Look beyond the financial heart that is The City of London and experience a district rich with ancient history, fantastic architecture and defined local culture.
The City of London Tour
The actual City of London is the oldest part of the city nicknamed simply as The City or The Square Mile. Although it isn’t shaped like a square. Nor it exactly a mile in size, it’s a bit bigger. However, it is a world on its own and a perfect walking tour to feed you insight into the humble beginnings of one of Europe’s greatest cities.
Within this pocket of London, there’s a mix of architecture, medieval alleyways, church gardens, big and historic banks. Oh, and yes, crumbling Roman ruins.
The City of London with a Blue Badge Guide
Ainura Bertram, a professional Blue Badge Tourist Guide, unraveled it all for us as we walked slowly in between a workday rush of smartly suited men and women.
As the financial core, the City is packed with impressively designed modern glass buildings housing the world’s biggest banks and financial firms. Look a little deeper and there is a piece of the past, in all its weary authenticity staring back at you. Even with 300,000 work commuters charging in daily, such details are easily and often overlooked.
There’s a lot to take in. London has a history dating back more than 2,000 years. Over that time, it has become one of the most important financial, commercial and cultural capitals in the world. It’s a resilient city too. Having gone through plague, devastating fires, civil unrest, aerial attacks and terrorist attacks.
The City of London: Architecture and Hidden Gardens
Modern day starchitects like Norman Foster and Richard Rodgers were commissioned to create state-of-the-art office buildings in the City. These incredible works juxtaposed with structures like just as incredible old church towers. The towers were often the only thing left standing after fires or air raids. As a result, some of them have been converted into apartments.
Ainura led us into hidden church courtyards where urban beauty struck us by surprise including at St. Vedast.
The City churches welcome people to stop by for an afternoon coffee break, cookies, a bit of organ music, a chance to pray or wind down. Perfect for the high wired business crowd.
Running the Financial Heart of London
The City is one of the leading financial hubs in the world and home to the biggest banking and insurance companies. It’s only rival is New York.
As we walked, Ainura also told us how the City manages to run like a well-oiled machine. The local government is run by The City of London Corporation, likely established in the 11th century. With fewer than 7,500 residents, it has 125 elected officials. The Lord Mayor is a VIP who travels the world promoting business with coffers worth $2 billion.
The City of London Influence: Livery Companies
It was clear, the City has been and remains a place of influential people and companies. The culture of Livery Companies and Freemen added to that. What began in medieval times as a loose association of tradesman grew into trade organizations or guilds.
Ainura pointed out each livery created a symbol that can be found on City buildings, on gates and in the walls. The most famous is called The Mercers Maiden, the symbol of the powerful Worshipful Company of Mercers in the City of London.
Fishmongers, goldsmiths and drapers are just a few, and today they are influential in networking and charitable donations. Currently there are 110 in number. However, there are just a dozen that are considered very special. Known as the Great 12 Livery Companies of the City, they own influence in controlling many aspects of daily City life and trade.
First the Romans in the City of London
When times were much simpler, in came the Romans. They invaded in 43 AD and established Londinium town where the City stands today. There are several spots to see the old Roman fortification walls that date back to 200 AD.
There’s also a fantastic Roman amphitheater located in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery.
Along the way, we also learned about the Bank of England and its museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Stock Exchange, which is one of the world’s oldest stock exchanges and the largest stock exchange in Europe, as well as notable neighborhood shopping and dining spots.
Conclusion: The City of London Tour
Much like my hometown of New York, there is so much to see in London that thinking where to start can make you dizzy! Too many incredible districts, deep history and big distances between it all can easily pack the limited time you may have for a city break. If you are searching for a central tour that marries ancient and modern history, the City of London will pique your curiosity.
For a quality and well-developed tour with rich local insight, book with a Blue Badge Guide like Ainura. Ainura is accredited through the Institute of Tourist Guilding, an organization that is officially recognized as a standard-setting and awarding body for tourist guiding in England.
The City of London Tour
Professional Blue Badge Tourist Guide: Ainura Betram
£160 half-day tour, £260 full-day tour
Tailor-made tours available upon request
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