Town Guide

The City District

EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4
Nearest Tube: St Paul's or Bank

You may well hear people referring to 'The City' when you are in London, for example a businessman may say that he works in 'The City'. This may sound vague and it can be confusing, but in fact they are referring to a very distinct district of London.

Today's London actually contains two cities - in Britain, a city is defined as a town or area with its own charter and, most importantly its own cathedral. The City of London (known as just The City) is the oldest being on the original site of the Roman city Londinium. The other is the City of Westminster, which dates back to 1065 when Edward the Confessor built his West Minster (now known as Westminster Abbey).

The City is an area of about one square mile (The City is also sometimes known as Square Mile) on the north bank of the River Thames. The boundaries are basically the Tower of London in the east, the Temple Bar in the west and the River Thames in the south and Smithfield in the north.

The City is actually the oldest part of London, being the site where the Romans first founded the city of Londinium in AD43. And throughout its long history the district has had strong links with royalty and with business and it has always been an area of status.

Click here for more on the History of London
It has had a separate governing body since William the Conqueror took the throne in the 11th century. For many years the district was governed by the City Livery Companies (or Guilds), many of which still exist, although without the power they once held. But even today The City still has its own local authority, the Corporation of London, and even its own police force.

In its history The City was almost totally destroyed not once, but twice. Most of The City burnt down in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and many of the historically interesting buildings in the area date from the rebuilding of London after the Fire.

And then German bombers destroyed much of the area during the blitz of the Second World War. So most of the rest of the architecture only dates from the 20th Century.

Nevertheless, there are some big tourist attractions in the district. St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London are the two most obvious ones, but there is also Christopher Wren's Monument to the Fire of London, the Lloyds Building, the Museum of London and the Old Bailey. So for tourists, this part of London is a must.

Aside from its tourist attractions, The City is best known for being the financial heart of Britain, the UK equivalent to Wall Street. This is business London through and through - a fact emphasised at night-time when the area empties as its 300,000 odd commuters leave for their homes. And at weekends the district is a ghost town.

All in all, The City is a very special part of London with a wonderful atmosphere of history combined with money, power and exclusivity.

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