London is the capital of Great Britain, its political, economic and commercial center. It’s one of the largest cities in the world and the largest city in Europe. Its population is about 9 million. London is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in the world. Traditionally it’s divided into several parts: the City, Westminster, the West End and the East End. They are very different from each other and seem to belong to different towns and epochs.
The heart of London is the City, its financial and business center. Numerous banks, offices and firms are situated there, including the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange and the Old Baily. Few people live here, but over a million people come to the City to work. There are some famous ancient buildings within the City. Perhaps the most striking of them is St. Paul’s Cathedral, the greatest of British churches. St. Paul’s Cathedral has always dominated the center of London. It stands on the site of former
Saxon and Norman churches, that were destroyed in the Great Fire. The present building, completed in 1710, is the work of the eminent architect Sir Christopher Wren. It is an architectural masterpiece. Londoners have a particular affection for St. Paul’s, which is the largest Protestant Church in England. Its high dome, containing the remarkable Whispering Gallery, is a prominent landmark towering above the multistoried buildings which line the riverbank.
The Tower of London was one of the first and most impressive castles built after the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. Since the times of William the First, various kings built and extended the Tower of London, and used it for many purposes. The Tower has been used as a royal palace, an observatory, an arsenal, a state prison, and many famous and notorious people were executed within its walls. It is now a museum.
For many visitors, the principal attraction is the Crown Jewels, the finest precious stones of the nation. A fine collection of armour is also on exhibit in the Tower’s keep. The security of the Tower is ensured by a military garrison and by the Yeoman Warders or Beefeaters, who still wear their picturesque Tudor uniform.
Westminster is the historic, governmental part of London. Westminster Abbey is a national shrine where kings and queens are crowned and famous people are buried. Founded by Edward the Confessor in 1050, the Abbey was a monastery for a long time. The present building dates back to the times of Henry III, who began to rebuild the church, a task which lasted nearly 300 years. The West towers were added in the eighteenth century. Since William the First, almost every English monarch has been crowned in this great church, which contains the tombs and memorials of many of Britain’s most outstanding citizens: Newton, Darwin, Chauser, Dickens, Tennyson, Kipling, to name a few. One of the greatest treasures of the Abbey is the Coronation Chair made of oak in 1300. The Abbey is also known for its Poet’s Corner. Graves and memorials to many English poets and writers are clustered round about.
Across the road from Westminster Abbey is Westminster Palace, or the Houses of Parliament, the seat of the British Parliament. The Parliament of the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords consists of just over 1,000 members of the different grades of nobility, represented by dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons.
In the House of Commons there are 650 members. They are elected via secret ballot by men and women aged 18 and over. Every Parliament is divided into Sessions. Each of these may last a year and usually begins in early November.
The Clock Tower, which contains the Great Bell called Big Ben, is known the world over. The bell is named after Sir Benjamin Hall.
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen. The West End is the richest and most beautiful part of London. It is a symbol of wealth and luxury. The best hotels, shops, restaurants, clubs, and theatres are situated in the West End. There are splendid houses and lovely gardens belonging to wealthy people.
Trafalgar Square is the geographical center of London. It was named in memory of Admiral Nelson’s victory in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The tall Nelson’s Column stands in the middle of the square. On the north side of Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Not far away is the British Museum, the biggest museum in London. It contains a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts, coins, sculptures, and cultural artifacts, and is also famous for its library.
The East End is the poorest district of London. There are a lot of factories, workshops and docks here. The streets are narrow, the industrial buildings are ordinary. The East End is densely populated by working class families.