This post is part of the series England
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This post is part of the series London
Other posts in this series:
Travel Stories to Inspire Your Wanderlust
Learn more about London!
On the second day of my London Trip, we had only two fixed deadlines – at the beginning and at the end of the day. This means we were able to do whatever we wanted to in London between 11 am and 6 pm. That’s how I love it! To be quite frank, we were the luckiest people travelling to England when it comes to weather. For the whole week that we spent in London and its surrounding area, the only time we saw some teeny-tiny raindrops was on the meadows of Salisbury, when we visited Stonehenge (here).
For the rest of the week, we had probably the best weather for the UK one could wish for – it was sunny throughout with an average temperature of 25°. Beautiful! I was hoping for a nice, sunny and fog-free weather on that day too, as we were going to visit the Eye of London first. I have always been keen on finding the best scenic places to enjoy the city from above! And in the capital of England, my choice was definitely the Coca-Cola Ferry wheel, as it is very close to the city centre and you can spot the most famous landmarks of London easily from above. You can read the blog post about my London Eye experience here.
After riding the London Eye, which took all in all 2.5 hours (getting the tickets, waiting in a queue and the 30 minutes of a ride), we were heading to Trafalgar Square. The Trafalgar Square is a must visit stops for every first-timer in London and not only. It has often been said that Trafalgar Square is namely the centre of London and it’s actually where distances were measured from. And it’s true – the square is not only the centre of the metropolis but also its pulsatile heart. Every day and every second all kinds of people from all over the World and Londoner meet each other in that place. Trafalgar square gets more than 15 million tourist visitors per year. So it cannot get more London than Trafalgar Square!
Here are my top figures and facts about Trafalgar Square that is definitely worth to know:
Trafalgar Square was built on Great Royal Mews land and was used as stables by Whitehall Palace from the 14th to the late 17th century.
Three of the all four plinths on the square feature statues of English Kings. The fourth one is a public display of art which changes regularly.
The Charing Cross is a small traffic island south of Trafalgar Square and is the spot from where all distances in London are calculated.
The square has had no name until 1835. The name “Trafalgar” was given independently of the erection of Nelson’s Column.
On 21 October 1805, the Royal Navy contended with the combined forces of the French and Spanish armies at The Battle of Trafalgar.
Although the British army won the battle, Admiral Lord Nelson died while fighting, which ensured him the well-deserved hero status.
The National Gallery located along the north side of the square was completed in 1838.
In the year of 1838 the National Gallery has been built but there was no Nelson’s Column yet.
The Nelsons Column was designed by William Wilkins and approved by Sir Charles Barry.
But as the Wilkins died, another architect won the design competition – William Railton.
The construction took three years and was completed in 1843.
Its first name was The Monument to Lord Nelson.
The Nelson’s figure on top of the column was carved from Craigleith stone and is in three pieces.
The bronze pedestal of Nelson’s Column is made of French guns which were collected after the battle of Trafalgar.
Hitler was planning to relocate Nelson’s Column to Berlin as a war spoil after winning the WWII.
The Trafalgar Square Lions arrived in 1868.
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree comes from Norway as a symbol of gratitude for the alliance between England and Norway in WWII.
Trafalgar Square is the favourite place where people celebrate New Years Day in London.
Trafalgar square is a crossroad of London’s traffic as seventeen bus routes pass through it.
You can find the World’s smallest one-man police phone box here. Today the phone box is used as a storage room by the cleaners.
Since 1960 Trafalgar Square’s has public drinking fountains on the east and west sides of the square.
Trafalgar Square used to be the home for thousands of feral pigeons but feeding them was banned in 2003.
Trafalgar Square is part of the Crown Estate and is owned by the Queen in Right of the Crown.
The National Gallery was founded in 1824 and houses one of the biggest picture collections in the world.
The St Martin’s-in-the-Fields church was the first church built on this site in the 13th century.
Next stop: Piccadilly Circus. To be honest with you, I was kind of disappointed after arriving here as I was expecting something like the Time Square in New York (here). But this place is totally different, which is of course not a bad thing … Piccadilly Circus is named to be the most famous road intersections and it is a place that’s known all over the world. It is also one of the most photographed places in London by tourists.
Here are the most interesting facts about Piccadilly Circus:
The very first name for the street was Portugal Street in honour to Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II.
The name ‘Piccadilly’ originates from 17th century from the word “piccadil” which means frilled collars. The man who became rich by producing piccadils lived in this area.
The “circus” refers to the roundabout traffic which is however not a roundabout anymore. After the Shaftesbury Avenue was built in 1886, the intersection ended to be a complete circle, but the name stuck.
But … an old urban legend reports that Piccadilly comes from prostitution. During the WWII many American Soldiers loved this place as it was the prostitutes’ area. The soldiers received the nickname “Piccadilly Commandos”.
In the middle of Piccadilly Circus, you will find the Statue of Eros made out of aluminium. But it is not actually Eros, but its twin brother Anteros. However, the people decided to call it the Eros Statue.
Since 1900 Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by advertising billboards on the surrounding buildings.
