There are great world cities - from classical capitals to modern metropolises - and then there's London. One of the oldest settlements in the Western world, its history stretches back to the Bronze Age, through Roman rule and the Norman Conquest, the machinations of the Middle Ages and the inventiveness of the Industrial Revolution, through to the Swinging Sixties and the new Millennium.
London is the yardstick by which other cities are measured. It has the most astonishing ability to reinvent itself, always staying one step ahead of the pack, a magnet for creatives - be they writers or artists, designers or thinkers - and a melting pot of cultures from around the globe.
New York may be hip, Paris may be chic, but London is surely the Capital of Cool. The largest city in Europe, Greater London covers over 610mi (1,580km) with a population of 8.6 million. It's Britain's seat of government, the home of the Royal Family, the UK's commercial, cultural and sporting centre, Europe's leading financial market, the 'capital' of the English-speaking world; and a world leader in architecture, art, fashion, food, music, publishing, film and television. London is also Europe's most culturally diverse city and one of the most cosmopolitan in the world; one in three Londoners (some 3 million people) were born outside the UK, hailing from all corners of the globe, particularly Europe and the Commonwealth countries of Africa, Asia and the West Indies.
To add to this cultural potpourri, a phenomenal 20 million tourists swell London's population each year.
This book includes the coolest cocktail bars, smartest hotels, cosiest cafes and most atmospheric pubs, as well as restaurants that truly celebrate food and shops that redefine the art of retail therapy. Add to these the most exclusive members' clubs, hi-tech temples to fitness and celebrity hotspots.
And to take in some of London's more traditional pleasures we've included magnificent museums and awesome art galleries, breathtaking buildings, glorious churches and a swathe of tranquil green spaces that make London one of the greenest capitals in the world. Some names are instantly recognisable - from the British Museum to the Shard - while others may surprise, and all are among the very best that London offers - and are therefore, by definition, among the very best in the world.
We trust that you'll enjoy exploring them and that you'll agree that London - at its best - is truly unbeatable. Welcome to the Big Smoke!
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