Westminster

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The Westminster skyline from Waterloo Bridge

The City of Westminster is a district of central London in which are located the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the main government offices, and the chief royal palace, as well as the main retail and entertainment centres of the capital. It is one of 33 divisions of Greater London.

Westminster is named after Westminster Abbey, founded by King Edward the Confessor on a piece of dry land alongside the River Thames called Thorney Island. The abbey church is the scene of many of the major national ceremonial acts, including the coronation of a new monarch. The Palace of Westminster is close to the Abbey. Still officially a royal palace, the Palace of Westminster is now home to the two Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, which form the British legislature. Most of the major ministries are nearby, many of them lining the street called Whitehall, which has become a shorthand term for the British civil service. The Royal Courts of Justice are also located in Westminster.

The City of Westminster also contains a number of major cultural sites. The National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and the Marshall Collection are among many of the art galleries within its boundaries, and the Royal Academy also hosts presitigious exhibitions. Shaftesbury Avenue is known as the centre of London's 'Theatreland', and Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets are major retail centres. The Soho district is alive with cosmopolitan restaurants and bars, while Mayfair and Belgravia are exclusive and hugely expensive reidential districts. The United States Embassy is located at Grosvenor Square in Mayfair; many other embassies and High Commissions are located in Mayfair and, especially, Belgravia.

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