What makes London a World City?

A world city, also known as global city, is generally a city considered to be an important node in the global economic system. The concept comes from geography and urban studies. The idea of globalisation can be understood as a city having a direct and tangible effect on global affairs through socio-economic means.

So what exactly makes London a World City?

The use of the term ‘world city’ dates back to May 1886 when used to describe Liverpool in ‘The Illustrated London News’. More recently, the term has been described as being synonymous with a city’s influence and ‘financial capital’, with other factors becoming less relevant.

What makes London a World City?

World City status is considered to be desired and beneficial to a city’s profile. Due to this, many groups have tried to rank which cities in the world can be seen as global cities.

Although what constitutes a global city is still subject to debate, standard characteristics are:

  • A variety of international financial services, notably in finance, insurance, real estate, banking, accountancy and marketing.
  • Headquarters of several multinational corporations.
  • The existence of financial headquarters, a stock exchange and major financial institutions.
  • Domination of the trade and economy of a large surrounding area.
  • Major manufacturing centres with port and container facilities.
  • Centres of new ideas and innovation in business, economics, culture and politics.
  • Centres of media and communications for global networks.
  • High percentage of residents employed in the services and information sectors.
  • High-quality educational institutions – including renowned universities, informational student attendance and research facilities.
  • Multifunctional infrastructure offering some of the best legal, medical and entertainment facilities in the country.

London is considered to be the most important city in the world to the super-rich. This is according to a report by Knight Frank. Part of the Knight Frank Report includes the ‘most important cities to ultra-high-net-worth-individuals’(UHNWI) list.


The Knight Frank Report has discovered that London is the best place for multi-millionaires to live, do business and educate their children.

The top spot on this UHNWI list for the most important global city has always been fought over between London and New York. London is also a leading global financial hub, home to a significant portion of the world’s foreign equities trading and benefiting from a major time-zone advantage for doing business with Asia. Despite challenges such as Brexit, London remains a key financial centre, competing closely with New York for the top spot in global financial rankings.

The ranking looks at business links, economic activity, quality of life and the number of other super-rich people who live there. In short, these are the cities where the wealthy congregate, work, invest, are educated and spend their leisure time.

Wealthy people with assets of more than £21.4 million, excluding the value of their primary home, view London as more important than any other business hub across the globe.

London’s economy is a critical driver of its status as a World City. It accounts for 24% of the UK’s economic output with only 13% of its population.

London has 4,900 ultra-rich residents, which is less than New York’s 5,600, but because the UK is closer to Europe and offers easy access to both Asia and North America, an estimated 16,000 super-rich people pass through London every year for use of its services.

The Wealth Report Editor at Knight Frank said “English is the language of business which makes both New York and London have an edge. But, a lot of it comes down to history as London has been a trading centre for a millennia and New York just doesn’t have that”.

London is still perceived to be a more stable investment for the global market. This means the prime property market is showing steady growth in London making it an attractive place for ultra-high-net-worth individuals to invest their money.

Many of these individuals own one main property, usually in the city, and others located in quieter parts of the UK or holiday homes in other countries.

Nearly 70% of European respondents believe that no other city could come close to London or New York.

So aside from property for the ultra-rich and the major investment opportunities, what other factors make London a World City?

  • London is home to some of the world’s top universities, such as Imperial College London and University College London.
  • Around 300 different languages are spoken in London and there are at least 14 different faiths practised in the capital.
  • In fact, around 37% of the population in London were born outside of the UK.
  • In London, there are approximately 103,000 international students living and learning in the city.
  • London is the 6th biggest French city in the world – more French people live in London than in Bordeaux.
  • In London there are endless venues for entertainment, approximately 300 theatres, 12000 restaurants, 500 cinema screens and also 240 museums and galleries.
  • 40% of the city is a green space, making London the greenest city of its size in the world.
  • London was the first city in the world to have an underground railway, known as the ‘Tube’, and now has more than 1.34bn annual passengers.
  • In London, there are an estimated 400,000 professional creatives as well as some of the world’s most exceptional scientists and academics.
  • The renowned Harley Street in London is home to some of the world’s most advanced radiology equipment.
  • London is also a focal point for transport with more than 100,000 flights a month occurring to and from destinations from all over the world. There are a huge number of hotels near London City airport making this airport a popular choice for easy access to accommodation and travel in and out of the city.


There isn’t another world city that is culturally as diverse as London. From glamour to art, from theatre to sport, this city has it all. These are the reasons why London has become the place that people from all around the world have decided to call home.

Here is a list of the Top 10 global cities around the world:

  1. London
  2. New York
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Singapore
  5. Shanghai
  6. Miami
  7. Paris
  8. Dubai
  9. Beijing
  10. Zurich.

The political stability of the UK and the historical and ongoing influence of London in global affairs contribute to its status as a World City. The city’s ability to attract investment and talent from around the world is partly due to this stability and the legal and regulatory frameworks that support business and innovation.

Challenges and Future Prospects

Despite its strengths, London faces challenges such as the potential impacts of Brexit on its global financial status, access to foreign talent, and its relationship with the European Union. Additionally, issues like inequality, violence, and climate change pose threats to its sustainability and influence.

However, London’s adaptability, economic dynamism, and cultural richness continue to solidify its position as a World City.

In summary, London’s status as a World City is multifaceted, rooted in its economic dominance, cultural diversity, strategic infrastructure, and political stability. These factors, combined with its historical legacy and capacity for innovation, make London a central node in the global economic system and a city of significant international importance

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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One comment

  1. Great topic Andy! I think that one of the strongest reasons to believe this is true is because that one of the most well-educated generations in history is streaming to London to live and work, and that’s an enormous benefit to the city.

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