman mouthful, “Londinium”. Over the many many years, London saw plagues, fires, terror attacks, riots, and civil wars, and all that required a few re-builds. Sadly, archaeological digs are very difficult in such densely packed areas, so some of the city’s long-held secrets look like they’ll stay that way.
2. There are 20 underground rivers
If you want to dig right into the rockbed of London, you’ll discover the city’s lost rivers. As the metropolis grew over the centuries, builders needed to make room for the booming population growth. The city’s marshlands feeding into the River Thames were slowly buried under streets and houses. Although you won’t find any dedicated tours to the wetter London underground, you can see the spot where a few make their way to the surface, like in Romford and Brentford
3. London’s got time
Time is a construct they say, but that wasn’t always the case. Believe it or not, telling time only began in 1884. Though months and years had been around, there was no standardized, universally recognized timecode. The establishment of Greenwich Mean Time by mariners changed that, and London soon became the point of comparison for time zones across the globe.
4. Famous fab cabs
It takes a strong knowledge of the area, patience, and of course a license to become a cab driver. But in London, the bar to qualify is far higher. Facing one of the most notoriously difficult application and approval processes for cab drivers in the world, London cabbies have to take the London Knowledge test including knowing 25,000 streets and all the landmarks within 6 miles of Charing Cross. A London cabbie can really say (and show the certificate as proof!) they know the city like the back of their hand.
5. Love in a crowded place
Over three million Londoners travel on the Underground transit daily, and three women even gave birth in the Tube! One of those babies you may even have heard of — US talk show icon, Jerry Springer. During a Luftwaffe raid in 1944, Springer’s mother took shelter in a metro station and, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, gave birth safely.
6. Kiteless city
Despite the encouragement from Mary Poppins, London is actually not the place to be flying kites. So much so, it was officially made an offense in 1847 and kites all over the city were permanently grounded. Keep calm, and while you can’t fly a kite, London still has more than enough activities to keep you occupied.
7. Multilingual banter
Looking to learn a new language? There are over 250 different languages spoken by London residents, including English, Punjabi, Mandarin. A whopping 22% of Londoners say they speak a second language! No matter where in the world you’re from, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find someone to chat within this multicultural mecca.
8. Houses just for show
If you’re strolling through London and go past Leinster Gardens, don’t bother knocking at the houses numbered 23 and 24. Although they blend in with the other homes on the street, these properties are actually just facades used to cover pipes and exhaust ports coming up from the London Underground. Space is at a premium in the city center.
9. Well-intentioned irony
The stunning memorial to the victims of the Great Fire in London of 1666 pays tribute to the hundreds of homes and 6 lives lost, marking a true tragedy for the city of London. However, 7 people died during the construction of the memorial, making the build ironically deadlier than the fire it memorializes.