A dragon marking the boundary
The City of London , also known as The City, or The Square Mile (after its approximate size), is the area of London that originally lay within the ancient city walls. This part of Central London is not as big a tourist destination as the West End, Westminster or South Bank, but is a must for anyone wishing to explore and understand London.
Although London grew from this area, the official City did not change in size and the borders of the City of London have barely changed in centuries (they still follow the line of the old city walls to a great degree). The walls around the city, originally built by the Romans, have now largely disappeared (several vestiges still remain, one of the largest of which can be seen outside the Museum of London, another just near the Tower of London) but various place names and streets hint at their prior existence. Locations such as Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Ludgate and Moorgate mark where the main gates were in the city walls.
The City of London is not a London borough and has an ancient and unusual local governance, with rights and privileges greater than those of anywhere else in United Kingdom. The local authority is the City of London Corporation and the chief position is the Lord Mayor. Whilst the rest of London has the Metropolitan Police, the City of London has its own police force.
The City of London does not include Tower Bridge or the Tower of London, they are in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. A number of bridges over the River Thames do connect the City with Southwark and the two oldest of them, London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, are unusual in that the City of London's boundaries include the whole span of the bridge (the border otherwise runs along the middle of the Thames). Small statues of Dragons (sometimes described to be Griffins) mark the boundary of the City on most roads.
The City is the world's leading centre of international finance. In British parlance, The City often refers to the financial sector, just as Americans might refer to Wall Street. This area contains 255 foreign banks, which is more than any other financial centre. It also is home to the Bank of England and houses other institutions such as Lloyds and the London Stock Exchange. Every weekday approximately three hundred thousand workers come into the City to work in small and large business and financial institutions.
The City has a very small resident population which, despite a recent increase, is little more than 8,000 people. At weekends the area can resemble a ghost town, with empty streets, closed shops and cafes.
Visit during the week. Few shops and restaurants are open on the weekend, although this is changing - see the new shopping centre "One New Change". It is hard to believe how dead the area is on the weekend and it can barely be stressed enough that if you are in The City on a weekend, it will seem like the movie 28 Days Later (although this was actually filmed in Canary Wharf, which exhibits a similar ghost town quality at weekends). This though could be a blessing if you want an easily accessible respite from the chaos of the West End to wander around the place at your own pace, admiring the architecture and character of the streets and buildings! You may also come across the filming of a TV advert, TV programme or even a film at this time.
Tourist Information Centre
- City Information Centre, St. Paul's Churchyard EC4M 8BX (tube: St Paul's), ☎ 020 7332 1456, .
From the airport
Underground services are connected to all major London airports, as well as Express train services that take you directly to some of the main stations in the centre of London. 
- Bank (Central, Northern, Waterloo & City lines and the DLR) and Monument (Circle and District lines) stations - linked by an underground walkway. Bank, near the Bank of England, is perhaps the most central to access the City of London.
- Barbican (Circle, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines), Moorgate (Circle, Hammersmith and City, Northern and Metropolitan lines) and Liverpool Street (Central, Circle, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines) - for the north and north east of The City.
- Old Street (Northern line) - for the north west of The City
- St Paul's (Central line) - for the west of The City
- Blackfriars, Mansion House, Cannon Street (closed Su), Tower Hill (for Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and Fenchurch Street National Rail station) (all Circle and District lines) and Aldgate (Circle, District and Metropolitan lines) - for the south of The City.
Once in the City, its small and compact nature means travelling on foot between attractions is possible and advised. You can quite easily get lost and miss out interesting features if new to the City. The street pattern is particularly chaotic in some parts (being medieval and unplanned) and there are many fun shortcuts and routes that take you away from main roads. Buy and bring a detailed map!
- Barbican, Blackfriars (to/from Gatwick and Luton airports), Cannon Street (closed Sa, Su and public holidays), City Thameslink (to/from Gatwick and Luton airports, no tube), Fenchurch Street (tube: Tower Hill), Liverpool Street (to/from Stansted Airport) and Moorgate. All also tube stations except City Thameslink and Fenchurch Street.
