Trafalgar Square, London

Trafalgar Square, London (must see)

Trafalgar Square is a #1 square in Britain and is as close as you can get to the heart of London. Charing Cross, the small traffic island south of Trafalgar, is technically where all distances to London are measured from. Speaking of measures, the Imperial Standard measures used in the UK prior to 1965, such as inches, feet, yards, links, chains, perches and poles, are all found in Trafalgar Square as well. In 1876 they were installed in the northern terrace wall, but in 2003 were relocated behind the cafe and placed along the steps, after the north side of the square was made pedestrian.

The story of Charing Cross itself is quite remarkable and starts in 1290 when Eleanor, the wife of king Edward I, died and her body was taken from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey. On the way, the procession stopped at 12 different locations including the village of Charing. At each of those stops, a memorial Eleanor Cross was erected. The memorial cross in Charing was eventually destroyed during the Civil War in the 17th century and was rebuilt only in the Victorian era, in the 1860s. Mistakenly, however, they put it in London, outside Charing Cross Station, and not in the Charing village.

Trafalgar Square owes its name to Admiral Lord Nelson who died on 21 October 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. That battle was part of a Napoleonic war and saw British, led by Admiral Nelson, take on the combined French and Spanish fleet. The Royal Navy enjoyed a remarkable victory that day, commemorated since as the greatest victory in its history. In memory of that event, the name “Trafalgar Square” was coined in 1835.

Eight years later, another tribute to Lord Nelson – Nelson's Column – was erected in the center of the square. The column was built of Devon granite and adorned, around its base, with four bronze reliefs depicting Nelson's most famous battles: St Vincent, Copenhagen, The Nile, and Trafalgar. Four guardian lions at its foot appeared in 1868 and were made initially of stone. The ones we see today are cast in bronze and replace the originals considered not impressive enough. The bronze statues were created by sculptor Edwin Landseer and modeled on real lion corpses to ensure ultimate physiological accuracy. Despite that, however, a serious blunder was committed about the lions' backs. In real life, the back of a lying lion is always convex, not concave, as it is in the sculpture.

In 1845, in order to reduce space for public gatherings in Trafalgar Square, two fountains were added, designed by Charles Barry. Eventually, they had to be replaced with new fountains, while the original old ones were gifted to Canada. To oversee public gatherings in Trafalgar, in 1926 a one-man police phone box was installed in its south east corner. Today, it is used solely by cleaners as a storage room.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place to relax over an evening, surrounded by so many traditional London buildings.

Tip:
Go sit on the steps as the sun starts to set, take in the noises of London...
...or use Trafalgar Square as a starting point for London's attractions.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in London. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Trafalgar Square on Map

Sight Name: Trafalgar Square
Sight Location: London, England (See walking tours in London)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in London, England

Create Your Own Walk in London

Create Your Own Walk in London

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Kensington/Knightsbridge Walking Tour

Kensington/Knightsbridge Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Beatles London Walking Tour

Beatles London Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 Km or 3 Miles
Harry Potter Walking Tour II

Harry Potter Walking Tour II

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On Part II of the self-guided Happy Potter Walking Tour, you...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
London's Historic Pubs Walk

London's Historic Pubs Walk

If there’s any more iconic symbol for London than Big Ben or the London Eye, then it must be the traditional English pub. And London sure is full of them, dating from pre-Victorian times to just about five minutes ago.

With so much history surrounding London there is no shortage of historic pubs to choose from. Whether you fancy half-timbered, rambling watering holes or small but perfectly...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles
Shakespeare's London Walking Tour

Shakespeare's London Walking Tour

Often called England's national poet or simply "the Bard", William Shakespeare is revered as one of, if not the greatest playwright this world has ever seen. The dramas, such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth are among the finest creations in the English language, translated into every major language and performed more often than those of any other author....  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Walk around Buckingham Palace

Walk around Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, the British monarch's official residence, is a must-see for anyone visiting London, but so are the adjacent royal establishments that give a unique window into the royal way of life. On this self-guided walking tour, along with Buckingham Palace and its memorable fountain, you will visit the St. James's private royal residence, the wonderful Queen's Gallery, and...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


London Souvenirs: 20 Distinctively British Products for Travelers

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