What to See at London's Trafalgar Square

 Gautier Houba / TripSavvy

Trafalgar Square, a popular tourist destination, is a public square in the City of Westminster, Central London. Trafalgar Square was designed by architect John Nash in the 1820s and constructed in the 1830s.

Tourists gather there, tour buses circle the central monument and political activists gather to demonstrate. Every December, Norway donates a marvelous  Christmas tree to thank Britain for their part in the liberation from the Nazis and it is erected in the square.

The nearest tube stations to Trafalgar Square are Charing Cross and Leicester Square.

Trafalgar Square itself has many interesting sights including Nelson's Column, The National Gallery, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. 

Within walking distance of Trafalgar Square, you can easily go shopping in Covent Garden, have a meal in Chinatown, see popular shows in the glittering West End, walk down Whitehall to Parliament Square to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace.

Getting to the square is simple. The nearest tube stations to Trafalgar Square are Charing Cross and Leicester Square.

01 of 09

Nelson's Column

Nelson Column At Trafalgar Square In City Against Cloudy Sky
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Nelson's Column was built in Trafalgar Square in 1843. The monument commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The column measures just over 169 feet high from the base to the top of Nelson's hat.

The base of the statue has four bronze relief panels cast from captured French cannons. They depict the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, the Battle of the Nile, the Battle of Copenhagen and the death of Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar.

The four bronze lions at the base of the column were designed by Edwin Landseer and were added in 1868. You are allowed to climb onto the base of the sculptures for photo opportunities but cannot sit on the lions. 

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02 of 09

St. Martin-in-the-Fields

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Built by James Gibb, Scottish architect, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, is located at the northeastern corner of Trafalgar Square. There has been a church on this site since the 13th century; the present building was completed in 1726. Its magnificent Corinthian portico has been frequently copied in the U.S. where it became a model for the Colonial style of church building.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields is the official parish church for Buckingham Palace. Inside, there is a royal box on the left of the altar and one for the Admiralty on the right.

The church houses a shelter for the homeless as well as the London Brass Rubbing Centre where you can choose a design and make a picture to take home. Surprisingly, you'll discover and a very good self-service cafe in the crypt that offers jazz on Wednesday evenings. 

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03 of 09

The National Gallery

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The National Gallery takes up the entire north side of Trafalgar Square. It showcases works by well-known artists including Botticelli, Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Hogarth, and Gainsborough.

The neoclassical National Gallery was founded in 1824 when the British government agreed to purchase and display 38 paintings belonging to the Russian businessman John Julius Angerstein. The gallery now houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to the 1900s.

London's National Gallery is the eighth-most visited art museum in the world. Van Gogh's A Wheatfield With Cypresses and Canaletto's The Stonemason’s Yard are important works to see.​

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04 of 09

Canada House

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Canada House is on the west side of Trafalgar Square. It has served as the offices of the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom since 1925. The building, opened in 1827, constructed of stone from Bath, England in the Greek Revival style. Canada House was designed by Robert Smirke who also was the architect for the British Museum

Canada House has retained much of its original neoclassical interior. Most of the building is not open to the general public but tours are offered at scheduled times. The Canada Gallery, housing Canadian art and craft, in the building is open to the public. 

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05 of 09

The Fourth Plinth

he new Fourth Plinth sculpture by British artist David Shrigley in Trafalgar Square.
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The fourth plinth (statue base) in the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square was originally designed by Sir Charles Barry and built in 1841 to display an equestrian statue. Due to a lack of funds to create a suitable statue, it remained empty until 1999.

The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, an independent committee informed by public opinion, selects the ongoing series of temporary works of art commissioned from leading national and international artists. The art installation is changed ​every two years.

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06 of 09

Admiralty Arch

Admiralty Arch, on the Mall, designed by Sir Aston Webb, completed in 1912, in Westminster, London, England, United Kingdom, Europe
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Admiralty Arch marks the entrance to The Mall from Trafalgar Square. This tree-lined road leads to Buckingham Palace along the side of St. James's Park. This regal entrance was built in 1910 to honor Queen Victoria. The central gate is only opened for royal processions.

The building housed government offices until 2011, but in 2012 the government sold a 125-year lease for the building with the intention of redevelopment into a luxury hotel, restaurant, ​and apartments.

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07 of 09

Whitehall and Big Ben from Trafalgar Square

England, London, View from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to Big Ben
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At the south of the square the road, Whitehall, connects Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. Since the 16th century, nearly all of the key government ministries have been housed on this street.

Since you will find government ministries such as the Ministry of Defense, the Horse Guards, and the Cabinet Offices along this road, the name Whitehall is used for the British government services and as a geographic name for the area. 

You'll see and hear Big Ben from this direction. Big Ben is the name for the clock and the tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. The tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to honor the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. 

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08 of 09

South Africa House

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South Africa House is on the east side of Trafalgar Square and is closed to the public. It was erected in 1935 in the classical style with arts and crafts style details including keystones depicting African animals and African symbols. The building houses the South African High Commissioner and the South African consulate.

A non-stop vigil was held outside South Africa House during the 1980s and early 1990s until the end of Apartheid.

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09 of 09

National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856. It houses portraits of prominent Britons from Tudor times to the present day.  It was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened.

The collection, the largest in the world, includes paintings, drawings, and photographs. The contemporary collection includes a timeline of photos of Queen Elizabeth II.

The gallery has rotating exhibits and even included an exhibit focusing on Michael Jackson's impact on the fashion world. The gallery is open daily with a late opening on Friday evenings.​