If you’re planning a visit to London, you’ll definitely want to include a visit to Trafalgar Square in your sightseeing itinerary. Filled with ornate fountains and historic statues, and with Nelson’s Column towering overhead, Trafalgar Square is up there with Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge as one of the most iconic London landmarks. In this blog post, we’ll share four fascinating Trafalgar Square facts, including a few lesser-known details that tourists often overlook!
It’s the official centre of the city
Trafalgar Square is right i n the middle of London — literally. The exact centre of the city is just behind the statue of Charles I to the south of Trafalgar Square. In fact, this is the official point from which all distances to and from London are measured.
This spot was chosen because it was once the site of one of twelve ornate statues known as Queen Eleanor crosses. The original cross is no longer there, but a small, burnished plaque just behind the statue of Charles I marks the central spot. It’s quite easy to miss, meaning that many visitors pass over it without ever realising they’re standing right in the centre of London!
You’ll see the world’s smallest (former) police station
Even seasoned Londoners might not have spotted this hidden curiosity. Tucked away in the southeast corner of the square is a small, circular stone structure with black-painted doors and an ornate glass lamp on the roof. It may not look like much, but this tiny, easily overlooked box was once the smallest police station in London (and probably the whole world). Little more than a hollowed-out lamppost with a telephone inside, the old police box would have housed a lone officer who kept an eye on what was happening out in the Square. Just don’t expect to see a bobby in it these days: it’s now used as a broom cupboard by the Council cleaners.
… and some very famous faces
To the North of Trafalgar Square is the imposing façade of the National Gallery, which houses more than 2300 famous artworks. You’ll find masterpieces from the likes of Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, and Turner, to name just a few of the visionary artists whose work now resides in the centre of London. Admission to the The National Gallery is free, and you can also buy a guided audio tour for £5 if you want to learn more about the famous faces who line the walls.
And let’s not forget Trafalgar’s most famous resident: Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, who watches over the square from the top of his eponymous 169-foot-high column. Be sure to get a closer look at the four bas reliefs at the base of the tower, which tell the story of Nelson’s most famous naval battles and were supposedly cast from the melted-down bronze canons taken from defeated French ships.
It’s a great spot to see contemporary art
At the four corners of Trafalgar Square, you’ll find four tall stone plinths, three of which are now home to statues of British Army generals and kings. But there’s one plinth you’ll certainly want to stop and take a closer look at: the Fourth plinth, on the northwest side of the square. Since 2005, the plinth has showcased a variety of modern artworks, ranging from the thought-provoking and sombre to the avant-garde and absurd. At the moment, the plinth is playing host to a recreation of a lost Iraqi sculpture called the Lamassu, and symbolises the artwork and industries destroyed by war.
No sight-seeing visit to London would be complete without a trip to Trafalgar Square. If you’re looking for an unusual way to explore the sights that London has to offer, you’ll love our Foxtrail London treasure trail. The devilishly cunning fox has left tricky clues all over London, and you’ll need to put your heads together to crack the codes, decipher the clues, and follow the trail across the city. You’ll stop by at a range of must-see landmarks, including this famous square, so it’s perfect if you’re new to the city and want to see as much as you can!
Looking for more things to do in London? Check out the Foxtrail blog to find even more things to discover, for tourists and Londoners alike!