London is a pretty awesome city to make your home or visit. With a rich history, multi-cultural society and a never-ending list of things to do and see, it ranks amongst the top cities of the world. Below are 15 amazing and unusual things that you probably didn’t know about London.
1) London’s underground train system, known as The Tube, has one of the strangest lost property collections of any organisation. Items that travellers have left on the trains include a coffin, a stuffed puffer fish, a samurai sword and a human skull!
Over the past couple of decades, door staff have refused entry to a woman with a Mohican, people in ripped jeans and those with bare feet. Thankfully, this rule is less strictly enforced today, although guidelines say that you might be turned away if wearing swim wear, dirty or unkempt clothing, or if you’re excessively sweaty!
3) London has many cemeteries and graves of famous people. These include, Bunhill Fields, where Pilgrims Progress author, John Bunyan, is buried, and Highgate Cemetery, which boasts some of the finest funerary architecture in all of the UK. But a really interesting cemetery to visit is the Pet Cemetery in Hyde Park. This began virtually by accident in 1881, when the lodge keeper at the time buried a Maltese Terrier named Cherry who was frequently walked in the park. After this, the idea of burying pets here caught on with locals, and more animals were laid to rest here by owners who loved visiting the park.
4) After being declared ‘biologically dead’ in 1957, the River Thames is the cleanest its been for over two centuries. It is now teeming with life, and different species of fish are flourishing in its waters. Over 125 types of fish live in the 215 mile river. These include haddock, bass, salmon, trout, plaice and Dover sole.
6) The Great Fire of London that destroyed much of the city in 1666 only recorded six official deaths. But it’s believed many more died through indirect causes, such as smoke inhalation. The fire began at a bakery in Pudding Lane on 02 September 1666. It spread across the city and continued for four days until it finally burned itself out. Around 80% of the city was destroyed, including 89 churches and more than 13,000 houses. The fire left about a sixth of the city’s population (around 100,000) without their homes.
7) London is home to over 7,000 pubs. The City of London (also known as The Square Mile and incorporates London’s financial district) alone boasts over 200 pubs and bars.
8) The Houses of Parliament has an incredible 1,000 rooms, 100 staircases, eight bars, six restaurants and 11 courtyards. It is possible to visit and even to sit in the public gallery and watch debates taking place.
9) There have been 52 past Prime Ministers of the UK. Of these, only one has ever been assassinated. This was Spencer Perceval, who was shot and died at the House of Commons in 1812.
10) The famous black cab drivers of London have to pass a test known as ‘The Knowledge’ before they are granted a licence to operate. The test is very difficult, because drivers have to know by heart every single street and landmark in London. It takes 2-4 years to study and pass the test. There have been recent demonstrations in London by these ‘black cabbies’ due to smartphone apps such as ‘Uber’, where users can book cheaper taxi cab rides than black cabs.
11) The Shard, one of the the tallest buildings in the European Union at 309.6 metres, has 72 habitable floors, 306 flights of stairs, 44 lifts and 11 hectares (27 acres) of floor space.
13) London has the largest emergency ambulance service in the world. The service employs over 5,000 staff and responds to thousands of emergency calls every day. There are currently many schemes in place to try and lower the number of emergency calls, as many people are calling 999 for trivial issues (such as being stranded and not knowing how to get home).
14) There are many public parks in London – more than any other city in the world. These include Hampstead Heath, Green Park, Greenwich Park, St James’s Park and Clapham Common. 11 of the parks in London are designated Royal Parks, and are open to the public to visit and enjoy.