Trafalgar Square is one of our favorite places in London and is a must stop for any first time visitor to London. It’s often considered the center of London and it’s actually where distances are measured from. It’s doesn’t get more London than Trafalgar Square.
Here are 10 fun facts and figures about Trafalgar Square.
1. The centerpiece of Trafalgar Square is Nelson’s Column, which was built to honor Admiral Horatio Nelson, who led the British to Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson’s Column is 169 ft 3 Inches tall. When they refurbished it in 2006, they discovered that it was actually 14 ft 6 inches shorter than previously thought.
2. The pedestal of Nelson’s Column is decorated with four bronze relief panels, each 18 feet square, which were cast from captured French guns. They depict the Battle of Cape St Vincent, the Battle of the Nile, the Battle of Copenhagen and the Death of Nelson at Trafalgar.
3. The fountains in Trafalgar Square, despite their iconic position in the square, are not immune to government directives and in summer 2012, they were shut off for most of the summer due to the prolonged drought in Britain.
4. There are fourth plinths in the square, 3 of which features statues of previous English Kings. The fourth plinth, however, never had a statue built for it. So, it’s been turned into a public display of art that rotates regularly. Previous occupants of the space include notable people and a model of the HMS Victory (Nelson’s Ship). Currently the space is occupied by Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 – A sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse. 4.1 metres tall, cast in bronze by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset . In 2013 the rocking horse will be replaced by Hahn / Cock – a sculpture of a cockerel, intended to symbolise “regeneration, awakening and strength” by artist Katharina Fritsch.
5. Trafalgar Square used to be famous as a home for thousands of feral pigeons. A popular activity was to feed them but this made them even more of a pest. So, in 2003 then London Mayor Ken Livingstone declared war on the pigeons and banned feeding them (and the selling of feed near the square). They also employed a hawk to keep them away. Slowly, the square began to depopulate and now it’s pretty much pigeon – and pigeon dropping – free. Also, now that it’s pigeon free, they’re able to hold concerts and public events in the square.
6. Every year a Christmas tree is placed in the center of the Square. It’s the same type of tree every year, a Norwegian Spruce, which is given as a gift from Norway in honor of Britain’s commitment to Norway during World War II. As part of the tradition, the Lord Mayor of Westminster visits Oslo in the late autumn to take part in the felling of the tree, and the Mayor of Oslo then comes to London to light the tree at the Christmas ceremony. As is the Norwegian tradition, the Christmas lights are hung vertically instead of circular around the tree.
7. Seventeen Bus Routes pass through Trafalgar square – making it a crossroads of London traffic.
8. The Square used to be surrounded on all sides by busy roads, which made it rather dangerous to visit. In 2003, the square was redeveloped and the street in front of the National Gallery was closed and pedestrianized. The retaining wall was demolished and a giant staircase was built leading up to the Gallery, creating a grand promenade and beautiful aspect.
9. Trafalgar Square is owned by the Queen in Right of the Crown as part of the Crown Estate and it’s managed by the Greater London Authority, while Westminster City Council owns the roads around the square, including the pedestrianized area of the North Terrace.
10. If Hitler had successfully invaded Britain, he planned to relocate Nelson’s Column to Berlin as a war spoil.
What’s your favorite bit of Trafalgar Square? Let us know in the comments!