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22 of the Best Cathedrals in England to visit

England’s cathedrals are always a wonder, with soaring buttresses, grinning gargoyles, and stained glass windows casting their colours all around. These cathedrals in England are eloquent symbols of the church’s ancient power. 

The Cathedrals of England can date back 1000 years from the 1100s to the more modern British cathedrals in Coventry and Liverpool. They encompass a wide range of architectural styles from early English Gothic to Renaissance, to 1960s modern.

England's cathedrals a view of St. Paul's from the Millenium Bridge at night. Cathedrals in England

I’m not religious by any means but living in Britain gave me the chance to visit many of these incredible buildings. The reverential hush when you enter a cathedral, the beauty of the patterns reflected onto the floors by the stained glass windows and the embodiment of a history long since gone stuns me every time. The stunning wood carvings on the pews and baptismal fonts and the organ lofts leave me speechless. I love to just sit and absorb the works of genius that these English cathedrals are.

Before the Reformation and the Civil war cathedrals were surprisingly brightly coloured and decorated. Most of the medieval artwork was covered up or destroyed during these times but there are many churches and British cathedrals undergoing restoration work where traces of these art pieces are being re-discovered and brought back to life.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England
Table Of Contents

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History of Cathedrals in England

In Medieval England, the Church dominated everybody’s life. All Medieval people – be they village peasants or townspeople – believed that God, Heaven and Hell all existed. From the very earliest of ages, people were taught that the only way they could get to Heaven was if the Roman Catholic Church let them.

Many English Cathedrals were built in cities because this was where the money was. To ‘glorify god,’ the church and its wealthy patrons would build a grand cathedral in a great location so that all could see what a triumph their city was. It showed that the city was powerful and that those that had contributed to the cost of the building were gracious in sharing their wealth.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The Architecture of Cathedrals in England

Cathedrals were usually built in a cross or cruciform shape to reflect the crucifixion and the sacrifice of Jesus. Each area within the cathedral was designed to represent various Christian meanings.

The Apse is a representation of Christ’s head and is always located in the direction of the rising sun as Cathedrals and churches were built facing east. Given that all the worshipers look toward the aspe or head where the Eucharist was celebrated. Of course, this was where the Bishop or priests stood and preached which was a symbol of those religious roles’ importance.

Magnificient Cathedrals in England to see

 The transepts are the two arms of the Cathedral plan and they are said to represent the arms of Jesus on the cross. The nave is the main rectangular area of the church where the worshipers gather and are seated. This is the body of Christ and is named after the Latin word for ship. This is a symbol of the Church as a ship of souls and is represented by Peter the Fisherman’s disciple.

The Narthex was often the covered area just outside the church on the western end it was usually a long, narrow, enclosed porch, or entryway into the main body of the church and took up the entire width. This is where those who were not baptized gathered to await the ritual that allowed them entry into the main body of the congregation and the church itself.

Magnificient Cathedrals in England to see

Cathedral floorplan

42 Cathedrals in Britain bring in more than 11 million visitors a year to the various cities where they are located. Thirty-nine of these forty-two cathedrals are grade I listed by Historic England. Durham Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visitors may also enjoy free choral performances at several of these sites, or view important sacred and historic relics, like two of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, which turned 800 years old in 2015.

English Cathedral Faqs

Are Cathedrals and Abbeys the same thing? And what’s a ‘minster’?

No, they are not Abbey churches were part of abbeys, a kind of monastery or convent for women. A Minster was normally a church that in medieval times was a centre of a mission. Several cathedrals these days like York, Southwell and St. Albans use the historical title of Minister or Abbey but they are the same as all other cathedrals.  

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Which Cathedral took the longest to build?

Liverpool Cathedral took from 1904 to 1978 to complete. Liverpool Cathedral is also the largest cathedral in England.

What is the oldest Cathedral in England?

Canterbury Cathedral has the earliest foundation date: it was established by St Augustine in 597 AD. Having said that no part of the original structure remains from these times. The Ripon Cathedral contains the oldest surviving part of a Cathedral which is the crypt. 

How long did it take to build Salisbury Cathedral?

It took 38 years to build Salisbury Cathedral.

Where are the other Cathedrals in Britain and Ireland?

In Scotland, the cathedrals are in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Millport, Oban, and Perth. Ireland has 30 cathedrals in: the Province of Armagh: Armagh, Belfast, Clogher, Derry, Downpatrick, Dromore, Enniskillen, Killala, Kilmore, Lisburn, Raphoe, Sligo and Tuam.

