London - Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square was created to commemorate Lord Nelson's victory over the French Fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar off the southern coast of Spain on the 21st of October 1805. One particularily famous signal sent out to the fleet by Nelson during the battle was "ENGLAND EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY". In the end, Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson was to perform the ultimate duty as he was fatally wounded by a French marksman while his flagship, Victory, was locked in close combat with the French ship Retoubtable.

Today, Trafalgar Square has become one of London's greatest landmarks and gathering places for people. When I want to meet someone in London, I almost always suggest that we meet on the Canada House side of Trafalgar Square (if you arrange a meeting in Trafalgar Square, specify a specific place like the steps of Saint Martin's as the Square itself is fairly large and almost always filled with people). There are also literally hundreds of major points of interest within easy walking distance of Trafalgar Square.

The Tube station for Trafalgar Square is Charing Cross which is served by the Bakerloo Line and the left branch of the Northern Line. Embankment Tube station is a reasonable alternative if you're arriving via the District or Circle lines. The nearest wheelchair accessible Tube station is Westminster which is a fairly long five blocks south of Trafalgar Square (the Tube in general is a rather hostile environment for wheelchairs). Note that Charing Cross is also the name of a major national rail terminal (the Tube station and the rail terminal are linked by pedestrian tunnels). If you arrive on the Bakerloo line and immediately head up to ground level then the very first exit after the turnstiles (an almost immediate right turn) will land you in Trafalgar Square itself.

This page is one of a series of London pages. The top level page in the set is here.


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A short history of the Battle of Trafalgar can be found here

A view looking northeast of about half of the Square with Nelson's Column in the center (that's a statue of Lord Nelson himself at the top of the column). The church to the left of the column with the white spire is Saint Martin in the Fields. Saint Martin is home of the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields, one of the world's top orchestras. Although the Academy doesn't perform all that often , there are quite excellent concerts put on by a variety of groups on most evenings in the church (the box office is in the church basement).

One of the two major fountains in the Square with Saint Martin's in the background, the National Gallery on the left and South Africa House on the right. There's a statue of George Washington (not visible here) on the grass in front of the National Gallery. The dirt immediately under the statue was shipped from the U.S. so that dear old George wouldn't need to stand on British soil!

Here's another view of the same fountain with a better look at the National Gallery in the background (the flag is at half mast as these pictures were taken while the Queen Mother was lying in state).

Here's a look at one of the sub-components of the same fountain (that's King George IV on the horse).

Here's a look at one of the sub-components of the other major fountain. Notice the empty plinth (statue base) in the background with the pigeons on it. This plinth is used for temporary exhibits (i.e. it's worth a look each time you visit the Square).

Speaking of pigeons, there are so many pigeons in the Square that they're a bit of a pest at times (the City recently banned the sale of popcorn in the Square in an almost certainly futile attempt to reduce the pigeon population).

Here's proof that banning the sale of popcorn isn't having all that much impact on the ability of people to feed the pigeons! It's pretty easy to become very VERY popular with the local pigeon population (just standing still with popcorn or bread in an outstretched hand is likely to get you pigeons standing on your arm, shoulder and maybe even on your head).

The base of Nelson's Column is surrounded by four of these rather impressive lions. Although it's close to two meters from ground level to the base of the lions's platforms, there are always people climbing all over the lions. I consider this to be a 'feature' as one of the major 'goals' of the Square is that it should be people friendly.

Here's Charles James Napier's statue on the south side of the Square (almost as far away from Saint Martin's as it is possible to get while staying in the Square). That's Canada House in the background.

Finally, here's a photo of Saint Martin in the Fields after giving it the GIMP's "oilify" treatment. This is the central part of a much larger photograph taken from almost exactly the same place as the first photograph on this page.

Trafalgar Square is a "people place" and "normal" people are to be found in the Square on essentially a seven-twenty four basis. As one indication of the key role that the Square plays in the life of the City, London Transport runs an all night bus service which (sparsely) covers the entire city; every one of their all night routes has at least one stop in Trafalgar Square!

Although I live in Canada, I've been to London well over a dozen times in the past few years. Trafalgar Square is definitely one of my favourite places in the world.


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