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Westminster is an area of central London, within the City of Westminster, England. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, southwest of the City of London and 0.5 miles (0.8 km) southwest of Charing Cross. It has a large concentration of London’s historic and prestigious landmarks and visitor attractions, including the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Cathedral.

Historically a part of Middlesex, the name Westminster was the ancient description for the area around Westminster Abbey – the West Minster, or monastery church, that gave the area its name – which has been the seat of the government of England (and later the British government) for almost a thousand years. Westminster is the location of the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The name Westminster describes the area around Westminster Abbey and Palace of Westminster.[1] Its name derives from the West Minster, or monastery church, west of the City of London’s St Paul’s. The area has been the seat of the government of England for almost a thousand years. The name is also used for the larger City of Westminster which covers a wider geographical area; and, since 1965, has included the former boroughs of Marylebone and Paddington.

“Westminster” is thus often used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdom generally. The civil service is similarly referred to by the area it inhabits, “Whitehall”, and “Westminster” is consequently also used in reference to the Westminster System, the parliamentary model of democratic government that has evolved in the United Kingdom. The Westminster System is used with some adaptation in many other nations, particularly in the Commonwealth of Nations and other parts of the former British Empire.

The term Westminster Village, sometimes used in the context of British politics, does not refer to a geographical area at all; employed especially in the phrase Westminster Village gossip, it denotes a supposedly close social circle of Members of Parliament, political journalists, so-called spin doctors and others connected to events in the Palace of Westminster.

The historic core of Westminster is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. The Abbey became the traditional venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England. The nearby Palace of Westminster came to be the principal royal residence after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and later housed the developing Parliament and law courts of England. It can be said that London thus has developed two distinct focal points: an economic one in the City of London; and a political and cultural one in Westminster, where the Royal Court had its home. This division is still very apparent today.

The monarchy later moved to the Palace of Whitehall a little towards the north-east. The law courts have since moved to the Royal Courts of Justice, close to the border of the City of London. The area is still the centre of government, with Parliament now located in the Palace of Westminster and most of the major Government ministries situated in Westminster, centred on Whitehall. Close to the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey is Westminster School, one of the English public schools. Three of the four campuses of the University of Westminster are within the greater London borough of the City of Westminster, although none in the ancient area of Westminster.

The West End of London (commonly referred to as the West End), is an area of Central London, west of the City of London and north of the River Thames, in which many of the city’s major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues, including West End theatres, are concentrated. Use of the term began in the early 19th century to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross. The West End covers part of the boroughs of Westminster and Camden. While the City of London, or the Square Mile, is the main business and financial district in London, the West End is the main commercial and entertainment centre of the city. It is the largest central business district in the United Kingdom, comparable to Midtown Manhattan in New York City, Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, Shibuya in Tokyo, or the 8th arrondissement in Paris. It is one of the most expensive locations in the world in which to rent office space, just behind Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road.

Knightsbridge is an exclusive residential and retail district in West London, south of Hyde Park. It is identified in the London Plan as one of two international retail centres in London, alongside the West End. Knightsbridge is east of Exhibition Road and west of Sloane Street. Brompton Road, Beauchamp Place and the western section of Pont Street serve roughly as its southern border together with their adjacent gardens and squares such as Ovington Square, Lennox Gardens and Cadogan Square. South of this area, the district fades into Chelsea while Belgravia lies to the east and South Kensington to the west. Knightsbridge is home to many expensive shops, including the department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and flagship stores of many British and international fashion houses, including those of London-based shoe designers Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, and two Prada stores. The district also has banks that cater to wealthy individuals. Some of London’s most renowned restaurants are here, as well as many exclusive hair and beauty salons, antiques and antiquities dealers, and chic bars and clubs. Bonhams auction house is located in Knightsbridge. The district and the road itself, which is the only definitive place within it, is small, which assists its cachet: more than half of the zone closest to its tube station (and nearer to no others) is Knightsbridge Underground station. Knightsbridge had in its park side, east and west gold-coloured blocks of exceptional wealth in philanthropist Charles Booth’s late Victorian Poverty Map, formerly excluding Brompton Road to the west but extending well into Piccadilly, St James’s to the east. Knightsbridge is home to many of the world’s richest people and has some of the highest property prices in the world. In 2014 a terrace of 427m² sold for £15,950,000, a home in Montpelier Square. The average asking price for all the properties in slightly wider SW7 was £4,348,911 (as at Autumn 2014). On-street parking spaces have sold for as much as £300,000 for a 94-year lease. Fourteen of Britain’s two hundred most expensive streets are in the neighbourhood, as defined by The Times.

However, Westminster has a substantial residential population, a substantial proportion of which is a traditional London working class community living in council and Peabody Trust estates at the back of Westminster Abbey and off Millbank.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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