CITY OF LONDON ULTIMATE GUIDE
With towering modern skyscrapers and a status of being the world’s leading centre of international finance, it seems hard to believe that the City of London is actually the most historic area of the English capital. But strolling past some of the most historic landmarks in the City, (some of which date back to the Roman times), you’ll find that seeing is certainly believing.
“The City” is located at the Square Mile (name after its approximate size), and was established sometime around 50 AD, which was seven years after the Romans invaded Britain. To this day, you can still see the remains of the original Roman wall, as well as the foundations of the Roman Temple of Mithras (near Budge Row). During the 1980s, London’s only Roman Amphitheatre was discovered under the Guildhall Art Gallery, however, not much of the City’s original Roman sites can still be seen today.
Furthermore, many of the City’s historic buildings, homes and churches were destroyed during The Great Fire of London in 1666, as well as during The Blitz in World War II, but visitors can still see a handful of historic landmarks and sites strewed throughout the area today. Not only are some of the City’s original street names still used (like Bread Street, Milk Street, Mason’s Avenue and Ironmonger Lane), locations like Moorgate, Ludgate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate were named after the spots where Londinium’s main gates were once located along the Roman city walls.
In 1694, the Bank of England was founded in the City which helped catapult London into becoming the world’s primary business centre and financial epicentre of the London Stock Exchange (or in other words, the UK version of America’s Wall Street). Today, the City is home to over 255 foreign banks, and over 300,000 workers commute the City during the week.
But the City of London isn’t a London borough like Westminster or Whitechapel; it actually has its own local governance, police force, and local authority (with the chief position being the Lord Mayor).
City of London Highlights
- Listen to a choir practice at St. Paul’s Cathedral and look at the famous Duke of Wellington monument and the tombs of Christopher Wren and Admiral Nelson. If you have the stamina, you can climb the 560 steps to the top of the Dome and the Whispering Gallery, a further 117 steps to the Stone Gallery, or another 166 steps to the Golden Gallery and drink in the views of the London skyline.
- Get a closer look at 30 St. Mary Axe (AKA The Gherkin) and people-watch as workers in business suits come in and out of the building.
- Gawk up at Tower 42, which is the second tallest skyscraper in the City of London, and the seventh tallest in Greater London.
- Climb all 311 steps to the top of The Monument to the Great Fire of London and enjoy marvelous views of London from above.
- Snap photos of the London Wall, the best-preserved remnant of the Roman wall which once defended Roman Londinium.
- Learn more about the history of the English capital at the Museum of London.
- Glance over Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian artwork at the Guildhall Art Gallery.
- Browse around the various clothing stores and specialized food shops at the Leadenhall Market, and snap photos of the Victorian-covered exterior (AKA the film location for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone).
- Learn more about the British pound, inflation and national debt at the Bank of England Museum.
Prices and Hours
Given that the City of London is essentially the financial epicentre of London, you’ll find a lot of restaurants, bars and cafes offering top-rated dishes which cater to those going out for business meetings or romantic dinners for two. However, you don’t necessarily have to break the bank just to have dinner in the area (unless you dine at a restaurant with a rooftop bar, of course).
If you only have the time and/or the funds to eat at one restaurant in the City, then make it Simpson’s, which dates back to 1757 (making it the oldest existing restaurant in London).
If you want to park your car in the City of London, please note that there are different opening and closing times depending on which car park you choose. Car parks at the London Wall and Aldersgate are open 24 hours, but the car park at the Barbican is open from 8 a.m. to midnight.
If you park your car on any street in the City of London, be aware that the entire area is a Controlled Parking Zone which is in effect from:
- Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
For pay-and-display car parks, the charges are:
- £1.20 per 15 minutes from Monday to Friday (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Saturday (7 a.m. to 11 a.m.) for a maximum stay of four hours.
The City Information Centre is open from:
- 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday
- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays
Leadenhall Market is open from Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you’re travelling by car and want to save money on parking costs, visit the City on a Sunday when on-street parking is free.
If you want to see the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge (which are located in the nearby Tower Hamlets), you can easily walk to them from The Gherkin (in about 14 minutes), or Leadenhall Market (in ten minutes).
If you have the time, make sure you stroll around The Barbican’s central gardens, which are said to be one of London’s best kept secrets.
Address: City of London, London, United Kingdom (See map).
By Tube: If you are travelling by tube, you can reach the City of London from the following tube stations: Bank (via the Central, Northern, Waterloo & City lines), St. Paul’s (via the Central line), Barbican (via the Circle, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines), Moorgate (via the Circle, Hammersmith and City, Northern and Metropolitan lines), Liverpool Street (via the Central, Circle, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines), Old Street (via the Northern line) and Aldgate (via the Circle, District and Metropolitan lines).
By Bus: If you are travelling by bus, you can reach the City of London via routes 11, 23, 26 and 388 (for Bank), 21, 43, 76, 133 and 141 (for Moorgate), 8, 25 and 242 (for Cheapside) and 100 (for the London Wall)
By Train: If you are travelling by train, there are seven stations located in the City of London; (Liverpool Street, Cannon Street, Fenchurch Street, Barbican, Moorgate, Blackfriars and City Thameslink)
By Coach: If you are travelling by coach, there is on-street parking located on Angel Street, Fore Street (for the Barbican Centre), St. Martin’s Le Grand and Queen Victoria Street.
By Car: If you are travelling by car, there are car parks located on Aldersgate Street and Lower Thames Street, as well as at the London Wall and Barbican Centre.
Visiting the City of London
You can easily walk from one end of the City to the other in about ten to 15 minutes. However, be aware that many of the streets in the City are often chaotic, and it’s quite easy to get lost when strolling around. Because of this, it may be a good idea to have a map with you so you don’t miss out on any landmarks or attractions).
If you want more information about what to see or things to do in the City of London, there is a City Information Centre located between St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge in St. Paul’s Churchyard.
There are public toilets at the Royal Exchange and Tower Hill stations, as well as several toilet facilities that charge 20p per use at Aldermanbury, Charterhouse Street, Harrow Place, Long Lane, St. Paul’s Walk and Watermark Place. There are also toilet facilities at Tower Place and Monument Pavilion which cost 50p per use.
Hotels in the City of London
There are a ton of options to choose from when it comes to finding a hotel in the City.
Although the majority tend to be chain and luxury hotels as opposed to budget or quirky hotels; (as a matter of fact, the average price of a hotel in the City per night is around £151!)
If you’re looking for a hotel with a lot of character, Threadneedles is located a stone’s throw away from The Gherkin and is a former Victorian bank, while the South Bank Hotel boasts artsy interiors. There’s also a Club Quarters Hotel near St. Paul’s, a Travelodge near the Monument to the Great Fire of London, and a Crowne Plaza near Temple Church.
If you’re looking for budget accommodation, check out Premier Inn London Bank (Tower) and the Travelodge on Goodman’s Yard. There’s also a Wombat’s City Hostel in the neighbourhood, and a YHA London St. Paul’s for anyone on a super-strict London travel budget.