Are Cathedrals catholic or Church of England?  

The cathedral is a much larger place of worship than a church and is run by a bishop and there is a hierarchy such as the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some Lutheran churches.

What is the biggest Catholic church in UK?

Westminster Cathedral is the mother church of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It is the largest Catholic church in the UK.

night view of St Giles Cathedral in edinburgh

What is the biggest Cathedral in the UK that is not Catholic?

The three largest cathedrals in England are St Paul’s Cathedral in London, York Minster in York, and Liverpool Cathedral in Liverpool.

How many cathedrals are in Wales?

There are only 6 medieval cathedrals in Wales and they are Bangor, Brecon, Llandaff, Newport, St. Woolos, St Asaphin Clwyd, and St. Davids in Dyfed.

How many Cathedrals are in Ireland?

The Republic of Ireland has cathedrals in Cashel, Clonfert, Cloyne, Cork, Dublin (Holy Trinity), Dublin (St Patrick), Ferns, Kildare, Kilfenora, Kilkenny, Killaloe, Leighlin, Limerick, Lismore, Rosscarbery, Trim, and Waterford.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England
©Diliff [CC BY-SA 3.0

Which Cathedral was Harry Potter filmed in?

Several of the Harry Potter films used cathedrals as filming locations these included: Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters; Durham Cathedral; Christ Church College, and Oxford (college hall, not the cathedral).

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Which English Cathedral has the tallest spire? 

Salisbury Cathedral had the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom, at 404 feet (123 m). Lincoln’s was taller until it collapsed in 1549.

The biggest Cathedrals in the UK

list of some of the largest cathedrals in England, typically measured by their overall size, including length, width, and height:

  1. York Minster, York
  2. Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool
  3. Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury
  4. Winchester Cathedral, Winchester
  5. Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury
  6. Durham Cathedral, Durham
  7. Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester
  8. Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln
  9. St. Paul’s Cathedral, London
  10. Westminster Abbey, London

These cathedrals stand out for their architectural grandeur, historical significance, and cultural importance.

22 of England’s most beautiful cathedrals

Cathedrals are the main churches in each diocese in the Church of England, and its sister Anglican denominations in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Although they are historically the seat of the diocesan bishop, they are run as places of worship, history, tourism and art by a Dean.

Map of the Cathedrals in England

Manchester Cathedral – Manchester

Manchester Cathedral, on Victoria Street in Manchester city centre, is the mother church of the Diocese of Manchester and one of 15 Grade I-listed buildings in the city.

Mainly built in gothic style, it contains late medieval wooden furnishings, commissioned by former warden James Stanley, and was extensively remodelled and rebuilt in the Victorian era and 20th century.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The site of Manchester Cathedral is thought to originally have been home to an early Saxon church, shown by the ‘angel stone’ – a small carving of an angel with a scroll – discovered embedded in the wall of the original south porch of the cathedral, which dates back to around 700.

The remains of the church are preserved inside the cathedral.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Around 1075, King William the Conqueror gave the land stretching from the River Ribble to the River Mersey to Roger de Poitou, who in turn gave the Manor Manchester to the Greslet family, sometimes spelt Grelley or Gresley.

Durham Cathedral – Durham

Durham Cathedral is one of the most iconic and significant cathedrals in England, renowned for its Romanesque architecture and its stunning location atop a promontory overlooking the River Wear in the city of Durham. Its construction began in 1093 under the orders of Bishop William of St. Carilef, and it was completed in 1133. The cathedral features a massive central tower, intricate stone carvings, rounded arches, and sturdy pillars, characteristic of Romanesque design.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England
  1. Durham Cathedral features some of the finest examples of medieval stained glass in England. The cathedral’s windows depict biblical scenes, saints, and historical events. Durham Cathedral, along with Durham Castle, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its outstanding cultural and architectural significance.

Southwell Cathedral – Nottinghamshire

Known as the ‘hidden gem’ of English Cathedrals the Minster’s ancient stones are soaked with 900 years of history. The earliest church on the site is believed to have been founded in 627 by Paulinus, the first Archbishop of York when he visited the area while baptising believers in the River Trent.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The church suffered less than many others in the English Reformation as it was refounded in 1543 by Act of Parliament.

Southwell is where Charles I surrendered to Scottish troops in 1646 during the English Civil War. The war saw the church seriously damaged and the adjoining palace was almost destroyed, first by Scottish troops and then by the local people.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England
©Southwell Minster

The Leaves of Southwell at Southwell Minster have been voted #1 in the  CathedralTreasures competition. The leaves are a masterpiece of carving and they include Green Men, animals, and plants and are considered the finest example of 13th-century carving in England.

