The City, London’s chief financial district also known as the ‘Square Mile’, is not just a corporate jungle, but an exciting and highly sought-after area of London to live; boasting an enviable location rich in contrasting architecture and history.
As the historic core of the capital, in medieval times the City, encompassed the full extent of London. From the 19th century, the population declined as people moved outwards to the suburbs, and many of its houses were destroyed as the huge focus on office space took force. Today, the City houses the iconic London Stock Exchange and over 500 banks, with new skyscrapers being constructed continually. This mix of new and old makes for an interesting contrast in architecture and skyline - historic buildings such as St. Andrew’s Church contrast starkly, for example, with the unique glass-constructed ‘Gherkin’ building.
The City undeniably has its downsides; soaring property prices, a lack of good schools and early closing times to name just a few, but it is also one of the safest areas of the capital, with crime levels well below the London average and a reassuring 1,200 police officers patrolling the streets. Convenience is yet another advantage – with the endless attractions and amenities of London on its doorstep and transport links in abundance, residents benefit from an enviably short commute.
By day, the City is a hive of almost half a million office workers, which, by night, turns eerily quiet. Pursuits such as shopping, dining and drinking are, as a result, largely restricted to weekdays, but there are some excellent restaurants and drinking holes nonetheless. Gary Rhodes’ Rhodes Twenty Four boasts fantastic views from the 24th floor of Tower 42 and Sir Terence Conran also has a number of good restaurants in the area. For drinking, there are also some fantastic venues to choose from - Fleet Street, in particular, has a plethora of historic boozers, including the Viaduct Tavern, the Black Friar and Ye Old Cheshire Cheese. Shopping in the City tends also to be limited to Monday - Friday, with predominantly upmarket chains taking precedence, such as the Royal Exchange complex which offers a vast selection of jewellers, perfumers and deluxe brands. For more quirky, one-off shops, and a more varied selection of restaurants, head to the fringes of the city, such as Clerkenwell and around Smithfield Market.
Regrettably, the majority of authentic town houses built after the Great Fire of London were destroyed by German bombing in WWII, and what’s left of them are without doubt the most sought-after – usually found in clusters around Fleet Street, Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street station. To live in a genuine piece of London history is a rarity that doesn’t come about very often, so as you would expect, these properties are snapped up very quickly. Most of them are broken up into luxury apartments, attracting the young and trendy who enjoy the proximity of the buzzing nightlife in Islington and Tower Hamlets.
The City is inundated with excellent tube and rail links, including, to name but a few, Liverpool Street, St Paul’s, Bank and Fenchurch Street. There are also a number of good bus routes and a commuter and leisure boat service running along the river.