24 Fascinating London Facts For Kids
London is one of the oldest and most recognisable cities in the world, but how much do you really know about it?
There are lots of weird and wonderful things to know about and visit in the city, some of which your youngsters are sure to find interesting.
24 fascinating London facts for kids
The Romans founded London (sort of)
Did you know Romans first settled in London some 2,000 years ago? Except, not in the current state it is today. It wasn’t even properly called London back then.
The Romans actually named it ‘Londinium’ and it was a lot smaller than London is now- only around the current size of Hyde Park. It was small enough, in fact, that Celtic Queen Boudicca was able to burn the whole city to the ground during her revolt.
That said, it was quickly rebuilt and gradually grew into the London we now know.
In 1369, Edward III tried to ban butchers from working in London
In 1369, the smell of raw meat, blood and offal around the city was almost too much to bear living with. It was made worse by the fact that people had a habit of throwing away carcasses and leftover rotting meat into the River Thames.
It was so bad, Edward III (who was king at the time) demanded butchers be banned from slaughtering animals in the City of London.
The Houses of Parliament is really a palace
Its proper title is “The Palace of Westminster”, and actually served as a main royal residence for English kings and queens until 1512 when a fire burned a large part of the original building down.
After that, it became the official meeting place for MPs. Today, it looks every bit like a grand royal house, with over 1,000 rooms and 100 staircases. Technically it’s still a palace as, according to the law, the monarchy still owns it!
London Zoo was the first zoo in the world
Initially started in 1827, London Zoo was only meant to be open to scientists to carry out research into animals and animal behaviour, which meant regular people weren’t allowed to see inside.
But, this changed in 1847, when the Zoo was officially opened to the public, becoming the first place to do this. Today it’s still one of the largest zoos around the world.
The Great Stink of London was a real thing
The hot weather in the summer of 1858 did more than just give Victorian Londoners a good suntan. It also caused an incredible stink.
The River Thames was a dumping ground for a lot of human waste and rubbish due to the outdated sewage system which emptied straight into it.
The heat of July and August 1858 caused the smell to get so bad and people were so scared of the possible illnesses it could cause, the London authorities finally decided to change the direction of the sewage pipes so they wouldn’t flow into the river anymore.
London is a forest?
Although one of the busiest cities in the world and home to over 8 million people, did you know London also falls under the United Nations definition of a forest?
This is because as well as having a lot of people, London also has a lot of trees. Almost a fifth of it is woodland, and 40% is public green spaces such as parks and gardens.
London’s famous red buses weren’t always red
Everyone recognises the big red London buses, but not everyone knows they weren’t actually red until 1907.
Up until then, buses used to be all different colours depending on the route they were on. They were eventually only painted red because of the competition between bus companies that existed back then.
It was the London General Omnibus Company who first painted theirs red to stand out from the others and it must have worked well because they went on to become the largest bus company in London!
Becoming a London black taxi driver is one of the hardest jobs in the world
Black cabs are another famous bit of London transport. But do you know how difficult it is to be allowed to drive one?
Black cab drivers have to pass an extremely challenging test called ‘The Knowledge’ in order to qualify.
It involves memorising and recalling any of the streets within 320 driving routes and can take years to study for but, honestly, it’s no surprise it takes so long to learn 25,000 road names.
London buses drive an estimated 12 times around the world every year
More transport and large numbers now. London buses travel on almost every single road in the city and because there are so many of them and they run so often, it works out that drivers travel about 300 million miles a year.
This is the same distance as approximately 12 times the circumference of the earth.
That’s a lot of driving… and probably a lot of hardcore maths help needed to work those numbers out.
Norway gives a Christmas tree to London’s Trafalgar Square every year
Since 1947, Norway has given London a Christmas tree as a sign of their gratitude for British help during the second world war.
This isn’t your average tree though, it’s often over 20 metres tall and, because of this, is normally placed at the centre of the Trafalgar Square Christmas display.
London’s Streets are almost paved with gold
Dick Whittington was almost right. Though the streets of London aren’t entirely made of gold, there is some stored beneath them.
In fact, there’s about a fifth of the world’s gold down beneath the streets, that’s over 200 billion dollars worth.
It’s quite low underground though so you’d have to dig a long time to get your hands on any…
The Great Fire of London destroyed a lot of the city’s history
The Great Fire of 1666, though thankfully didn’t result in hundreds of deaths, did destroy four-fifths of the city’s buildings.
