Time Required: 3-4 hours
Cost: £18 (adults), £16 (concessions), £8 (kids 6-17)
Getting There: Ten minute walk from the Mansion House (District line) tube station
Parking: I’m sure you could find some somewhere
Other Notes: Address and additional details at the bottom of this article
Whether it’s your first time in London or your twentieth, there is no shortage of stuff to do. That is often regarded as a positive quality of a city, but it can also make you feel overwhelmed and challenged by the choice between the city’s many assets.
During our first visit, we found lots of things to do for free (the only cost was the tube), but we also found many sites that were absolutely worth the cost. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the plentitude of amazing sightseeing opportunities available to you, take a deep breath and know IT WILL BE OKAY. No matter what you pick, it will probably be pretty cool. Alas, we’ve decided to highlight only one in the hopes that it will make the call of London seem more manageable.
We were initially a little unenthused by the tour, but our collective breaths were repeatedly taken away by the surprises and stories around every corner. If you are visiting London for the first time, you won’t be sad if you spend time at St. Paul’s cathedral. And that’s true whether you’re Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish, agnostic, or atheist. It is a beautiful and exciting building at its very core, and in it, you can feel the depths of its connection to England’s history and the human experience. You’ll find it in the neighborhood known as “The City” (basically the Wall Street of London).
You’ll find it in the neighborhood known as “The City” (basically the Wall Street of London) and can get to it fairly easily on the tube.
Why it’s awesome: The cathedral is a busy place, and it is a functioning place of worship (and weddings). The church was founded in 604 AD, and the first part of the cathedral that exists as it is now was built in 1148. The fullness of its history is palpable when you walk through its doors.
History aside, the ability to describe the aesthetic of the building still escapes me (I just spent ten minutes googling synonyms for the words “beautiful” and “breathtaking”). We all gasped when we went inside, and that was just the Nave. It seems like even the tiniest details have been attended, and every time you scan the room, you’ll see something new and interesting. The Grand Organ is a sight to see, as are the quire, the pulpit, and the transepts. They are built in honor of the Christian god and the tenets of Christianity, but they also are built in honor of worship, peace, and community.
The audio tour that is included with admission will help you understand how each part of the cathedral came to be and how it’s used now. I listened to the grand organ section first, and was lucky enough to arrive just as an organist came out to play.
You can get close enough to the organist to touch him (some people stood right next to the organist, leaned on the organ, and gazed down upon the poor guy until they were asked to move), and hear the clicks and pressure on the foot pedals and the keys. In the audio tour, I learned about the lowest and highest notes the organ can make, and learned about its transformations as technology has changed
You can go up into the cathedral dome. Yes, UP. Into. It.
But, looking beyond the audio tour (which isn’t actually that exciting to talk about so I don’t know why I gushed for so long), you can go up into the cathedral dome. Yes, UP. Into. It. And you don’t have to be strapped into a safety harness or watch a video about walking safely up steps, like you would stateside. You can actually walk all the way up into the thing to different “galleries,” where you can see amazing views of the city and even look back down into the cathedral. The highest gallery is about 279 feet from the cathedral floor, and it’s OUTSIDE. And you can LOOK at the CITY and it’s incredible.
Tips for maximum enjoyment: If you’re going to go into the dome, wear comfortable shoes. Some people did it in heels, but they weren’t exactly smiling by the time they’d climbed the 1,161 steps and made it to the top. Buy your ticket ahead of time online. Depending on what time you get there, there may be a bit of a line. Pre-purchased tickets are retrieved from another, shorter line. Once you get there, listen to the introduction on the audio tour, then see where you want to go. If you don’t know, let the audio tour guide you. If you feel drawn to a particular spot, then use the audio tour that lets you jump around at your own pace. You can’t take pictures inside, so try not to be disappointed. It is gorgeous and you will want to show it off.
Plus, if you’re going to go into the dome, you can take pictures from there. But be ready to enjoy most of it without documenting it. You’re still sharing it with the crew you’re traveling with, and you can check in on your apps and what-have-yous, then share the pics that are already available.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Address: St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, UK
Phone Number: +44 20 7246 8350
Tickets/More Info: https://www.stpauls.co.uk/visit