London calling


World’s most popular destination

London has overtaken Paris to become the most popular city with foreign tourists in the world, after a bumper 2013 saw it receive more visitors than ever before in its history.

According to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today, there were 16.8 million visitors to London in 2013, spending a combined total of more than £11.2 billion. This was the highest recorded number since records began in 1961, and an increase of more than a million on the previous record of 15.6 million people set in 2006.

Paris, which previously claimed the title of most visited city in the world, recorded 15.7 million foreign visits in 2012, its most recent published figure. Yet Paris isn’t giving up without a fight – an aide for the city’s Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo told the London Evening Standard: “The new British figures will be analysed, but they sound fanciful. Visitor numbers to Paris are impressive and unrivalled.”

London’s own mayor Boris Johnson said that the figures were a tribute to “the outstanding mix of culture, art, music and sport” on offer in the UK’s capital. He said: “With major international sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and the Tour de France and spectacular exhibitions at the Tate and the British Museum this year, it is clear that this wonderful city will not rest on its laurels.”

The British Museum was the most popular individual attraction for 2013, achieving its own record year with more than 6.7 million visitors. Figures were boosted by a particularly popular exhibition about the history of Pompeii, and museum director Neil MacGregor said: “London is and always has been a global city. The world collection at the British Museum belongs to and is used by a global citizenship in London.”

The ONS said that the top three countries to have their people come to London were the US, France and Germany, which contributed more than five million visitors between them. On spend per visitor, however, they were all beaten by people from Middle East countries who, despite not coming in the top 10 for visitor numbers, spent almost £900 million between them.

Tourism bosses said that the increase for 2013 was helped in part by the legacy of having London beamed across the world for the 2012 Olympics. Kit Malthouse, chairman of the mayor’s promotional organisation London & Partners, said: “London is continuing to build on its success and is offering world class exhibitions and attractions that people are prepared to travel from all corners of the globe to see.”

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London’s Tourism Industry

London is the most popular tourist destination in the whole world, attracting around 30 million visitors from other countries each and every year. People travel here from every corner of the globe to admire London’s many impressive monuments, explore the richly vibrant culture of the city and perhaps take in a theatrical performance in the West End. In addition, a total of roughly 26 million overnight visits are made to London each year, and these overnight visits are mostly made by people living in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Revenues generated by tourism in London comprise approximately 10 per cent of the city’s gross value added income, and it is projected that tourists in London spend approximately £15 million per year. This figure includes all aspects of the tourism industry, such as accommodation, transportation, eating out and attraction entrance fees.

Around 13 per cent of the people who work in London are employed by the tourism sector in one way or another. This figure is predicted to rise dramatically as London’s tourism sector has been working hard to raise the city’s profile as an important and exciting tourist destination.

Buckingham Palace is by far the most popular tourist attraction in London, as it attracts around 15 million tourists each year. Many people travel to Buckingham Palace to watch the world famous event known as the ‘changing of the guard’, and this event is so famous that it even inspired a song by Bob Dylan. The ceremony officially takes place at 11:30 each day and takes a total of half an hour. However, visitors who want to get a good view of this exciting event will need to arrive just before 11:15 or even earlier if possible. Although Buckingham Palace is still officially a royal residence, some of the palace’s lavishly decorated rooms are open to the public during the summer months, when special guided tours are conducted. Don’t forget to visit the famous Green Park and St James’ Park whilst you’re in the vicinity.

The Victoria and Albert Museum also attracts large numbers of tourists all year round. This museum is located in the Kensington area of London and is actually the biggest museum of its kind in the world. The museum opened to the public back in 1852 and contains a permanent collection of more than four and a half million objects.

Another of the city’s most famous landmarks is the British Museum, an estimated average of just under six million people visit the British Museum each year. One of the reasons for the popularity of the British Museum is that entrance is free, while this prominent establishment is also open seven days a week. The British Museum, situated close to Tottenham Court Road and Holborn tube stations, contains a collection of some seven million exhibits, and some of the most popular include the Lindow Man, the world’s oldest mummy and the Rosetta Stone.

Many of the city’s other famous attractions are situated along the banks of the River Thames. These include the Tower of London, where tourists flock to admire the impressive Crown Jewels of England. The nearby Tower Bridge also attracts large numbers of visitors, while tourists who walk along the riverbank will also be treated to views of the impressive Houses of Parliament building with Big Ben nestled next to it.

Literary lovers are drawn to the important literary exhibits housed inside the British Library, situated in Kings Cross. These include a large selection of original manuscripts of world famous classics such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Other exhibits of interest include William Shakespeare’s autograph and the Magna Carta.


History of London

The Railway Age

If there was one invention that changed the layout of London more than any other, it was the steam train and its railway. Almost the entire railway network, which is still in use today, was established during Queen Victoria’s reign.

London’s first railway line opened in February 1836 between Spa Road in Bermondsey and Deptford. The extension to the terminus at the south end of London Bridge opened on 14 December 1836 and to Greenwich on 12 April 1840: trains ran along London’s longest viaduct (4 miles) carrying passengers to the delights of Greenwich in just 12 minutes. This slashed the journey time by riverboat or omnibus. No wonder then that around 650,000 passengers travelled the route in its first 15 months.

