Hi there! Let me be your guide today. Come with me on a pleasant walk from Trafalgar Square to Covent Garden in the wonderful city of London.
The starting point is Charing Cross underground station, not to be confused with the Charing Cross railway station.
Once above ground, we cross the street towards Trafalgar Square. We can walk around and admire its monuments. Nelson’s Column, the most important one, was finished in 1843. It commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson, the naval hero who defeated the Napoleonic navy at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and died after sustaining wounds during that battle.
Trafalgar Square presents an oddity: the Fourth Plinth. This plinth was originally designed for a statue of King William IV but it was never carried out due to shortage of funds. It stood empty until 1999, when it was decided that modern sculptures would be put in place and rotate every year or so.
If we have the time and energy, we could visit the National Gallery and admire famous works of art of all times. If not, we carry on down The Strand, which starts at the roundabout outside Charing Cross station.
The Strand follows a route used since Roman times. Yep, they were in the British Isles too, which they called Britannia. The aristocracy moved to The Strand area at around the 12th century and built palaces and mansions, most of which were demolished along the centuries.
On the right hand side, we can see Charing Cross railway station next to the Charing Cross Hotel. In the courtyard outside, an apparently medieval monument attracts our attention. It is Eleanor’s Cross. This is a Victorian loose interpretation of the 1294 original, built by King Edward I in memory of his wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile. The Parliament had it destroyed in 1647 during the Civil War. It is very sad to think that there was a civil war in every country on this planet. Eleanor’s Cross is also used to measure distances within the City of London.
The Strand is a busy thoroughfare, with many shops, pubs, restaurants, hotels and offices. I like to take in the atmosphere, watch people come and go and guess who’s a visitor and who’s a local, as well as admire the stately buildings.
One of these grand buildings is the Savoy Hotel, built in 1889. It was built where the Savoy Palace used to be. This palace, owned by John of Gaunt, a medieval smooth political operator known as the King Maker, was destroyed during the Peasants Revolt of 1381. The Savoy Hotel was the first hotel in London to have electric light and elevators as well as private bathrooms.
Now we turn left and walk up Southampton Street as far as Covent Garden. It’s a couple of blocks, if that.
There has been a market here since the 17th century. In the late 1960s, traffic was so intense that the authorities decided to relocate the market to Southwest London. After years of neglect, Covent Garden reopened as a shopping center in 1980. In the main hall, we can find anything from jewellery and clothes to antiques and crafts. There are also bars and restaurants.
The first time I visited Covent Garden was a few years ago during the month of August, when half of Europe goes on holiday. It seemed that they all came to London! It was rather uncomfortable to walk and enjoy the market. If you can, avoid August but bear in mind there’s always a crowd.
I like to get a box of macaroons from Laduree, a French pastry shop outside the market, overlooking the Piazza. Street performers attract crowds at the piazza. Let’s go see who is performing today. Keep an eye on your belongings, though.
We can finish out walk here, savouring those delightful macarons. Alternatively, we can visit the London Transport Museum or St. Paul’s church, built by Inigo Jones in 1633.
You may have heard the name Covent Garden in reference to ballet and opera. The Royal Opera House is located here and it’s commonly referred to as Covent Garden too. My mother-in-law is a ballet enthusiast and she used to drag my father-in-law to watch her favourite dancers here.