Ever wondered what really lies beneath London Bridge, how misguided we've been about the Houses of Parliament and how different the London Underground might have been today? Our great City of London has a whole heap of historic facts waiting to be uncovered by your most inquisitive little ones, from the smelly and the gory to the heart-warming and the down-right hair-raising! Whether your children are born-and-bred Londoners, curious visitors to the capital or have never stepped foot in the Old Smoke, families all over the country will love these quirky London facts for kids.
Tiny Island, Big City!
Covering a huge 620 square miles, London is not only the largest city in Britain but in all of Europe!
The Original Dumping Ground
Collectively, all of the human and animal residents of Medieval London produced a stinking 50,000kg of poop a day – that's more than six double decker buses put together! We don't want to imagine how they calculated that one...
The Animals Came In Two By Two
Hurrah! London Zoo was the first zoo in the whole world! And we think it's still one of the greatest. It was also home to one of our best childhood friends...
Winnie The Zooh
Winnie the Pooh himself lived at London Zoo! The original Silly Old Bear that A. A. Milne based his beloved books on was a resident of London Zoo back in the day. I wonder how much honey they got to him in the 1920s...
It's A Stinker!
The sweltering summer of 1858 made the capital city so smelly that authorities were forced to change the direction of London's sewer pipes. This odorous ordeal is now known as The Great Stink of London!
Round The World On Red Bus
London city buses drive an estimated equivalent distance of twelve times around the whole world every year! Good jobs kids go free...
A Tree-rific Christmas Present...
Our huge Trafalgar Square Christmas tree that you'll see every December is flown in all the way from Norway! Since 1947, it's been a yearly token of thanks for Britain's help during the second world war. How do you match that Christmas present?!
Time IS Money
The clock of London landmark Big Ben is adjusted with an old English penny. If the city's ultimate time-keeper falls out of sync at all, a teeny 1p coin is used to set it straight again!
St Paul's Pineapple?!
One of our favourite London facts is that Christopher Wren, architect of the famous St Paul's Cathedral, originally wanted to feature a 60 foot stone pineapple in place of the now-iconic dome! Just imagine how different the London skyline could have been... personally, we think it would've done nicely with a tropical twist.
A Melting Pot Of Language
With over three hundred languages spoken across the capital, Greater London really is one of the most multicultural city's in the world.
A Wheely Big Deal
The famous London Eye is the largest ferris wheel in the whole world! No wonder it's become such a staple of our skyline.
The River's Rotten History...
People used to throw leftover carcasses and rotting meat into the River Thames! The smell of raw meat, blood and offal (all of the gross bits from inside an animal - think brains and guts!) flowing under Tower Bridge and beyond caused such a stink that King Edward III tried to ban butchers from working in London in 1369.
The Great Wall Of London
For a long time, all of London's residents lived inside a square mile of wall that was built by the Romans. Originally known as 'Londinium', this area is now called the City of London (doesn't sound half as fun anymore though, does it?).
Jack The Ripper: Still Wanted!
One of the eeriest facts about London is that police never actually caught Jack the Ripper, London’s most infamous serial killer, and his true identity was never discovered. People have suspected a number of various people over time, including Prince Albert, Lewis Carroll (how could they?!) and Queen Victoria’s doctor, Sir William Gull, but all of the self-proclaimed 'mystery solvers' and even the country's best detectives never landed on the truth of Jack the Ripper.
Got A Feel For Jellied Eels?
London's River Thames is home to tiny slimy eels that used to be a typical meal for tonnes of Londoners! A staple of London's cockney tradition, pie and mash shops have been serving a side of jellied eels in London since the 19th century, and many still do today! Jellied Eel is also cockney slang for feel... how do you jellied eel about eating them?!
Something Seems Fishy...
From the cheapest food for cockneys to fine-dining (debatable) delights, the Thames has been providing an array of fishy foods to London restaurants for years - including wild salmon and even oysters! You have to be pretty brave to try these slimy, shelled creatures, which are served in the city's fanciest establishments as well as the vibrant Borough Market. Meet some fishy friends for yourself at London's riverside Sea Life Aquarium.
London Goes Underground
The London Underground was the first underground railway in the whole world! The success of London's tube has now led to New York's subway, Paris' Metro and many other underground railway systems across the world's largest cities. You can learn all about the London Underground at Covent Garden's wonderful Transport Museum!
But Not As Originally Planned...
In fact, when the London Underground was first thought-up engineers suggested filling the tunnels with water and using boats to transport people between stations! Another proposed idea was getting horse-drawn-carriages to travel Londoners around in the dark... we think they went with the best option in the end, don't you?
Big Ben Who?
This iconic landmark has been keeping Londoners in time since 1859, but did you know the famous clock tower is often called by the wrong name? Big Ben actually refers to the bell that rings out from inside, not the tower itself, which is merely called "The Clock Tower." What a disappointment for all the little Bens in London!
A Soggy Bottom
Whilst people think of London's River Thames as extremely dirty, its brown-tinge is actually thanks to strong tides coming in from the sea that are constantly stirring up its muddy bottom.
Feed the Birds... Tuppence is Banned!
Despite the well-known Mary Poppins song, feeding the pigeons in some areas of London is actually banned. Trafalgar Square is renowned for the thousands of pigeons that flock their daily, which tourists often used to feed and snap a photo with. However, in 2003, London Mayor Ken Livingstone banned feeding the wild birds in the square and even went as far as using a hawk to keep them away!
Cabbie Knows Best
Becoming a driver of London's iconic black cabs is actually a lot tougher than you might think. You have to pass an intense test ominously called ‘The Knowledge’, which involves memorising every single street in the capital and can often take years to learn. Cabbies have been known to walk the streets of London by foot trying to remember every main road, back alley, side street and alternative twist and turn to help them pass the test.
Putting The 'AH' In Algate!
One of the most disturbing facts about London is that Aldgate Station has approximately one thousand dead bodies buried underneath it from the Great Plague! Maybe we'll take a different underground route next time...
The Not-So-Great Plague
The Great Plague of 1665 tragically killed one third of Europe’s population, roughly twenty five million people. The disease hit London particularly hard due to the city's dirtiness and confined streets which allowed germs to spread so easily. Men known as 'Searchers' would call for people to ‘bring out their dead’ from their homes, when bodies would be carted away and thrown into mass burial pits.
A Sky-Piercing Shard
London is now home to one of the tallest buildings in the whole of Europe. The Shard at London Bridge is an eighty seven-storey skyscraper in the shape of a sharp shard of glass - note its unfinished jagged tip! For a softer view point of the city, why not take a walk Up At The O2?
That's So Raven
Charles II oddly demanded that six ravens be placed in the Tower of London, as old superstitions say that these black birds possess protective qualities. Apparently six ravens are still kept there today, each with a clipped wing, and they even have a spare bird handy in case one does fly away. Legend has it that if the ravens ever abandon the Tower of London, our beloved capital city will fall...
Visit the Tower of London with your family and see how many ravens you can spot! Discover the rest of London's curious, spooky, fascinating and gruesome history with one of the city's amazing tours. See if you can uncover the truth of Jack the Ripper, unlock the horrors of London Bridge's tombs, sail beneath Tower Bridge or dig up more Greater London facts between Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster on a classic bus or taxi tour.
Explore the city's tours and attractions and unveil more London knowledge at blog.kidadl.com.
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