Visit Nelson’s Column, in Trafalgar Square

Nelson’s Column map
Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square
Time required:
A typical visit to Nelson’s Column lasts 5 mins (approx)

Getting to Nelson’s Column

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3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 23, 24, 29, 87, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176, 453 – London bus prices
Charing Cross BKL NRN, Covent Garden PCL, Embankment BKL CRC DSC NRN, Leicester Square NRN PCL, Piccadilly Circus BKL PCL
The nearest train station to Nelson’s Column is Charing Cross
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Good for kids? Value for money? n/a Worth a visit?

Craig recommends… Here’s my latest reviews of Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square. Whilst you’re in Trafalgar Square you might like to go and visit the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Or maybe you can walk down The Mall and see Buckingham Palace.

Nelson’s Column is No.8 in our list of London’s must-see landmarks, and No.10 in our list of best places to take a photo.

Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square

History of Nelson’s Column

Nelson’s Column is one of London’s most famous landmarks, and stands at the centre of Trafalgar Square, which was laid out between 1829 and 1841 to commemorate Lord Nelson’s victory over the French. Its height is 185-feet from tip to toe, and is topped by a statue 17-feet tall – slightly taller than three Lord Nelsons.

The four friezes depict his most famous battles: Cape St. Vincent (1797), Copenhagen (1801), Trafalgar (1805) and the Battle of the Nile (1798).

Around the base lie four strong lions, sculpted in bronze by Sir Edwin Landseer in the 1860s.

Close-up of Admiral Nelson, at the top of Nelson’s Column

Craig’s review of Nelson’s Column

This review originally appeared in his London blog

I read in a book somewhere that Hitler was going to uproot Nelson’s Column and transport it back to Berlin after he won World War II. That’s what we should have done – we should have nicked the Brandenburg Gate and put it where Admiralty Arch is now. We missed our chance there, ah well.

It’s not a bad column, I suppose. It’s very tall, that is for sure, which is what you want in the middle of a square. And it’s got someone worth a column on top: Horatio Nelson.

It’s very hard to build something that like these days, because we don’t produce anyone worthy of putting on top of it. Churchill could have pulled it off. But even he would have looked a bit wierd with his bowler hat on and cigar puffing out his mouth. He is a statue man, not a column one. So who else could we put up there? Marlbrough and Wellington, but that’s it. Certainly no one from the last 200 years.

Lions at the base of Nelson’s Column

It’s not until you zoom in close with your camera that you notice the statue isn’t all that good. But I don’t suppose it matters when you’re seeing it from the ground because you can’t pick out the detail.

The four black pictures around the base detail his most famous battles: the Battle of Cape St Vincent, Battle of the Nile, Battle of Copenhagen and Trafalgar.

Plaque on Nelson’s Column

The last one is the best because it actually shows the moment he got shot onboard HMS Victory. You can see him slumped back looking a bit peed off – not surprising as he’s just been shot in the shoulder. If you go and visit the National Maritime Museum then you can see the actual jacket he was wearing with a bullet hole in it.

When you visit you can bet your life that kids will be climbing all over the lions around the base. It is one of the unwritten rules of London that if you’re pre-pubescent then you are duty bound to climb on the lions and have your photo taken. I haven’t got the faintest idea why they do it, because those things are huge. I wouldn’t climb on one anymore than I would a real lion, because if you slip off you are going to crack your nut on the concrete. Maybe I am just getting old.

I have yet to see someone shimmy all the way up to Nelson’s perch. It would have been great if they had a stone staircase up the middle but I don’t suppose it’s wide enough. I don’t suppose Nelson would have been too chuffed about having Japanese tourists clicking pictures of his head every five minutes, though.

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> Talk about Nelson’s Column

> Craig’s review of Nelson’s Column – “The air actually tastes like smoke -- not cigarette smoke, but that gunpowder smoke that drifts down from the fireworks. It's still hanging in the air from the party last night. I don't go to London on New Year's Eve anymore but back in the day (I'm talking about twenty years ago) we used to queue up for Trafalgar Square. It was a lot different in those days because… continued”

If you enjoy this then try: National Maritime Museum (catch the tube from Charing Cross to National Maritime Museum).

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