Westminster is the city that forms a small pocket within the loose boundaries of what is currently considered Central London. This is where the history of today’s city began in the eleventh century when Edward the Confessor built a royal palace and an abbey in what was then the countryside outside the medieval city walls. His Westminster Abbey was consecrated in 1065, and every monarch except Edward V and Edward VIII has been crowned there ever since. Today, the area around this magnificent abbey (often mistakenly called Westminster Cathedral, which is a completely different building) provides some of the most popular things to do in Westminster London and the abbey itself has become an enduring symbol of the city.
The many Westminster attractions in this small area include virtually all of the most iconic symbols of the city, most of which are concentrated in the area around Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. The boundaries in which you will find the City of Westminster sights are: on the west, the main part of the London West End Theatre District; to the south, the northern banks of the Thames River (the South Bank is technically part of Central London, and not part of Westminster); on the east, Canary Wharf; and to the north, Camden Town marks the boundary.
This area is often called The City or The Square Mile, as the original medieval area is about one square mile in area. The boundaries do cause some confusion. As the city has grown over the centuries, a larger area that encompasses Westminster is now loosely called Central London and includes sections outside of the original square mile. For instance, many visitors mistakenly think that the West End is in West London, when it actually is mostly in Westminster and partially in Central London. Canary Wharf is part of the East End, which lies both in Central London and East London.
Several of the things to do in Westminster London and several of the Westminster neighborhoods are additionally part of what is called Central London, causing more confusion. The London West End is a perfect example, as it falls in both areas. Most people use the term London West End to refer to the theater and shopping district around Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Neighborhoods that overlap include Soho, Paddington, and Kensington—all of which are in Westminster as well as in Central London.
The posh district of Mayfair is perhaps the most central and quintessential Westminster neighborhood. It is roughly bordered by Hyde Park, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Green Park and became the most sought after residential area in The Square Mile between the mid-seventeenth and mid-eighteenth century. This is reinforced as Mayfair is the most expensive piece of property on the English Monopoly Board (like Boardwalk in the American version). The streets of Mayfair are lined with elegant mansions and townhouses, including the most fashionable parts of Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue in New York City. The most exclusive (and some of the oldest) luxury hotels in all of London are located in the Mayfair district, including Brown’s Hotel opened in 1837, the Ritz opened in 1906, the Dorchester opened in 1931, and Claridge’s opened Iin1854. One of the things to do in Westminster London that is part of the history and traditions of the UK is to enjoy afternoon high tea in one of these historic hotels.