Bristol Cathedral – Bristol

Bristol Cathedral is located at the west end of the city close to the harbourside. It is free to enter and open 365 days a year. (donations are welcome.) It is wheelchair-accessible and guide dogs are permitted. Photography is allowed except during services. I particularly enjoy the cafe in the cloisters. You can take a drink in the award-winning gardens that are maintained by volunteers and take time to reflect away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

It is almost certain that there was a Saxon chapel on the site. The chapter house and the east end of the cathedral once formed part of an Augustinian abbey which was founded in 1140. The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 but the church was given to the citizens of Bristol to be their cathedral and dedicated to the holy and undivided trinity. The nave and west end were added in 1868. It is built in a Gothic revival style in keeping with medieval features.

Bristol Cathedral was used for scenes in the recent drama Becoming Elizabeth and doubles as Westminster Abbey in the adaptation of Wolf Hall. Visitors might like to sample the chapter house gin which is still distilled in a copper vat and available from the cafe. Contributed by Anne of The Platinum Line.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is one of the most famous and oldest Cathedrals in the country. The Cathedral is also the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England and the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion.

One of the oldest and most famous Christian buildings in England, the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury, is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Founded in 597, it was completely rebuilt 1070-77.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Visiting the Cathedral is without a doubt among the most important things to do in Canterbury. The Cathedral is open to the public most days, and the entrance ticket is £14 for an adult. There is also an extra guided tour of the Cathedral and the grounds that you can book once you buy the ticket, for an extra £5. It is worth checking out the website of the Cathedral for special offers – currently, children under 18 have free entry, whilst last summer the ticket was reduced to £9.

Visiting the Cathedral and the grounds can take a good few hours because it is a massive site. The best time to visit the Cathedral is early morning, just as it opens. Try to avoid weekends if you can, if you don’t like crowds.

One spectacular feature of the architecture of Canterbury Cathedral is the gorgeous stained glass windows. They are enclosed into stone Gothic frames which go up high, towards the arches of the ceiling. The entire interior of the cathedral is a work of art, with paintings, sculptures and statues decorating the walls. The crypt is another interesting part of the Cathedral, which you must not forget to visit. The Cathedral often hosts different art exhibitions within the cathedral.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

On the grounds of the Cathedral, you can see the ruins of the original 12th-century Norman Infirmary Chapel, part of the monastery that the Cathedral was built on. Contributed by Joanna of World in my Pocket.

Coventry Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of Saint Michael is the full name for the Coventry Cathedral and the current church is the 3rd to stand in the same area. Around 700 AD St Osburga founded a convent besides the Sherbourne River, which eventually became a cathedral and the name Coventry is believed to have come from the word convent. The convent was destroyed by King Canute.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Coventry had a medieval cathedral that survived until the Reformation. This was St Mary’s Priory and Cathedral. During WWII the Cathedral was heavily damaged by the Luftwaffe bombs. The current St. Michael’s Cathedral was built next to the remains of the old cathedral and was built in the 1950s.

Basil Spence designed the new building and was knighted for his work. Spence insisted that the ruins of the old cathedral should be kept as a garden of remembrance and the new building should be built alongside it. The foundation stone was laid by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. The spire that stands 80 feet tall was lowered onto the flat roof by a helicopter in 1962.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The cathedral was consecrated on 25 May 1962, and Benjamin Britten‘s War Requiem, was composed for the consecration of the new cathedral. The Cathedral is free to enter.

Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral is the jewel in the crown of the historic city of Gloucester. It’s a beautiful building inside and out, including some fantastic grounds. Gloucester Cathedral has a fascinating history dating back to 1089. Since then it has had many features added, including its dominant tower in the 15th century.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

There are lots of things to see while visiting the cathedral, including an impressive nave, a massive organ, and the iconic cloisters. They have some rather intricate fan vaulting to see in the cloisters, which surround the secret garden. The cloisters have been featured in many movies including the town in the Harry Potter films. Dr Who has also been filmed at the cathedral too. Gloucester Cathedral also has some impressive stained glass, including lots of smaller windows along the cloisters.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

One of the most famous tombs is that of King Edward II, the seventh Plantagenet king of England, who suffered a gruesome death nearby in Berkeley Castle. Also buried here is Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror.

