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Travel / Tours / London / Trafalgar Square
Visit Trafalgar Square in London
  Nelson's Column
  The square
  St Martin-in-the-Fields
  National Gallery
  National Portrait Gallery
  Further information


A brief guide to London's Trafalgar Square.

Model of Trafalgar Square

One of the fountains

Trafalgar Square: Through the Camera
Author: R. Hargreaves
Publisher: National Portrait Gallery Publications
Date: February 2005
Trafalgar Square: A Visual History of London's Landmark Through Time
Author: Jean Hood
Publisher: B.T. Batsford Ltd
Date: May 2005

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Horatio Nelson was the British admiral who commanded the British fleet at the time of the wars with the French leader Napoleon Bonaparte. The Battle of Trafalgar was between the British navy and combined French and Spanish forces and took place in the seas off south-west Spain on 21 October 1805. Although Nelson was killed on his ship (HMS Victory) near the end of the battle, he achieved a decisive victory in which 22 of the enemy's 33 ships were destoyed without losing any British ships. This made it impossible for Napoleon to invade England by sending his army across the English Channel. In Britain Nelson was considered to be a great hero, so when a new square was created in central London it was decided to include a tall pillar with his statue at the top, known as Nelson's Column. This was completed in 1844. The square was named Trafalgar Square in memory of the battle.

Bronze reliefs at the base of the column show scenes from four of Nelson's battles.
Four bronze lions were placed around the base of Nelson's Column in 1867.

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Two large fountains have been part of the square since 1844. Statues were added in 1948.

There are four plinths around the fountains. There are original permanent statues on three of these: George the Fourth (king from 1820-1830) on his horse, General Havelock and General Napier. The fourth plinth should have been occupied by a statue of William the Fourth (king from 1830-1837) but he died without leaving enough money, so it remained empty. Recently it was decided to use the space for a changing display of artworks:
- "Alison Lapper Pregnant" by Marc Quinn, showing a heavily pregnant lady with no arms.
- "Hotel for the Birds" by Thomas Schütte
- "One & Other" by British artist Antony Gormley (for 100 days, from 6 July – 14 October 2009, a different person stood on the plinth each hour)
- "Nelson's Ship in a Bottle" by Yinka Shonibare (from October 2009)
- "Powerless Structures, Fig. 101" by Elmgreen & Dragset has been commissioned for 2012
- "Hahn / Cock" by Katharina Fritsch has been commissioned for 2013

Pigeons often gather in the square, but please do not encourage this by feeding them.

King George the Fourth

Major General Sir Henry Havelock

General Napier

Fourth plinth: "Alison Lapper pregnant" (by Marc Quinn)

"Hotel for the Birds" (by Thomas Schütte)

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St Martin-in-the-Fields is a church on the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square. As well as church services there are many concerts performed here. Beneath the church is a crypt which contains a café and brass rubbing centre.

St Martin-in-the-Fields
(restoration work is taking place)

Café in the crypt

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The National Gallery contains an impressive collection of Western European paintings. For example, you can see paintings by British artists such as Constable, Turner or Gainsborough, French artists such as Monet, Seurat or Renoir, Dutch artists such as van Goch, Rubens or Rembrandt, and Italian artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli or Michelangelo. There is free entry to the permanent exhibitions, but tickets are usually required for the special temporary exhibitions. Photography is not allowed inside the gallery.

There are three connected parts to the building. In the centre is the main Portico entrance. The entrance to the Sainsbury Wing (opened in 1991) is to the left and the Getty entrance for the East Wing is on the right.

The gallery is open daily until 6pm, with late opening (and often a free classical concert) each Friday evening until 9pm.

The main portico entrance
(completed in 1837)

The Nation's Mantelpiece: A History of the National Gallery
Author: Jonathan Conlin
Publisher: Pallas Athene Publishers
Date: November 2006
The National Gallery Companion Guide
Author: Erika Langmuir
Publisher: National Gallery Co Ltd
Date: March 2004

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The National Portrait Gallery, established in 1856, is located on the north-east side of the National Gallery. It contains a collection of portraits. Entry is free, but there are charges for the special exhibitions. Late opening is on Thursday and Friday evenings. Photography is not allowed inside the gallery.

Entrance to the National Portrait Gallery

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Free public events and performances are regularly staged in and around Trafalgar Square, especially at weekends.
Many of these events reflect the multicultural nature of London's population.

Click on the links to see photos from the following events:
- Russian Winter Festival: Ideas/Album/RussianWinterFestival
- Chinese New Year: Ideas/Album/ChineseNewYear
- St Patrick's Day [Irish]:
- Vaisakhi in the Square [Sikh]: Ideas/Album/Vaisakhi
- Morris dancing: Ideas/Album/MorrisDancing
- Pride London [gay/lesbian]: Ideas/Album/Pride
- Liberty [disabled]: Ideas/Album/Liberty
- Simcha [Jewish]: Ideas/Album/Simcha
- Diwali [Hindu]: Ideas/Album/Diwali
- Eid [Muslim]: Ideas/Album/Eid
- Norwegian Christmas tree: Ideas/Album/NorwegianTree
- London 2012 celebrations [Olympics]: Ideas/Album/London2012

Chinese New Year festival

Diwali celebrations

Grass covered the Square for a few days

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To get to Trafalgar Square by public transport:
- Underground (Tube): the nearest station is Charing Cross (on the Bakerloo and Northern lines). Leicester Square, Embankment and Piccadilly Circus are also nearby
- Train: the closest railway station is at Charing Cross
- Bus: many buses pass close to Trafalgar Square. It is also a starting place for many of the night buses.
- Sightseeing buses stop near the square

Places to eat in Trafalgar Square include:
- Café on the Square (at the bottom of the central staircase as you face the National Gallery):
- Café in the Crypt (underneath St Martin-in-the-Fields):
- The National Café and The National Dining Rooms (in the National Gallery):

Trafalgar Square events:
Walking tours of Trafalgar Square:

National Gallery:
National Portrait Gallery:
St Martin-in-the-Fields:
Fourth plinth project: and

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Museums: Life/Entertainment/Museums
Photos of events: Ideas/Album

Home page: Home

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