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15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions near Trafalgar Square

The area stretching between Trafalgar Square and Holborn encompasses some of the richest pickings when it comes to London's top attractions. In the 15 minutes it takes to walk between these points you'll pass Nelson's Column, the National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Paul's Church, Covent Garden's bustling market area, Drury Lane and the British Museum, not to mention some of the best bits of The Strand. And that's only scratching the surface.

1 Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column

Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column
Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column
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Built to commemorate Lord Nelson's victory over the French and Spanish at Trafalgar in 1805, Trafalgar Square is one of London's most popular tourist spots. Notable monuments in the square include statues of Henry Havelock, General Gordon, Charles James Napier and an equestrian statue of George IV. The biggest attraction, however, is Nelson's Column. Constructed entirely from granite, this 185 ft high monument to England's greatest hero overlooks the square's fountains and bronze reliefs, cast from French cannons and depicting Nelson's victories at Cape St Vincent, the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar. Buildings surrounding Trafalgar Square include the imposing Admiralty Arch.

2 Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden Market
Covent Garden Market
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Covent Garden Market is a wonderful concentration of specialty shops, fashion boutiques and craft stalls that almost never happened after the local government planned to pull the building down in 1974. Common sense prevailed, and today this superb collection of old market halls and warehouses is a huge tourist draw. Covent Garden in fact consists of Long Acre (the main thoroughfare), the retail areas of Neal's Yard and Seven Dials, as well as the Central Square with its street performers. The market area is also where you'll find the Royal Opera House.

Location: Trafalgar Square, London

3 National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
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Housing an impressive collection of over 4,500 paintings and drawings, the National Portrait Gallery is located next to the equally impressive National Gallery and is famous for its portraits of prominent people from English history. The criterion is that they must have been dead at least 10 years. Founded in 1856, its subjects include Henry VII and his ancestors Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, Christopher Wren, Lord Nelson, the Brontë sisters, Queen Victoria, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana, and countless others.

Hours: Mon-Wed, Sat-Sun, 10am-6pm; Thurs-Fri, 10am-9pm

Admission: Free

Location: Trafalgar Square, London

Official site: www.npg.org.uk

4 British Museum and British Library

British Museum and British Library
British Museum and British Library
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The British Museum - also home to the British Library - houses a wealth of artifacts and antiquities in a striking neoclassical building. The museum has one of the world's finest collections of art and antiquities from Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire, Asia, China and the European medieval period. Founded by an Act of Parliament in 1753, the museum's impressive main facade is 403 ft long and has a colonnade of 44 Ionic columns. Amongst its most famous collections are the Magna Carta, plus a superb collection of Beatles memorabilia.

Location: Great Russell St, London

5 London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum
London Transport Museum Josh Hallett
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The London Transport Museum, housed in the hall of Covent Garden's former Victorian flower market, contains numerous historic buses, trolleys and trams. In addition to excellent displays explaining London's transport heritage, the museum contains many interesting artifacts and exhibits related to the developing transport network's impact on the city. Larger exhibits can also be enjoyed at the museum's Acton Depot, including a 1938 subway train ("tube") and locomotives from the early underground lines (by appointment only).

Hours: Mon-Thurs, Sat and Sun, 10am-6pm (last admission, 5:15pm); Fri, 11am-6pm (last admission, 5:15pm)

Admission: Adults, £15; Children (under 17), free

Location: Covent Garden Piazza, London

Official site: www.ltmuseum.co.uk

6 Dickens House Museum

This fascinating museum is where Charles Dickens wrote some of his most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Barnaby Rudge, from 1837 to 1839. The Dickens House Museum hosts one of the most important collections of artifacts relating to the author including manuscripts, rare editions, personal items, paintings, plus a research library. Private viewings are available. Another great little museum in the area is Pollock's Toy Museum with its collection of toy theaters with colorful scenery and characters, and displays of dolls and teddy bears.

Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm

Admission: Adults, £8; Children (6-16), £4

Address: 48 Doughty St, London

Official site: www.dickensmuseum.com

7 The (Dead) Actor's Church: St Paul's

The (Dead) Actor's Church: St Paul's
The (Dead) Actor's Church: St Paul's
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"The handsomest barn in England" is how Inigo Jones described St Paul's Church, which he built in 1633. Today, it's more often referred to as the church "with the front at the back", since the portico facing Covent Garden Market is in fact the back of the building. St Paul's is also known as the Actors' Church and contains the graves of many noted actors of the 18th and 19th centuries. It's also where you'll find numerous interesting monuments and memorials, including a lovely carved wreath by Grinling Gibbons above the west door (1721).

