CITY GUIDE: 10 things you didn't know about London

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CITY GUIDE: 10 things you didn't know about London

It's crunch time in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship as the series visits the ExCeL for the 2023 Hankook London E-Prix Rounds 15 & 16 - the season finale. Before the racing begins, here are 10 things you might not know about the city.

London Carnaby Street

This is London

It's difficult to overstate the importance of London. The UK capital has been a major European settlement for almost 2,000 years, since the Roman Empire founded Londinium in AD43. The modern City of London – the city's financial centre – contains this original settlement, and still retains its medieval boundaries.

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The Greater London area is home to more than 9.5 million people, making it the third most-populated city in Europe, and is a truly global city with over 300 languages spoken and over a third of Londoners foreign born – an immigrant population second only to New York City. As the biggest urban economy on the continent, it's also home to the most millionaires in any city in the world.  

Thanks to its status as a global city, with incredible cultural and scientific influence, it's one of the most visited cities on the planet: no surprise, then, that it boasts the most five-star hotels, too.

World Heritage

There are four World Heritage sites in London: the Tower of London, Kew Gardens, historic Greenwich and the combined Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament), Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church.



The Tower of London was founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror and has served, in its time, as an armoury, treasury, zoo, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels, which still reside within its walls today. It was also, notoriously, a prison for some of the UK's most famous characters, including Sir Walter Raleigh and, Queen Elizabeth I.

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Head east to Greenwich for the Royal Observatory, where Greenwich Mean Time was officially measured and where the world's Prime Meridian passes through, a vital element to global navigation. It's also the perfect vantage point for some of London's most well-known areas and landmarks.

The British Museum, Natural History Museum and British Library are just three of hundreds of museums in London, and a trip to the city wouldn't be complete without a visit to Pall Mall and Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the King.

We took GEN2 to the iconic Tower Bridge in Season 8, too!

Culture capital

You could live in London for years and see only a fraction of its culturally-significant landmarks. There are over 250 registered art institutions in Greater London, including the National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain and Royal Academy. London has the biggest theatre audience in the world, with many convening on its famous West End. The West End is home to 39 theatres, including the famous London Palladium and the Theatre Royal, opened in 1663, and also Leicester Square, venue of countless world film premieres.

London's musical heritage is second to none, with the legendary Abbey Road Studios the tip of a musical iceberg. Some of the world's most loved musicians gathered their influences from London, including Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Queen, The Rolling Stones and The Who.

As one of the four global fashion capitals, London is the base for fashion designers and brands such as Dame Vivienne Westwood, Galliano, Stella McCartney, and Jimmy Choo, with students of fashion flocking to its design schools and fashion weeks every year.


Good stock

London's prosperity comes from multiple streams, but a major source is the capital's two financial centres, The City and Canary Wharf. The City – or Square Mile – is London's ancient core, home to the Romans and now a hub of world finance, with many major global companies basing operations there, such as BT, Lloyds and Unilever. Unsurprisingly, the Bank of England and London Stock Exchange are found in The City, along with St Paul's Cathedral.

Canary Wharf borders Formula E's London home, and counts dozens of major financial institutions as residents, such as Barclays, Citigroup, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank. Not bad for a former closed-down dock.

London and green initiatives

As with any major world city, success brings with it population and pollution. However, London is perhaps among the most ambitious major cities when it comes to moving towards a greener future. City leaders have set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, with the UK set to phase out sales of petrol and diesel vehicles entirely by 2035, and in 2020, the country saw renewables make up 43 per cent of its energy mix.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced the expansion of London's Ultra Low Emission Zone. The ULEZ restricts vehicle access in central London, a move that has seen toxic nitrogen dioxide emissions cut in half since its introduction in 2019. The initiative's expansion further into the city's boroughs is estimated to bring similar benefits to 3.8 million more Londoners.

The city now has 6,000 charging points for electric vehicles, with 500 rapid and 5,500 residential EV chargers. All buses in the capital are set to be zero emission by 2037 – there are already 400 electric buses on London's streets. Looks like it's goodbye to foggy London Town.

Making Newham green

Formula E's home in London is the ExCeL, in the eastern Borough of Newham. One in seven of Newham’s population are exposed to levels of Nitrogen Dioxide above the UK limit for human health. On average, Newham residents are also exposed to a level of airborne particulate matter (PM2.5) 35% greater than World Health Organisation guidelines.

Ahead of the Formula E double-bill race weekend, Envision Racing took their Gen2 car to City Hall to meet Sadiq Khan and Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, while Formula E and Newham Council hosted a drop-in educational workshop on sustainability, air quality, e-mobility and health for school students in the Borough. Mayor Fiaz gave her backing to Formula E in bringing net-zero carbon sport to London, working with the city to showcase the benefits of EVs, raise awareness of the impacts of air pollution and show how electric mobility can help curb emissions and counteract climate change.

Back in London

Formula E heads to London for the fourth time, and its third visit to the ExCel. Seasons 1 and 2 of the series were held in Battersea Park, 16km southwest, where Nicolas Prost (x2), Sebastien Buemi and Sam Bird took home the trophies.

Three Brits – Sam Bird, Jake Dennis and Alex Lynn – have also tasted success in London, with Dennis and Lynn winning at the ExCeL - the former having done it twice, including a Grand Slam in Season 8.

Excellent ExCeL

This will be the second time the ExCeL has welcomed Formula E to London. Standing for Exhibition Centre London, the expansive venue opened in 2000 in the Royal Docks area of the city. Royal Docks, named after the Royal Albert Dock, Royal Victoria Dock and King George V Dock constructed between 1855 and 1921, was once home to the largest enclosed docks in the world and offers a unique glimpse into London's past – the rapid growth of industry and commerce – and future, through significant regeneration of the area and of nearby London City Airport and Canary Wharf.

Formula E isn't the first sporting event to be held at the ExCeL. The London 2012 Olympic Games saw the venue host boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling, and the London triathlon is held in and around the venue every year.


Track lowdown

In a first for an international race series, The Hankook London E-Prix is raced on an indoor/outdoor circuit layout, designed by British architect Simon Gibbons in collaboration with the FIA and Motorsport UK, which offers a unique challenge for drivers and teams – especially if there's some classic British weather.

The 2.141km, 22-turn track is tight and twisty with a slicker, less grippy surface indoors and asphalt outside, with plenty of elevation changes. There is plenty of opportunity for overtaking and energy usage is relatively low. Qualifying will be important, as ever, but there’s certainly room for manoeuvre.

READ MORE: Formula E's London history in numbers

That said... Nobody’s won at the ExCeL from lower than third on the grid (although Lucas di Grassi’s infamous, audacious pass through the pit lane during a Safety Car period in 2021 briefly saw him win from 10th, until he was disqualified). The polesitter has been on the podium in three of four races here. Nobody has finished on the podium from lower than ninth on the grid.

No place like home

London is something of a homecoming for many of the championship's teams: seven of the 12: Avalanche Andretti, DS PENSKE, Envision Racing, Jaguar TCS Racing, Mahindra Racing, NEOM McLaren and NIO 333 Racing – have bases in the UK.

Four of the 22 drivers will also be competing on home soil. Sam Bird, Jake Dennis - a double winner in London and the standings leader - Dan Ticktum and Jake Hughes will all be looking forward to strong backing from a passionate British crowd.