The City of London, colloquially known as Square Mile, is a really unique and special place not only in the realms of the English capital, but also in the context of the entire United Kingdom. Although it is older than the UK itself by a few hundred years, many people all over the world are still unfamiliar with the particular history and status of this city/country.
What is “City of London?”
The City of London should not be mistaken for London or Greater London. Even though it is located within the metropolis of London, it functions as a separate city. This means that it has laws, taxes an even a police department of its own. The City of London’s mayor is called The Right Honorable, The Lord Mayor of London and he or she works in a separate city hall and wears special garments. The mayor of London, on the other hand, is simply known as the Mayor of London and the only thing you will see him or her wearing is a business suit.
The City of London has a status similar to that of the separate countries that make up the United Kingdom. Just like to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the tiny city within London has a flag and a coat of arms. The English capital, however, has neither of these two things. Here it should be noted that the City of London should not be viewed as an independent country, but rather as an area that enjoys special rights and treatment.
The reason behind the City of London’s existence
The history of the City of London is older than that of Greater London. The Romans founded a settlement called Londinium at approximately the same place of the City of London’s current location. To protect it from other invaders, they decided to construct a massive wall around it. Years passed, the Romans left the British Isles, but Londinium and the wall surrounding it remained on their place for many long centuries.
The turning point in the history of the City of London was influenced by the 1066 Norman invasion of England. When William the Conqueror became King of England, he agreed to officially recognize the City of London as a territory with a special status. In return, the City of London recognized the ruler as the new king. Ever since then, this small part of the London metropolis lives a life of its own. The rulers of the country changed, but every new king or queen continued to follow the tradition established by nearly one thousand years ago. In fact, part of the United Kingdom’s coronation process includes a pledge by the soon-to-be ruler that he or she will recognize the City of London as a separate local authority.
Square Mile as a Financial Center
Nowadays, the City of London covers area of barely 1.12 square miles, thus its nickname “Square Mile.” Most of its territory falls in the London Borough of Southwark. Only the Tower of London is located within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Just like a regular city, the City of London is subdivided into different administrative divisions. The Square Miles consists of a total of 25 wards. Many of them include the word “gate” in their name, since they covered an area that fell inside and outside the London Wall. Among them are Aldgate, Cripplegate and Bishopsgate.
Even though only 11,000 people live in the City of London, the area is one of the busiest in the London metropolis. That is due to the fact that Square Mile is one of the largest financial and business districts in the world.
- More than 392,000 people work in Square Mile
- Over 98% of all companies in the City of London are small or medium-sized enterprises
- Interestingly, it is also in direct opposition of another financial district in London – Canary Wharf*
*Canary Wharf’s population is bigger (73,390), but the number of people who work in the district are fewer compared to those who have a job in the City of London.
- There are more than 250 foreign bank institutions and nearly 530 foreign-based companies operating on the territory of the Square Mile
- Insurance, business, professional and ICT services are the most well-represented spheres in the City
Popularity among locals and foreigners
Despite its predominantly business character, the City of London attracts people from every corner of the world. Some of the most appreciated nearby landmarks and attractions are the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Monument to the Great Fire of London. Tourists are also lured by the futuristic skyscrapers in the area, the tallest of which is Leaden Hall (225 meters).
The local real estate market is also booming boosted mainly by the interest of rich foreigners. Nevertheless, if you are a billionaire who is looking to buy a fancy property in the City of London, do keep in mind that the homes in the Square Mile tend to be overpriced. Therefore, it is not surprising that one in every 10 properties in the City of London is owned by individuals or companies based in offshore tax havens. Still, living in the area does offer quite a lot of advantages. Most of its wards are located incredibly close to trendy pubs, bars and restaurants. The abundance of local markets and shopping streets certainly appeal to shopaholics and fashionistas and the easy access to outdoor spaces and parks is a yet another perk of living or working in the City of London.
The residential buildings in the Square Mile seem to reflect its rich and diverse history. The unusual mixture of contemporary-styled apartments and Edwardian and Victorian terraced houses seen in wards like Aldgate, for instance, gives the City of London a charm of its own. Everything about that part of the London metropolis is different. So, if you ever decide to relocate to Aldgate, for example, make sure you find reliable moving solutions in Aldgate.