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5 surprising facts about London

July 24, 2012 at 10:57 AM ET

Condé Nast Traveler senior editor Lisa Gill shares some trivia about London. Here are a few things we learned…

The Tube is the world’s oldest underground subway system.

The London Underground (built in 1863) is so old that it has evolved its own mosquito species. These bugs would die in the cold above ground, but the warm, damp tunnels keep them alive all year long.

80 percent of people going to the Olympics will pass through Heathrow.

Heathrow will see the most traffic on August 13, the day after the competitions end, when the airport expects more than 200,000 pieces of checked baggage, including sports equipment. And throughout the Games, about 250 jumbo jets full of visitors will land here.

The city’s cabbies have big brains.

Cab drivers in London must memorize 320 different routes, 25,000 streets, and 20,000 landmarks to become certified as drivers — a process known as “The Knowledge” that takes anywhere from two to four years to complete. All that effort pays off: A study of brain scans showed that taxi drivers who were learning "The Knowledge" had larger hippocampuses — a part of the brain associated with memory — than control subjects.

London isn’t very rainy.

London has a reputation for wet weather, but it actually gets less rain, on average, than New York City: about 22.9 inches per year compared to NYC’s 50 inches.

The city has more than 5,000 pubs.

Those pubs serve some 62 million pints of beer, or roughly 7.75 million gallons, each month — that’s a little less than one gallon of beer per month for each of the city’s 7.8 million people.

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