London Sights to See - Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is called the center of England for more than one reason.
At its south end lies what used to be Charing Cross, the
point from which all distances to
London are measured. Long since, the cross which was erected by Edward
I in 1290 (as a tribute to his wife, Eleanor) has been
replaced by a statue of Charles I atop a horse.
Originally, the site was going to be called "King William the Fourth's Square",
but George Ledwell Taylor's suggestion of "Trafalgar Square" carried the day.
Major construction of Trafalgar Square was completed in 1845 and
it has enjoyed continual popularity since - sometimes to the
regret of its sponsors. The large open piazza-style area is often the
site of choice for political demonstrations, as it has been from the
The centerpiece of this center of England is unquestionably the
185-foot column, with the 17-foot statue of Lord Nelson at its
peak. This is fitting since the square itself was designed as a tribute
to Nelson's military victory of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
At the base of the column are four large bronze lions sculpted by Landseer, sitting
atop huge granite plinths.
(A plinth is a block of stone that serves as a base for a column or
statue.) Bronze reliefs at the base depict four of Admiral Nelson's
Once home to large flocks of pigeons, the tower and other structures
have been rejuvenated after a program to radically decrease the bird
population. This was a program not without some controversy, as the
bird, considered by many to be a nuisance, were popular with many of
The square, apart from being the intersection for several major
roadways, holds a baker's dozen of things to do and see. All around are
working fountains designed in the Neo-Classical style that formed the
look and feel of public squares in cities large and small around the
world for centuries.
On the north side of the square sits the National Gallery,
one of the world's premier art museums. In addition to holding within
one of the richest collections of paintings, the building itself is a
work of art.
East of there is St. Martin's-in-the-Fields church. On the south is Whitehall, where a visitor can see The
Cenotaph (built to memorialize the Armistice in 1919).
To the west can be found Canada House.
Visiting Canadians can use the facility to read Canadian newspapers and
send or receive emails, but the classical exterior is also worth a look
for anyone sightseeing their way through the streets of London..
On the east side is South
Africa House with a delightful display of
African animals featured on its stone arches.
If visiting during Christmas, be sure to bundle up and come at night to
see the tree
lighting ceremony. A tradition since 1947, every year Norway - as an expression of
gratitude for British support during WWII - sends a giant spruce or fir
to London. The tree is erected and decorated and the Mayor of Oslo joins
the Lord Mayor of
Westminster to illuminate the tree.
Less than a mile away are several other great sights, such as the Churchill Museum and
10 Downing Street,
the home of the Prime
Minister since 1732. The home of Samuel Johnson,
(creator of the first English dictionary and a capable, albeit
irrascible, writer) is about a mile away as is the British Museum,
which houses one of the world's largest collections of
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