- Southwark Cathedral is a vibrant, cultural place of worship, prayer and reflection, plus it has a busy schedule of events that include concerts, heritage talks, music recitals and family activities.
- London's oldest Gothic church has plenty of history and architecture to learn about and appreciate.
- Don’t miss out on the amazing artistic and cultural events that the Cathedral hosts, from exhibiting local artists to outdoor theatre performances.
Southwark Cathedral is a beautiful building to explore, whatever your family believes in. As the oldest Gothic church in London, the site is steeped in history, rich with stories and interesting facts for both adults and kids alike to learn. One of the best, accessible and family-friendly cathedrals in England, it’s well worth a visit.
With history dating all the way back to the 12th century, for its first few hundred years this building was an Augustinian priory. It then became a parish church, which is remained until 1905, when it was officially branded the cathedral it is today. It has links with many historic figures, from William Shakespeare to John Harvard, one of his namesake university's founders.
There are tours available for groups as well as individuals, making it a wonderful day out for the family. Learn about the history of Southwark Cathedral, including learning about all the writers from Chaucer to Charles Dickens and of course, Shakespeare, who all attended this church. In fact, Shakespeare's brother was buried at the church, and nowadays there's a stained-glass window dedicated to the playwright himself. This makes it a must-see for any budding English Literature lovers. See if you can find the Shakespeare monument in the cathedral as you explore! There are lots more interesting memorials too, including a 17th-century doctor famous for his cure-all pills.
Be sure to check out the exhibitions displayed from the work of students, local artists and school children. Throughout the year this work is displayed and available for visitors to look at.
You definitely don’t want to miss out on the performances that Southwark Cathedral hosts, for example, an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream by theatre company The Three Inch Fools. Southwark Cathedral events run throughout the year, including carol services during the festive season. Set against the stunning Gothic architecture on a cold winter's night, the atmosphere is nothing short of magical.
What to know before you go
- There are toilets on site. The Southwark Cathedral Cafe toilets can be reached by a set of winding stone steps.
- There are accessible toilets with baby-changing facilities on the ground floor. More accessible toilets can be found in the basement near the Refectory Cafe. These are accessed via a lift. These toilets need a radar key, which staff members can give you.
- You can access the Southwark Cathedral Cafe with a wheelchair or buggy by using the Millennium Courtyard entrance at the north end of the site. Access to the Cathedral is at the shop end of Lancelot’s Link via a lift. Most areas are accessible either by a lift or a temporary ramp that you can request. Lifts can be found at either end of Lancelot’s Link, which provides wheelchair and buggy access to the Cathedral, meeting rooms and toilets.
- Assistance Dogs are welcome at all times in the Cathedral and other areas, and water can be made available for them, too,
- There are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby. The on-site Southwark CathedralCafe is a wonderful place to relax, recharge and have tea after exploring the Cathedral.
- It's also within walking distance of Borough Market, which offers a whole host of food options including the Bread Ahead, Extract Coffee, Canton Loose Leaf Tea, The Ginger Pig and so many more.
- There are chains and restaurants nearby in Borough, London Bridge and around Bankside too, although supporting local produce and business is always a great idea if possible.
- By public transport, London Bridge station is the closest, at just a few minutes' walk away. It's on the Jubilee and Northern lines of the London Underground, along with regular mainline trains, including services between both Luton and Gatwick airports.
- Other stations in the area include Monument (Circle and District lines), Cannon Street (Circle & District lines and National Rail services) and Bank (Central and Northern lines and DLR), all within a 15-minute walk.
- If exiting at London Bridge Station, you should exit onto Tooley Street. Cross the road and keep walking left towards London Bridge itself. After Tooley Street has turned into Montague Close and you've passed The Mudlark pub, you can enter the Cathedral through the courtyard on the north side.
- There are loads of buses that stop either at the station, on the bridge or on Borough High Street, including routes 17, 21, 35, 40, 43, 47, 48, 133, 141, 149 and 344. All of them are just a short walk away.
- You can even travel by the river. London Bridge City Pier is about a seven-minute walk. Thames Clippers is the easiest way to travel on the river, with departures throughout London every 20 minute. This is a great way to travel in London, from early morning commuters to families that want a day out on the river.
- If travelling by car, there is no on-site parking. The nearest car park is on Great Suffolk Street and is run by Union Car Parks.
- There are three disabled parking spaces in Park Street which is just a 10 minute walk from Southwark Cathedral.
- You can cycle to Southwark Cathedral too. You'll find parking for your bike opposite Borough Market, just outside the Cathedral. You can also park your bicycle on the north side of the Cathedral on Montague Close.
- Santander Cycle docking stations are available on nearby Duke Street Hill and by the Hop Exchange on Southwark Street.