London A vast, vibrant and multicultural city, London is one of the most bustling, entertaining and culturally diverse cities in the world. The capital of the United Kingdom (UK) and the heart of political, cultural and business life in the country for centuries, the significance of London’s contribution to the world have given it a status as one of the key global cities.

Over past two millennia, London has developed and expanded, despite the many dangers that included the Great Plague, the Great Fire, the bitter English Civil War, a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and the London Blitz during World War II. The sheer scale of Greater London can be daunting at first, as it sprawls 1,500sq km (580 square miles) across a voluminous plain. However, it is a city that is surprisingly easy to get around, with the comprehensive and easily navigated London Underground, a.k.a. the ‘Tube’.

The twin axis on which London rests is the Houses of Parliament to the west and the City of London to the east. The seat of government (not far from the home of the royal family) is connected to the City (the financial engine room of London and the whole of the UK) by the River Thames. In between lie most of the tourist attractions and the busiest, liveliest different entertainment areas, such as Knightsbridge and Soho. But London’s vivacity and charm stretches far beyond the Circle Line – the Underground route that rings around the inner city.

Home to 37 distinct immigrant groups, each consisting of more than 10,000 people, this is a city where 300 languages are spoken. This very real multiculturalism is evident on every street. In Brent, London, it was recorded by the 2001 UK census that there was an 85% chance that any two people chosen at random in the street would belong to different ethnic groups. Harrow was found to be the most religiously diverse community in Greater London, with a 62% chance that any two people will practise a different religion. The biggest contrast in neighbours was found in London’s Camberwell district, where black Africans make up 41%; yet in the neighbouring Herne Hill district, black Africans account for only 2% of the population.

Tourists come for London’s history or London’s royal pageantry but they return for all the charms of the modern London, not least the extraordinary breadth of London’s cultural life, with world-class art galleries and theatres, buzzing nightlife, film, music, culinary and fashion scenes. But the city skyline is the place where the London’s rapid change and optimism is most visible; the Docklands and the City (with its now famous ‘Gherkin’ tower) have shot up over the last few years.

After an enthusiastic campaign, London won the bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012, which will have a significant impact on the future of the city in terms of both tourism and investment. Celebrations were, however, dampened by the atrocities of 7 July 2005, when a series of coordinated suicide bombings struck the city's transport system during the morning rush hour, killing 56, wounding hundreds, and leaving millions in shock. London, however, has bounced back more quickly than many expected from the terrorist attacks, a testament to the resilience of its people and its enduring appeal as a tourist destination.

During summer, London’s bountiful green spaces fill up with office workers and tourists enjoying the surprisingly balmy days as café tables sprout across a multitude of pavements. During winter, the grey skies and rain can be forgotten for a while in numerous cosy pubs. But spring or autumn are probably the best seasons to visit the city, when clear crisp sunny days often illuminate London and its landmarks, old and new.


Out of every 1,000 people (on average):

    • 597  are White British
    • 120  are Asian 
    •  114  are White non-British
    • 109  are Black
    • 32  are Mixed Race
    • 11  are Chinese 

Source: Office for National Statistics

The region of London is unequivocally the most ethnically diverse place in Britain. At the time of the 2001 census, ethnic minorities made up about 40% of the city population, including both the boroughs and the metropolitan areas. The average population of each borough in the city is about 250,000 people.

London has a population of over 7.1 million residents, and about 25% of its residents were born in a foreign country.

About nine of the thirty-two London boroughs were recorded to be less than ‘highly diverse,’ meaning that there would be less than a 50% chance that two people chosen randomly would belong to the same ethnic group. Within Greater London, it is estimated that more than fifty ethnic groups are represented in numbers of over 10,000. Almost three-quarters of England’s black African population resides in the city, as well as six out of ten black Caribbeans, half the Bangladeshi population, one in four Indians, one in five Pakistanis and a third each of white Irish, mixed race and Chinese populations. 

There is a difference in how ethnic minorities of Greater London are concentrated between inner London and outer London. The former area recorded that slightly over half of all residents were white or British ethnic origin, and the latter recorded that this amount rose to about two-thirds of the residents.

The ethnic diversity within London is always changing, and has been a major destination for global visitors and migrants traveling to the UK. Notably, the fastest-growing ethnic minority groups in the city are no longer those of Asian or Caribbean descent, but have been replaced by those of white European and African origins. The 2001 census recorded that for the first time, the number of black Africans has surpassed the number of black Caribbeans residing within London.


Total London Population: 7,172,091  

 Local area UK National Average   
 Ethnic group sub-group PopulationProportion compared to national average 
 White  5,103,203 71.1%
  British 4,287,861 59.7%
  Irish 220,488 3.07%
  Other 594,854 8.29%
 Mixed  226,111 3.15%
  White and Black Caribbean 70,928 0.98%
  White and Black African 34,182 0.47%
  White and Asian 59,984 0.83%
  Other mixed 61,057 0.85%
 Asian  866,693 12.0%
  Indian 436,993 6.09%
  Pakistani 142,749 1.99%
  Bangladeshi 153,893 2.14%
  Other Asian 133,058



 Black  782,849 4.79%
  Caribbean 343,567 10.9%
  African 378,933 5.28%
  Other Black 60,349 0.84%
 Chinese  80,201 1.11%
 Other ethnic group  113,034 1.57%

Source: Census 2001, Office for National Statistics


  • 73,000 South Africans 
  • 69,000 Nigerians
  • 66,000 Kenyans (or Kenyan-Asians) 
  • 50,000 Sri Lankans
  • 46,000 Cypriots 
  •  45,000 Americans 
  •  41,000 Australians
  • 40,000 Germans
  • 39,000 Turks
  • 39,000 Italians
  • 38,000 French
  • 34,000 Somalis
  • 27,000 Zimbabweans
  • 27,000 New Zealanders
  • 25,000 Yugoslavs
  • 22,000 Portuguese
  • 22,000 Spaniards
  • 20,000 Iranians 

Source: Beyond Black & White, Institute for Public Policy Research (2005)


  1. London 40.3%
  2.  West Midlands 13.9%
  3. East Midlands 8.8%
  4. South East 8.8%
  5. East of England 8.6%
  6. Yorks & Humber 8.4%
  7.  North West 7.9%
  8.  South West 4.7%
  9. North East 3.6

National average 13.1% (Ethnic minority residents are counted as all people who ticked a box other than White British in the 2001 census.)

Source: Office for National Statistics, Census 2001


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