An increasingly popular way of travelling through London, by both tourists and residents, is by boat on the Thames itself. The City can has two piers from which regular services operate to and from: Blackfriars Millennium Pier (in the west) or Tower Millennium Pier (in the east).
The City sustained a great deal of damage from German bombing during the 'Blitz' of World War II, so there are far fewer older buildings than one might expect from so ancient a settlement. The Great Fire of London in 1666 also fairly comprehensively destroyed the City's medieval building stock. Nonetheless, many interesting older buildings remain, including the domed St. Paul's Cathedral (heroically saved by firefighters when it was bombed during the Second World War), nineteenth-century buildings at Leadenhall, Smithfield, and Spitalfields, the Gothic-style Guildhall, many monuments (including one built to remember the Great Fire of London), and the Temple Inns of Court. Remarkably, the City also retains its medieval street pattern, which you do not find so clearly preserved in other large British city centres. You will find many narrow streets, passages, courtyards, etc between the main thoroughfares.
West portico of St Paul's Cathedral
- Mansion House, (tube: Mansion House), . By appointment only for visits by organised groups (minimum 15 maximum 40). Official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, completed in 1753.
- Monument, (tube: Monument), ☎ +44 20 7626 2717 ([email protected]), . 9:30AM-5:30PM daily (last admission 5PM). Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, this tall column (which can be ascended to get a great view) marks the alleged site where the Great Fire of London broke out in September 1666. £3/£1.
- Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court), (between Holborn Circus and St Paul's Cathedral, tube: St Paul's then follow signs), ☎ +44 20 7248 3277, . M-F 10AM-1PM, 2PM-5PM. No bags, cameras, drink, food or mobile phones - no facilities for safekeeping. This is the probably the most famous criminal court in the world, and has been London's principal criminal court for centuries. It hears cases remitted to it from all over England and Wales as well as the Greater London area. The present building dates largely from 1907 (a new block was added from 1970 for more modern facilities) and stands on the site of the infamous medieval Newgate Gaol. The Central Criminal Court is of course best known today for its association with John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey character, novels and television series. Daily case listings are available at . Children under 14 not admitted.
Tower of London and Tower Bridge
- St Paul's Cathedral, Ludgate Hill (tube: St Pauls), ☎ +44 20 7246 8357 ([email protected]), . M-Sa 8:30AM-4PM. The great domed cathedral of St Paul's, designed by Sir Christopher Wren to replace the Gothic medieval cathedral destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire of London, was built between 1675 - 1710. It's a significant building in British history, having been the site of the funerals of several British military leaders (Nelson, Wellington, Churchill), and significantly held peace services marking the end of the two world wars. The cathedral is also famous for its Whispering Wall, as well as its stunning view over the city. The crypt is also open to the public, holding the tombs of Nelson, Wellington and Christopher Wren. For budget travelers it is possible to get in for free. The cathedral is open to the general public for free during midday service. Visitors who get in at this time won't be escorted out. To get to the top you must however hold a valid ticket. £9, £8 concession, £3.50 child (7-16), £21.50 family.
- Tower Bridge (technically not in the City), (tube: Tower Hill), ☎ +44 20 7403 3761 ([email protected]), . Exhibition 10AM-5PM. Magnificent 19th century bridge, decorated with high towers and featuring a drawbridge. The bridge opens several times each day to permit ships to pass through - timings are dependent on demand, and are not regularly scheduled. When Tower Bridge was built, the area to the west of it was a bustling port - necessitating a bridge that could permit tall boats to pass. Now the South Bank area sits to its west, and the regenerated Butler's Wharf area of shops, reasonably priced riverside restaurants and the London Design Museum lie to its east. For a small charge you can get the lift to the top level of the bridge and admire the view: this includes a visit to a small museum dedicated to the bridge's history and engineering. Bridge free, exhibition £6.