Bishop Hooper was arrested and charged with heresy in January 1555 on the orders of Queen Mary. they burnt Bishop Hooper at the stake in the shadow of Gloucester Cathedral in February 1555. There are a few ghosts in the cathedral, which includes a 14-year-old boy who fell during construction. The building features on the city’s ghost tours.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Visiting Gloucester Cathedral is free, however, they request a donation on entry. Finding the cathedral is pretty straightforward, as it is visible from many parts of the town. Overall, Gloucester Cathedral is a fascinating and beautiful place and well worth visiting. Contributed by Rich from About Glos.

Guildford Cathedral – Surrey

A visit to Guildford Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Surrey. The impressive 49 m high tower is visible from many places in Guildford. The cathedral is located on Stag Hill which makes it stand out in this historic town.

The best way to visit Guildford Cathedral is to get a train from London which takes 40 minutes. Then, it is only a few bus stops from the train station or 15 minutes walk. If you are driving, you can also park at Guildford Cathedral Car Park. The cathedral is open 7 days a week for visitors, however, hours vary depending on the day.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Construction works on Guildford Catherdal started in 1936 with a capital of £250,000. However, it couldn’t be completed quickly, because of the Second World War. When the work began again, the huge budget was not there anymore.

 To complete the construction of the Guildford Cathedral, over 200,000 people bought a single brick with their name for £6. Even the Royal family including Elizabeth II and Prince Philip signed bricks with their names which you can still see inside the cathedral.

The Interior of Guildford Cathedral is not only breathtaking but also refers to the town’s history. Guildford’s wool was known for its blue colour which you can admire inside the cathedral. However, the vaulting of the nave is something that will attract your main attention as soon as you enter this religious building.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England
©Poliphilo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Guildford Cathedral is a beautiful place to see and learn about history. On the top of the tower, you can spot a huge gilded angel. It was added to honour Reginald Adgey-Edgar who passed away while serving his country. Contributed by Paulina from Ukeveryday

Lincoln Cathedral – Lincoln

The Lincoln Cathedral was established in 1073 and is currently the third-largest church in England. It was originally built under the authority of Bishop Remigus. A massive earthquake in 1185 led to the renovation in 1186 under Great St. Hugh, the then Bishop. Today it stands as a prominent example of Gothic architecture in England.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The Cathedral has once deemed the tallest building in the world due to its 525 ft tall Central Tower. This tower boosted its popularity as a tourist spot since its construction in the 14th century, but It later collapsed along with several other spires over time.

 People around the world still marvel at the architecture. With multiple towers, beautiful carvings, statues, and other intricate details, these places are ethereal in the eyes of everyone. The Lincoln Imp, the symbol of Lincoln,  is a famous carving of a small devil at St. Hugh’s shrine.

 The Medieval and Wren Libraries, inside the cloisters of this building, hold an impressive collection of books dating back to the 15th century. A memorial chapel inside the Cathedral grounds is dedicated to the Lincolnshire martyrs of World War 2.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

 The best way to explore the place is by the guided tour offered by the Cathedral. There are mainly five types of tour options available: floor tour, roof tour, tower tour, outdoor tour, and graffiti tour. The floor tour is the easiest and is open throughout the year. Each tour costs £7.50 per person. 

The entry fee for individual adults is £9, and for children up to 16 years, it’s £4. Entry is free for below five children. Family tickets of £20.80 allow two adults and three children. Tickets are available on-site only. Most of the church is accessible by wheelchairs, and guide dogs are also allowed inside. Contributed by Ruma of the Holiday Story.

Liverpool Cathedral – Liverpool

A lot of people may be surprised to learn that the UK’s biggest cathedral in England is neither Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral, nor the York Minster. The largest cathedral in English, in terms of volume, is Liverpool Cathedral in Liverpool. 

Located in the heart of Liverpool, Liverpool Cathedral is within walking distance of the Lime Street Station, the first railway station in England; and opposite Liverpool’s Chinatown, one of the oldest in England. Thus, the cathedral is always a popular choice for tourists who are planning a Liverpool city walking tour.  

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Two main cathedrals in Liverpool dominate the city’s skyline: the Metropolitan Cathedral is a modern architecture, and the Liverpool Cathedral is a classic Anglican Cathedral that took about 78 years to complete. Liverpool Cathedral’s construction started in 1904 after architect Giles Gilbert Scott won a design contest with his design, completed in 1978. The building is a fine example of the Gothic Revival architectural style. 

By volume, the huge mock-Gothic structure is the largest in England and the eighth largest in the world. By length of the nave, however, the much more ancient cathedral in Winchester, England’s former capital, has the longest, undivided nave in northern Europe. 

