St Paul’s Cathedral

Take in over 1400 years of history and marvel at the architecture at one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

St Paul's Cathedral is a true wonder of London, and a "must see" for any visitor.


What Is St Paul's Cathedral?

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An impressive sight on the London skyline, St Paul’s Cathedral is a Baroque-style Anglican cathedral that has been overlooking the city of London for more than 1400 years in one guise or another.

It is the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London and as a Grade I listed building, the church has been reconstructed after both fire and war damage over the years.

Its instantly recognisable dome stands prominent against the backdrop of London which, for 250 years, made it the tallest building in the city.

St Pauls Cathedral by day and night


A Brief History Of St Paul's Cathedral

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The first church on the site where the current cathedral now stands was a wooden structure which was consecrated in 604AD by the monk and bishop Saint Mellitus and the Abbot of Chertsey (and subsequently Bishop of London), Saint Erkenwald.

The buildings constructed at this time were not particularly long lasting and were damaged by Viking invasion and fire a number of times. It was not until around 1087 that Bishop Maurice (Chaplain of William the Conqueror) oversaw the building of a cathedral that remained standing for nearly 600 years.

Up until the Reformation, the cathedral was a Catholic place of worship but after a brief reprisal under the reign of Mary I it was finally confirmed as a Protestant church in 1559 with Elizabeth I on the throne.

Redesign and Rebuild

Fire damage, and damage caused during the English Civil War, caused deterioration of the cathedral and renovation works were planned to rebuild it.

In 1666 Sir Christopher Wren proposed a renovation of the existing cathedral with an imposing dome but around a week after this was authorised to go ahead a fire started in Pudding Lane. Within two days the Great Fire of London had reached the cathedral destroying major parts and rendering it beyond repair.

After the fire, Christopher Wren spent nine years perfecting the complete redesign of the new cathedral with construction starting in 1675. 33 years later the final stone was laid by Wren’s son and the son of the master mason who had worked on the project.

Internal Decorations

The interior decorations of the church were developed over the following years with Sir James Thornhill chosen to adorn the interior of the dome with scenes of the life of St Paul. He completed this within two years and he then moved onto other parts of the cathedral’s interior.

Despite the decorations contained within the cathedral it proved an unpopular place of worship with the monarchy for many years. Queen Victoria claimed it was a ‘dreary’ place which was an impetus to clean up and improve it and make the cathedral more inviting.

Stained glass was brought in, mosaics placed in the dome and a rearrangement made in the quire with more money brought into the cathedral from local wealthy philanthropists. High profile funerals and then Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving service were held here which improved the cathedral’s standing.

Recent History

During the early part of the 20th century the cathedral was closed for five years for safety reasons to strengthen the dome and piers. This proved invaluable work as during WWII the cathedral was struck directly twice and this work undoubtedly reduced the amount of damage that was done.

Once all damage was repaired post-war, the cathedral became a place that was visited by many heads of state and social reformers who were looking at making the world a better place.

As well as a place of celebration (such as the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth’s Golden and Diamond jubilee thanksgiving services).

St Paul’s has also brought people together in times of great sadness such as after the 7/7 bombings with special services held in memorial.


St Pauls Cathedral photo montage

Key Features

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The Dome

The prominent dome that presides over the London skyline at 111 metres high and the structure weighs in at a massive 65,000 tonnes in total.

It is topped with a ball and cross standing 7 metres high and three galleries are situated within the dome at various heights.

  • The Golden Gallery - situated at 85 metres from the cathedral floor (528 steps up) which is outside at the highest point of the outer dome. The smallest of the galleries but provides impressive views over London.
  • The Stone Gallery - situated at 53 metres from the cathedral floor (376 steps up) this surrounds the outside of the dome and also allows some great views over the city.
  • The Whispering Gallery - situated 30 metres above the cathedral floor (257 steps up) this runs around the inside of the dome. A peculiarity of its construction allows a whisper against the wall on one side of the gallery to be heard on the other side!

Cathedral Floor

  • The Quire - The location of the Bishop’s throne and the place where the clergy and choir sit in services. It was the first part of the cathedral to be constructed and carvings by Grinling Gibbons can be seen in the stalls.
  • The Grand Organ - this was constructed and installed in 1695 with its case made by Grinling Gibbons. With over 7000 pipes and 5 keyboards it is the third largest organ in the UK.
  • The High Altar - the original was partly destroyed in WWII and the current altar was put in in 1958. Constructed from marble and oak there is a canopy which is based on a design by Sir Christopher Wren.
  • The Apse - Situated behind the High Altar the American Memorial Chapel (or Jesus Chapel) was built in commemoration of the American soldiers stationed in the UK during the war.
  • The Nave - The central aisle leading to the impressive dome also shows the Great West Doors that stand at just under 3 metres high. These are used for admitting people of importance such as the Queen.
  • North Transept - contains the Chapel of St Erkenwald and St Ethelburga (or Middlesex Chapel) which houses William Holman Hunt’s painting ‘The Light of the World’ on the altar.
  • Chapels - Other chapels within the cathedral include St Dunstan’s Chapel in the north aisle, the Chapel of St Michael and St George off the South aisle, the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire (St Faith’s Chapel) and the Knights Bachelor Chapel (St Martin’s Chapel).
  • The Crypt - under the main cathedral floor is the crypt which contains tombs of a number of well known dignitaries such as Horatio Nelson, Sir Christopher Wren and Arthur Wellesley, the ‘Iron’ Duke of Wellington.

