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One of the most famous squares in London

Translated by Lottie Davies — one year ago

Original text by Maika Cano Martínez

Trafalgar Square is a famous square located in the centre of London. It has previously had other names, but its current name draws reference to its historical relevance, which represents the victory of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson (a famous column exists in his honour in the same square, which we will later discuss) of the British Navy against the Spanish and French in 1805: a victory which led to the overthrowing of Napoleón Bonaparte from the Imperial Crown (in the famous Battle of Trafalgar).

This square is, in many ways, the true centre of London, not only because it is the place where demonstrations and parades are held, but also it's where thousands of revellers crowd together year after year to celebrate New Year's Eve (we could compare it with the Puerta del Sol in Madrid), and where locals tend to gather for protests of one type or another.

One of the most famous squares in London

However, this hasn't always been the case, as this square was forgotten about for many years; traffic hid its beauty and its true meaning almost became invaluable. Adding to this was the continuous siege of pigeons, which littered and dirtied the beautiful monuments on offer in the square, and made it practically impossible to enjoy a clean square in all its calmness whilst being to the taste of Londoners.

To remedy this, in the year 2000, Ken Livingston, when he became Mayor of London, was willing to develop an ambitious project designed to modify the square and bring it back to the initial idea that its creator, John Nash, had dreamt up at the start of nineteenth century.

Traffic towards the National Gallery was redirected and new pedestrian zones were created, as well as the National Gallery being endowed with a new facade and entrance, and, most importantly, people were prohibited from feeding the pigeons (when I went, I didn't see any pigeons, although it was a very rainy day, you can still see that this change has been very efficient). It has all been rejuvenated and has provided the square a much more welcoming, clean and shining appearance, available to host important events and the best galas.

The square welcomes countless cultural events, which reflects its openness to the many cultures within the city of London, including: the celebrations of Russian Jews; Chinese New Year celebrations; concerts; and, open-air film screenings, etc. More recently, it has also become a site of political protests.

One of the most resounding protests was the one where thousands of people demonstrated against Bush and the Iraq War, where they celebrated around Nelson's Column the fall of a statue with the effigy of George W. Bush (like when the US Army previously knocked down the statue of Sadam Hussein in Baghdad).

There is a great website that informs you of all the events taking place here or that are going to take place in the square, which you can look through if you are going to visit Trafalgar Square.

The remodelling of the square that took place allows you to better appreciate not only its space, but also the buildings to which it is adjacent:

  • The National Gallery is to the north of Trafalgar Square and is the most famous art museum in London, to which entry is very much recommended.
  • One of the most famous squares in London

    One of the most famous squares in London

  • The National Portrait Gallery offers a quick recap of the history of Great Britain through its most important historical figures, emphasising its most noteworthy events.
  • The recently renovated St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church designed by James Gibbs, famous for his vocal group. You can also have a coffee and visit the shop in crypt, so if you have time, I wouldn't hesistate in going to have a look.

    One of the most famous squares in London

To the south-west, the Admiralty Arch is erected, which lies on The Mall and leads to Buckingham Palace, as I already mentioned in my previous post. To the west, the Canadian Embassy can be found (Canada House, designed by Robert Smirke).

This whole collection of monuments and buildings within the framework of Trafalgar Square struck me when I saw them for the first time, after having bought a coffee in a street close to Garrick Theatre, whilst waiting for the cold and the rain to ease up a little.

I really liked the beautiful fountain that is just in front of the Canadian Embassy with the huge lions, which are, nowadays, soaked with water and sealed off with tape and cones. Normally, people sit at the base which the lions sit to take a photo, but, on a rainy day, nobody is willing to risk spending the rest of the day with a wet bum or to draw attention to themselves by crossing into the restricted area.

One of the most famous squares in London

The striking Nelson's Column is the icing on top of this grandious cake (or square, if we are speaking in literal terms). I love the picture of the Column and being able to catch a glimpse of Big Ben in the background (you can see this in one of the photos I have uploaded... it's beautiful). The column reaches a height of 52 metres, and commemorates Nelson's victory over Napoleón at Trafalgar in 1805.

One of the most famous squares in London

What I liked most was that whenever I looked around where I was standing, I always had a big, important building in my field of vision and I could see the famous red buses encircling the square.

One of the most famous squares in London

What's more, I was also lucky enough to see a man releasing an eagle in the middle of the square, like they do in airports, and then have it return to his forearm. The latter is just an example of how the English try to always have some kind of tourist attraction on offer here, so that foreigners can not only enjoy the sights and sounds, but also a variety of different activities like these.

One of the most famous squares in London

One thing that interests me, although I couldn't see it as I wasn't there at the time that it was there, is an illuminated fir tree that is put up in Trafalgar Square every Christmas. It's a shame that I couldn't insert a photo of it, but if you are interested in seeing it, you can find photos of it online - it's beautiful. Also, there are choirs singing Christmas carols and people doing all manner of different activities, with the money raised going to organisations who support the less-fortunate, in the spirit of the holiday festivities.

I love the story of this fir tree - they bring it over from Oslo after it having been cared for for the whole year and having the Norwegians "pamper" it. Every year they choose the biggest and prettiest tree before its journey to the UK capital begins, which first consists of a journey by boat, and then another by road to Trafalgar Square once arriving in the country. The tree stays lit up in many colours (yellow, blue, etc. ) until Epiphany (6th January). I hope to go at Christmas just to see the tree - I don't want to miss it!

To get to Trafalgar Square, you can:

  • take the Underground on the Bakerloo or Northern line to Charing Cross
  • take a National Rail train service to Charing Cross
  • or, take a bus on one of the following routes: 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 23, 24, 53, 77A, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176, 453.

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