London is the capital of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the largest city in Europe and one of the largest cities in the world with the population of 11 million people. About a fifth of the total population of the UK lives in the Greater London area, that is London and its suburbs.
London is home for the headquarters of all government departments, Parliament, the major legal institutions and the monarch. It is the country's business and banking centre and the centre of its transport network. It contains the headquarters of the national television networks and of all the national newspapers.
The original walled city of London founded by Romans was quite small. In the Middle Ages it did not contain the Parliament or the royal Court, because it would have interfered with the interests of the merchants and traders who lived there. It was in Westminster, another city outside London's walls, that these national institutions met. Today, both "cities" are just two areas in Central London. The City is home to London's main financial organizations. The Royal Exchange, the Stock Exchange and the Bank of England are situated there. During the daytime, nearly a million people work there, but less than 8 000 people actually live there.
Other well-known areas of London are the West End and the East End. The former is known for its many theatres, cinemas, luxurious hotels and restaurants and expensive shops. The latter is known as the poorer residential area of Central London; the Port of London is situated there.
The two districts of London, the City of Westminster and the West End are the main tourist attractions in London. Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and quite a number of world-famous museums are all located in this area.
There are many other parts of Central London which have their own characteristics, and Central London itself makes up only a very small part of Greater London. The majority of Londoners live in its suburbs, millions of them travelling into the centre each day to work. These suburbs cover a vast area of land.
London is a cosmopolitan city. People of several races and many nationalities live there. A survey carried out in the 1980s found that 137 different languages were spoken in the homes of just one district of London.