London has existed in one form or another since 50AD – so it’s no surprise that over the years, people have had a lot to say about it, good and bad.
From extolling its perfect beauty (pretty sure that person never had to commute on the tube with their face in someone’s armpit) to cheeky references to the darker side of the city (in truth, we’re a right bawdy lot), everything there is to be said about London has been said.
I’ve chosen 50 of the best London quotes that say everything you need to know about this bizarre but beautiful city… then added in a bit of sarcastic commentary to keep things lively. Enjoy!
London Quotes that Prove London is the Best Place Ever
These London quotes show the pride, the joy, the pure fabulousness that is this weird but wonderful city.
“In London, everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in.” Paddington Bear.
Paddington has sagely identified our fair city’s greatest strength.
“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.” Samuel Johnson.
Someone needs to get outside of zone 2. There’s a whole world out there. It’s not quite as good as London, but you should give it a try Sammy!
“It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach. It is only magnificent.” Henry James.
“London is a roost for every bird.” Benjamin Disraeli.
“London always reminds me of a brain. It is similarly convoluted and circuitous. A lot of cities, especially American ones like New York and Chicago, are laid out in straight lines. Like the circuits on computer chips, there are a lot of right angles in cities like this. But London is a glorious mess.” James Geary.
“There are two places in the world where men can most effectively disappear — the city of London and the South Seas.” Herman Melville.
In London, we don’t give a toss who you are. The taxman might though.
“To walk alone in London is the greatest rest.” Virginia Woolf.
Says someone who’s never tried to battle their way across London Bridge going counterflow to the crowd. Replace rest with tournament and it’s a bit more accurate.
“The best bribe which London offers to-day to the imagination, is, that, in such a vast variety of people and conditions, one can believe there is room for persons of romantic character to exist, and that the poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope to confront their counterparts.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“London is a bad habit one hates to lose.” William Sansom.
And like many bad habits, it requires a lot of money and leaves you feeling rather exhausted.
“The vibe of London as a city is captivating. It’s both fast-paced and extremely rushed but still has the calmness that would attract any big-city person.” Ali Fazal.
Calmness? Really? Calmness?
“I’ve been walking about London for the last 30 years, and I find something fresh in it everyday.” Walter Besant.
“Yes, London. You know, fish, chips, cup o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary-fucking-Poppins. London!” Dennis Farina.
Bad food? How DARE you? P.S. Wash your mouth out. Mary Poppins would be ashamed.
“London opens to you like a novel itself… It is divided into chapters, the chapters into scenes, the scenes into sentences; it opens to you like a series of rooms, doors and passages. Mayfair to Piccadilly to Soho to the Strand.” Anna Quindlen.
Thankfully, there’s Google Maps to help you navigate it.
“The parks be the lungs of London.” Charles Dickens.
Did you know that London has so many trees that it falls within the UN definition of a forest?
“London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.” Peter Ackroyd.
“I have often amused myself with thinking how different a place London is to different people.” James Boswell.
Roll this one out next time someone starts banging on about how they don’t like London. That should shut them up.
“The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane.” Stephen Fry.
“I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is.” Bram Stoker, Dracula.
“As to London we must console ourselves with the thought that if life outside is less poetic than it was in the days of old, inwardly its poetry is much deeper.” Goldwin Smith.
Goldwin Smith. King of the backhanded compliment.
“A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else.” Unknown.
“You are now / In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow / At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore / Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more / Yet in its depth what treasures!” Percy Bysse Shelley.
“The streets of London have their map, but our passions are uncharted. What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?” Virginia Woolf.
I’m hoping for a tall, dark and handsome… cup of coffee. I’ve only had three hours’ sleep.
“It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.” Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes.
We’re a well-behaved bunch really.
“I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets; and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?” Charlotte Bronte.
London Quotes For When You’ve Decided that London = The Pit of Hell
It’s not all roses though. This city can be gritty, brutal and rather grim at times… and these quotes about London aren’t going to let you forget it.
“I don’t know what London’s coming to — the higher the buildings, the lower the morals.” Noel Coward.
Morals? What are morals? Are they like some kind of tree?
“I walk to Oxford Street and climb on the number 8. It’s freezing and it starts to rain and it’s the ugliest bus I’ve ever seen, rattling down the ugliest streets, in the ugliest city, in the ugliest country, in the ugliest of all possible worlds.” David Thewlis.
Jog on then mate, jog on.
‘The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.” Jane Austen.
“Nothing is certain in London but expense.” William Shenstone.
And lots of it! Expense is a gown that London wears well.
“This melancholy London – I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.” William Butler Yeats.
“There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit and the vermin of the world inhabit it and it’s filled with people who are filled with shit and it goes by the name of London.” Stephen Sondheim.
Err, OK Stephen. Why don’t you tell us what you really think?
“London is a splendid place to live in for those who can get out of it.”George John Gordon Bruch, Lord Balfour of Burleigh.
Like all good things, you need a break to truly appreciate it.
“London, London, London town / You can toughen up or get thrown around.” Kano.
“Do you realise that people die of boredom in London suburbs? It’s the second biggest cause of death among the English in general. Sheer boredom…” Alexander McCall Smith.
London Quotes that Prove Londoners are THE BEST
“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Samuel Johnson.
That’s why we all stay in London right? Because we’re the smartest people on earth. And because you can now get Michelin-starred food delivered to your house (#sorrynotsorry).
“I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air — or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
We are a bunch of scallies. And eleven shillings and sixpence is about what most people earn today. Thankfully got rid of the Empire tho.
“It is not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them. The walls of London may be battered, but the spirit of the Londoner stands resolute and undismayed.” King George VI.
Did King George see Brexit coming? Because that’s how it feels right now.
“Oh, I love London society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what society should be.” Benjamin Disraeli.
Now it’s time to go and figure which one you are. I, my friends, am a brilliant lunatic. Nice to meet you.
“A person who is tired of London is not necessarily tired of life; it might be that he just can’t find a parking place.” Paul Theroux.
Oh Paul, you’re so cute – who can afford a car in London these days? The parking costs more than my mortgage.
“The man who can dominate a London dinner table can dominate the world.” Oscar Wilde.
There’s nothing worse than bad chat at a dinner table, so if you’re going to pipe up, you’d better make it good.
“One of the things I most liked about the city – apart from all its obvious attractions, the theatre, the galleries, the exhilarating walks by the river – was that so few people ever asked you personal questions.”Julia Gregson.
No one asks personal questions because if you do, you’re burdened with having to pretend that you care about the answers.
“You will recognise, my boy, the first sign of old age: it is when you go out into the streets of London and realise for the first time how young the policemen look.” Sir Seymour Hicks.
“In London, love and scandal are considered the best sweeteners of tea.” John Osbourne.
Who doesn’t adore a bit of gossip over a cuppa?
“I think London’s sexy because it’s so full of eccentrics.” Rachel Weisz.
Sure Rachel, bet you will be singing a different tune the first time someone licks your ear on the tube.