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If London has a centre, it's here
Trafalgar Square (London)
Member Name: MagdaDH
Trafalgar Square (London)
Advantages: central, interesting, important and attractive
Trafalgar Square is one of the most iconic places in London and despite being crowded, busy, still traffic-filled (though the removal of the lanes that used to separate the National Gallery from the middle bit definitely helped) and polluted, a definite must-see. In fact, it's an excellent placed to start a one-day (or a first-day) tour of London.
The Square is centred, appropriately for its name, on the Nelson's Column, flanked by four bronze lions. The northern side of the Square is filled with the imposing but attractive building of the National Gallery (fabulous collection of classic art, and free to enter) to which the traffic-free Northern Terrace raises. To the east one can admire the colonnade and spire of the beautiful church of St Martin in the Fields. To the south-west, Admiralty Arch leads to the Mall. Neo-classical Canada and South Africa Houses flank the square in the west and east respectively. Whitehall and Strand extend out from the southern part of the Square. There are fountains and other statuary dotted around and altogether it's not a bad space at all.
It reeks imperial grandeur, obviously, as it was designed and built at the very height of the Victorian might. One can see most of the structures on the square as playing tribute to the might of Imperial Britannia. And yet, the Trafalgar Square is more than a stone-bound triumphal march. It has been a place of political demonstrations, cultural events and rowdy celebrations from its beginnings. Some of these had imprimatur of the official governments of the time, others didn't - from the 19th century Chartists' meetings to anti-apartheid vigils to poll tax and budget cuts riots.
There is a Norwegian Christmas tree at the Square every year and London's New Year's celebrations took place at there (kind of unofficially, but this is where you went for the bells if you were in central London near midnight) until they were supplanted by the official, organised and spectacular mega-show over the Thames.
Although all distances from London are measured from Charing Cross (which is, nota bene, not far from here), Trafalgar Square is as close as London comes to having a central point. And everybody has to have photo on a lion, of course.
Summary: a must-see London square
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