Visiting Trafalgar Square when in London
Visiting Trafalgar Square is an absolute must do when visiting London. As a central point to your visit to this vibrant city Trafalgar Square is a fascinating epicentre of culture. From the Lions of Trafalgar Square, to Nelson’s Column and the Statues of Trafalgar Square there are stories deep in the stones of the square.
Surrounding Trafalgar Square you will find the iconic National Portrait Gallery which is absolutely free to enter unless you want to see any of the special exhibits. St. Martin’s in the Fields an architectural gem where you can hear live concerts and have a great cuppa in the Cafe in the Crypt.
Within walking distance of Trafalgar Square you can easily go shopping in Covent Garden, have a meal in Chinatown, take a walk down Drury Lane and see the glittering West End Theatres, walk down Whitehall to Parliament Square to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace.
From Trafalgar Square to Drury Lane is a walk through the history of London. We began our walking tour at Piccadilly Circus where we got those all important “selfies” in front of the statue of Eros and we followed the signs over to Trafalgar Square.
Wandering out of the Piccadilly Circus Station you arrive in central London just mere steps from the Statue of Eros where selfies must be taken.
A short walk takes you to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, those amazing lion statues and the soaring Nelson’s column.
In Trafalgar square we gaped, literally gaped at the huge Nelson’s Column and giant lions surrounding it. You could catch glimpses of the London Eye from the Square and you begin to realise that London simply isn’t as big as you thought it was.
There were far less pigeons than we anticipated so something must have been done to get rid of the damn vermin. The main amusements a few years ago in Trafalgar Square were feeding these indulged birds. There was a famous character named Bernie Rayner who ran a stall selling little packets of grain which tourists bought at an inflated price to feed the equally inflated pigeons. They fed so well that they bred several times a year.
Repairing the damage to Nelson’s Column caused by pigeon droppings cost £140,000. The Greater London Assembly passed a bylaw making it illegal to feed them, and introduced hawks to frighten them away, and council staff made periodic raids with giant vacuum cleaners to hoover up any grain or other food from the square’s smart new paving stones.
Trafalgar Square Statues
Nelson’s Column was the result of a design competitions that was won by William Railton in 1840. The Statue and column were completed and installed in 1843.
When it was first unveiled, it was called The Monument to Lord Nelson, although everyone calls it Nelson’s Column these days. The column is built of granite from Devon.
The four bronze reliefs around the base are by sculptors: Watson, Woodington, Ternouth and Carew. They show Nelson’s most famous battles: St Vincent, Copenhagen, The Nile, and his death scene on The Victory.
The figure of Nelson on top of the column was carved by EH Baily from Craigleith stone and is in three pieces.
The Trafalgar Square Lions
The four lions around Nelson’s Column were installed 25 years later in 1868.
Designed by Edwin Landseer and cast in bronze by Baron Marochetti in 1867. Landseer worked from real lion corpses and casts of a lion statue in Turin. He strove for accuracy but he did make on big mistake: the lion’s poses. In real life, lion’s backs are convex, and not concave, when lying down.
The World’s Smallest Police Phone Box
Contrary to popular internet myth this is not the world’s smallest Police Station but it is the original communications or lookout point for the Police. In 1919 the Police installed a telephone box (wooden) in a corner of Trafalgar Square to keep an eye on things like gatherings and meetings in the Square.
Over time the Police lobbied for a more permanent installation than a wooden box so a large granite lamp post was hollowed out and a telephone connection installed in the space. this was in 1926 these days the space is used to store cleaners equipment.
The Fountains of Trafalgar Square
During the 19th century the Police wanted to reduce the size of the space in Trafalgar Square for public gatherings. These gathers of early Unionists or Suffragettes and others caused the Police some drama during these periods. Lobbying the politicians resulted in the design and installation of the fountains which were added in 1845.
When the flow of water to the fountains became unreliable it was decided to build new fountains and the central fountains were given to the Canadian Government and are now in Ottawa and Regina
We decided to go into the National Gallery that sits right at the top of Trafalgar Square – it was free entry unless you wanted to see the Caravaggio exhibit. So we wandered in with a hankering to see some renaissance and impressionist masters. We were not disappointed and we spent hours wandering through this huge museum searching out our favourite artists.
London is known for its incredible museums and art galleries and the National is no exception. Most of the galleries and museums are free and if you get down Kensington Way you need to check out Museum Row which could take you absolutely days to go through all the museums.
When we couldn’t see straight, anymore we left the museum and walked over to have a look at St. Martin’s in the Field and then on up to Regent Street in our meandering to see if we could find Covent Garden.
We strolled from Trafalgar Squares scenic people watching across to what has become known as the Theatre district where we spent a good couple of hours putting a crick in our necks straining to see the magnificent theatres in the district.
Where is Drury Lane and London’s Theatre District
There are over 40 venues within London’s West End, “Theatreland” which is located in and near the heart of the West End of London. It is traditionally defined by The Strand to the south, Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, and Kingsway to the east, but a few other nearby theatres are also considered “West End” despite being outside the area. For example The Apollo Victoria Theatre, in Westminster). Prominent theatre streets include Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue, and The Strand.
Drury Lane, London’s Theatre District and the Vikings
Drury Lane was originally an early medieval lane called Via de Aldwych, which probably connected St. Giles Leper Hospital to the fields of Aldwych Close It is said that the lands were owned by the Hospital but had been in the distant past granted to the Danes as part of a peace treaty developed by Alfred the Great in Saxon times.
Around 1500 Sir Robert Drury built a mansion called Drury House. Years later the house became the Queen of Bohemia a public house, supposedly named after the Earl of Craven’s mistress. By the 1800’s the Lane had become one of London’s worst slums and inhabited by prostitutes and gin joints.
The term “Drury Lane” is often used to refer to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which has in different incarnations been located in Drury Lane since the 17th century. Also in Drury Lane is the New London Theatre.
The history of the London West End has been inextricably linked to the theatre for hundreds of years. From the opening of the first West End venue in Drury Lane in 1663, locals and visitors to the capital flocked in droves to the West End to be entertained and enthralled by the various shows on offer.
The London theatre tradition has continued to go from strength to strength over the years, and today the West End is the largest theatre district in the world, with many major international stars treading the boards night after night. To this day no other place in the world hosts the variety and quality of shows as the West End.
We picked out the shows we wanted to see and got great deals on tickets with our Travel Card we picked up tickets for Lin Manuel’s In the Heights (2 tickets for £50), Mama Mia and The Book of Mormon. Three incredible shows served up in London, who could ask for more? Except for the fact that we managed to get tickets to see the incredible actress Glenda Jackson playing King Lear at the Old Vic now that was an epic moment.
If you get a chance to walk around this area it will be a walk you never forget from the LGBTQ walk signs to the history embedded in the very sidewalks and architecture you may never want to leave London.
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