To build a new railway, you had to demolish a lot of buildings – so it was easier to get approval for lines that ran mainly through poorer areas. This puts the locations of many London railway termini into context. Property was cheaper south of the river, for example, which explains why London Bridge was chosen as the first terminus.

But even the affluent City had to concede the inevitable coming of the railways, and the first permanent City terminus was opened in August 1841 at Fenchurch Street. Around 3,000 people had to be evicted from the East End to make way for this line.

The 1840s saw a railway boom, when permission was sought from Parliament for 19 lines in London, each with its own terminus in the City or Westminster. The idea of one large central station was also considered. In the end, only two of the 19 termini were permitted and in 1846 railway exclusion zones were set up on both sides of the river. Only Waterloo station snuck through the new red tape: with permission already granted before the new ruling, it opened within the southern zone in 1848.

Long distance train travel arrived in London in 1837, with the building of the Euston terminus at the end of the line from Birmingham. Other major termini soon followed, with Paddington opening in 1838, Fenchurch Street in 1841 and King’s Cross in 1850.

The growth of the railways had a dramatic impact on London. It squeezed the City’s residential population out, making way for a major commercial centre. It signalled the end of the old coaching inns. It caused central London traffic to rocket, as passengers travelled across town between termini and into work. (This was eventually alleviated by the construction of London’s Underground system, starting with the Metropolitan Railway.) And the huge termini, and the lines into them, split districts and communities forever.

Railway development stalled in the early 1850s. But not for long. In October 1860, Victoria Station opened, connecting the capital to Brighton and Dover. Before a wider central London exclusion zone could be approved in 1863, permission had been granted for Charing Cross, Ludgate Hill and Cannon Street termini, with bridges bringing trains across the Thames from the south. Thanks to the trains, Londoners’ horizons were broader than ever.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Despite London’s position in a corner of an island off the tip of mainland Europe, it has become a major international transport hub. Its airports offer flights across the globe, led by Heathrow to the west, which is the world’s busiest international airport. Meanwhile, road and rail systems fan out from the capital across Britain and even into Europe.

Most of this incredible transport network has been built since the Second World War. In the 1920s and 30s, the capital had an airport in Croydon, south London. But after the War a much bigger site was needed. So Heathrow, formerly home of RAF Heston, was chosen to be London’s new airport. Initially, passengers waited in former military marquees, but these were replaced by buildings in the 1950s. Terminal 1 opened in 1969 as the jet age arrived and annual passenger numbers reached 5 million. Now, over 67 million passengers travel from Heathrow to over 180 destinations in over 90 countries.

London’s second airport was to be Gatwick Airport, to the south. Opened in 1958, Gatwick was the first airport in the world directly accessible by air, rail and road. It now carries over 30 million passengers a year.

Not satisfied with two airports, London boasts two more at Luton and Stansted to the north, plus London City Airport three miles east of Canary Wharf. Luton, in particular, became associated with package holidays, allowing millions of Londoners to realise their dreams of travelling abroad.

The post-war years also saw the growth of motorways carrying people to and from the capital. Britain’s first full-length motorway opened in 1959. The ‘M1’ connected Watford to Rugby, but was later extended north and further south into London. Later, London was connected to Southampton via the M3, to West Wales via the M4, to Cambridge by the M11, to Dover by the M20 and to Birmingham by the M40.

Possibly the capital’s most famous motorway is its ring-road – the M25. As far back as 1905 there had been proposals for an orbital road for London. The 1944 Abercrombie report recommended no less than five ring roads, of which just one and a half (the North Circular and the M25, which was a combination of two) were eventually built. The M25 is the longest city bypass in the world at 117 miles. Its distance from Charing Cross varies from 13 to 22 miles. By the time the last stretch was opened by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1986, it had cost nearly £1,000 million to build.

The final major boost to international travel came when the Channel Tunnel project reached fruition in 1994. The first design for a tunnel was put forward in 1802 and the first attempt to excavate one was in 1880. Construction on the current tunnel finally started in 1987 and in November 1994 passengers boarded the first commercial Eurostar service to Paris. A month later, a car-carrying service opened, offering a quick and easy alternative to taking your car to the continent by ferry.

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Michael Radford – 1984 (1984)


Danny Boyle – 28 Days Later… (2002)


Guy Ritchie – Sherlock Holmes (2009)


The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)


The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don’t need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset’s fine

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don’t feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset’s fine

Millions of people swarming like flies ‘round Waterloo underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And the don’t need no friends
As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
They are in paradise

Waterloo sunset’s fine


Ralph McTell – Streets Of London (1969)


Ralph McTell – Streets Of London (1969)

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news

So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.


In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man is sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
Each tea last an hour
Then he wanders home alone


And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman’s mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn’t care



The Clash – London Calling (1979)


The Clash – London Calling (1979)

London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls

London calling, now don’t look to us
Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain’t got no swing
‘Cept for the reign of that truncheon thing

The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running but I have no fear
‘Cause London is burning and I live by the river

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it brother, you can go at it alone
London calling to the zombies of death
Quit holding out and draw another breath

London calling and I don’t wanna shout
But while we were talking I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain’t got no high
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes

The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning and I, I live by the river

The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning and I, I live by the river

Now get this, London calling, yes, I was there, too
And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true
London calling at the top of the dial
And after all this, won’t you give me a smile?
London Calling

I never felt so much alike



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