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Charing Cross BKL NRN, Covent Garden PCL, Embankment BKL CRC DSC NRN, Leicester Square NRN PCL, Piccadilly Circus BKL PCL
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Craig recommends… Here’s my latest Trafalgar Square review. I’ve also written reviews of the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree and Nelson’s Column. There are plenty more London landmarks nearby including Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. A ten-minute walk down Whitehall will take you past Horse Guards and Downing Street, until you end up in Parliament Square for Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square

History of Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square was laid out between 1829 and 1841 to commemorate Admiral Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. The two fountains were added in 1845.

The square has undergone quite a transformation in recent years, because there used to be an extra road of heavy traffic in front of the National Gallery. That has now been paved over, and the billions of pigeons that used to flock to the square to sit on the tourists heads have been banned as a health hazard.

Trafalgar Square plinths

The four big plinths in the corners of the square depict George IV and Sir Henry Havelock. The third plinth is home to Sir Charles Napier – a military man from the mid 19th-century.

Plinth in Trafalgar Square

The fourth plinth was supposed to contain a statue of William IV until they ran out of money, forcing them to leave it empty. In 1999 a project was launched to find a suitable replacement, and its currently housing a series of modern art sculptures. There are persistent rumours that it will eventually be filled by a statue of Queen Elizabeth II.

Trafalgar Square in London

Nelson’s Column, and Admiralty Arch

Nelson’s Column dominates the centre of Trafalgar Square, standing 185-feet from top to bottom. The statue of on top measures 17-feet – slightly taller than three Lord Nelsons.

The four black pictures around the base depict the Admiral’s most famous naval battles, and are cast from the bronze of a captured cannon. The four battles are: Cape St. Vincent (1797), Copenhagen (1801), Trafalgar (1805), and the Battle of the Nile (1798).

The big bronze lions guarding the base of the column were designed by Edwin Landseer, and cast by Baron Carlo Marochetti in 1867.

Admiralty Arch

Admiralty Arch is the large arched structure that screens The Mall from Trafalgar Square. Although it looks like a monument, it is actually an government office building with rooms inside, but there is talk of turning it into a 5-star hotel. It was commissioned by Edward VII to commemorate the death of his mother, Queen Victoria.

National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery

The National Gallery occupies the northern edge of the square, and contains the nation’s greatest collection of artworks by the likes of Botticelli, Cézanne, Constable, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Titian, Turner and Van Gogh.

National Gallery

The East Wing contains British painters like John Constable and JMW Turner, and houses famous works like The Hay Wain and The Fighting Téméraire.

Photo: Wikipedia

The National Portrait Gallery uses paintings, sculptures and statues to depict famous Britons from the past and present.

The galleries contain all of our kings and queens including Elizabeth I, striding across a map of Britain, with storm clouds raging where the Spanish Armada sank into the sea. You’ll also find pictures of famous commoners like Sir Francis Drake and William Shakespeare.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields church

St. Martin-in-the-Fields

St. Martin-in-the-Fields stands in the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square. Despite its tiny size and rather humble decorations, it has strong royal connections: it’s the parish church of Buckingham Palace.

Craig’s review of Trafalgar Square

This review originally appeared in his London blog

Visiting Trafalgar Square in London

I was going to do Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus today but I forgot to charge up my camera last night, and the damn thing died on me underneath Nelson’s Column. So you’ll have to settle for just Trafalgar Square instead. Maybe I’ll do those other ones next week.

When I used to come here as a kid the place was crawling with bazillions of pigeons, all hopping about and pecking at your head and hands for your burgers and buns. There even used to be an old guy selling little polystyrene tubs of bird seed in the corner, but they’ve all gone now. Ken Livingstone got rid of those when he was Mayor because they were a health hazard (apparently). Rats of the sky, is what he called them. And he done a very thorough job as well, because I don’t think I saw a single pigeon the whole time I was there today.

