Back when the ancient Romans first dropped by, the area that makes up The City – also called The Square Mile due to its tiny geographic expanse – represented the entirety of London. Although present-day London has expanded to encompass more than six hundred square miles, the moniker has endured, perhaps because this itty bitty enclave is the undeniable heart of European finance, vying with New York as the financial capital of the world.
More than five hundred banks have their offices here, collectively churning through most of London’s $1.36 trillion in daily trading. Centuries-old baroque buildings like the headquarters of the Bank of England line the blocks, while ultra-modern skyscrapers, including the iconic and undeniably phallic “Gherkin,” are home to the most expensive office space in town.
Tourists and history lovers geek out at The Museum of London and its massive collection of Roman artifacts, or head past St. Paul’s Cathedral and the area’s several historic churches as they make their way across the River Thames to the famous Tower of London, where the last remnants of the Roman London Wall that once protected The City still stand.
The actual resident population of The City barely tips 11,000 wealthy denizens, but on weekdays the streets are jammed with more than 330,000 bankers, traders, and government officials, creating a lively lunchtime vibe and an even more boisterous after-work crowd. Not surprisingly, most of the drinking dens cater to financiers, with upscale cocktail lounges and reserved wine bars dominating the scene. Also not surprisingly, the entire area is relatively devoid of nightlife, so anyone looking to get wild – at least in a way that doesn’t involve commodities trading – would be wise to look elsewhere.
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