31 fun and interesting London facts for kids. So many things have happened in London through the centuries that it’s impossible not to become fascinated by all the historical events and curious facts. So from the Romans to modern-day London, we have compiled 31 weird and wonderful facts about the capital.
31 London Facts for Kids:
1. London (as a city) was founded by the Romans
Although several structures have been found pre-dating the Romans, it’s a broad consensus among historians that the Romans created the first large settlement on the banks of the Thames and called it Londonium. Learn more about the Romans in London by visiting the Museum of London.
2. How London got its name is a mystery
Some think London’s name may have been derived from the Celtic Llyn (pronounced “lun”), a pool or lake that was the river that expanded to become a large lake. The area immediately below London Bridge is “The Pool”, and din or dun are a hill, fort or place of strength. The Celtic word ‘lond’, meaning wild, or even (bear with us) ‘plowonida’, which would have meant a broad, strong river in pre-Celtic dialect. Unfortunately, there is no consensus, and in the absence of written records, we will probably never know.
3. It took London 1000 years to regain the same population as Roman London
At its peak, around AD 120, Roman London’s population was around 45,000 people. Not until the 13th century did it regain the same number of people within its city limits.
4. Roman London was abandoned for hundreds of years
The Anglo-Saxons preferred to create a separate settlement outside of the old Roman London. So they called their town Lundenwic. Not until the Vikings started attacking London did they move back behind the Roman walls several hundred years after the Romans left England.
5. A Norwegian Viking tore down London Bridge
London Bridge was pulled down in 1014 by the Norwegian prince Olaf, aiding King Aethelred in regaining London from the Danes. The episode is said to have inspired the nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down. Olaf later became Norway’s patron saint Olave and had several City of London churches dedicated to him.
6. London was ruled by Danish Kings
Danish Vikings gained control over the whole of England, including London for long periods. The Vikings left their mark several places around London.
7. The Tower of London was erected to subdue Londoners
You might think that the Tower of London was erected to protect London against enemies sailing up the Thames, but no. The Normans built it after they invaded England to keep control in case of an uprising against them.
8. The Normans were the last to conquer England
The Norman conquest of England in 1066 was the last time England was conquered.
9. William the Conquerer was a direct descendent from the Vikings
To prevent the Vikings from looting Paris, the French king gave them the area that became known as Normandy. Although the Normans had adopted the French language and culture by the time they invaded England, many could still trace their bloodline directly from their Scandinavian ancestors.
10. The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree is Norwegian
To thank the British for helping Norway during the second world war, Norway’s capital Oslo is giving London the Christmas tree you can see at Trafalgar Square every year.
11. London has very few medieval buildings
Because of the almost total destruction of London during the Great Fire of London in 1666, very few medieval buildings can be seen today. Buildings surviving include the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Hall, Guildhall and St James’s Palace.
12. Almost half of London is green
As much as 47% of London consists of green spaces such as public parks, farms and woodlands.
13. The Thames was the royal highway
Since medieval times the Royals always preferred travelling by ship through London. It was faster, safer, and less dirty than travelling through the city streets, which is why many of the royal palaces can be found close to the river.
14. The Royal Parks are still owned by the Queen
Parks like Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Richmond Park are called Royal Parks for a reason. As Royal hunting grounds for the ruling monarch, they have remained protected from development through the centuries. Today they are all public parks and can be enjoyed by everyone throughout the whole year.
15. London has always been diverse
Originally Celtic, conquered and ruled by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans, London has adapted to new cultures and languages. In more recent centuries, the Huguenots arrived in large numbers in the 17th Century, followed by waves of African, Chinese, Irish, and many more countries.
16. The Tube is the oldest underground network in the world
The London Underground opened in 1863 and was the world’s first underground railway system.
17. Less than half of London’s Underground is in tunnels
Only 45% of the Tube network is actually under the ground.
18. Half of London’s population died during the black death plague
It is estimated that around 30,000 people or 40%-60% of London’s population died during the black death plague of 1348.
19. Black Taxi drivers need to memorise 20,000 street names
To qualify for the test as a London black cab driver you need to memorise 320 basic routes through London, 25,000 streets as well as 20,000 London landmarks and places of interest.
20. The Royal Standard is flown at Buckingham Palace when the queen is present
The Royal Standard (as pictured) can be seen at full mast on top of the building when the Queen is in the house. When she is not present, the Union Jack is flown.
21. There is an underground postal network under London’s streets
The Mail Rail system opened in 1923 runs for almost 10km beneath the capital, from Paddington in the west to Whitechapel in the east via Liverpool Street with nine stations in total. It was closed in 2003 but you can experience a portion of it at London’s Postal Museum.
22. There are two cities within Greater London
There are two cities within Greater London: The City of London (aka the Square Mile) known as one of the key financial centres of the word and the City of Westminster which is the political hub with the Houses of Parliament. The other districts of London are called boroughs.
23. The City of London has its own police force
The City of London square mile has its own police force with distinct uniforms, different from the rest of London.
24. London has it’s own river police
Formed in 1800 to prevent the looting of ships anchored up in the Thames, London still has its own river police unit daily patrolling the river.
25. London is protected from flooding by a massive barrier
20 meters tall stretching 520 meters across the river, the Thames Barrier in East London is protecting London from tidal waves
26. There is a helicopter route through Central London
Special helicopter lanes are defined for helicopters flying through London’s busy airspace. The challenging helicopter route through Central London follows the river Thames twisting and turning through the city.
27. 1.5 million Londoners were evacuated out of London during the Blitz
Many of London’s children were transported by train from London to a rural area to protect them from bombing raids during World War II.
28. London was bombed for 56 days during the Blitz
From the day the Nazis decided to concentrate their bombing on London, the Luftwaffe bombed London for 56 of the following 57 days and nights.
29. More than a million houses were destroyed or damaged by the Blitz
It is estimated that 1.4 million people were made homeless during the German bombing
30. River Thames used to be an open sewer called the “Great Stink”
Before London’s sewer system was built in the late 19th century, both human and industrial waste was dumped directly into the river. This resulted in a devastating impact on the environment (the Thames was literally dead), not to mention the horrible smell and the many cholera outbreaks from contaminated water.
31: The Great Smog of London killed more than 10,000 people
Cold weather and the extensive burning of coal in power stations and for heating combined with exhaust from vehicles caused a severe air pollution event called “The Great Smog” in December 1952 leading to more than 10,000 deaths.
And there you have our 30 London facts for kids! If you enjoyed this, why not check out our cool London quizzes for kids and other things to do for kids indoors! Do you have a fun fact about London to share? Let us know in the comments!