Trafalgar Square is one of the most celebrated spots in London for its history and architectural beauty. Located in the centre of London near Charing Cross, this huge open space is one of the prettiest and most popular squares in town with loads to offer the curious tourist.
The location of the Square is of symbolic importance as it was once the location of the Royal Mews (grand stables), and it is named after the British victory in the 1805 naval battle off the Cape of Trafalgar. In the centre of the plaza is a huge Corinthian column dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was killed in the Battle’s victory, and topped with a statue of the man himself. It is surrounded by four lions made from the bronze cannons of the Spanish and French ships which were melted down after the battle.
To either side of Nelson’s Column are two large and beautiful fountains which replaced smaller ones in 1937. The square is surrounded by many impressive buildings. The National Gallery is located on the north side, with the National Portrait Gallery just a stone’s throw further in St. Martin’s Place; the Saint Martin-in-the-Fields Church is situated in the east corner, and the Square is also home to South Africa House and Canada House.
The Square holds a number of other statues of important figures in British history, including four main plinths for the most important statues – those of King George IV, General Charles James Napier and Major-General Henry Havelock.
The ‘Fourth Plinth’ is special as it remained empty for over 100 years until 1988; today, it is a coveted pedestal that displays commissioned works for 18-month stints. Its current resident is Hans Haacke’s skeletal Gift Horse, a wry comment on austerity and City excess. A bustling site where Londons old and new collide, Trafalgar Square is a vital stop for any visitor.