London is divided into 33 districts. These are the city’s most popular areas and neighbourhoods.
Whitehall and Westminster
For over one thousand years, Whitehall and Westminster have been at the core of political and religious power in England. That is the reason the areas have a large number of monuments, compared to other neighbourhoods. Whitehall has all Government departments and ministries. To the north, Trafalgar Square indicates the start of London’s West End, an area with a renowned nightlife.
In these two neighbourhoods, you will find Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster.
Piccadilly and St James’s
Piccadilly Circus and St James’s is the West End’s main artery. Throughout the eighteenth century, this was a fashionable residential area amongst the aristocracy and also a popular spot for shopping. The most elegant part of London is still Mayfair, and Piccadilly Circus is where Soho starts.
Soho and Trafalgar Square
Built in the second half of the seventeenth century, it was the City’s most refined area until the start of the nineteenth century. Its relaxed bars and pubs are artists and intellectuals favourite. Nowadays, it is one of the most liberal and multicultural neighbourhoods in the City, the epicentre of London’s gay scene, and part of the area houses the famous Chinatown.
Covent Garden and Strand
This is one of London’s most exciting areas. Renowned for its outdoor cafes, street artists and boutiques and market. In the centre is the Covent Garden Piazza, created by Iñigo Jones in 1630. It was the City’s first modern square.
A must-see in Covent Garden is the Piazza and the old fruit and veggies market.
Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia
This neighborood is where many writers and artists live, and it has many libraries. The University of London, British Museum and numerous Georgian squares can also be found in Bloomsbury.
Main attractions include the British Museum and Russell Square.
Holborn and Inns of Court
This area is where lawyers and journalists favoured living. The Royal Courts of Justice and the Inns of Court are in this neighbourhood. Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court, was home to several world leaders. Some of its buildings date back to the fifteenth century before the Great Fire of 1666. Holborn was a prestigious business area.
The City of London, also called The City, is London’s financial district, where the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange are located. This area is animated during the week, but quiet on the weekend.
This area is where the Romans built Londinium. After the Great Fire of 1666, which burnt most of the old City, Christopher Wren supervised the building of 52 churches in the area that are still standing today. Throughout the nineteenth century, it was one of the most sought-after residential neighbourhoods. However, nowadays, very few people live here. The City is a mix of contemporary glass buildings opposing with Georgian houses.
The top landmarks in this area include St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Smithfield and Spitalfields
One of the most historic parts of London, north of The City, it served as a refuge for those who were not welcome in the ancient City. During the seventeenth century the Huguenots, as well as other European and Bengal immigrants established themselves in this area and built factories, bringing their cooking and religion to London.
Here you will find one of the oldest churches in the capital, Jacobean houses, remains of the Roman wall and the only wholesale market in London.
Southwark and Bankside
From the Middle Ages up until the eighteenth century, Southwark was a trendy borough. Outside the jurisdiction of the City, Southwark was where those who wanted to indulge in forbidden pleasures came to. Shakespeare had his theatre company in the Globe Theatre, which has been rebuilt close to its original location. In the eighteenth and nineteenth-century factories, warehouses and docks were constructed. Nowadays, Southwark is one of the liveliest neighbourhoods.
This area was badly hit during the World War II bombings. In 1951 the Festival of Britain designated the area as a place of arts and entertainment. The only building that still stands from 1951 is the Royal Festival Hall.
In the South Bank, you will find the London Eye.
During the reign of the Tudors the little village of Chelsea, by the riverbank, became very popular. Here Henry VIII built a palace that is no longer standing. Thomas More lived here, like several other artists who were very fascinated by the perfect scenery of the river from Cheyne Walk. During the eighteenth century, pretty courtesans would walk in its gardens, and the Chelsea Arts Club would arrange scandalous dances. In the nineteenth century, it was inhabited by intellectuals and artists. Nowadays, this is an exclusive area, often too expensive for artists, but it preserves its connection with the artistic world with various art galleries and antique shops.
South Kensington and Knightsbridge
South Kensington and Knightsbridge are two exclusive areas of London, filled with embassies and consulates. Due to its vicinity to Kensington Palace, this area hasn’t altered much over the centuries. Knightsbridge is home to some of London’s richest residents and has the most exclusive high-end shops. The area is also important culturally since it is home to several museums and universities.
In this area, you’ll find some of London’s main attractions: Kensington Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Albert Memorial monument, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and Hyde Park.
Kensington and Holland Park
Until 1830, this area was a rural village with a market and Victorian townhouses. Holland House is the area’s best known mansion, and part of its land is now Holland Park. Most of its buildings date from the nineteenth century, and you can currently visit two of its Victorian houses. In the west and north of Kensington Gardens, there are two luxury residential neighboroods, where many foreign embassies are located. The shops in this area are almost as high-end as those in Knightsbridge.
The main street, Queensway, is bustling and cosmopolitan; full of cafes and restaurants. Its most popular landmarks are Portobello Market, Notting Hill and Holland Park.
Regent’s Park and Marylebone
The medieval village, south of Regent’s Park, Marylebone, has the biggest number of Georgian mansions in the city. Until the eighteenth century, this area was surrounded by fields and gardens. During the nineteenth century, its elegant houses were occupied mainly by doctors, and nowadays it still preserves its medical tradition and charm.
Greenwich and Blackheath
Greenwich is famous for giving the name to the Greenwich Meridian and is where the National Maritime Museum is.
A royal palace was built here through the Tudor period, but the only building left standing is the Queen’s House designed by Iñigo Jones for the wife of James I. In Greenwich, you’ll discover a market, a park, libraries and antique shops.