"I've been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day." — Walter Besant
I will never forget visiting London for the first time. It had been just over a year since I had seen a dear friend of mine, and we decided to meet up in London for a few days before traveling on to Santorini, Greece for a late summer vacation. The memorable experience began when we eagerly found one another near baggage claim at the London Heathrow airport, a greeting which almost seemed as if it could have been the friendly version of meet-cute scene in a Hollywood film.
Since our stay in London was going to be pretty brief, we welcomed the full tourist experience by immediately locating our hotel to drop our luggage, and we taxied straight to Big Ben to begin our sightseeing journey. We even ended day one with a classic dinner of fish and chips. Although our arrival day weather did live up to its stereotype — gray and drizzling — day two was absolutely beautiful allowing for the most picturesque stroll through St James's Park on our way to Buckingham Palace. We finished out the afternoon shopping our way through Notting Hill, where we were lucky enough to stumble upon the Portobello Road Market.
London remains to be one of the most popular destinations in the world, and as a top city it has earned its place in the launch of our Cities of Wonder erasable book collection. However, my ultimate reason for including London in this series is because it truly seems to be a place where everyone fits in. In just a few short days, a tourist can feel like a local. And, if you leave a window of unplanned time in your itinerary, some of the best London experiences may just be stumbled upon, as there truly is something different and new around each corner of this city.
FUN CITY FACTS ABOUT LONDON
1. BIG BEN ISN'T THE TRUE NAME OF THIS OFFICIAL LANDMARK.
Although the name 'Big Ben' is frequently used to identify this world famous landmark, the tower itself is actually called the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is simply the name that was initially given to the bell that lives inside of Elizabeth tower.
2. BUCKINGHAM PALACE HAS 775 ROOMS.
The official residence of Queen Elizabeth includes 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. In measurements, the building is 108 meters long across the front, 120 meters deep (including the central quadrangle) and 24 meters high. When you visit, you can check in to see if Her Majesty The Queen is currently at home by whether or not her royal flag is flying on the flagpole.
3. THE LONDON UNDERGROUND IS THE OLDEST UNDERGROUND RAILWAY NETWORK IN THE WORLD.
But, did you know that 55 percent of the London Underground, aka 'The Tube', is in fact not underground? Learn more interesting facts and history of the London Underground.
4. LONDON IS THE BIGGEST CITY IN ALL OF EUROPE.
Covering 620 square miles, not only is London the biggest city in Britain, but it is also the largest city in all of Europe. Learn more.
5. MOST LONDONERS DON'T ACTUALLY LIVE IN THE CITY OF LONDON.
The resident population of the megacity we know as Greater London is just over 8.5 million people; however, the city of London itself is just a small portion with a population of only 9,123 people. The city also sees nearly 30 million tourists who visit each year! Learn more.
6. LONDON HAS OVER 170 MUSEUMS.
London is truly a destination for fans of art and culture. Some museums to note are The Tate Britain and Tate Modern, The British Museum, The National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and more.
7. LONDON IS THE FIRST CITY TO HOST THE OLYMPICS THREE TIMES.
London is the only city to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games three times (1908, 1948 and 2012). The 1908 events lasted 187 days, making it the longest Olympics ever held. A total of 204 nations took part in the 2012 Olympic Games.
8. LONDON BUSES CARRY OVER SIX MILLION PASSENGERS PER DAY.
During the week, London buses carry over six million passengers per day, and just one percent of those passengers would fill the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal, to capacity. There's also a map online where you can track every single London Bus in real time. Check our the bus map here or learn more facts about London Buses here.
9. RAINY LONDON IS NOT ACTUALLY VERY RAINY.
While it may rain in London approximately 156.2 days per year, the city actually clocks less rain than Rome, Miami, Mexico City and Sydney in terms of volume and number of rainy days.
10. THE LONDON EYE IS EUROPE'S TALLEST CANTILEVERED OBSERVATION WHEEL.
Offering a unique 360 degree view of the city, The London Eye stands at 443 feet tall and is one of the two highest lookout points in the city. You can see nearly 25km in every direction.
11. HOW MANY LONDONS ARE THERE?
The capital of the United Kingdom is not the only city in the world called London. The United States has ten cities named London, Canada has one, France has one and there is even an asteroid called London!
Jaq Jaq Bird's Cities of Wonder Erasable Book Collection allows children to trace and illustrate their travels, in-person or imaginary, all while learning to love the world around them. Each book includes an educational, interactive map guide featuring landmarks, facts and more about the city.