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20 Amazing Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About London

20 Amazing Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About London

Danielle de Wolfe
20 August 2015

Related: 25 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The London Underground

London: our nation's bustling, occasionally annoying but frequently brilliant capital. Here are 20 facts that'll make people think you're some kind East End cockney quizzmaster with more bona fide local knowledge than your local black cabbie.

The white stuff.

Harrods sold cocaine until 1916.

Respect your elders

Theoretically, the impersonation of a Chelsea Pensioner is punishable by death.

Big Brother

The license plates of every car entering or leaving London are read by a computer system. Each registration plate is then checked against a stolen car database and alerts are sent to the police for any problem cars. The system was originally used as the first line of defence against IRA bombings in London.

All seeing eyes

London is crammed full of cameras that are accessible by police. The police prefer to utilise the cameras to to follow suspects rather than using foot or cars. That way suspects are not even aware they are being followed. There is a similar system in place that studies people's body language and movements, flagging them for attention if they look suspicious. Big brother is in effect, always watching. 

Rainy City

Despite London being in England, a place renowned for its terrible weather the city actually receives less rain on average than New York City. So have that. 

Charing Cross is the centre of everything

All distances to London from another part of the UK are measured to a single point - Charing Cross.

Weird laws

It’s illegal to die in parliament.

Shipping City

The Port of London is still the UK's second largest port, with many ships running along the Thames from the North Sea.

The Black Death

More than 1,000 bodies are buried underneath Aldgate station, in a plague pit built in 1665.

The 'Small' City

London as we know it is not a city. It's a collection of lots of villages that merge into each other. There is however, a City of London that exists in space made up of just under two square miles bounded by the Thames and London Wall.


Great Ormond Street Hospital owns the copyright to Peter Pan after author J.M Barrie, having no children of his own, gifted them the rights in 1929. All royalties from all related versions go straight to the hospital.


From Beatles to shopping..

The rooftop where The Beatles played their infamous last gig on the roof of Apple Corps at 3 Saville Row is now an Abercrombie & Fitch shop. Which is a bit depressing.

Timely Tune

Big Ben’s chime is in the key of E.

Goin' Underground

The vast majority of the London Underground isn't actually underground. In fact, around 55% of it can be found on the surface level. Which for some reason makes us feel a bit sad.

The Knowledge

London Black Cab drivers have to memorize approximately 25,000 streets, 320 different routes and 20,000 landmarks to become certified taxi drivers. The test is called "The Knowledge" and far more credit should be given to London cabbies for learning it. Who needs a Sat Nav?

Cheap drinks?

The Palace of Westminster, which is the point where the House of Commons and House of Lords meets, has eight super cheap bars, six restaurants, a hair salon, and a rifle-shooting range. All of which are super cheap thanks to the humble British tax-payer. Pat yourself on the back...

Where we're going we don't need roads

In the actual 'City of London' there's only one road and that's Goswell Road, which was introduced to the Square Mile in 1994. Roads didn't become a common term until the 16th Century and as such the City of London is crammed full of Lanes, Streets and Ways but no roads. Mind blown.

Wonders of the world

When it was first opened, the Millennium Dome (now known as the O2 Arena) was the largest structure of its kind in the world. Big enough to fit either the Statue of Liberty or the Great Pyramid of Giza inside.

Big Bell

'Big Ben' is not actually the name for the clock tower itself, it's the name of the bell. 

Pop Goes The Weasel

The famous nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel is a direct reference to the unfortunate act of spending your entire wage packet by boozing in the pubs around Clerkenwell, and subsequently having to pawn your suit.