Trafalgar Square

Stand in the famous Trafalgar Square

Viewed by many as the heart of London, Trafalgar Square is one of the capital’s busiest spots, featuring some of its major attractions and hosting a variety of events through the year.

Highlights

  • Nelson’s Column is Trafalgar Square’s centrepiece, honouring the Admiral’s role in the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
  • Make a wish in one of the two iconic fountains, replete with sculptures of dolphins, mermaids and tritons.
  • The four bronze lions which sit protecting the base of Nelson’s Column, each weighing 7 tonnes.

What to See and Do

The Four Plinths

Note the four plinths located around the corners of the Square, three of which contain statues of figures from British history. The fourth plinth was intended for a statue of King William IV but remained empty until the end of the 20th century. It is now one of the most public of art installations, hosting artworks from leading artists.


The National Gallery

On the northern side of the square you will find the National Gallery, housing one of the most important collections of paintings in the world. One of the most visited museums of art worldwide, it contains works by masters such as Van Gogh, Monet, Van Eyck, Caravaggio, Holbein and more. You can not miss the National Gallery as it is the largest building on the square, with striking columns dominating its facade.

St Martin-in-the-Fields

On the north-eastern corner of Trafalgar Square, you will find the historic church of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Instantly recognisable from its magnificent Corinthian style portico, the church in its current form has been sited here since 1726. The ornate architecture inside the church is equally stunning. This is the parish church for Buckingham Palace and a royal pew can be seen to the left of the altar, while the royal coat of arms is on the ceiling.

Police Box

The smallest police station in the UK used to be located in the south-eastern corner of the square. Now a storage unit for the local council this police station, or more appropriately going by its size police box, was set up in the 1920s to monitor gatherings and general goings-on in the square. Apparently able to house two prisoners at a push, it was set up in a hollowed-out ornamental light fitting. This quirky attraction can be easily missed so be sure to look out for it as you pass.

Watch Street Performances

Trafalgar Square has always been a focal point for meetings, events and demonstrations. Since the northern end of the square was pedestrianised in 2003 it has allowed artists, musicians and other street performers to regularly entertain the crowds. If you are in Trafalgar Square it is always worth heading to this area to see what is going on.

Did You Know: (5 interesting facts!)

  1. Trafalgar Square is part of the Crown estate, meaning it is owned by the sitting regent. However, the Queen is spared the additional admin as the square and surrounding roads are managed by the Greater London Authority and Westminster council.
  2. The square used to be famous for the thousands of pigeons which would frequent the area. It was estimated pigeon droppings cost £140 million to clean from Nelson’s Column alone, at which point their days were numbered. Feeding the pigeons was banned in the early 2000s and their numbers have significantly reduced.
  3. A little hidden gem are the plaques in the steps near the National Gallery installed by the Board of Trade to preserve standard imperial unit measures.
  4. The iconic Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is supplied every year by Norway. Since 1947 Norway has sent a Norwegian Spruce as a mark of gratitude for British support during the second world war.
  5. The fountains in Trafalgar Square replaced two previous fountains in the 1930s. The original ones found a new home across the Atlantic, performing a similar task in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

History

  • 1826 Architect John Nash chosen to provide plans for an area formerly part of the Great Mews, which is to include a large public space.
  • 1838 Completion of the National Gallery designed by William Wilkins.
  • 1840 – 1843 Construction of Nelson’s Column.
  • 1867 Addition of the four bronze lions to the base of Nelson’s Column, designed by Edwin Landseer.
  • 1876 Official measurement plaques installed in the wall and steps on the north side of the square.
  • 1930 Two new fountains installed with the old fountains shipped to Canada.
  • 1947 First Christmas tree delivered as a gift from Norway in gratitude for British support during the war.
  • 1999 First art installation on the fourth plinth, the sculpture ‘Ecce Homo’ by Mark Wallinger.
  • 2003 Major redevelopment including pedestrianisation of the north terrace, linking it to the National Gallery.