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.

Couple look up at the London Shard and point. The building is silver and glass and it is sunny and warm

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.

Young woman takes a photo from the London Crown Jewels overlooking the Thames River

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

A view of Canary Warf from Greenwich Park in East London

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. 

Famous London black taxi.

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.

Woman walking in the underground next to the train.

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.

Middle aged couples walks through downtown London dressed well on an overcast day

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.

Two men take a selfie after climbing to the top of the O2 arena in London. They are smiling and laughing, close friends.

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.

People bike around London on a sunny day sightseeing next tp Royal Albert Hall

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.

Foggy sunset photo of London with Tower Bridge in the background and a few people walking along the Thames

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.

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