United Kingdom

Where Is London? – Geography, History & Culture Facts

Have you ever wondered where London is? Or what country London is in? Or maybe even whether London is a country or a county? Then I got you covered!

There are many common myths and misconceptions about London out there. I have been to London many times, and know all about it.

To help you clear things up a little more, I have created this detailed overview with basic facts about London.

Whether you are traveling to London soon, just have a specific question about London or want to become an expert on the subject: this post is for you.

Let’s get to it!

colorful houses in London Notting Hill Portobello Road

Table of Contents

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Where Is London?

First things first. Let’s have a look at where London is precisely.

London is in the southeast of England, which is part of the United Kingdom. London is located on the River Thames.

The river Thames separates London in two parts, since it flows right through the middle.

London is not part of any county in the United Kingdom. It is a separate administrative and geographic entity.

This means, London is its own region, both administratively and geographically.

As you can see on the map below, London is close to France and Belgium, but it it still located in England.

google maps screenshot showing that london is in england
Map showing that London is in England

What County Is London in?

As we have heard before, London is not in any county. But why do many people think that it is?

If we look back in history, we can see that parts of London were in counties such as Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, and Essex.

However, as of today, London is not in any county anymore. London is its own administrative area called “Greater London.”

Interesting historical tidbit: The City of London, the historic core, was established by the Romans in AD 43 and called it “Londinium.” Over time, London expanded well beyond the original city. It has swallowed up surrounding areas that were part of different counties.

So, in a nutshell, London has a rich history that ties it to various counties, but today it’s its own thing. So keep in mind that it is separate from any other county in England.

To clarify, London also isn’t in a province. The term “province” isn’t really used in the United Kingdom. In the UK, we have “countries” (like England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and “regions” or “counties.”

To sum it up: London is a city. It is not part of any county, and it is not a country. London is also not a province, and London is not a state.

Greater London marked within the red dotted lines
Greater London marked within the red dotted lines

What is the Difference Between London and Greater London?

By now you are probably wondering what the difference between London and Greater London is.

London” often refers to the City of London. That is just a tiny part of the whole area. We are only talking about 1.12 square miles. It’s the historic and financial core of London.

“Greater London” is the big picture. It includes 32 boroughs and the City of London. Greater London covers about 607 square miles. This is where all the neighborhoods, attractions, and government stuff, like the mayor’s office, are. These are the best areas to stay in London.

So, the City of London is like a dot in the middle, and Greater London is the entire area around it. Greater London is the administrative district.

How Big is London?

Talking about Greater London and London already brings up the next question: How big is London?

As we have heard, Greater London covers an area of about 607 square miles.

London is about 25 miles wide from west to east and around 20 miles long from north to south.

So, it’s a pretty big place with a lot of ground to cover!

If that doesn’t mean much I have a little comparison: Los Angeles and New York City are two cities that are roughly in the same ballpark as London when it comes to size.

Los Angeles is about 503 square miles, a bit smaller but close. New York City covers about 468.9 square miles, again a little smaller but similar.

Is London the Capital City of Great Britain?

Yes, London is the capital of the United Kingdom, not just Great Britain.

That is an important distinction. Great Britain is the name of the island that includes England, Scotland, and Wales.

The United Kingdom (UK) is the country that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Ireland is not part of the UK, as you can see on the map below.

London is the political, economic, and cultural capital for the whole United Kingdom, not just Great Britain. This means, in London you’ll find the British Parliament, the Prime Minister’s residence, and the monarchy’s main house, Buckingham Palace.

But, London is NOT the capital city of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth does not have a central government, so it does not have a capital either. The Commonwealth Secretariat, the main institution, is based in London.

Map showing Great Britain (in orange) vs. Ireland (red)
Map showing Great Britain (in orange) vs. Ireland (red)

What is the Nickname for London?

Oh, London’s got some cool nicknames for sure! Here are a few:

  • “The Big Smoke”: Because of the old smog days.
  • “The Old Smoke”: Same reason, just older-sounding.
  • “The Square Mile”: Refers to the City of London, the financial district.
  • “Londontown”: Kinda old-timey, but people still use it.
  • “Londinium”
  • “LDN”
  • ” The Swinging City”

Each nickname has its own vibe, kinda like the city itself!

Is London in Europe?

Yes, London is in Europe, geographically speaking.

But here’s where the Brexit comes into play: The United Kingdom (including London) was part of the European Union until 2020. Then Brexit happened, and the UK officially left the EU.

Brexit is short for “British exit,” and it was a big deal all over Europe. It was decided by a public vote back in 2016. The whole process of leaving the Union took years. There were lots of negotiations, and it changed many laws, like trade and travel rules.

To sum it up: London is in Europe geographically. But it’s not part of the European Union anymore.

Altitude of London

London’s altitude is pretty low, actually.

The average elevation of London is around 115 feet (35 meters) above sea level.

Some parts of London are higher, like Hampstead Heath, which gets up to about 440 feet.

But generally, we’re talking pretty flat and low to the ground.

How Many Airports Does London Have?

London has six major airports: London City, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted and London Southend. Frequent flyers will be happy to hear that there are amazing connections to London from basically everywhere.