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Upon entering the main hall, the ceiling has a height that reaches 101 meters. Another important feature is the beautiful stained glass windows, which depict several biblical figures and stories. It is imperative to take a walk on the stairs to go up the tower. The tower features the largest and heaviest peak of bells at the bell chamber, and the observatory deck offers an unobstructed, panoramic view of the city at 152 meters high. 

Saint James’ Garden outside the cathedral showcases monuments and attractions including Saint James’ Mount, the Ramps, Huskisson Monument, the Oratory, and the Spring.  Contributed by Kenny of Knycx Journeying.

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral may not be as well-known as others around the country, but it is definitely worth a visit.  Built over 900 years ago, it is the most complete Norman Cathedral in England and one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe.

The Norwich Cathedral spire is the second tallest in Britain just behind Salisbury.  It’s now become home to a pair of peregrine falcons.  The birds have successfully fledged chicks every summer since 2012.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Inside the Cathedral, take a few moments to look up at the medieval roof bosses, the most of any cathedral in the Christian world. Climb the narrow staircase to the Treasury to see a collection of gold and silver communion vessels from many parish churches. 

Don’t miss the Cloisters which are the biggest of their kind in the country.  The vaulted walkways feature impressive carved stonework and medieval roof bosses.  Take the time to walk the Labyrinth in the grass in the centre.

You can also pay tribute to Edith Cavell, Norwich’s hometown heroine of World War I.  Her grave is right next to the Cathedral. 

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The Cathedral is also one of the most haunted places in Norwich.  There have been several ghost sightings including a bishop, a local hero, a Catholic priest, and a mysterious woman.

You can find the Cathedral in the Tombland area of Norwich and there is no charge to go inside. Donate if you can to help cover the high costs to maintain the historic building. Contributed by Anisa of Two Travelling Texans.

Christchurch Cathedral – Oxford

People have been visiting this medieval church for over 800 years, ever since local pilgrims came here to pray at the shrine of St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. 

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

In 1522, the priory was surrendered to Wolsey, who had selected it as the site of his new college. Extensive alterations and additions were at once commenced by the Cardinal, but when he annoyed Henry VIII in 1529 his assets were seized by the King and all the work stopped. Three years later Henry VIII took over the building and re-established it.

The cathedral contains examples of the various styles of English Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Despite being one of the smallest cathedrals in all of England, Christ Church Cathedral’s architecture is grand thanks to an extensive redesign in the 19th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott who also designed the Albert Memorial in London.

Once the largest hall in Oxford (until Keble claimed the title by building a bigger one in the 19th century), Christ Church Hall is a striking spot. Grand paintings hang on the walls, long rows of tables and benches sitting between them, all topped with a 16th-century hammer-beam ceiling. 

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The paintings alone are a who’s who of famous alumni – look closely and you’ll discover portraits of a diverse range of figures from W.H Auden to Robert Burton. 

You might think that the official dining hall for Christ Church’s students might look like it’s been taken straight out of a Harry Potter film – that’s no accident. 

You might recognize the Great Hall which is the official dining hall for the students as it looks like it is out of a Harry Potter movie and although it was used in the movie it was the inspiration for the set. The Ante Hall and the Bodley Staircase were used in the film.

OXFORD, ENGLAND - FEB 26, 2017: people visit the great hall of Christ Church, University of Oxford, England. It is the center of college life where academic community congregates to dine each day.

Within the Christ Church Cathedral are eight stained glass window panes look for the Alice in Wonderland window that contains a rabbit playing the bugle and a hare carrying a teapot. These windows are of course a reference to Lewis Carrol who became a deacon at the Cathedral.

The cathedral is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:15 pm. and on Sunday from 2 pm to 4:15 pm, and there is an entrance fee. You’ll be given a headset, (in several languages) that will give you a history of the building, as well as provide commentary on various aspects of the architecture. A ticket costs £16 online.

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Salisbury Cathedral – Salisbury, Wiltshire

Salisbury Cathedral is located in the southern English medieval town of Salisbury in Wiltshire. This stunning cathedral makes a perfect side trip for those visiting Stonehenge, as it’s only 9 miles away from the famous attraction.

The 13th-century cathedral is best known for housing one of the remaining four original copies of the Magna Carta (The Great Charter), a groundbreaking document on human rights sealed on June 15, 1215, by King John at Runnymede. Visitors to the cathedral have the opportunity to see the document in the gorgeous Chapter House.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

There’s more to the cathedral than just the Magna Carta, though. The cathedral spire is the tallest in Britain at 123m tall. Guests can take a tower tour and walk up the 332 steps to the base and learn about the construction and history of the spire.

