Sooner or later, when out and about in London, you are bound to end up in Trafalgar Square. It has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages when it was known as Charing, and later marked by a cross, the point from which all distances from London are measured. Designed in its present form by John Nash in the 1820s, it is famous for its fountains, pigeons and of course Nelson's Column. On the north side is the National Gallery where the nation's art collection is held on behalf of the British public. All art lovers and students of art history will be in their element here. The gallery houses outstanding works by all the important European artists, dating from 1250 to the present day. Although not a particularly large collection by international standards, it is certainly one of the most impressive in terms of the quality of its paintings.
On the north-eastern corner of the squareis the 18th century St Martin-in-the-Fields church where you can attend a free lunchtime concert. There arc also regular evening candlelight recitals and jazz nights in the crypt. You can just walk in and listen to some music or go down to the crypt cafe, an atmospheric den in the nether regions of the church where you can get good subsLanlial food at very reasonable prices.
You can spend an entertaining couple of hours at the National Portrait Gallery in St Marlin's Place. You don't come here so much for the greatness of the paintings (although there are some wonderful works) as for the fascination of seeing famous (and infamous) people recorded for posterity, both before and after the invention of the camera. All the great characters from history as well as contemporary figures can be seen here. The Tudor Galleries are among the most interesting displays and the temporary exhibitions are particularly popular.
BEST TIME TO GO
The controversial sculpture 'A Conversation with Oscar Wilde' by Maggi Hambling in Adelaide Street behind St Martin-in-the-Fields. The only public monument to Wilde, it is a bronze sculpture of his head and arm, cigarette in hand, mounted at one end of a coffin-shaped granite block.
AMOUNT OF WALKING
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Trafalgar square is only a short walk from Somerset House in the Strand, which houses the Courtauld Collection, and the ICA (Institute of · Contemporary Arts) in The Mali, where there is a continuous programme of avant-garde art, film and events.