What to see inside St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Going inside St. Paul’s Cathedral has been a bucket list item for me for ages. St. Paul’s Cathedral has been a major London landmark for over 300 years surviving even through the blitz of London. St. Paul’s is the second-largest church building in area in the united kingdom after the Liverpool cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral has been a favourite of mine since childhood. In fact, my favourite memory is of visiting St. Paul’s after seeing Mary Poppins and hearing the iconic Feed the Birds song.  

inside St. Paul's Cathedral in London

You may remember this song from when you were a child watching Mary Poppins with the old lady feeding the birds outside the Cathedral.

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

The old lady who feeds the birds at St. Paul's Cathedral from the Mary Poppins movie.

In this St. Paul’s Cathedral guide, I give you an overview of the history of the cathedral and tell you what to see inside. I also give you tips for getting tickets, viewing the hidden Triforium visiting and climbing the magnificent dome.

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History of St Paul’s Cathedral

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 architecture: Sir Christopher Wren

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.

The current cathedral is the fifth building on the site of Ludgate Hill but the old St Paul’s Cathedral construction started when the original church was founded in 604 AD. The fourth, called Old St. Paul’s was a huge Gothic cathedral built by the Normans and regarded as one of the masterpieces of medieval Europe. It was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666, after it burned down the City decided to build a new Cathedral.

view of St. Pauls Cathedral top of the Dome

Map to the Cathedral of St. Paul’s – walking guide

Frequently Asked Questions – How to Visit St Paul’s Cathedral

1. How can I visit St Paul’s Cathedral in London?

To visit St Paul’s Cathedral in London, you can book your tickets in advance either for a guided tour or a self-guided exploration of the cathedral. The cathedral is located in the City of London and is easily accessible by public transportation.

2. What can I see inside the cathedral?

Inside the cathedral, you can explore the cathedral floor, the crypt, the stone gallery, the whispering gallery, the golden gallery, and more. Don’t miss the breathtaking view of the London skyline from the top of the cathedral.

3. Is St Paul’s Cathedral associated with any historical events?

St Paul’s Cathedral played a significant role in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London as it was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in its current iconic form. The cathedral stands as a monument to commemorate the events of that time.

4. What are the different tours available at the cathedral?

You can choose from guided tours led by knowledgeable guides or opt for a self-guided tour where you can explore the cathedral at your own pace. Learn about the cathedral’s history, architecture, and significance to London.

5. Can I attend a service at St Paul’s Cathedral?

St Paul’s Cathedral holds regular services that are open to the public. You can participate in worship services, attend concerts, and experience the beautiful cathedral choir performances.

6. How do I get to the cathedral if I’m a first time visitor?

Located centrally within London’s square mile, St Paul’s is very easy to get to from any point in London or out.  

 Rail: Access to National Rail from Blackfriars, City Thameslink & Cannon Street.  

Tube: St Paul’s station is a 2-minute walk to the Central line.  

Facts about St. Paul’s Cathedral

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

Book your St Paul’s Cathedral ticket

While it is free to attend a service, to experience all of St. Paul’s glory, including its historic galleries, tombs, and domes, you must buy tickets. Included in your ticket are admission to St Paul’s, an introductory talk, an audio tour, a multimedia tour, and a guided tour (limited availability).

The price of admission is £23.00 (a little cheaper online £20.53 ) including entry to the cathedral floor, crypt and the three galleries in the dome (Whispering, Stone and Golden). The admission fee does include a multi-media guide and there are other speciality tours detailed below that you can take to explore the Cathedral further.

St Paul’s Cathedral hours

St Paul’s Cathedral is usually open to visitors from Monday to Saturday throughout the year. The opening time is 8.30 am (but galleries do not open until 9.30 am) Although the last entrance is 4 pm.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

Sir Christopher Wren was the man charged with building St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Prior to the Great Fire Wren had been working on renovating St. Paul’s and after the fire when the original buildings were destroyed Wren was given a royal warrant, that included the clause that he could make any changes he found necessary. The early design is demonstrated in a large model which can be seen in the hidden Triforium.