The Advertising is worth many millions of dollars!
Coca-Cola has been the longest serving advertiser since the year of 1954. Today the display is replaced by a modern LED Video display. The current Coca-Cola sign is made from 774,144 pixels.
In 2002 Yoko Ono spent more than £150,000 in order to display the lyrics from John Lennon’s “Imagine all the people living life in peace” displayed in black on a white background for three months.
The Regent Palace Hotel located at Piccadilly Circus from 1914 to 2006 was the Europe’s largest hotel with its 1.028 bedrooms.
Piccadilly Circus features the only tube station where everything is underground! The station was opened on 10 March 1906 as part of the Bakerloo Line and in December 1906 as part of the Piccadilly Line.
Piccadilly Circus has an underground theatre – the Criterion Theatre! It was built in 1873 entirely underground so that fresh air had to be pumped in from outside during performances!
China Town and SOHO
There is no way to pass on the Chinatown if there is one in the city! My very favourite Chinatown outside Asia is still the Chinatown of San Francisco (you can find my blog post here).
However, London’s Chinatown has a rich and colourful history dating back to the 1950s. In 1960 Chinatown was the epicentre of London’s Chinese community as thousands of Chinese workers arrived from the British territory of Hong Kong. But in fact the first place in London where Chinese employees first came to was in the East End during the 18th century. After the WWII the Chinese community of London arrived to the area due to the cheap commercial rents. British soldiers returning from Asia were in love with the Chinese cuisine. Therefore a lot of China supermarkets and restaurants succeeded during the years.
Nowadays, as any Chinatown in the World, the Chinatown of London has everything to offer to its visitors: bakeries, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, and barbers – pretty everything!
After the Great Fire of London, the owner of this area Lord Gerrard gave permission for houses to be built. In 1685 the Gerrard Street was completed, followed by a market hall and slaughterhouse. Easy enough – Soho was born! The Soho area was famous for being a magnet for (Italians, French, Jewish, Maltese, Irish) immigrant communities, London’s intelligentsia, and the ebullient lifestyle of London.
Between 1764 and 1765 Frith Street became the home of the 8 years old Mozart – he was on European Tour. He was even playing in the local pubs! It is believed that Soho is the location where Mozart created his Symphony No. 4.
Before the homosexuality became legal in the 70s, the crossing of Dean Street and Old Compton was the epicentre of Soho’s gay scene too. Soho was truly on fire! But not literally this time…
Last stop before heading for the Musical Night – Covent Garden! Covent Garden was once the centre of an Anglo-Saxon trading town during the 7th century. After being an important working market in the history of London, today Covent Garden is meant to be one of the most favourite destinations for tourist as it annually welcomes more than 44 million of visitors. Here you can find plenty of restaurants, shops, theatres, street performers on the elegant Piazza, and numerous lovely streets. Covent Garden is the perfect place in London where you can catch up with friends over a drink after work and have a delicious bite.
Here are the most interesting facts about Covent Garden:
The name of Covent Garden was actually a spelling mistake. It was supposed to be “Convent” – a monastery, which was located on that spot. Covent Garden became its name from the French word “couvent” meaning Convent.
The area was originally the location of the market garden for the Convent of St Peters at Westminster Abbey.
Covent Garden was the first piazza in London.
Covent Garden is home to the oldest theatre in London – the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane built in 1663.
The current market was built in the 1830’s to a neoclassical design by architect Charles Fowler.
The area of Covent Garden, was once known as a red light district. A list of local prostitutes famous as the “List of Covent Garden Ladies”, was printed in 1740 and sold over 8.000 copies.
It was the London’s central fruit and vegetable market until 1974.
Covent Garden was designed by Royal Architect Inigo Jones.
Covent Garden is the birthplace of the sandwich “discovered” by John Montagu known as the Earl of Sandwich. The first sandwich was ordered in a society club called the Beef Steak Club at the Shakespeare’s Head Pub.
Nowadays, the Covent Garden area has over 60 pubs and bars.
Covent Garden is still the only district in London to have a license for street performers and entertainers.
For the Non-Londoner Covent Garden means the covered market in the centre of the Covent Garden Piazza.
But Covent Garden actually is the entire neighbourhood in London – you have to be a millionaire to be able to afford an apartment in this area!
There are three markets in the Covent Garden: Apple Market, Jubilee Market, East Colonnade Market. In August 2007, Covent Garden launched London’s first food Night Market!
The Covent Garden Piazza is always open.
If you are keen on theatres and museums you will be really happy to be here: Adelphi Theatre, Aldwych Theatre, Fortune Theatre, Duchess Theatre, London Transport Museum, London Film Museum, The British Museum, etc.
For the Musical Lovers, London is also the place to be! In 2017-2018 you can choose from “The Lion King” at the Lyceum Theatre, “Mamma Mia!” at the Novello Theatre, “Aladdin” at Prince Edward Theatre, “The Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theatre, “Les Misérables” at the Queen’s Theatre, “The Book of Mormon” at the Prince of Wales Theatre, “Wicked” at the Apollo Victoria, etc.
To be continued…
Enjoy the day!
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