Day 2 – Empire, political power and heritage

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is the purpose built home to the Nelson monument (Nelson’s Column). The monument commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson, whose victory (and death) at the Battle of Trafalgar, prevented the invasion of Napoleon’s ‘Grand Armee’ in 1805.

Nearby, is one of the oldest statues in London – of King Charles I in 1633 (beheaded in 1649 for treason).

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 to the north of Trafalgar Square.   It’s quieter than the National Gallery and 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 I was beheaded.

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 1040.   Most of what you see today was completed in the 1250’s (during reign of Henry III), 1500’s (chapel at east end during reign of Henry VII) and 1750’s (towers during reign of George II). The Abbey is the burial place of Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor, Henry V, Henry VII, James I and many other royals, statesmen, artists and scientists.

All coronations of English and British monarchs have taken place in Westminster Abbey (since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066). There have been 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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