Fun Facts About St Paul's Cathedral

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  • The current St Paul’s is actually the fifth cathedral to have been sited there with the first four having been destroyed in a variety of manners.
  • The dome at St Paul’s is the second biggest in the world, behind only that of St Peter’s in Rome.
  • The lantern that sits on top of the dome weighs in at 850 tonnes.
  • Some famous occasions that have occurred here are the funerals of Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill and the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
  • The cathedral has featured in a number of films, such as Laurence of Arabia, Mary Poppins, Paddington 2 and two of the Harry Potter series (The Prisoner of Azkaban and also The Half Blood Prince).
  • There are a number of bells within the cathedral with the two biggest being named Great Tom and Great Paul. Great Paul has not been rung for a number of years as it requires some maintenance and Great Tom is only rung in the situation of a royal death (or that of a Bishop or the Lord Mayor of London). The last time this was rung was for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 2002.
  • The dome of St Paul’s is actually constructed using three layers, one on top of the other - the inner and outer domes are for decorative purposes whilst the middle brick cone layer is for stability.
  • The Suffragettes had a plan to blow up the Bishop’s throne which was foiled when a Verger found the bomb!
  • The Great Model of St Paul’s, which is kept at the cathedral, is made to a scale of 1:25 and is designed to be walked through at eye-level - you can even go inside it! It was made in 1674 based upon Sir Christopher Wren’s designs and this can be visited by appointment only.

St Paul's Cathedral Visitor Information

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Opening Times

The cathedral is open Monday to Saturday for sightseeing and Sundays for worship only.

Sightseeing times for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday to Saturday, opening at 8am until 4.30pm and Wednesdays 10am until 4.30pm. Last entry for all days is 4pm.

The cathedral can close for special services so checking the website before visiting is advised.

The Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery are open daily in the school holidays and in term time Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Whispering Gallery is currently closed until further notice.

Tickets & Admission Prices

Tickets can be bought in advance online from www.stpauls.co.uk or on the day at a slightly higher price (see price in brackets);

  • Adults (18 years and up) - £17 (£20)
  • Concessions (students and 60 years and up) - £15 (£17.50)
  • Children (6-17 years) - £7.20 (£8.50)
  • Family ticket (2 adults and 2 or 3 children) - £41.20 (£48.50)
  • Family ticket (1 adult and 2 or 3 children) - £29 (£34)

It takes approximately 2 hours to visit St Paul’s Cathedral.

Guides

There are four types of media guides available to compliment your visit to the cathedral and all are included in the price of your entry;

  • Multimedia guides - in nine languages.
  • Family multimedia guides - also available in nine languages and include interactive games and quizzes.
  • Audio description guides - available in English only.
  • British Sign Language (BSL) guides - showing BSL interpreters providing commentary on the cathedral.

In person guided tours are also available. An introductory talk to the cathedral (15-20 minutes), a general guided tour (1hr) and the Geometric staircase viewing (10minutes) are all included in the ticket price and can be accessed Monday to Saturday. They cannot be booked in advance however so approach the guiding desk on your day of visit if you would like to take part.

Private guide tours (£5 extra to the ticket price), Triforium Tours (£8 extra to the ticket price) and Touch Tours for visually impaired visitors (included in the entrance price) can be booked a month in advance by contacting the Sales and Admissions team (0207 246 8357).

Security

Bags may be checked upon entry to the cathedral and large bags are not permitted. There is no cloakroom facility to store baggage.

Disabled Access

  • Access to the cathedral for a disabled visitor plus a carer is free and can be booked in advance or purchased on the day of visit.
  • Disabled toilets are available in the crypt accessed by the lift. There is no changing places facility at the cathedral.
  • Guide, hearing and assistance dogs are all welcomed into the cathedral.
  • Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are welcome however there are some limitations regarding lift access which would need to be checked prior to visitation. A limited number of wheelchairs are available to borrow if required on a first come, first served basis.
  • Access to the cathedral in a wheelchair can be either from the south churchyard entrance via a lift or by ramp on the north transept or south transept (access to the cathedral floor only) of the cathedral. There are no lifts that allow access to the galleries.
  • For visually impaired visitors there is the audio description guide, a touch tour (available if booked in advance) and a description of the cathedral on VocalEyes. Braille copies of order of service are available.
  • There is a hearing loop system in place in the cathedral.

Babies & Toddlers

Pushchairs and buggies are welcome in the cathedral however there are a number of stairs to navigate to reach certain parts.

Toilets

Toilets are located in the Crypt.

Cafe

There are currently no cafe facilities within the cathedral but there are numerous places in the surrounding area which would cater for all tastes and budgets.

Gift Shop

A gift shop is located in the Crypt of the cathedral.

