This information was last updated in 2004. The Tudors have not changed, but our understanding of them might!
Tudor London was much smaller than London is today. It consisted mainly of the square mile of the City of London itself, surrounded on three sides by high walls. The Tower of London was to the east and the River Thames to the south.
London was beginning to overflow its boundaries. A mile to the west was the City of Westminster, linked to London by large houses along the Strand. London Bridge joined the City of London to Southwark on the south side of the Thames. East of the Tower of London were landing stages for ships, shipyards, watermills and a gibbet for hanging pirates.
Inside the crowded City walls, fine houses belonging to merchants often stood next to squalid houses belonging to the poor. The majority of Londoners lived in timber-framed houses, sometimes several storeys high, with lead or tiled roofs. A few people were homeless and resorted to begging, but this was punishable by whipping.
Many streets were narrow and muddy and could be crowded with pedestrians, animals, noblemen's coaches and heavy carts bringing goods to market. There were various markets in the City where you could buy fresh fruit and vegetables. At Smithfield market, held just outside the City walls, live animals were brought to be sold for their meat, skin and bones.
Southwark, on the south bank, was the main entertainment area. If you wanted to visit Southwark, you usually paid a waterman to row you across in his little boat. There were lots of taverns, or pubs, and bull and bear baiting rings. Here, hounds were set upon the larger animals and people would bet on the outcome. In Queen Elizabeth's reign, there were also theatres, including Shakespeare's Globe.
To the north of the City were open fields. You could stroll out here on Sundays or on summer evenings, and practise your archery or bowling. In winter the marshy areas would freeze over, and Londoners would make ice-skates out of animal bones. You had to be sure to be back inside the City before nightfall when the gates closed!