The latest official estimate of the population of London comes from the Office for National Statistics. According to their data, the estimated population of Greater London in 2016 is 8,787,892.
The Census in the United Kingdom takes place every ten years, with the most recent one completed in 2011. According to this census, the population of London was 8,173,941. The next census in England and Wales is scheduled for 2021.
London’s population makes it by far the largest city in the United Kingdom. The second largest city in the UK – Birmingham – has a population of 1.1 million.
It is the third largest city in Europe, behind Istanbul (14.8 million) and Moscow (10.3 million), and the 27th most populous metro area in the world, slightly larger than Lima, Peru.
Different definitions of London
Estimating London’s population is made more complicated by the various ways of defining the city. Here are just a few of the methods of breaking down London’s geography along with estimates of their population.
- City of London 7,375 (2011 Census)
- Inner London 3,231,901 (2011 Census)
- Outer London 4,942,040 (2011 Census)
- Greater London 8,173,941 (2011 Census)
- London Metropolitan Area 10-18 million (number of residents depends on the definition used)
Generally, throughout this article, we’ve used the term London for simplicity, but when we’re referring to modern day London, we mean Greater London. The City of London is a much smaller area (just over a square mile) with less than 10,000 residents, although over 300,000 people commute there for work.
City Size and Population Density
The City of London is sometimes referred to as “The Square Mile,” due to the 1.12 square miles (2.9 square kilometers) that the city itself is located on. The Greater London area is much larger, coming to about 606 square miles (1,569 square kilometers). In combination with the estimated 2017 population for the city and the Greater London area, the population density for each comes to about 7,700 residents per square mile in the city and 14,550 residents per square mile in the Greater London area.
London’s Population History
Although there had been settlements in the area for centuries, London first became recognized as a significant population center during the Roman occupation of Britain. Londinium, as it was known, quickly became the capital of Rome’s Britannia province, and by the 2nd century AD, Londinium was a thriving trade center with a population of around 60,000 people.
After the Romans withdrew, the settlement of Londinium was more or less abandoned in favor of Lundenwic, located a mile down the river. Lundenwic had a reduced population of around 10,000 people, and it’s vulnerability to Viking raids eventually led to it being gradually moved back east to the old Londinium site to take advantage of the ancient Roman city walls.
From there, the city prospered and grew steadily again, reaching a population of 100,000 for the first time, somewhere around 1500 AD. As the British Empire expanded, so did London’s importance as one of the world’s major trading cities, and shortly after 1800, London reached the 1,000,000 resident milestone for the first time.
Industrialization led to increased urbanization and this, combined with London’s growing prominence, led to some dramatic population increases. According to census records, the number of people living in London increased more than fivefold from 959,300 in 1801 to 5,572,012 in 1891. For much of the 19th century and the early 20th century, London was the largest city in the world.
The first half of the 20th century saw sustained, and fairly rapid growth and London’s population reached its highest point in 1939. By the outbreak of the second world war, 8,615,245 people were living in London, although by then it had just lost its status as the largest city in the world to New York.
From the end of the World War II until the 1980s, London saw its population gradually decline, as the city lost its status as the hub of Empire and one of the world’s greatest trading cities. By the time the 1981 census was taken, the number of people living in London had fallen to just 6,607,513, a decline of more than two million, or around 25%, in only four decades.
However, a population boom in the 1980s occurred, and increasing prosperity combined with increased immigration has once again resulted in an increase in population. Just 20 years later, the population had increased to 7,172,036 at the time of the 2001 census, and further increases are expected to push the population past 9 million by 2021. The current 2021 projection puts the London population at 9,221,300 according to the London Datastore.
Ethnicity in London
London as a city is considerably more diverse than the rest of the United Kingdom. Across England and Wales, 86% of the population is white based on the 2011 Census, but in London that number falls to 69.7%. Additionally, in 2011, Scotland’s population was 96% white, while Northern Ireland’s population was over 98% white.
The section on ethnicity below, compiled using 2011 census data from the ONS provides details of the ethnicity of London residents compared to residents of England and Wales.
London’s diversity can also be seen in statistics for London residents’ country of birth. Of the 8.88 million people living in London at the time of the most recent UK estimates, 3.32 million (37%) were born outside of the United Kingdom. Of these, approximately a third were born within European Union countries, while the other two-thirds were born outside of the European Union. The most common country of birth for London residents outside of the UK is India. According to the 2011 census, 262,247 people living in London were born in India.
Religion in London
London is the most diverse area within the UK when it comes to religious beliefs, with the highest percentage of people identifying as Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish. The latest data from the 2011 census recorded that 48.4% of Londoners considered themselves to be Christian, 12.39% considered themselves Muslim, 5% Hindu, 1.82% Jewish, 1.5% Sikh, 1% Buddhist and 0.6% Other. A large proportion, 20.73% of respondents, stated that they followed no religion. You can see the specific numbers from the 2011 census in the religion section below.
Is London a Country?
London is a large city located in the country of England. Although not a country in itself, London is the largest city in the United Kingdom and accounts for 13% of the total United Kingdom population. This city is positioned in the southeast portion of the country and is located on the River Thames. London is an economic giant with the most prominent urban economy in Europe.
Signs of original settlements in London have been carbon-dated to between 1750 and 1285 BC, although the first major settlement is attributed to the Romans, in about 47 BCE. Following Roman rule, London was ruled under Danelaw as the Vikings and English shared control and political power. A critical economic and political powerhouse through the Middle Ages, London flourished as the world’s largest city between 1831 and 1925. Today, London continues to exist as a world economic power.
London is home to about 9 million people within the borders of Greater London. Nearly 40% of all residents in London were foreign-born, giving it the second-highest immigrant population in the world. As Europe’s third-most populated city, almost 300 different languages are spoken, although English is the most commonly spoken. The most significant industry in London is finance, and the city has two separate business districts.