Day 2 – Empire, political power and heritage

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is the giant purpose built home to Nelson’s Column – and one of the key sights in central London. This monument commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson, whose victory (and death) at the Battle of Trafalgar, prevented the invasion of Napoleon’s ‘Grand Armee’ in 1805. And be sure to see one of the oldest statues in London – King Charles 1st from 1633. The king beheaded in 1649 for treason against his people.

The fountain of Trafalgar Square and the church of St Martin's in the Fields
The fountain of Trafalgar Square and the church of St Martin’s in the Fields

The National Portrait Gallery is very near Trafalgar Square.  It’s another of the key sights in central London.
It’s much quieter than the National Gallery and is packed with portraits representing British – and American – history.  For example:

The first Queen of America!

Virginia – the ‘Old Dominion’

How New Haven upset the Merry Monarch!

The first American Patriot!

World’s first tunnel under a river – by the former Chief Engineer of New York!


Whitehall leads south from Trafalgar Square. A stroll down Whitehall will introduce you to many Government departments and ministries including the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence. The name ‘Whitehall’ was taken from the Palace of Whitehall. This was the residence of Kings Henry VIII through to William III, before its destruction by fire in 1698. Only the Banqueting House from 1622 has survived today – it was outside this building that King Charles 1st was beheaded. You can stand near the spot – gory, but fascinating.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall
The Cenotaph, Whitehall

Read about where 007 started out

The Churchill War Rooms

Downing Street   

Home to the Prime Minister (and headquarters of the Government) number 10 is over 300 years old. Despite its looks it’s an enormous building containing around 100 rooms. Number 10 was offered to Sir Robert Walpole (England’s first PM) by King George II in 1732.

Downing Street

Parliament Square   

Whitehall ends at Parliament Square. It’s a large open green with eleven statues of statesmen and other notable individuals (Nelson Mandela being a recent addition). It’s overlooked by the Elizabeth Clock Tower (i.e. the tower that contains Big Ben), Houses of Parliament, Supreme Court and Westminster Abbey.

The Churchill War Rooms

Parliament Square

Westminster Abbey  

Westminster Abbey is the Queens private church (a ‘royal peculiar’), owing to it being built by Kind Edward the Confessor in 1065!   It is another of the key sights in central London.  Most of what you see today was completed in the 1250’s (nave during reign of Henry 3rd), 1500’s (chapel at east end during reign of Henry 7th) and 1750’s (towers during reign of George 2nd). It’s the burial place of Elizabeth 1st, Mary Tudor, Henry 5th, Henry 7th, James 1st and many more monarchs, statesmen, artists and scientists.

All coronations of English and British monarchs have been in Westminster Abbey, since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066. And there have been at least 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100.

Westminster Abbey, West Towers
Westminster Abbey, West Towers

‘Hidden’ lunchtime restaurants near Westminster Abbey


More in this part of London:

Read about the Westminster Abbey evensong service

The unmissable central London pub crawl – through the spectacular City of Westminster!

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