Location: Bedford St, London

Official site: www.actorschurch.org

8 A Night at the Opera: The London Coliseum

A Night at the Opera: The London Coliseum
A Night at the Opera: The London Coliseum Tom Page
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The Covent Garden area is home to a number of great cultural venues. The best known of these are the London Coliseum, home to the English National Opera Company, and Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the oldest operational theater in the world. A very worthwhile-guided tour of Theatre Royal is offered which takes in the Royal Box and Auditorium.

Location: St Martin's Lane, London

9 Courtauld Institute Gallery

Courtauld Institute Gallery
Courtauld Institute Gallery
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The spectacular Courtauld Institute Gallery in beautiful Somerset House contains a great deal of priceless art, including one of the finest collections of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings in Britain (Monet, Renoir, Cézanne and van Gogh). The Lee Collection contains works by Botticelli, Goya, and Rubens, as well as portraits by British artists from the 17th to 19th centuries. The Fry Collection consists of works by British and French artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Hours: Daily, 10am-6pm (last admission, 5:30pm)

Admission: Adults, £6; Children (under 18), free

Address: Somerset House, Strand, London

10 Cleopatra's Needle and the Embankment

Cleopatra's Needle and the Embankment
Cleopatra's Needle and the Embankment
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Although this 68 ft, 180-ton obelisk of pink granite comes from Egypt, it actually has no connection with Cleopatra. Brought to London in 1878 - one of a pair erected in Heliopolis around 1500 BC - it was almost immediately given the nickname by which it's known today. Afterwards, take a stroll through the lovely Victoria Embankment Gardens.

11 St Martin-in-the-Fields Church

St Martin-in-the-Fields Church
St Martin-in-the-Fields Church
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St Martin-in-the-Fields is the royal parish church and church of the Admiralty and is notable for its Corinthian portico - a 185 ft-high steeple and elliptical ceiling supported on Corinthian columns. The font belonged to the previous 13th church, and to the north of the altar is the Royal Box. To the south is the Admiralty Box, and above the chancel arch is the coat of arms of George I. The church is notable for its concerts, brass rubbings, guided tours, and the excellent Café in the Crypt.

Hours: Mon, Tues, Fri, 8:30am-1pm, and 2pm-6pm; Wed, 8:30am-1:15pm, and 2pm-5pm; Thurs, 8:30am-1:15pm, and 2pm-6pm; Sat, 9:30am-6pm; Sun 3:30pm-5pm

Admission: Free

Location: Trafalgar Square, London

12 Lincoln's Inn

Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn
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Lincoln's Inn is one of the four great Inns of Court and is named after a 14th century Earl of Lincoln who founded a school to train lawyers here. Celebrated members include William Pitt, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. The complex includes buildings dating from the 15th century onwards, as well as a Library and New Hall (dining hall), the Chapel and numerous barristers' and solicitors' chambers. While the lovely grounds are open to the public (Mon-Fri, 7am-7pm), the Inn's buildings are only open for guided tours, except for the Chapel (open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) - contact the Inn at least two weeks prior to arrival.

Address: Treasury Office, Lincoln's Inn, London

Official site: www.lincolnsinn.org.uk

13 Sir John Soane's Museum

Everything in Sir John Soane's Museum has been left exactly as it was when he died in 1837. Of the numerous works of art in the collection, the ceiling paintings in the Library and Dining Room are most impressive. The specially constructed Picture Room contains 12 Hogarths, several works by Canaletto, and some of Soane's own work. The Sepulchral Chamber in the basement is a particular attraction with the sarcophagus of Seti I, father of Rameses the Great, and ancient statues and architectural remains. Guided and audio tours are available.

Hours: Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm (last entry, 4:30pm)

Admission: Free

Address: 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London

Official site: www.soane.org

14 Gray's Inn

Gray's Inn
Gray's Inn
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Gray's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court with exclusive rights to admit lawyers to practice as barristers in England. Around since the 14th century, it takes its name from the former owners of the site, the Lords de Gray. While the beautiful gardens are open to the public, requests must be made in order to visit the interesting Chapel, Library and 16th century Hall, famous as the place Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors was first performed in 1594.

Address: Treasury Office, 8 South Square, London

Official site: www.graysinn.info

15 St Clement Danes Church

Designed by Christopher Wren in 1681, St Clement Danes Church is famous for its memorial to Samuel Johnson and the Royal Air Force's Book of Remembrance bearing the names of more than 125,000 members of the RAF who died in WWII. Outside stand memorials to Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Harris. The bells of St Clement Danes, immortalized in a nursery rhyme ("Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's"), ring daily at 9am, noon and 3pm. Other equally important churches in the area include St Mary-le-Strand, notable for its graceful steeple and unusual coffered ceiling, and the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy near Waterloo Bridge.

Location: Strand, London

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