Ever since William the Conqueror consolidated his victory over King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 – with a hefty great castle on the banks of the River Thames – London has been at the epicentre of English life. As Samuel Johnson said in 1777, “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
From the rarified atmosphere of Chelsea and Kensington in the west to the more rough-and-ready charms of Cockney London in the east, the 1,500 square kilometres of the British capital do indeed offer all that life can afford.
London today, despite its position as a global financial centre and one of the most diverse, exciting and creative cities in the world, can still be seen as simply a collection of small villages, a patchwork of individual municipalities with their own customs and character.
And the thing that pulls them together and unites them? History: layer upon layer upon layer of history. Here you can stand by a wall built by the Romans and stare up at the gleaming glass spike of The Shard, the newest, soaring addition to the London skyline. And between the two? A mere 1800 years or so. You’d better get started – there’s a lot to see.