Smoking

Smoking or vaping is not permitted anywhere in the cathedral.

Photography/Filming

There is only photography for personal use permitted during normal sightseeing hours within the cathedral - there are some limitations to where it can be done, follow signage.

No photography is allowed during services, in St Dunstan’s Chapel, in the Whispering Gallery or anywhere at all within the cathedral on a Sunday.

Filming, along with use of equipment such as selfie sticks, tripods and additional lighting, is not permitted.


Location

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St Paul’s Cathedral is located in the City of London atop Ludgate Hill, north east of Blackfriars.

It sits just south of St Bart’s Hospital, the Barbican centre and the London Stock exchange and on the north side of the River Thames.

St Paul’s Church Yard runs along the south of the cathedral, New Change on the east and Paternoster Row on the north.

How To Get There

By Tube - The nearest tube stop to St Paul’s Cathedral is St Paul’s (Central Line) which is approximately a 3 minute walk. Alternatively there is Mansion House or Blackfriars (both District and Circle lines) which are a 5 minute walk.

By Bus - Bus numbers 4, 8, 11, 15, 17, 23, 25, 26, 56, 76, 100, 172, 242 and 521. All serve St Paul’s Cathedral along with a variety of Tour Bus operators that stop in the vicinity.

By Train - The closest mainline train station is Liverpool Street which is approximately a 15minute walk. This can take you out of the City and to many parts of the UK.

By Boat - The nearest boat terminal on the Thames is approximately a 9 minute walk at Blackfriars Pier where riverboats can take you to other famous landmarks.

By Car - Driving in central London is not recommended due to lack of, and price of, parking and also due to the congestion charge which applies to vehicles entering this central zone. However if necessary to drive, the nearest car park to St Paul’s is Baynard House car park on Queen Victoria Street (EC4V 4BQ).


Where To Stay

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Due to the location of the cathedral there are numerous options for accommodation in the central London vicinity.

From hostels and budget hotel options all the way through to five star luxury, there are many places to stay.


Other Things To Do Nearby

things to do near St Paul's Cathedral

Central London, by its nature as a capital city, has many attractions to see and things to do. Just a few of the many options available in the vicinity of the cathedral are:


Frequently Asked Questions

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Is St Paul’s Cathedral free?

Services at St Paul’s Cathedral are free to attend however to visit fully there is a charge. You can find the admission prices here.

Who is buried at St Paul’s Cathedral?

There are a number of people buried at St Paul’s Cathedral, most notably Sir Christopher Wren, Horatio Nelson, Arthur Wellesley (The ‘Iron’ Duke of Wellington) and Aethelred the Unready.

What religion is St Paul’s Cathedral?

Although originally a Catholic church after the Reformation it became an Anglican cathedral.

Is there a dress code at St Paul’s Cathedral?

As with any place of worship, modest and respectful attire is requested although there is no formal dress code at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Can you get married at St Paul’s Cathedral?

Certain criteria must be met to enable someone to get married at St Paul’s Cathedral.

You must be a member of the cathedral community or members/holders (or their children but not grandchildren) of the following; Order of St Michael and St George, Order of the British Empire, holders of the British Empire Medal or members of the Imperial Society of the Knights Bachelor.

Can you take photos in St Paul’s Cathedral?

There is only photography for personal use permitted during normal sightseeing hours within the cathedral - there are some limitations to where it can be done, follow signage. You can find more details here.

How big is St Paul’s Cathedral?

St Paul’s Cathedral is a big building at 157 metres long and 69 metres wide across the transepts with two 64 metre towers and 111 metre high dome.

Can I go inside St Paul’s Cathedral?

Yes, you can go inside St Paul’s Cathedral, either to take part in a service or to explore its many highlights.

How long do you need to visit St Paul’s Cathedral?

It takes approximately 2 hours to visit St Paul’s Cathedral.

Can I climb to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral?

The highest part of St Paul’s Cathedral that you can climb to on a visit is the Golden Gallery at 85 metres above the cathedral floor.

What is the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral?

Situated 30 metres above the cathedral floor the Whispering Gallery runs around the inside of the dome. A peculiarity of its construction allows a whisper against the wall on one side of the gallery to be heard on the other side!

What architectural style is St Paul’s Cathedral?

Sir Christopher Wren built St Paul’s Cathedral in the Baroque architectural style.

How long was St Paul’s Cathedral the tallest building in London for?

St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1965.

How many bells are there at St Paul’s Cathedral?

There are 12 bells at St Paul’s Cathedral hung in the north west tower. Together these are the second biggest ring of bells in the world.

What type of stone is St Paul’s Cathedral made from?

St Paul’s Cathedral is mainly made of Portland stone which is mainly found in Dorset, England.

How old is St Paul’s Cathedral?

St Paul’s Cathedral is over 1400 years old with the first place of worship built on the site in 604AD.

What tube stop is St Paul’s Cathedral?

The nearest tube stops to St Paul’s Cathedral are St Paul’s (Central Line) which is approximately a 3 minute walk or Mansion House or Blackfriars (both District and Circle lines) which are a 5 minute walk.

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