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The strange beauty of tourist-free London

Blog | By Harry Mount | Apr 24, 2020

One of Landseer's lions in an empty Trafalgar Square today (Credit: Harry Mount)

In 48 years of living in London, I must have biked through Trafalgar Square a thousand times. But I've never stopped to admire its architecture until today.

I've got nothing against tourists - after all, we're all tourists the moment we leave our home territory. But, normally, the place is so choked with tourists and the pigeons they feed (they've largely pushed off, too) that there's no room to contemplate the beauty of the architecture.

Now Landseer's lions, William Wilkins's National Gallery and William Railton's Nelson's Column dominate the scene once more. And you begin to appreciate the beauty of one of the great squares of Europe. It is a fine exercise in classicism - with the Corinthian capital of Nelson's Column set off against the Corinthian columns and Ionic pilasters of the National Gallery - delicately echoed in the massed ranks of Corinthian pilasters of the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery.

All can be contemplated now – for the first time ever, perhaps – in a silence that would be marvellous if it weren't quite so sad. Come back, all you tourists! Come back soon!