Inside St. Paul's Cathedral the vaulted ceiling and choir rows.
© St. Pauls Cathedral

Tips to visit St Pauls Cathedral

  • St. Paul’s does not allow photography or videos to be taken within the Cathedral
  • Check the website before you go to make sure the Cathedral is open to visitors
  • Visit the Cathedral on a weeknight at 5 pm to hear the choral evensong which is free
  • Book your tour tickets on the website to save a couple of bucks and add in the special tours.
  • On Sundays the bells are rung – they have recently been restored and the bell tower strengthened to support the bells
  • Go early in the morning as soon as the Cathedral opens to miss the hordes of tourists – well some of them.
  • No backpacks are allowed and all bags may be searched
  • There is no coat check at St. Paul’s but there are washrooms on the crypt level
What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
Millennium Bridge and St Pauls Cathedral at night in London

Accessibility of St. Paul’s Cathedral

The south churchyard entrance is step-free and is the recommended access for entry for wheelchair users and people who cannot negotiate the main west front steps. The south churchyard entrance leads to a modern lift serving the crypt and Cathedral floor. However, the lift is currently out of service and it is hoped that it will be re-opened in December of 2019.

Map of St. Pauls cathedral with accessibility entrances and places inside St. Pauls Cathedral
©St. Pauls Cathedral

The lift provides direct access to the Cathedral floor and crypt. The quire and sacrarium on the Cathedral floor have a small user-operated chairlift. Assistance is available should it be required. Cathedral wheelchairs are available on request.

Dome in St. Pauls Cathedral
©St. Pauls Cathedral

During sightseeing hours complimentary entry can be granted to a disabled visitor and an accompanying carer or necessary companion. Please request these tickets on arrival. Please let staff know if there are any specific access requirements or assistance you need. 

Equal Access Project

The Cathedral is working towards the construction of a permanently accessible entrance to the north side of the Cathedral, providing inclusive access for visitors, staff and volunteers. This project, the most significant external change to the Cathedral in its 300-year history, will consist of two symmetrical ramps on either side of a central staircase to the north transept door. 

organ in St. Pauls Cathedral

 How to see St. Paul’s Cathedral for free

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.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

St. Paul’s Cathedral at Christmas

Over the festive season, there are a host of Christmas events both ticketed and free that you can attend. These events are all listed on the St. Paul’s website but if you do plan to be in London at Christmas time book your tickets as soon as your trip is confirmed as they sell out very quickly.

St. Pauls Christmas Card available in the shop a group of choir boys singing in the cathedral of St. Pauls
St. Pauls Christmas Card available in the shop

St. Paul’s Cathedral Hours

St. Paul’s Cathedral is open from Monday to Saturday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (with the last admission at 4:15 p.m.), and the recommended visiting time is approximately two hours.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

A guided cathedral tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral – what to see

Inside St. Paul’s Cathedral

As you enter St. Paul’s Cathedral one of the first things you will see is the 8 scenes in the life of St. Paul as well as the magnificent nave of the Cathedral. To the north of the aisle stands the Duke of Wellington monument as well as a large group of statues that represent valour, cowardice, truth and falsehood.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

Duke of Wellington Monument

Nelson was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and his coffin was made from the timber of a French ship he defeated in battle. The black marble sarcophagus that is his tomb was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor during the reign of Henry VIII – until Wolsey fell from

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©Paul Hudson CC BY 2.0

Art of St Paul’s Cathedral

Inside, the cathedral boasts an array of artistic treasures, including intricate mosaics, magnificent stained glass windows, and stunning sculptures. Among these, the intricate mosaics adorning the dome’s interior are particularly renowned, depicting scenes from the life of St. Paul and adding a touch of ethereal beauty to the cathedral’s interior.

Interior view of Saint Paul's cathedral in London

High Altar

The High Altar in St. Paul’s Cathedral is the principal altar of the church, located at the eastern end of the nave. It serves as the focal point for major religious ceremonies and services.

