The City of London is a place of contrasts. This small district in the heart of the British capital is second only to New York as the most important financial hub in the world, generating nearly £bn70 in economic output annually. Located to the south of the River Thames, the City features skyscrapers and state-of-the-art buildings that define London’s skyline. It is also the oldest part of the capital, the site where the Romans laid the foundations of Londinium, a port town of strategic importance, in the mid-1st century.

roman walls

The boundaries of the historic town were established by a 2.5 mile-long defensive wall, little of which remains today. The best-preserved surviving sections of the London Wall can be seen just outside the entrance to Tower Hill tube station, although only the lower section dates from the Roman age; the upper part was built in medieval times.

money and architecture

Colloquially known as the Square Mile, because it covers an area of 1.12 square miles (2.90 km2), the City is the location of the Bank of England and the London Stock Exchange, the world’s biggest international banking and foreign exchange market. It also contains branches of all the major investment banks and trading firms. Its oldest and most visited landmarks include London Bridge and the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Monument to the Great Fire of London. The City is also home to the newest architecture in Britain. A number of its skyscrapers are tourist attractions and some have been given nicknames based on their unusual forms, such as the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie or the Cheesegrater.

The City is unique because, despite being one of the thirty-two boroughs that constitute Greater London, it has its own government, its own mayor (the Lord Mayor) and its own independent police force. The City also collects its own taxes and has its own flag, which is similar to that of England, although the well-known red cross of St. George on a white background also features a red sword on its upper left corner.

silver and red dragons

You can, of course, easily see the district’s boundaries on Google Maps. But another quick way to find out if you have entered the City is to look at street signs. Each sign in the City states “City of London” and depicts its coat of arms. Furthermore, thirteen distinctive statues of silver and red dragons surround the City, and will also always let you know when you are within its borders.