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Trafalgar Square – One of London’s Oldest and Best Attractions
Many travelers consider London to be one of the world’s must-visit cities, and while recent developments such as the London Eye and the Millennium Dome are huge tourist attractions, most still make time for more traditional attractions such as Trafalgar Square.
The square is named after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, in which the British fleet defeated the combined fleet of France and Spain. Horatio Nelson was the Commander of the British Navy at the time, and this is his statue perched atop the eponymous Nelson’s Column, which towers over the neighborhood and stands 185 feet tall. A statue of Nelson himself is 17 feet tall.
The square itself was designed by John Nash, who created the first layout of the square in the 1820s, and construction began in 1829. John Nash died before the square was completed, but his projects were carried out, and the neoclassical square design was achieved. London’s National Gallery, which contains one of the world’s richest art collections, is located on the north side of Trafalgar Square.
Wild nature also occupies a prominent place in the square. Four statues of lions – believed to be made from recycled French ships’ guns – sit at the base of Nelson’s Column, while live pigeons roam freely around the landmark. At their peak, there were an estimated 35,000 pigeons in the square; however, this number has recently declined.
Trafalgar Square is commonly thought to be filled with flocks of pigeons, but its central London location means it is often full of people. There have been many protests there – including the tax riots in 1990 and more recently anti-war demonstrations against Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has also been used as a place of celebration – following England’s success in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the cricket team’s 2005 Ashes series victory, Trafalgar Square was used as a central hub for victory parades.
Although 12,000 people gathered to watch the 2002 World Cup match between England and Brazil on specially installed screens, perhaps the largest crowd was on 8 May 1945. A huge number of citizens came to hear Sir William Churchill’s speech announcing that the Second World War was over. . Since the war, a Christmas tree donated by the city of Oslo has been installed in Trafalgar Square every year in gratitude – not only for Britain’s outstanding role in the fight against the Axis, but also because the Norwegian government and Prince Olav lived in exile in London during the conflict.
Although hotels in London were not as common during the war, the subsequent tourist boom led to significant developments in tourist attractions, the transport system and accommodation in the city.
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