Salisbury Cathedral is also home to the world’s oldest working mechanical clock built in 1386 and also Britain’s largest cathedral close. The close is a great location to eat a picnic lunch when the weather is nice.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

While the cathedral has a lot of history to boast about, it’s also architecturally beautiful. Take some time to wander around the building and the grounds and marvel at the craftsmanship from all angles. The cathedral is also an active church and services occur daily. All are welcome to attend the services, whether you are a visitor or a member.

Whether you are taking a day trip from London, road-tripping through England, or making a quick side trip from Stonehenge, a visit to Salisbury Cathedral is well worth the time.

The entrance to the cathedral is £10 for adults, £7 for students with valid ID, £6 for children ages 13-17, and under 13s are free. Contributed by Stef of Open Road Odysseys.

St. Alban’s Cathedral – Hertfordshire

St Alban is a pretty Hertfordshire town just 35km from London and is easily accessible by car or public transport. The jewel of the city is undoubtedly the cathedral, which represents the oldest Christian cult in all of Great Britain. Built on the spot where Alban, the first British Christian martyr, was buried, the cathedral is a set of different styles, which testify to the various functions the building has played over the centuries, first as an abbey and later as a cathedral.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The exterior is truly a masterpiece and you could spend hours admiring it, it also boasts the longest nave in England and its latest addition is a Chapter House which was officially opened in 1982 by Queen Elizabeth. The interior has a splendid rose window (whose stained glass window was inaugurated in 1989 by Diana, Princess of Wales), a panelled ceiling above the choir, a tiled floor and splendid altars.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

St Alban was the first British Christian martyr, who died beheaded in 308 AD by Maximian, by order of Emperor Diocletian. He had declared the Christian faithful traitors, ordering death for all those who refused to obey him. In June each year, the Cathedral organizes the Alban pilgrimage, a huge event recognizing martyrdom and its importance for Christian history. The story of the saint is recreated with a parade with giant puppets through the city and the puppets are then exposed in the Cathedral.  Admission to the cathedral is free. Contributed by Miriam of Mirygiramondo.

 St. Paul’s Cathedral – London

St. Paul’s Cathedral has been a major London landmark for over 300 years surviving even through the Blitz of London and London is probably the British city best known for its cathedral. St Paul’s is the second-largest church building in the area in the united kingdom after the Liverpool Cathedral.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Throughout its history, St. Paul’s has served as a key location for several important events in British history, such as the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1981, and the funerals of Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington and Margaret Thatcher.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by  Sir Christopher Wren, and it is an Anglican cathedral and one of London’s most iconic buildings. It is located on top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. St Paul’s Cathedral dome is a famous lead-covered dome that is one of the world’s largest, and it was the tallest building in London until 1967.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The price of admission is £21 (a little cheaper online £18 ) including entry to the cathedral floor, crypt and the three galleries in the dome (Whispering, Stone and Golden). Keeping in mind that St. Paul’s is a functioning church you can attend services free of charge on Sundays. However special events do allow free entry but of course, there is no “sightseeing” allowed beyond the services or event itself.  There is a daily Monday to Friday 5 pm Evensong service which is incredibly impressive with the voices of the choir resonating through the Cathedral.

Included in your tour is a visit to the top of the Dome and the Whispering Gallery. You need to be pretty fit to climb the 560 steps to the top.

Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral London

Sheffield Cathedral

When looking at the Cathedrals of England you cannot afford to miss out on Sheffield Cathedral. Located at the bottom of Fargate, Sheffield’s popular pedestrian precinct, the Cathedral is situated just opposite and is a real eye-catcher. There is a full choir service twice a week, including a Sunday service for the vibrant and diverse community of Sheffield plus anyone else who cares to join. 

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

This historical building was visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015 for the Royal Maundy Service (where she honoured 89 men and 89 women). At that time, hoards of people arrived in Sheffield from all over the world to witness the Queen alongside this Grade I listed building.

