Our final destination on our walk from Brompton Road in Knightsbridge to Buckingham Palace and The Mall was Trafalgar Square, a popular tourist attraction (rated # 124 out of 1016 attractions in London by Tripadvisor) in the heart of London.
Plans for the square were developed in the early 19th century and the initial name was going to be King William the Fourth’s Square but it was later decided to name the square after the famous battle off Spain’s Cape Trafalgar in 1805 where Lord Horatio Nelson’s British fleet defeated that of Napoleon.
Nelson’s Column was added to the middle of the square in 1843 to honor the admiral who was killed during the battle. The four lions were added in 1867. The square soon became a popular spot for both demonstrating and celebrating. Fountains were added to the square in the 20th century to lessen the space for rioters. They have become very popular, especially in hot weather.
Plinths were designed in each of the square’s four corners to display statues of famous people. King George IV on horseback stands on the north-east plinth. Two generals who spent most of their careers in India — Sir Charles James Napier and Sir Henry Havelock — occupy the two southern plinths. The fourth (northwest) plinth was vacant for more than a 150 years. In 1999 it was decided to reserve the plinth for displaying contemporary art. Currently on display is a bright blue cockerel created by German artist Katharina Fritsch.
The National Gallery is directly north of the square and St Martins-in-the-Fields church, famous for its free lunchtime concerts, stands east of the National Gallery. South of the church and directly east of the square is South Africa House. Canada House is west of the square. The Grand buildings, formerly the Grand Hotel, stand south of the square between the Strand and Northumberland Avenue.
Some people come to Trafalgar Square to meet and then depart for other landmarks nearby. Others come just to people-watch. And it’s easy to find. Some of London’s major streets — Whitehall, the Strand, The Mall, Charing Cross Road — culminate at the square. Thousands of Londoners come to the square every Christmas season to witness various Christmas ceremonies including the lighting of a large Christmas Tree. And thousands more come every New Year’s Eve to celebrate.
The square used to be the home for more than 35,000 pigeons but several laws have been passed during the last 15 years banning pigeon feeding and there are very few pigeons left. During our stay we saw a few visiting the Blue Cockerel on the Fourth Plinth but that was all.
The area around Trafalgar Square used to be called Charing Cross and there still is a Charing Cross Station where we caught the Tube to get back to our hotel in Stratford City.