- Tower of London (technically not in the City), (tube: Tower Hill), ☎ +44 8444 827777 ([email protected]), . Tu-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su M 10AM-5PM Mar-Oct; Tu-Sa 9AM-4PM, Su-M 10AM-4PM Nov-Feb. Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, enlarged and modified by successive sovereigns, the Tower is today one of the world's most famous and spectacular fortresses. Discover its 900-year history as a royal palace and fortress, prison and place of execution, mint, arsenal, menagerie and jewel house. In the winter you can skate on the dry moat. The Tower contains enough buildings and exhibits to keep a family busy for a full day, with plenty of both warlike and domestic contents. Beefeaters, who are all retired sergeant majors from the British Army, provide guided tours for free as well as ceremonial security. See history come alive - go to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. This ceremony, the locking up of the Tower, has been performed every night at 10PM for 800 years. Tickets are free but MUST be prearranged. £14.50, aged 5-16 £9.50, concession £11, family (2A+3C) £42.
Churches, graveyards and open spaces
The City of London, considering its small size, has a huge number of churches in its area. Some, but by no means all, are listed below.
- All Hallows by the Tower, Byward St EC3R 5BJ (tube: Tower Hill), ☎ +44 20 7481 2928, . The oldest church in The City founded by Saxon Abbotts in 675 AD.
- Bunhill Fields, Bunhill Rd (nearest tube: Old Street; bus: 55, 205, 243 (among others)), . Dawn-dusk. This small graveyard is a rarity in central London, and seems oddly tranquil in comparison to the nearby bustling streets of the City. Some 120,000 bodies are believed to be buried here - mostly dissenters - notable among them are the graves of William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan. The watchful eye will notice that the paved way across the field is actually made up of tombstones. Free.
- Christ Church, Fournier St (tube: Liverpool St), ☎ +44 20 7859 3035, . The restoration of the nave was completed in September 2004, and this church is still a striking building designed by Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor with a particularly tall, pointed spire. Hawksmoor's design was significantly altered in the 19th century, and present continuing restoration is intended to restore it to Hawksmoor's original vision. Christ Church was built as part of the 50 Churches for London project
- Postman's Park, Little Britain, City of London (tube: St. Pauls), . One of the largest parks in the City of London, Postman's Park contains the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice; a memorial to ordinary people who died saving the lives of others and might otherwise have been forgotten. Free. (51.5168,-0.097643)
- St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames St EC3R 6DN (tube: Monument), ☎ +44 20 7626 4481, .
- St Margaret Pattens, Rood Ln and Eastcheap EC3 (tube: Monument), ☎ +44 20 7623 6630, .
- St Mary-at-Hill, St Mary at Hill EC3R 8EE (tube: Monument), ☎ +44 20 7626 4184, .
- St Mary le Bow, 1 Bow Lane EC4M 9EE (tube: Mansion House), ☎ +44 20 7248 5139, .
- St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook EC4N 8BN (tube: Bank), ☎ +44 20 7283 4444, .
- Temple, Inner Temple Ln, . A small realm of serenity in the midst of the typical turmoil. It used to be the court of the Knights Templar. You can still visit the beautiful Romanesque church, which is one of the oldest ones in London.
Museums and Galleries
- Bank of England Museum, Threadneedle St (tube: Bank), ☎ +44 20 7601 5545 ([email protected]), . M-F 10AM-5PM. Free.
- Barbican Centre, Silk St (tube: Barbican), ☎ +44 20 7638 4141 ([email protected]), . The largest arts centre in Europe.
- Clockmaker's Museum, Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury EC2P 2EJ (tube St Paul's), ☎ +44 20 7332 1868 ([email protected]), . M-Sa 9.30AM-5PM. Charts the history of clockmaking and houses a priceless collection of old timepieces. Free.
- Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard (off Gresham St) (tube: Bank or St Paul's), ☎ +44 20 7332 3700 ([email protected]), . M-Sa 10AM-5PM Su noon-4PM. £2.50 (F and after 3:30PM: free), child 0-16 free.