Fountains in Trafalgar Square

There was a bit of a sporty theme going on today because there was a load of kids playing football and doing press-ups. They were all very excited, for some reason. I don’t see what is so exciting about doing some excerise, but maybe that’s just my age. Some of the craziest kids were jumping on the concrete walls and balancing on metal barriers, posing on tippie-toes twenty feet in the sky.

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

I must admit they were very good, but I don’t expect many of them survived the day. Some of those walls were ten-feet high and they were running around on them like they were no higher than the pavement.

Trafalgar Square does have a few sights worth seeing. Nelson’s Column is the obvious one, and the National Gallery looks very impressive with its pillars out the front. St. Martin-in-the-Fields is famous for its classical music concerts at lunchtime, and its candlelit concerts in the evening. They’ve also got a brass-rubbing centre in the basement (I used to get dragged along there as a kid). It’s also a decent place for a coffee because they’ve got a little cafe in the crypt.

Admiralty Arch in Trafalgar Square

Admiralty Arch often gets overlooked because it’s tucked away in the corner, but you need to venture through it to find The Mall. The Mall is the big red road that leads directly to Buckingham Palace.

Statues in Trafalgar Square, London

The four big plinths in each corner of the square are worth a look at. Three of them just have your normal boring soldiers and generals, but the fourth one houses a temporary art exhibit which has been changing every six months or so for the last ten years. At the moment it has a giant golden rocking horse on it. Don’t ask me what the meaning behind that is, because I haven’t got a clue – it’s just a big rocking horse. I’m sure the artist is trying to tell us something deep and meaningful, but who knows. It’s just a rocking horse!

Keep an eye out for the big statue of Charles I on horseback as well, directly in front of Nelson’s Column. That is supposed to mark the exact centre of London, and all road distances are measured from that point. You can also find the capital’s smallest police station in a pillar in the south-east corner… look for a little black door and a strange iron/glass globe on the roof.

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  • Admin – “I don't believe there is one. But there is one called the trafalgar down the king's road in chelsea (a long way from trafalgar square), and a trafalgar tavern in greenwich (even further away). There are no pubs on trafalgar square itself, only on the roads leading up to it. Maybe you're thinking of the hilton hotel on trafalgar square? Because that's called the trafalgar.”

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Events in Trafalgar Square

Ride an old-style double-decker bus   From

If you enjoy this then try: Covent Garden (you can walk it in 7 mins); Horse Guards (you can walk it in 6 mins); Leicester Square (you can walk it in 4 mins) and Parliament Square (walk it in 12 mins or catch a train from Charing Cross to Westminster).

Megan Davies: The Moonlight Tour YouTube star Megan Davies will be coming to London when her Moonlight Tour arrives at Bush Hall in February
Franz West at the Tate Modern This retrospective will showcase some large-scale works and sculptures by Franz West - one of the leading figures in European art
Costumed Dickensian Walk Walk the same streets as Charles Dickens and see the things he wrote about in his novels in the company of a costumed Victorian guide
Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light The National Gallery will be putting on a rare exhibition of sixty works by the Spanish Impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla
Ben Target: Splosh Ben Target is promising us some doggy paddle lessons and synchronised aquatics at his Battersea Arts Centre pool party
Yxng Bane at the O2 Academy Brixton East London rapper Yxng Bane is playing a huge headline show at the O2 Academy Brixton in March
Craig’s review of London Buses I'm fifth in line behind three beer bottles and a half-eaten hamburger in a sauce-splattered carton. The other guy standing here is trying to peel the pages of his rain-sodden newspaper apart while we're waiting for the bus to loom out of the morning mist. There's a stream of headlights approaching down the road but by the time they arrive they have revealed themselves to be cars… continued
Craig’s review of Leicester Square Everybody looks wrecked in the morning but I'm the middle-aged kind of wrecked, where you roll out of bed feeling like you've only had five minutes kip. These sleeping kids in Leicester Square are the other type: they look like they're at the tail-end of a long night out that still hasn't ended yet. I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore -- I much prefer Leicester Square during th… continued
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