London boroughs and historyVisiting London is an unforgettable experience and there is a true breadth of history going back hundreds of years. Round almost every corner there are landmark sights with their own story, and architectural style.
Today Greater London consists of 33 separate boroughs, including the City, the West End, and the East End. The City is the financial centre of the UK. The Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, and the Stock Exchange are located here.
The West End is noted for its historical places and parks. These are Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the principal government offices, New Scotland Yard, the Tate Gallery, and the National Gallery. The most celebrated parks are Kensington Gardens with the Victorian Gothic Albert Memorial; Hyde Park, with its famous Speakers' Corner; and Regent's Park, home of the Zoological Gardens and Regent's Canal. The West End is the area of wealth and goods of high quality.
London's East End is historically associated with the Cockney dialect. It was an infamous slum during the 19th century. The port of London until recently was in the East End. The area of docks played an important part in the country's commerce.
London's major cultural institutions also include the British Museum, which houses collections of antiquities, prints, and manuscripts and the national library; the Victoria and Albert Museum of decorative arts; and the music and arts complex located on the South Bank of the Thames.
Westminster is now the political centre of London, but originally it was a sacred place. King Edward the Confessor built a great abbey church here. It was consecrated in 1065. In 1245 Henry III replaced it with the present abbey church in the pointed Gothic style of the period. Since William the Conqueror, every British sovereign has been crowned in the abbey. Many kings and queens are buried here. There are memorials to eminent men and women. But the most popular ones are those to writers, actors and musicians in Poets' Corner. The grave of the "Unknown Warrior", whose remains were brought from Flanders in 1920, is in the centre of the west nave.
Alongside the Abbey Edward the Confessor ordered to construct a palace. The Palace of Westminster was the royal residence and also the country's main court of law. Parliament met here since the 16th century until the 19th century. The present Houses of Parliament, the seat of the legislative body of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, were built after the old palace burnt down in 1834. On the corner next to Westminster Bridge stands St. Stephen's Tower, which houses the famous tower clock. A light at the top of the tower at night indicates that parliament is sitting.
Saint Paul's Cathedral was designed in a classical Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. It was constructed between 1675 and 1710. Many famous persons are buried in the Cathedral.
Trafalgar Square was named for Lord Nelson's naval victory in the Battle of Trafalgar. In the centre of the square is Nelson's Column that includes his high statue. At the corners of the column are four sculptured lions. Trafalgar Square is the site of the National Gallery. Traditionally political meetings are held here. Each December a large Christmas tree sent from Norway is erected in Trafalgar Square.