- Museum of London, London Wall (NB this is a street!) (tube: Barbican (walk S) or St Pauls (walk N)), ☎ +44 870 444 3852, . M-Sa 10AM-5:30PM, Su noon-5:30PM. Established in 1975, the Museum of London explores the various threads of London's archaeology, history and culture throughout its more than 2,000 year old existence. Free and, like the city, endlessly fascinating! (The Museum now also has an offshoot in East End. Cafe, gift shop and disabled access. Permanent and temporary exhibitions: free. Special exhibitions: £5, concession £3, child 0-15 free.
Lloyd's of London and The Gherkin
The City's business is not cathedrals or museums, but banking. The upside? The City offers some of the most fascinating modern architecture in London, and this alone makes a tour of London's financial institutions and markets worthwhile, even if you're not an investment banker. The bad news is that very few of the buildings are open to the public, although some do have "open weekends" at certain times of the year. The annual Open House Weekend - usually held on the third weekend in September, is when many London's most famous buildings (including many of those in the City) are open for public tours.
- Baltic Exchange, St. Mary Axe (next to the Swiss Re Tower), . The world's main marketplace for ship broking.
- International Petroleum Exchange, St. Katherines Dock (tube: Tower Hill), . One of the world's largest energy futures and options exchanges. The Brent Crude marker which represents an important benchmark for global oil prices is traded here. It also houses the European Climate Exchange, where emissions trading takes place.
- Lloyds of London, 1 Lime St, . The headquarters of world's most famous insurance market, housed in a revolutionary (at the time) bizarre, Matrix-like glass-and-steel building designed by Richard Rogers, with all support services (lifts, ventilation, etc) suspended outside. Recognised as a masterpiece of exoskeleton architecture.
- London Stock Exchange, Paternoster Sq, . After leaving its brutalist skyscraper on Old Broad St, the London Stock Exchange now resides on Paternoster Sq. Dating back to 1698, it is one of the world's oldest and largest stock markets.
- London Bullion Market Association, 13-14 Basinghall St, . This is where the world gold price is 'fixed' twice a day.
- London Metal Exchange, 56 Leadenhall St, . The LME is the leading centre for non-ferrous metals trading. It is also the last financial market in London which still retains open outcry trading.
- London Stone, Cannon St (tube: Cannon St). A little known and arguably little cared for yet intriguing item.
- St Bride Printing Library, Bride Ln, EC4Y 8EE, ☎ +44 20 7353 4660, . Tu noon-5:30PM, W noon-9PM, Th noon-5:30PM. This specialist small library houses an impressive range of books on graphic design, typography, bookbinding and papermaking. The books cannot be borrowed but can be photocopied or photographed (with permission). An essential visit for any graphic design student.
- Swiss Re (the Gherkin), 30 St. Mary Axe, . Designed by one of Britain's leading architects, Sir Norman Foster, and recipient in 2004 of the Stirling Architectural Prize for Best Building.
- Willis Building, 51 Lime St. The most recent addition to the City's skyline, and right opposite Lloyds of London.
- Climb to the top of St Paul's Cathedral or The Monument to get excellent views over the financial heart of London.
- Gresham College, Barnard's Inn Hall, Holborn (tube: Chancery Lane. Between Fetter Ln and Furnival St), ☎ +44 0220 7831 0575, . Founded in 1597 as London's alternative higher education institution to Oxford and Cambridge, Gresham College continues to provide free public lectures every week during term time. Most lectures require no booking, with wonderful speakers delivering lectures on wide range of interesting topics.
John Stuttard, Lord Mayor 2006-07, at the Lord Mayor's show
- Lord Mayor's Show, . Annual, normally November. The ceremony celebrates the appointment of the new Lord Mayor of the City of London. It is one of the great annual processions held in all London.
- London Walks, . Consider going along on one of the many excellent guided tours of the City, often with an evocative theme for example ghosts or Jack the Ripper.
