Think you know London? Here’s five surprising things that might boost your knowledge of the city.
We may be a little bit biased, but London is one of our favourite cities in the world.
There are, of course, lots of things about London that we don’t love - lots of little day-to-day frustrations, but it’s a city where every day you learn something new, or you come across a little reminder as to why London is definitely one of the world’s most exciting cities.
Here’s some of the things that you might not know about the UK capital.
There are bodies hidden everywhere
Outbreaks of bubonic plague repeatedly devastated the population of Europe during the middle ages. The Great Plague of 1665–1666 was the last major outbreak to hit London. In that outbreak, it’s estimated that 100,000 people died – that equates to about 15% of the city’s population at that time.
As the number of victims began to mount, burial grounds were at capacity and pits were dug to accommodate the dead. The largest of these was at Aldgate, where it’s estimated that over 1,000 plague victims were buried in an anonymous pit – it’s now been completely built over, Aldgate tube station is pretty much on top of the buried bodies.
Odd names are an easy history lesson
There are a lot of great street names throughout London. Most of the time streets were named for very practical reasons, almost as a guide to what you would find on that street. For example, Cloth Fair is the narrow street where a medieval market used to be held, near the church of St Bartholomew the Great. Gun Street is where the gunners from the Tower of London repaired their guns. Pottery Lane takes its name from the brick-fields nearby where clay was dug.
You might guess that Cock Lane – just near Holborn Viaduct, in the meat market district of Smithfield – had something do with poultry, but that’s not what it was named for. In medieval times, it was the only street to be licensed for prostitution.
Here comes the bride
Pub quiz question – Where did the inspiration for tiered wedding cakes come from? The answer is St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street - its tiered construction has been inspiring cakes for centuries.
Looking for some retail therapy?
The shopping in London is about as good as you could hope to find anywhere - mostly because of the city’s top-class department stores such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, and Liberty. Harrods is also still right up there as one of the world’s iconic department stores – they used to sell cocaine, but they stopped that line of business in 1916.
Taxi drivers never get lost
In so many cities around the world, you get in a taxi and you have to explain to the driver how to find the address that you’re looking for – that’s not the case in London. To drive one of the famous black taxis of London, you have to pass a licensing test known as The Knowledge. There are 320 basic routes that you have to memorise, that includes 25,000 streets within those routes, and 20,000 landmarks and points of interest - all within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. You know you’re in safe hands with a London taxi driver.