Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral has been a major London landmark for over 300 years surviving even through the blitz of London.
St. Paul’s Cathedral has been a favourite of mine from childhood. In fact, my favourite memory is of visiting St. Paul’s after seeing Mary Poppins and hearing the iconic Feed the Birds song.
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
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.
Map to the Cathedral of St. Paul’s – walking guide
How to get to St. Paul’s London
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.
St. Paul’s visit Tips
It will rain it is London so don’t forget your rainproof jacket – trust me you’ll need them.
Wear really comfortable walking shoes the Cathedral has a lot of stairs.
St. Paul’s Cathedral Tickets
The price of admission £20 (a little cheaper online) includes 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.
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 was 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.
Insider Tips for Visiting the Cathedral of St. Paul
- Paul’s does not allow photography or videos to be taken within the Cathedral
- Check 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
- Please note that the Whispering Gallery is temporarily closed and is expected to remain closed until at least December 2019
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.
The lift provides direct access to 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.
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 either side of a central staircase to the north transept door.
Seeing 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.
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. 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.
St. Paul’s Cathedral Tour
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.
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.
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.
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.
That iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral image you see is the outer dome shell.
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.
If you can manage it there is 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.
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.
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 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
The Library is now closed until summer 2020 and it will not be available for readers or tours.
Making your way down from the Galleries you can head to the crypt which is located on the bottom floor.
This is where you can pay your respects to Florence Nightingale, Christoper Wren, Admiral Nelson and of course the Duke of Wellington.
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.
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.
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.