Trafalgar Square

Top choice square in The West End

Image by Vulture Labs Getty Images

Trafalgar Sq is the true centre of London, where rallies and marches take place, tens of thousands of revellers usher in the New Year and locals congregate for anything from communal open-air cinema and Christmas celebrations to political protests. It is dominated by the 52m-high Nelson's Column and ringed by many splendid buildings, including the National Gallery and the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

For decades the great square was ringed with traffic and given over to flocks of pigeons fed by tourists and locals alike. In 2000, a scheme was launched to transform the square into the kind of space John Nash had intended it to be when he designed it in the early 19th century. Traffic was banished from the northern flank in front of the National Gallery, the pigeons were sent packing (with the help of a team of Harris hawks) and a new pedestrian plaza built, making way for cohorts of living statues, gravity-defying Yodas and other street artistes.

Note the much-overlooked, if not quite ignored, brass plaques recording the precise length of imperial units – including the inch, foot and yard at 62º F (16.5º C) – set into the stonework to the left of the steps as you walk down from the National Gallery.


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