Many say this is one of the best things to see in Sheffield but to fully appreciate it you must enter the building to get authentic views of the structure. Then it would be rude to not pass by the cute on-site gift shop that is filled with themed souvenirs. Aside from the gorgeous stained glass windows and breathtaking calligraphy works, in more recent years, Sheffield Cathedral has done God’s work by caring for the homeless and the most vulnerable citizens of Sheffield.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England
©Casey And Sonjaderivative work: Rabanus Flavus, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Cathedral offers food, support, and medical care to those who are most in need. The doors to the Cathedral are open every day of the year, so if you ever find yourself in the north of England and plan to pass by Sheffield, everybody is welcome. Contributed by Dan of Urban Abroad.

Truro Cathedral – Cornwall

Truro Cathedral, also known as The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is located in the town of Truro in Cornwall and is an excellent example of Gothic Revival Architecture. The cathedral is a relatively modern one when compared with medieval cathedrals like Canterbury and Salisbury, having been built between 1880-1910.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The main draw of the cathedral, apart from Gothic architecture, is the stained glass windows which are some of the best Victorian stained glass windows in the country. The windows depict biblical stories, as well as stories of the history of the English church, and some local stories of the region itself.

Bishop Benson was one of the most important religious figures in his day and he initiated the building of the cathedral as well as creating the ‘Service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ in 1880 which has been used for Christmas Eve services in Truro Cathedral ever since, as well as in other Anglican churches around the world. Bishop Benson would later become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1882.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The stunningly impressive spires of Truro Cathedral loom large above the town and are particularly great at sunset or on a clear sky day.

The cathedral is open from Monday-Saturday from 10:00-17:00 and Sunday from 11:30-16:00 and is, unlike many cathedrals in England, free to enter. Truro is one of the best towns in Cornwall to visit and when there, make sure you visit the truly stunning Truro Cathedral, one of the most impressive heritage buildings in Cornwall and all of England. Contributed by Jonny of Back Packing Man.

Wells Cathedral – Somerset

Wells Cathedral is in the smallest city in England, Wells which sits at the base of the Mendip Hills in Somerset.  At the top of the High Street is a large marketplace and a small archway in one corner leads to Cathedral Green.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The cathedral is free to enter but donations can be made, and it is possible to make an annual donation.  Adjacent to the cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace and this costs £16 for adults and £8 for children.

The cathedral has an ornate exterior with over 300 statues carved into the West Front which continues along the side of the cathedral.  While these are now bare stones, originally, they would have been covered in gold leaf.

Inside at the end of the nave, there is a spectacular pair of arches known as scissor arches that were built in 1348 to stop the wooden towers from collapsing.  These frame the organ that stands above the main altar.  They are a beautiful cream sandstone and lead up to the vaulted ceiling that is painted with red and blue floral patterns.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Tucked away in one corner of the cathedral is the Wells Clock, the second oldest clock in England which still has its original mediaeval face from the 1300s.  This has jousting knights and a dancing jack that appear on the hour and quarter.

To one side of the cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace which has ornate gardens and views back across to the cathedral while on the opposite side is Vicar’s Close.  This is the oldest inhabited medieval street in Europe and was originally built in 1363 for the vicars. Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild.

Westminster Catholic Cathedral – London

The Westminster Catholic Cathedral is an astounding Catholic church in the heart of London. In fact, it’s the Biggest Catholic church in the UK, the 38th largest in the world, and the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

If you’re touring around London, you can easily walk south to Westminster Cathedral from Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey, both of which are very close to the Cathedral. Several bus routes let off across the street from the Cathedral or take a train from anywhere in the UK

Despite its grandeur, the Westminster Cathedral is nestled in between quaint cafes and charming shops. But you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see an impressive brick bell tower peering over the surrounding buildings. The exterior is unlike anything in the city, with striking brick stripes of terracotta and white. Swing by at night to see the dramatic lighting illuminating the architectural features. Inside, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the Neo-Byzantine mosaics decorating the ceiling– some are still in progress to this day!

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

The Cathedral is free to enter and open every day, but remember that it is a functioning church. There are regular services on the weekends and on all Catholic holidays. If you’re lucky (or check the website), you may get to listen to the Choir of Westminster Cathedral, which is internationally recognized as one of the best choirs in the world. Their incredible melodies are only enhanced by the serene atmosphere inside the Cathedral. 

There is staff available to answer general questions or tour options with recommended donation amounts. While donations are not required, the suggestion is typically $5 per adult, $3 for children. Contributed by Rachel of Bucket List Places.

