London Population 2016

The latest official estimate of the population of London comes from the Office of National Statistics. According to their data, the population of Greater London in July 2010 was 7,825,200.

To figure out how many people live in London, we can look at the most recent census. The census is taken every 10 years, with the last one completed on March 27th 2011. Based on the 2011 numbers, the population of London stands at 8,173,941.

London is the largest city in the United Kingdom by some distance (the next largest city in the UK - Birmingham - has a population of almost exactly 1 million), and the largest city in the European Union (more than twice as large as its nearest rival, Berlin).

It is the third largest city in the continent of Europe, behind Istanbul (13.5 million) and Moscow (11.5 million), and the 22nd most populous city in the world, slightly smaller than New York (20th position) and Lagos (21st).

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 ways of breaking down London's geography along with estimates of their population.

  • City of London 11,700 (2010 estimate)
  • Inner London 2,859,400 (2001)
  • Greater London 7,172,036 (2001)
  • London Metropolitan Area 12-18 million (number of residents depends on the definition you use)

Generally, throughout this article, we've used the term London for simplicity, but when we're referring to modern day London, we really mean Greater London.

London's Population History

Although there had been settlements in the area for centuries, London first became recognisable as a major population centre 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 centre with a population of around 60,000 people.

After the Romans withdrew, the settlement of Londinium was more or less abandoned in favour of Lundenwic, a mile down the river. Lundenwic had a much 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 old 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 grew, so did London's importance as one of the world's major trading cities, and shortly after 1800, London reached the 1,000,000 residents milestone for the first time.

Industrialisation led to increased urbanisation and this, combined with London's increasing prominence, led to some dramatic population increases. Between the 1801 and 1891 censuses the number of people living in London increased more than fivefold – from 959,300 in 1801 to 5,572,012 in 1891 – and 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 Lodon’s population reached it’s 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 it’s status as the largest city in the world (to New York).

From the end of the second world war right through until the 1980s London was to see it's population gradually decline, as the city lost it's status as the hub of Empire and one of the world's greatest trading cities. By the time of the 1981 census, the number of people living in London had fallen to just 6,607,513 people – a fall of more than two million, or around 25%, in just four decades.

Boom times came again in the 1980s though, 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 over 7 million (7,172,036 to be precise, according to the 2001 census), and further increases are expected which should push the population well past 8 million, and possibly even to 9 million, by the time of the 2021 census. 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 as a whole, 87.5% of the population is considered to be white, but in London that number falls to 69.7%. As you can see from the map below, the further from the centre one goes, the higher the proportion of the London population that is white.

The following table, compiled using 2009 data from, provides details of the ethnicity of London residents compared to residents of England as a whole (note, not the entire United Kingdom).

Asian or Asian British13.2%6.0%
Black or Black British10.1%2.9%
Chinese or Other Ethnic Group3.5%1.6%

If you take a look at the original source data, you can see more detail, as well as data for the population of the City of London. Iterestingly, although the population of London as a whole is more diverse than the rest of England, the much smaller City of London is actually much closer to the average for the rest of England (albiet, still more diverse than England).

London’s diversity can also be seen in statistics for London residents’ country of birth. Of the 7.17 million people living in London at the time of the 2001 census, only 5.23 million had actually been born in the United Kingdom. The remaining two million people were born outside the UK. The most common country of birth for London residents (other than the UK) was India – 172,162 people living in London in 2001 were born there – followed closely by the Republic of Ireland (172,162) people.

Religion in London

As you would imagine, London is also a very diverse city when it comes to religious belief. The latest data – from the 2001 census – recorded that 58.2% of Londoners considered themselves to be Christian, 8.5% considered that they were Muslim, 4.1% Hindu, 2.1% Jewish, 1.5% Sikh, 0.8% Buddhist and 0.2% other.

A large proportion – 15.8% – stated that they had no religion, and another 8.7% declined to answer the question on their religion.