A variety of landmarks and objects are cultural icons associated with London, such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the tube map. Many other British cultural icons are strongly associated with London in the minds of visiting tourists, including the red telephone box, the routemaster bus, the black taxi and the Union Flag.
The city is home to many nationalities and the diversity of cultures have shaped the city's culture over time.
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One of the world's oldest museums, the British Museum is vast and its collections, only a fraction of which can be on public display at any time, comprise millions of objects. First-time visitors generally head for the mummies, the Rosetta Stone, Lindow Man, the Lewis Chessmen and the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial and more.
The London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. There are also several chamber orchestras, some of which specialise in period instrument performances, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
The principal orchestral music venues are the Royal Festival Hall, and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which are both in the South Bank Centre; the Barbican Centre; and the Royal Albert Hall, which hosts the Proms each summer. Chamber music venues include the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre; the Wigmore Hall and St John's, Smith Square.
The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden is home to the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies. The other main opera company is the English National Opera. In the summer opera is performed in a temporary pavilion by Opera Holland Park, and there are occasional performances by visiting opera companies and small freelance professional opera companies. The major venues for contemporary dance productions include the Sadler's Wells Theatre and the Barbican Centre.
London is famous for its rock scene, and was the starting point of some of the greatest 60s and 70s band such as Iron Maiden, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, The Sex Pistols, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen and very popular 90s bands like Blur, Coldplay, Radiohead, and Oasis that are still very popular to this day. Most major bands' tours will pass through London as well, favourite venues being the Brixton Academy, the London Astoria, and the Hammersmith Apollo.
In addition to spawning the bands mentioned above, London, in its capacity as the UK's cultural centre, has served as the base of a number of internationally important acts, including David Bowie, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, as well as being instrumental in the birth of dance music.
London also has a thriving urban scene, mainly throughout the 21st century. Soul singers like Adele, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and Lemar have found themselves chart, and international success. R&B singers such as the Sugababes, Leona Lewis, Taio Cruz, Jay Sean and Alexandra Burke are also extremely popular. London also has a strong rap scene; rappers including Wiley and Dizzee Rascal among others have helped contribute to London gaining the status of having the strongest rap scene outside of the USA. There is also a british Irish boyband called One direction and they have been the most popular band after the X-Factor and are the sexiest boys on earth such as Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik.
London is the home of one of the biggest underground scenes in the world. Genres include Uk garage, Drum and bass, Dubstep, 2step and most notably, grime.
London hosts several festivals, fairs and carnivals throughout the year with over 40 free festivals each year. The most famous is the Notting Hill Carnival, the world's second largest carnival. The carnival takes place over the August bank holiday weekend, and attracts almost 1 million people. It has a distinctly Afro-Caribbean flavour, and highlights include a competition between London's steelpan bands and a 3 mile street parade with dancing and music.
London also hosts the Carnaval Del Pueblo, Europe's greatest Latin American Festival, held on the first Sunday of August each year. Seven countries participate in this street procession, which ends in Burgess Park. Live music, dance, and Funfairs go up to 9:30 pm.
There are also large parades held on St. George's Day (April 23) and St Patrick's Day (March 17). The Dance Umbrella is held every October, and features a variety of dance companies putting on displays across London. In addition there are many smaller fairs and parades, including the Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre, a fair held annually to promote animal rights.
There are over three dozen major theatres, most concentrated in the West End. West End theatres are commercial ventures that host comedy and serious drama. The subsidised or non-commercial theatre includes the National Theatre, which is based at the South Bank; the Royal Shakespeare Company which is based in Stratford, but presents seasons in London; The Globe, a modern reconstruction of the home of Shakespeare's troupe; The Royal Court Theatre which specialises in new drama; the Old Vic; and the Young Vic.
London also boasts a vibrant fringe theatre culture including places such as the Battersea Arts Centre, The UCL Bloomsbury, The Place, and Tricycle Theatre.
The British National collection of Western Art to 1900 is held at The National Gallery. Other major collections of pre-1900 art are The Wallace Collection; the Courtauld Gallery at the Courtauld Institute of Art; and Dulwich Picture Gallery. The national collection of post-1900 art is at Tate Modern and the national collection of British Art is at Tate Britain. The National Portrait Gallery has a major collection dedicated to prominent British people from all periods. The Royal Academy's temporary exhibitions are also important.
In addition to Tate Modern major contemporary art venues include White Cube, the Saatchi Gallery, and The ICA.