Interior view of Saint Paul's cathedral in London

American Memorial Chapel

The American Memorial Chapel is located at the eastern end of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, behind the High Altar. The Chapel is a tribute to the 28,000 American servicemen and women who were stationed in the United Kingdom and lost their lives during World War II.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©The Memorial St. Paul’s Trust

Whispering Gallery

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

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©Harland Quarrington

St. Paul’s Dome

St Paul’s Dome is one of the largest cathedral domes in the world and it crowns the 4 arms of the building which are in the shape of a cross.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

St Paul’s has a three-dome structure. The inner dome is painted and can be seen from the cathedral floor.  James Thornhill painted the dome starting in 1715 and finished it 4 years later. These original paintings had so deteriorated by the 1800s due to London’s smog that they were restored in 1853.  

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©St. Pauls

That iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral image you see is the outer dome shell.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©St. Pauls

The first stop is up 259 steps to the Whispering Gallery which runs around the interior of the Dome. The Whispering Gallery’s incredible acoustics (which give it its name) allows you to hear the slightest whisper of noise. 

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

St. Paul’s Cathedral Stone Gallery

If you can manage it there are another 117 steps up to the Stone Gallery which actually circles the exterior of the large Dome and is outside. It feels quite safe with its strong stone railing and you can see some marvellous views of the city through the gaps. 

The Golden Gallery of St. Paul’s

Finally 166 steps to the Golden Gallery. This is the smallest of the galleries and runs around the highest point of the Dome. This climb is definitely not for the fainthearted.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©Aiwok C.C

If you manage this climb you will be treated to the most incredible panoramic views of London. You can see almost the full range of the Thames River,  you can just make out Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Shard and the Gherkin stand out on the landscape the London Eye far on the horizon across from the Houses of Parliament.

The Triforium

The Golden Gallery also holds another surprise known as the Triforium. Unknown to us regular people apparently every major cathedral has a Triforium. These spaces are usually closed to the public and used by the Cathedrals as storage. Here at St. Paul’s the Triforium tour is relatively new and used to only be offered to groups. Now you can all take this very special tour for an extra £8 per person.

St. Paul’s Triforium is a fascinating place. Not only does it hold generations of paperwork but you can also see Christopher Wren’s death mask and the astounding massive model of the first St. Paul’s Cathedral that he designed. The walls of the Triforium are pretty utilitarian but the ceilings are richly decorated primarily because they can be seen from the main part of the Cathedral.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

The Triforium also holds items like a collection of stones that were part of the original Cathedral that burnt down over 350 years ago. There is also a small but perfectly formed and beautifully decorated library.  

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©St. Pauls Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral Library

The Cathedral Library is currently undergoing a landmark Conservation Project to enhance environmental conditions for the books, conserve the fabric of the room and provide enhanced reader facilities. It will also enable us to display more of the collections.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
©Dilliff C.C

St. Paul’s Cathedral Crypt

Making your way down from the Galleries you can head to the crypt which is located on the bottom floor.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

This is where you can pay your respects to Florence Nightingale, Christoper Wren, Admiral Nelson and of course the Duke of Wellington.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

Inside a theatre in the crypt you can visit Oculus which is an amazing film experience that highlights the history of St. Paul’s from the Great Fire to the Blitz. This is a super high def film experience that wraps around 3 walls – a 270-degree film experience which is quite incredible.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London
The Interpretation Project, Crypt Exhibit, St Paul’s Cathedral

Gift shop and tea room

Exit from the Crypt leads to a small tea room and gift shop. A Cream Tea will include tea or coffee, scones, jam and clotted cream for 8.50 and a full Afternoon Tea will be £21.50 and include tea or coffee, finger sandwiches, pastries, scones with cream and jam.

What to see inside St. Paul's Cathedral London

Your tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral, not including a Cream Tea will take around 2 hours maybe longer depending on your ability to climb a lot of stairs.

Have you managed a tour inside St. Paul’s Cathedral? Well now you know to put it on your must-see list when visiting London.

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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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