What is the Capital of the United Kingdom?

London is the capital and the most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. It’s been a major settlement for two thousand years and is still an iconic city today, known around the world for its unique culture and history. We’ll learn more about the capital of the UK in this post by looking at its geography, history, people, and important landmarks.

Where is London?

London is located near the southeast corner of the UK in Greater London, one of the nine regions of England. The River Thames flows through the city on its way to the North Sea. The closest foreign country to London is France.

Below is a political map of the United Kingdom that shows major cities, bodies of water, and international borders.

A color-coded UK and Ireland map, marking major cities like London, Edinburgh, Belfast, with a compass rose.

History of London

A photo features the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament in London, with a bridge and overcast sky.

It’s necessary to go back in time 2,000 years to find the first settlements in present-day London. The first inhabitants were Celts, but the name of the city was a Roman contribution, as it was named Londinium in 43 AD by the Roman Empire. This first major settlement founded by the Romans was destroyed around 61 AD by Queen Boudica of the Iceni Tribe.

Londinium was later reestablished and flourished until the collapse of Roman rule in the early 5th century. The city was then largely abandoned, and the next few hundred years saw repeated Viking assaults and little development. London was then effectively re-founded in 886 by king Alfred the Great, and the city grew steadily, becoming the largest city in England by the 11th century.

The population and importance of London continued to grow, reaching about 100,000 inhabitants by 1300, but the city lost nearly a third of its population during the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century. The Tutor Period in England and Wales lasted from 1485 until 1603, during which time commercial activity increased significantly along with migration to England.

In the mid-15th century, there were over 500,000 people living in London, but the Great Plague killed almost 100,000 after starting in 1665. The next year saw a major fire that destroyed most of the city. London had to be rebuilt, a process that took ten years to complete.

London’s population increased dramatically from 1750 until the beginning of the 1900s, reaching about 4.5 million in 1901. By this time, London had become a major international city and financial center. After World War I, the city population saw a decline and suburban areas began to grow. A new plan for the administrative division of London was put into place in 1963, consisting of the old town and 32 metropolitan boroughs.

London FAQs

When did London become the capital?

London became the capital city in 1066. Previously, Winchester had been the capital established by King Alfred the Great. There isn’t much that documents London’s official status as a capital, it’s just been the largest city in the area for a very long time. The seat of the English government is in Westminster, which has been incorporated into Greater London.

Who founded London?

London was founded by the Romans. Specifically, it was under the rule of Emperor Claudius that Romans occupied present-day London, founding Londinium in 43 AD.

How old is London?

London is 1,979 years old. It was founded in 43 AD by the Romans, initially called, “Londinium.” There is also evidence of humans inhabiting the area for many years before this major settlement was formed.

What does the name “London” mean?

There are several theories and no clear answer to where the name “London” comes from. It is widely agreed that the Romans called their initial settlement in the location “Londinium,” but the reasons for this are unclear.

When used as a name for a person, “London” is sometimes said to mean “fortress of the moon” or “from the great river.”

How often does it rain in London?

London’s reputation as a rainy city is well earned. The amount of rainfall is fairly consistent in the city throughout the year. It rains an average of between 11 and 15 days each month in London.

How expensive is London?

London is fairly expensive. It’s not as expensive as New York City or Hong Kong, but the estimated cost of living for a single person in the city without housing costs is around $1,070.

Features of London

A sunset view over a city with a river, showing a bridge, buildings, and a boat on the water.

Geography and Climate

The total area of Greater London is 1,569 km2 (606 mi2), while the City of London is just 2.9 km2 (1.12 mi2). Greater London’s outer limits are now prevented from expanding further by the Metropolitan Green Belt, which is a protected green space just outside the city. London is mostly flat and lies close to sea level at an altitude of 11 m (36.1 ft).

The city has a temperate ocean climate, which generally makes for overcast and rainy weather. In areas outside the city center, where the airports are located, the air temperature is relatively cool compared to the city center.


The most recent UK Census, conducted in 2021, describes London’s population as 8.8 million people. One unique feature of the demographics in London is the high immigrant population of the city. In absolute numbers, London had the second-highest foreign-born population of any city in the world after New York. Almost 70% of children born in London in 2015 had at least one parent who was born in another country.

A variety of English accents can be heard in London, each with its own associations and groups of speakers. Cockney is an accent mostly spoken by working-class and lower-middle-class Londoners. Received Pronunciation is traditionally considered the standard accent for British English, spoken primarily by upper-class and middle-upper-class Londoners.


London has one of the largest economies in Europe and the world. The gross regional product of London in 2019 made up around a quarter of the entire UK’s GDP for that year. It’s got the highest property prices of any European city and is a highly important location for international financial activities.

Finance is the largest contributing industry to London’s economy, but the city is also one of the leading tourist destinations in the world and is where many of the UK’s media and technology companies are located.

A panoramic aerial view of London showcasing the River Thames, Tower Bridge, and the Shard with clear skies.
London, the capital of England

Things to do and places to see in London

Tourism in England is a major industry and, for many people, London tops the list of attractions in the country. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the best things to do and places to see in London, the capital of the United Kingdom.