Winchester Cathedral – Hampshire

Located in Hampshire in southern England, Winchester Cathedral has a history stretching back over 900 years and is the largest medieval cathedral in England. Norman and early Gothic in style, Winchester Cathedral is not only one of the largest cathedrals in the UK, but it also has the longest nave in Europe.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

It is fitting that the author Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral – she spent much of her life living in Hampshire and fans of her novels can visit her home – now a museum – which is not far from Winchester.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Another much-loved character from the cathedral’s history is William Walker, whose statue stands at the back of the cathedral. Walker was a diver, who spent many years helping to repair the waterlogged foundations of the cathedral in the early 1900s.

Winchester Cathedral houses many treasures – highlights include the 12th-century marble font and an exquisitely illustrated 12th-century bible. There is also a 17th-century library containing some 2,000 rare books. Elsewhere, there are stunning medieval wall paintings, 14th-century carved wooden choir stalls and the ornately sculpted stone screen behind the high altar.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

There are more modern highlights at Winchester Cathedral too – stained glass windows designed by pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Byrne-Jones can be found in the Epiphany Chapel and the Cathedral crypt is home to a sculpture by the celebrated British artist Antony Gormley.

Visitors to Winchester Cathedral can climb the tower which offers dramatic views over the surrounding Hampshire countryside.  There is an entry charge of £10 per adult, and concessions are £8. Without a doubt, a trip to Winchester Cathedral is one of the best days out in Hampshire.  Contributed by Annabel of Smudged Postcard.

Worcester Cathedral   

Located high on the banks overlooking the River Severn, Worcester Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral belonging to the city of the same name. Construction first started in 1084 and ended in 1504. It’s free to visit. 

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

You can find every style of English architecture in the 420 years of work, from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. Evidence of the transition from Norman to Gothic can be seen in the decorative bays. The earliest part of the cathedral is the multi-columned Norman crypt which remains from the original monastic church from 1084. 

One of its most notable architectural features is the Norman Chapter House. Built in the 12th century, it’s thought to be the first round Chapter House in the world. Other features include the intricate woodwork, stained glass windows and perpendicular style tower which can be seen for miles around. 

Perhaps the cathedral’s biggest claim to fame lies within its tombs. King John, whose chaotic reign is best remembered for invoking the Magna Carta and bringing about the legend of Robin Hood, was buried here in 1216. He made a codicil in his will ordering that he should be buried next to the tombs of Saint Oswald and Saint Wulfstan (now destroyed). 

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

Legend has it that as he lay dying, he realised his wicked deeds in life would not grant him entrance to heaven. So, he ordered that his body be buried in a monk’s cowl. 

Another claim to fame is the tomb of Prince Arthur Tudor, the eldest son of Henry VII and would be king of England. 

He died not long after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon which meant his brother Henry VIII inherited the throne. It’s thought that Worcester Cathedral was spared destruction by Henry VIII during the English Reformation thanks to his brother’s tomb. Contributed by Francesca of Little Lost Travel.

York Minster – Yorkshire

York Minster, despite the name, is a cathedral. It is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals of its kind in northern Europe and known as the most beautiful cathedral in UK.

Walter de Gray was made archbishop of York in 1215. He ordered the construction of a Gothic cathedral to compare to Canterbury. Construction started in 1220 and it was declared complete and consecrated in 1472.

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

York Minster is one of the must-see attractions in York. It is a recognisable sight in York, visible throughout the city, and it is best known for its striking stained-glass windows.

Overall, York Minster has a total of 128 colourful windows, which can be best observed in the chapter house. The chapter house is a beautiful octagonal room, with an imposing vaulted ceiling that soars ahead. This revolutionary architecture of the time highlights the sheer scale of the charming window designs. It is impossible to gauge how dramatic this room is until you step inside!

21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

As well as admiring the cathedral, you can also explore the Undercroft Museum beneath York Minster. It traces the history of York through two millennia in a truly unique setting. Undercroft Museum is the only accredited museum in a cathedral in the country.

Plus, if you’re feeling fit, you can climb the 275 steps to the top of the tower for spectacular views across the city.

Entry to York Minster costs £12.50/per adult and £9.50/student. Children enter for free with an accompanying adult. If you want to climb the tower as part of your visit, the full admission cost is £18.50/per adult, £15.50/per student and £6/child (ages 8-16 years only). Contributed by Hannah Ackroyd of Lost Travel Blog

What is the number of Cathedrals in England? There are 42 Cathedrals in England associated with the Church of England and 21 are associated with the Catholic church. As I mentioned before I do love a visit to a cathedral or any church really just to pay my respects to the builders and architects of these amazing buildings. As far as I’m concerned the history built into these magnificient buildings is one reason I love living in Britain.

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21 Best Magnificent Cathedrals in England

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  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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