- London Film Locations Bus Tour, . The City of London is hugely popular with film makers so consider going on a bus tour of famous film locations.
- Tower of London Ice Rink, (tube: Tower Hill), .
Although not noted for the best shopping opportunities in London (these are securely held by the West End), the City nonetheless retains an above average shopping offer, having a large, relatively affluent and captive crowd of City workers right on their doorstep. Avoid shopping during lunchtime hours, if you can, as this is the time when workers are looking to do the same, in their thousands. Again, at weekends many outlets will be closed. A number of retail venues stand out:
- One New Change, (off Cheapside, tube: St Paul's), . 7 days a week. The City's only modern shopping centre, which opened in October 2010. Includes around 60 shops and restaurants. It is controversially situated right by St Paul's Cathedral and is in a small area of retailing, including Bow Lane.
- Leadenhall Market, (off Gracechurch St, tube: Monument), . Worth visiting for its architecture and old-fashioned cobbled streets. It was used as a location in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
- Royal Exchange, (tube: Bank). Situated opposite the Bank of England, the Exchange houses a number of upmarket outlets. Part of the exterior was recently featured in the film Bridget Jones' Diary (at the end, when Bridget runs after Mark along a snowy street).
- Spitalfields Market (technically not in the City), (off Bishopsgate, tube: Liverpool Street), . Once a large thriving market, it has slowly been shrunk to a third of its size by development in the area. But, it still features a good variety of clothing, crafts and food stalls/shops. Rather promisingly sellers have set up another market in a new space off Hanbury St nearby.
There are a great many number of bars, coffee houses, cafes, restaurants and pub, mainly catering for the City workers during the week (and therefore most likely to be closed at the weekend). Sit down restaurants in this district tend to be expensive and aimed towards business lunches. The vast number of take away places though are reasonably priced. During the week (and during good weather) you can find some outdoor eating areas in places, such as on Walbrook.
- Boisdale of Bishopsgate, Swedeland Court, 202 Bishopsgate EC2M 4NR (tube: Liverpool Street), ☎ +44 20 7283 1763 ([email protected]). closed Sa and Su. A rather grand Scottish restaurant which has jazz evenings and offers a cigar bar.
- Club Gascon, 57 West Smithfield, EC1A 9DS (tube Barbican), ☎ +44 20 7796 0600, . Fine French dining at this Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Gow's, 81 Old Broad Street EC2M 1PR, ☎ +44 20 7920 9645 ([email protected]), . closed Sa and Su. An upmarket seafood restaurant and oyster bar.
- Polo Bar, 176 Bishopsgate EC2M 4NQ (tube: Liverpool Street), ☎ +44 20 7283 4889. 24H. An unpretentious cafe serving fried breakfasts and similar basic food 24h a day. Ideal for a late snack after you leave the Eat & Drink! Liverpool St is a safe area anyway but you cannot get safer than this for a late night meal, as at night you'll often see police from the nearby City of London police station. There are no toilets however, you need to use those at nearby Liverpool St Station.
- Simpson's Tavern, 38 Cornhill EC3V 9DR (tube: Bank), ☎ +62 020 7626 9985 ([email protected]), . closed Sa and Su. A traditional old style English eatery which has been in business here since 1757. Most of the food is cooked on an open grill in the corner. A very City of London experience!
- The Wall, 45 Old Broad St EC2N 1HU (tube: Liverpool Street), ☎ +44 20 7588 4845 ([email protected]). Restaurant and bar popular at lunchtime and in the early evenings. Closed Sa and Su.
If you just want to see the sights, come to the City whenever it suits you (although check the opening hours for anything you particularly want to see). If you are spending more than a few days in London, visiting the area at night, especially around 10PM-11PM, can provide a decidedly un-touristy atmosphere. You will be seeing part of London life that few people who do not live or work in the City experience, and if you have the confidence to introduce yourself you may even get into conversation with local workers out for a late drink, the area is enough off the tourist route that you will be something of a novelty. Thursday and Friday are naturally busier but at the same time a bit less friendly, earlier in the week it may be dead but you have more chance of meeting locals just out for a drink.