1. Tower of London

A photograph of the Tower of London, featuring the historic stone fortress with a cloudy sky in the background.

The Tower of London is one of the most popular attractions in the capital city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the north bank of the Thames River. Contrary to its name, the Tower a historic castle that gets its name from the White Tower located at its center. It was constructed in 1066 and initially served as both a prison and a royal residence; it is now the home of the Crown Jewels.

Anyone can visit the Tower of London, though it’s necessary to purchase tickets beforehand. It’s also a good idea to visit the Historic Royal Palaces website to check open times for visitors.

2. Buckingham Palace

A crowd of people in front of Buckingham Palace on an overcast day.

Buckingham Palace is another one of London’s most iconic landmarks. The palace is the headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom and a royal residence located in Westminster.

In addition to being a recognizable landmark, Buckingham Palace is also where tourists can witness the Changing of the Guard. This is a ceremony that takes place every day from April to July and every other day in the other months of the year. While anyone can walk up and see this ceremony take place, it’s also possible to take part in a tour for the best views and additional information.

3. Tower Bridge

A photo of London's Tower Bridge over the Thames, with the city skyline behind it.

As the name suggests, Tower Bridge is a bridge with towers. It’s also much more than that, of course β€” it’s a beautiful landmark that is a must-see for many people visiting London. The bridge was constructed in 1894, but its medieval style architecture makes it appear significantly older. This was done intentionally, as it was designed to compliment the nearby Tower of London.

Simply driving across the bridge or taking it in from the river’s shore is a memorable experience, but it’s also possible to climb one of the towers for an impressive view of the city.

4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

A large glass greenhouse is the centerpiece of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, surrounded by trees under a partly cloudy sky.

When pounding the pavement and seeing impressive landmark after impressive landmark becomes too much, taking in the scenery at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew can be a great change of pace. Greenhouses and carefully manicured green spaces make up the gardens, and it’s entirely possible to spend a few hours exploring the area.

The gardens at Kew are also home to 40 historically important buildings and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. More than just a pretty site, the mission of the gardens is to develop information about potential uses of plants and fungi though scientific discovery and research.

5. Westminster Abbey

A sunlit image of Westminster Abbey's Gothic architecture, framed by tree branches.

Westminster Abbey is a large Gothic church located near Westminster Palace. It is important to London and England for several reasons in addition to its visual beauty. It is one of the most famous religious buildings in the country and it is the traditional venue for coronations and a burial site for English and British monarchs. There are more than 3,300 people buried here.

It’s possible to visit Westminster Abbey, but it’s a good idea to check the official website for availability.

6. Hyde Park

A picturesque view of Hyde Park, London, showcasing a lake, trees, a historic building, under a semi-cloudy sky.

Hyde Park is a massive, 350 acre park in Westminster, Greater London. It is the largest of the four Royal Parks of London, and is divided by the Serpentine Lake and the Long Water Lake. Originally used as a hunting ground, it was established in 1536 by Henry VIII and became open to the public in 1637.

In more modern times, the park has been an important place for the practice of free speech and demonstrations. Speakers’ Corner has been an established spot for free speech and debate since 1872. The park has also been known to host large, free rock concerts from bands like Pink Floyd, The Who, and Queen.

7. Hampstead Heath Ponds

A serene view of Hampstead Heath Ponds with a wooden dock, trees surrounding the water, and fluffy clouds in the sky.

London’s weather may be chronically cloudy and rainy, but it’s still possible to swim at any time of year at the public Hampstead Heath Ponds. They are located near Parliament Hill and offer lifeguards on duty during the summer months. There is a men’s, women’s, and mixed pond, but the mixed pond is only open to members.

8. Borough Market

A lively scene at London's Borough Market with orange-canopied stalls, diverse goods, browsing customers and a foreground vendor.

This is London’s oldest food market and a great place to visit for food lovers and history buffs alike. It dates back to the thirteenth century and offers all manner of artisanal cuisine. The market is known for its crowds during peak hours, so it’s best to arrive early if possible.

9. Columbia Road Flower Market

People browsing through various flower stalls at Columbia Flower Market.

Columbia Road is located in Bethnal Green, London, and features a street market lined with Victorian shops. This flower market is only open on Sundays, but it’s one of England’s oldest and most beloved flower-buying locales, making it worth a visit for many.

Because of the aesthetic qualities of the flower market, it’s popular not only with flower purchasers but with photographers and tourists as well. It’s possible to buy a great variety of plants, flowers, and gardening accessories as well as breads, cheeses, and antiques.

10. British Museum

A wide-angle view of the British Museum in London on an overcast day, with visitors walking in front of the building's grand columned facade.

When it opened back in 1759, the British Museum was the first national museum to ever be opened to the public. The number of items on display at this museum is staggering: over 8 million. 50,000 of these can be seen for free by visiting the main galleries.

Some of the most famous artifacts in the world can be found at the British Museum: the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures, and the Sophilos Vase, just to name a few.