  • Heathrow Airport: This is the biggest airport, located west of central London. It’s the busiest in the UK and one of the busiest in the world. You’ll find flights from all over the globe landing here. Pre-pandemic, it saw around 80 million passengers a year.
  • Gatwick Airport: Located to the south, it’s the second busiest. Mostly serves Europe, the U.S., and some long-haul destinations.
  • Stansted Airport: This one’s north of the city. It’s a hub for low-cost airlines like Ryanair, so you’ll find lots of European destinations.
  • Luton Airport: Also to the north, it’s similar to Stansted. Lots of budget flights, mainly to Europe.
  • City Airport: Right in London, this one’s the smallest. It’s super convenient for the financial district. Flights are mostly to European cities.
  • Southend Airport: This one’s east of London, in Essex. It’s smaller and not as busy as the others, but it’s growing. Mostly serves budget airlines and has flights to European destinations.

How Many Universities Are in London?

London is a magnet for students from all over the world. The city is packed with universities!

There are around 40 higher education institutions in London.

This includes some big names like:

And then there are tons of specialized schools, like the Royal College of Art and the London Film School.

How Many Restaurants are in London?

Counting all the restaurants in London is like trying to count stars!

But I can give you an idea. There are thousands of restaurants, ranging from fancy Michelin-starred places to cozy little cafes and food stalls in London.

Some estimates put the number at around 17,000 to 18,000.

You can find all kinds of food too—British, Indian, Italian, you name it. Street-food markets are also pretty common, like the Borough Market.

London is especially famous for cute, instagram-worthy cafes.

One of the most beloved culinary traditions in London is a afternoon tea (or high-tea).

So if you’re a foodie, London is pretty much heaven. You could eat at a different place every day and still not hit them all!

Is London the Most Beautiful City in the World?

The “most beautiful city” is super subjective, right?

Some people absolutely fall in love with London’s mix of old and new. Ancient buildings like the Tower of London right next to modern stuff like The Shard. Colorful houses in Notting Hill and fancy townhouses in Belgravia. What’s not to love?

Others might prefer the romantic vibes of Paris or the natural beauty of cities like Cape Town or Sydney.

London has its gray, rainy days that might be a mood-killer for some. But then you get these amazing sunsets over the Thames that make you think: “Wow, this place is gorgeous!”

So, is it the most beautiful city in the world? Personally, I prefer Paris and Vienna over London.

But ultimately, that’s really up to you to decide. But London has a lot going for it, that is for sure.

What is the Weather Like in London?

London’s weather has a terrible reputation of being grey, rainy and gloomy. But is that true? Here is a small breakdown of what the weather in London actually looks like:

Spring (March-May): Starts off a bit chilly, but gets warmer at the end of it. You’ll see a lot of rain, but also more sun as you get into May. Average daylight starts to increase, reaching about 15-16 hours by May.

Summer (June-August): Summers are usually warm, sometimes even hot. Usually around 20-30°C (68-86°F). Long days with up to 16-17 hours of daylight. Rain is less frequent but still pops up.

Autumn (September-November): Autumn is cooler, and a lot more rain. Daylight starts to dwindle, down to about 8 hours by November.

Winter (December-February): London winters are cold, but usually above freezing. Expect around 7-8 hours of daylight. Snow is rare, maybe a few days each year, and it doesn’t stick around long.

So is London gloomy? Sunlight varies a lot.

Summer has the most sunlight with around 200 hours of sun per month on average. In winter you could have as few as 50 hours per month. Sounds pretty gloomy to me.

How Old is London?

London is pretty old. It was founded by the Romans way back in AD 43.

They used to call it “Londinium.”

So if you do the math, London is nearly 2,000 years old.

It’s gone through a whole lot of changes since then. London suffered through Viking invasions, the medieval era, and even survived the Great Fire in 1666.

But London has not always been the capital of the England. Particularly during the Anglo-Saxon era, other cities, such as Winchester, were used as the capital city.

With the Norman Conquest in 1066, London became the main seat of governance. Since then it has had its status as the capital.

Is London Boring?

London has certainly a bit of a reputation of being boring. There are a few reasons why people consider London boring.

The stuffy British attitude and all their strict traditions is certainly one of them. The dreary weather is another one. Also London is pricey, so it might feel like there is little to do.

But all in all, I think London is not boring at all. The interesting things are spread out a little, and you need to know where to go to find some fun.

In my opinion, London is calm, but not boring.

Does the City Have a Cruise Port?

Yes, London does have a cruise port!

It’s called the Port of Southampton. Super popular for cruise departures and arrivals.

Southampton Cruise Port is about 1,5 hours outside of London. You can take a train to the city or book a private transfer for your shore day.

Conclusion

In this post we have learned a whole lot about London. We did find out that London is in the southeast of England, which is part of the UK.

We learned, that London is not in any county, but it is an administrative entity by itself. London is technically in Europe, but not part of the European Union anymore.

Of course we also dived deep into whether London is boring and just how many restaurants there are.

I hope you enjoyed learning a lot about London. For those seeking more knowledge of the sort, why not learn some cultural facts about Malta?

If you loved London, why not take a road trip to Cornwall?

If you were just looking for a great city trip, London is also one of the best places for a romantic weekend getaway in fall or winter.

blonde girl pink dress in front of blue door santorini

About the Author

Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in New Mexico. She spends about half of the year traveling to various destinations together with her husband.

She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.