Loads of historical buildings were completely burnt down including many medieval and Tudor ones. This means, unfortunately, only a small number of buildings built before the 1700s still stand today.
Buckingham Palace wasn’t always the official royal residence
Although iconic and famous for being the Queen’s house, Buckingham Palace was actually built for and named after, the Duke of Buckingham in 1703.
It was then bought by King George III for his family in 1761 and changed into a grander house, much more fit for royalty, in the 1820s.
Queen Victoria, however, was the first monarch to move in and claim the palace as the official royal residence and it’s kept that title ever since.
Half of the London Underground isn’t underground
Built in 1863, the London Underground was the first and is now the oldest underground train network in the world.
But the name is probably quite misleading because, as it turns out, over half of it is not in fact under the ground – only 45% of the London Underground network is, leaving the remaining to operate 55% above the ground.
Over 300 languages are spoken in London
London is such a diverse city, with people from all over the world choosing to live in it. Between the 8 million residents, over 300 languages are spoken!
The most popular of which are Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, Gujarati and, of course, English.
London is one of the largest cities in Europe
London was the first city to reach a population of 1 million in 1811. Now with a population of over 8.9 million, the number of people living in London is larger than the number of people living in Austria.
The growth is showing no signs of stopping either – by 2026, there’s expected to be a massive 9.5 million people living in the city.
Winnie the Pooh lived in London Zoo
Winnie was the name of a bear given to London Zoo by a Canadian army regiment during the First World War.
She lived in the Zoo for 20 years, from 1914 to 1934, and it was there that Winnie-the-pooh author AA Milne and his son, Christopher Robin, first saw her.
The bear’s name is where the similarities stop though. As mentioned, unlike in the books, Winnie was in fact female. She also had black fur and didn’t walk around eating honey whilst wearing a small red t-shirt.
The London Eye is the world’s largest Ferris wheel
The London Eye was built in 1998 to commemorate the upcoming new millennium. It’s the largest landmark of its kind, reaching over 135 m tall.
This means, if it were to ever be unravelled and laid flat, it would be longer than three whole football pitches.
Big Ben’s clock is adjusted with an old English penny
The clock on top of the Big Ben tower is adjusted by either adding an old penny to its pendulum if it’s running fast or taking one away if it’s running too slowly.
If we’re being really accurate though, we should probably call the tower by its real name – The Elizabeth Tower (in honour of the Queen).
Despite being one of the most well-known buildings and tourist attractions in the world, ‘Big Ben’ is the name officially only given to the bell inside the tower, which means it is never actually visible from the street.
17 English Kings and Queens have been buried at Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is famous for its sacred and ceremonial history, a history which also includes the burials of several notable people.
17 British monarchs are buried there, including all of the Tudors (apart from Henry VIII who is buried at Windsor Castle).
In total, over 3,000 people are buried in Westminster, with the likes of Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin also being laid to rest in the famous Abbey.
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world
Wimbledon, also known as The Championships, is held every summer at the Old English Tennis Club.
It was started in 1877, making it the oldest tennis tournament in the world right now. Not only that, but it’s also one of the most famous, known about, anticipated and watched around the globe.
No wonder you can get so much money for winning; in 2019, the prize money for winning the whole tournament was a great big £2.35 million.
Animals used to be kept in the Tower of London
The Tower of London is famous for keeping prisoners of the Kings and Queens of England, but it has also been home to a few animals in its time- though not quite for the same reasons.
Instead, they were gifts given to medieval monarchs by foreign royalty. This means the animals kept inside were often quite rare and unusual.
For example, amongst the gifts Henry III received were three lions, a polar bear and even an African Elephant!
Tower Bridge took eight years to build fully
The iconic bridge that opens up between two towers over the Thames took a long eight years to finish.
First started in 1886 and finally finished in 1894, its construction took an estimated 432 workers coming in every day in order to be completed.
London is the only major city to host the Summer Olympics three times
As of the 2012 Olympic Games, London is the only single city to hold the event three times.
It first hosted in 1908, then again in 1948 and most recently in 2012.
London is the only city in the United Kingdom to have held the Olympics, and yet, the only country to have hosted more times is the USA.
And there we have it, 24 London facts for kids. Have we missed anything weird or wonderful about London? Let us know in the comments.