London was born almost 2,000 years ago, when the Romans set up a trading post on the banks of the River Thames in 47 AD. They called it Londinium, and the wall that they built around their town corresponds roughly with the boundary of the City of London today. It borders Westminster to the west, Tower Hamlets to the east, Camden, Islington and Hackney to the north, and the River Thames to the south.
The area covers just one square mile and has a population of less than 8,000, far fewer than any other borough in London. In fact, it’s not even a borough, but a city in its own right and is administered by the City of London Corporation. It may be small in size and population, but it has always been one of the most important and influential areas of the city.
After the Romans left, the Anglo Saxons created their own community just to the west of the wall and the former Roman town became virtually uninhabited. However, the location of old Londinium still had its advantages for trading. The Thames being tidal, meant that boats could come up this far, and yet it was still narrow enough to be bridged.
From Alfred the Great’s resettlement in the 9th century, right up to the modern day, trading has always played an important part in the City of London’s history.
The Great Fire of London in 1666 swept away the medieval streets and alleyways, and in its place came the Royal Exchange, Bank of England and insurance giants like Lloyds of London.
The ships have also gone and in their place we now have modern buildings, such as the ‘Gherkin’, ‘Cheesegrater’ and ‘Walkie Talkie’ which entice an army of 300,000 people to swarm into ‘The City’ everyday to work in either the financial institutions or offices of the legal profession. Today, the City of London and the financial institutions of Canary Wharf have made London one of the world’s most important financial centres.
For visitors, the Square Mile as it’s sometimes called, doesn’t have as many historical attractions as Westminster, partly because of the Great Fire, and also because it was heavily bombed during the Blitz. St Paul’s Cathedral is the notable exception, quite possibly because it’s been said that it was used as a marker by the Luftwaffe.
The main thing to remember is that The City is primarily an area of finance where fortunes are made and lost. Pubs are often frequented by ‘City Gents’ and you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with people in suits and designer clothes, which will help to explain why prices are generally higher here. That said, you can also find hotel accommodation cheaper on a weekend, but it’s worth bearing in mind that when the financiers and legal eagles return home to suburbia for the weekend, The City changes to a tranquil place, with most offices, shops, and pubs closing up until Monday morning when the whole mad rush starts up all over again.
ORIGINAL POST – SEPTEMBER 2017
LATEST UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2021