- Dirty Dick's, 202 Bishopsgate (tube: Liverpool St), ☎ +44 20 7283 5888, . M-Th 11AM-midnight, F Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 11AM-10:30PM. One of the better known pubs (although definitely no tourist trap) near Liverpool St, supposedly named after a Georgian dandy who let himself go on the death of his fiancée. £3.20 pint.
- Eat & Drink, 11 Artillery Passage (tube: Liverpool St), ☎ +44 20 7377 8964. M-F 'til 2AM. A small and fairly ordinary Chinese restaurant by day, this turns into a heaving karaoke bar in the evenings. One of the most reliable places near Liverpool St to get a drink after midnight! £3.40 small can lager.
- Lamb Tavern, 10-12 Leadenhall Market (tube: Bank/Liverpool St), ☎ +44 20 7626 2454, . M-F 10AM-11PM. One of several pubs in Leadenhall Market where you can listen to insurance brokers from nearby Lloyds talk business. £3.60 pint.
- White Hart, 121 Bishopsgate (tube: Liverpool St). An unpretentious City pub, slightly cheaper than most. Unusually for the area, has a few tables outside where you can watch the world go by in summer or cower under a heat lamp while smoking in winter. £2.80 pint.
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU (tube: Blackfriars, Temple or Chancery Lane). An old City pub establishment, rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. All the monarchs who have reigned in England during the pub's time are written by the main door.
- City YMCA, (nearest tube stations: Moorgate, Barbican and Old St), . Fantastic value or money at the two YMCA properties located close to each other in The City - Barbican and Errol St. Nightly and weekly rates are available. You will be encouraged to learn about the work that the YMCA undertakes to give young Londoners a start in life. From £128 per week.
- The Hoxton Urban Lodge, 81 Great Eastern St (nearest tube station: tube: Old St), ☎ +44 20 7550 1000 ([email protected]), . From £30 web purchase.
- St Paul's Youth Hostel, 36 Carter Ln (tube: St Paul's), ☎ +44 08707 705764 ([email protected]), . Small hostel converted from one of the City's oldest buildings. Cheap for Central London accommodation, range of room sizes, basic facilities. Dorm from £18.95 including breakfast. 6 rooms for 2 people and 3 singles..
- Andaz Liverpool Street London Hotel, 40 Liverpool St, ☎ "="+44 ([email protected], fax: +44 20 7961 1235), . A concept casual luxury hotel. No two bedrooms the same. Features iPod rentals and 5 restaurants From £120.
- SACO Apartments - Aldgate, 99 Leman St, ☎ +44 207 26 999 30 ([email protected]), . A grade II listed Victorian building in perfect walking distance to the main city centre. A great alternative to hotels for those traveling on business. From £120.
- Travelodge London Liverpool St, 1 Harrow Pl (tube: Liverpool Street), ☎ 08719 846190, . £80.
- SilverDoor Ltd, 3 Dukes Gate Chiswick London W4 5DX, ☎ +44(0)20 8630 7200 ([email protected]), . Catering to business travellers, serviced apartments agency SilverDoor Ltd offer over 300 properties in the UK capital.
- Citadines Prestige Holborn-Covent Garden London, 94-99 High Holborn, ☎ +44 20 7 395-8800 ([email protected], fax: +44 20 7 395-8799), . Located just a short walk from Covent Garden. The residence is surrounded by traditional pubs, international restaurants, art galleries and churches. Each air-conditioned apartment houses a bathroom with a separate toilet, a separate kitchen area and Internet access. Daily rates starts from £209.
- Malmaison London, Charterhouse Sq (tube: Barbican, Farringdon), ☎ +44 20 7012 3700 ([email protected]), . Great location with attentive staff.
Go south, crossing the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge, to access the central part of South Bank, home to the Tate Modern gallery and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Or head west down Fleet Street then Strand towards Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square or to Westminster, home of the British government and royal family.
|This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!