St Paul’s Cathedral
- This 17th-century Anglican cathedral is a Grade I listed building open to the public for tours and religious services.
- Walk the Cathedral Floor and marvel at the High Altar.
- Go into the heights and see the Stone Gallery and the Dome, high above London.
- Discover the deep crypts and see the tombs of some of Britain's iconic figures.
St Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic building on the London skyline, attracting 1.72 million tourists last year. Towering at 365ft (111 m) above the ground, it has been seen as a symbol of London for almost 300 years. In fact, until 1963 it was the tallest building in the capital. Nowadays, that title goes to The Shard.
The current site was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London, and officially completed in 1711; the original Gothic cathedral is now referred to as Old St Paul’s Cathedral, but the site has been a place of dedication for Paul the Apostle since AD 604. It has held the funerals of Horatio Nelson, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, as well as a variety of celebrations for royalty such as Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday celebrations, and Queen Victoria’s jubilee celebrations.
The Cathedral Floor itself has plenty to see, with one of the most prominent aspects being the High Altar, dating from 1958. It is made up of marble and carved and gilded oak, and features a canopy based on a Christopher Wren sketch, but wasn't actually built in his time. It replaced a large Victorian marble altar and screen, which were damaged by a World War II bomb strike. There is also a monument to Wellington, as well as a variety of sculptures all with a beautiful history.
The next choice to make is whether to go up or down. Although the majority of the Dome is currently closed if you go up, the Stone Gallery is still open to the public. The Stone Gallery is 376 steps up, 52 metres above ground level. It acts like an attic, surrounded by windows which are able to bring light into the Cathedral. Just under your feet is the Whispering Gallery, named after the ability to whisper from one side and have it be audible on the other side of the gallery. The Golden Gallery stands above the Stone Gallery, and offers the classic St Paul’s Cathedral view. High above your head is the Ball and Lantern, a cross on a golden ball which weighs 7 tonnes - hopefully it doesn’t fall off!
If you instead chose to go down into the St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt, you would find three very important tombs. Nelson was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, in a coffin made of a French ship he defeated, a black marble sarcophagus, and golden coronet. Wellington’s tomb is much simpler. Surrounded by banners from his funeral procession, the casket is Cornish granite. Sir Christopher Wren himself is also buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, his tomb marked by a simple stone and surrounded by memorials. There are a variety of other tombs and memorials in the Crypt, such as the scientist Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin. It’s the perfect spot for a history lesson.
The beautiful chapels and stunning exterior add with these elements to create a truly beautiful building, full of things to discover with your family.
What to know before you go
- St Paul’s Cathedral opening times are typically from 8.30am - 4pm for sightseeing, as it functions as a place of worship at the same time. The Cathedral is not open for sightseeing on Sundays.
- Photography is permitted during sightseeing hours and in a restricted area at the West End of the Cathedral on Sundays, but cannot be done during any services.
- Video and recording of moving images are not permitted.
- The Cathedral is mostly wheelchair accessible, and there are lifts to certain areas such as the Crypt. A permanent accessible entrance is currently being built. There is no wheelchair access to the Galleries.
- Left-handed, right-handed and ambulant unisex cubicles are all located within the Crypt.
- Baby-changing facilities are available in both the men’s and women’s toilets in the Crypt.
- There are a variety of restaurants near St Paul’s Cathedral, whether you’re looking for chains or independent food places. Apostrophe in St Paul’s Churchyard serves a variety of lighter bites perfect for lunch. Franco Manca St Paul’s is perfect if you feel like a sourdough pizza. Check the availability of restaurants surrounding the area as some are planning to reopen soon.
- The Shop at St Paul's Cathedral is in the Crypt, and sells a variety of goodies to help you remember the day, as well as having an online shop you can browse.
- If the royal history has rubbed off on you, maybe you’d enjoy taking Afternoon Tea at Westminster Abbey.
- The St Paul’s Cathedral postcode is EC4M 8AD.
- St Paul’s Cathedral parking is limited around the site.
- St Paul’s, Mansion House, Blackfriars and Bank are the closest Underground stations.
- The closest rail stations in order are: City Thameslink, Blackfriars, Cannon Street and Liverpool Street.
- Bus routes that stop nearby are the 4, 8, 11, 15, 17, 23, 25, 26, 56, 76, 100, 172, 242 and 521.
- There are plenty of bike docking stations and free bike parking stations nearby.