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St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral in London

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In the heart of London’s City district, St Paul’s Cathedral is thesecond largest cathedral in the world after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Follow the guide!


⚠️ St Paul’s Cathedral is incredibly popular, and the queue at the entrance can be endlessly long. To save time, make sure to book your visit in advance with skip-the-line tickets for St Paul’s Cathedral.

💡 The Captain’s tip 💡

Want to know more about the history of London? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!

Looking for a hotel in London? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in London? Advice & recommendations

👉 If you are looking for practical information about visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral, scroll down to the bottom of the article! ⬇️

Brief history of Saint Paul’s Cathedral

The history of St Paul’s Cathedral is quite eventful, to say the least! Between fires and Viking attacks, the cathedral had to be rebuilt no less than four times between the 7th and 17th centuries.

Visitors first four cathedrals

If cathedrals were built over the centuries before the construction of the current Saint Paul’s cathedral. However, they were not the first religious buildings to be built on this site. A dolmen, then a temple dedicated to Diana, goddess of hunting, preceded the first cathedral.

  • First cathedral: erected in the year 604, the first Christian building, built in wood, was not very long-lived… and disappeared in a fire.
  • Second cathedral: the second cathedral was reconstructed from stone between 675 and 685, but was unfortunately destroyed by invading Vikings in the 9th century.
  • Third cathedral: a third cathedral was built in 962… then destroyed in turn in a fire…
  • Fourth cathedral: a new cathedral, nicknamed the “Old Saint Paul”, was built between the 11th and the 12th centuries. According to historical sources, this cathedral was an architectural masterpiece of Norman and Gothic styles. But in 1666, the the “Old Saint Paul” was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
St Paul's Cathedral

💡 History buffs, take note!💡

If you’re interested in learning more about the rich history of the English capital, Captain Ulysses highly recommends a visit to the Museum of London.

The best part? The tour is free, so why miss out?

Construction of St Paul’s Cathedral

Three years after the Great Fire of London, a decision was taken to build a 5th cathedral (if that’s not resilience, then what is!)

The project was entrusted to famous British architect Sir Christopher Wren, also known for designing Kensington Palace (which the Captain most definitely recommends visiting).

The first two projects submitted by the architect were not retained by the Anglican clergy, but third time’s the charm! Wren’s third project was finally approved and construction works began in 1675. 35 years later, St. Paul’s Cathedral was finally completed.

St Paul's Cathedral - choir

St Paul’s Cathedral during the Second World War

During of the bombing of London in 1940, St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was unsurprisingly easily identifiable from the sky, became a privileged target of the German aviation. Miraculously, the Cathedral came out of the blitz (almost) unscathed and did not suffer any irreparable damage, thanks in part to the mobilization of civilians who saved the building from the flames!

St Paul’s thus became a symbol of hope for all Londoners!

Recent history of Saint Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral remains today intrinsically linked to the history of the country.

In 1965, the funeral of Winston Churchill was held here, and 16 years later, Prince Charles and Lady Diana exchanged vows in front of the world’s cameras at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

👍 London Pass & London Explorer Pass 👍

Access to St. Paul’s Cathedral is included in the London Pass and London Explorer Pass.

Captain Ulysses has a soft spot for the former, which gives access to 80 attractions, including many of London’s most iconic museums and monuments (the Tower of London, the Shard, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, Tower Bridge, the Churchill War Rooms…): an investment that will quickly pay off if you spend a few days in the English capital!

👉 Find out more: London Pass | London Explorer Pass

Saint Paul’s Cathedral in a few words

Blending classical and baroque influences, St. Paul’s Cathedral moves away from the gothic aesthetic, which architect Christopher Wren considered old-fashioned, outdated, and too closely associated with Catholicism.

Captain dome of the cathedral was inspired by the dome designed by Michelangelo for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and the dome designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart for the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.

Wren’s ambition? Designing a singular and innovative building which would leave a mark and redefine the aesthetics of the Anglican Church… A successful bet!

St Paul's Cathedral - ceilings

Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral

St cathedral counts in three different levels:

  • The ground floor
  • The galleries
  • The crypt in the basement

An audio-guide is offered to visitors at the entrance of the cathedral (it is included in the entrance ticket): Captain Ulysses found it very well done and can only recommend it!

The Cathedral’s first floor

Vast and luminous, the first floor – including the nave, transepts and choir – is is a perfect example of the Baroque aesthetic.

Be sure to have a look at the organ, located under the dome, the high altar in the form of a monumental baldachin, as well as the ceiling of the choir covered in mosaics.

Choir of St Paul's Cathedral

The dome and the three galleries

Captain The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral includes three circular galleries in the form of a balcony. Be prepared, to reach the highest gallery, you will have to climb no less than 528 steps: the view from the top is well worth the efforts!

The Whispering Gallery

Located some thirty meters above the nave (257 steps), the Whispering Gallery is the most famous of the three galleries, partly due to its incredible acoustics. A whisper from one side of the gallery is perfectly audible on the opposite side, at a distance of 34 meters (the mechanics are quite similar to those of the theater of Epidaurus in Greece).

St Paul's Cathedral - Whispering Gallery

The Stone Gallery

119 steps up and 52 meters above the ground, the Stone Gallery is located outside the dome. From there, the view of the City and the capital is breathtaking: the Thames, the London Eye, the Tate Modern, and the Parliament in the distance…

The Golden Gallery

If you still have a little bit of energy, you can keep climbing to get to the Golden Gallery, perched 85 meters above the ground.

It’s also known to be the you’ll enjoy a breathtaking view on London. That said, if you are afraid of heights, it may be better to abstain!

The crypt

In the basement, the crypt contains the tombs of emblematic personalities of the British history. Among them, the tomb of the cathedral’s architect, Christopher Wren, as well as that of Admiral Nelson (who defeated Napoleon at Trafalgar), the Duke of Wellington (Napoleon’s victor at Waterloo) or the painter Edwin Landseer.

Access

Getting to Saint Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is located in the heart of the City, London’s business district, a stone’s throw from the Tate Modern, the Sky Garden and the Leadenhall Market.

The nearest subway station is St Paul’s (Central line). The cathedral is also easily accessible from Mansion House (Circle and District lines) and Blackfriars (Circle and District lines).

“Bus lines 4, 11, 15, 23, 25, 26, 100, and 242 also stop near St. Paul’s, as well as hop-on hop-off tourist buses. These are a convenient option for getting around the city’s main sites and monuments.

👉 More info: book your hop-on hop-off bus tour (+ cruise)

Opening hours of St. Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is open to visitors from Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm. Sundays are reserved for religious services.

Admission to St. Paul’s Cathedral

FYI: tickets bought on site are more expensive than tickets bought online. It’s best to book a skip-the-line ticket in advance to avoid the potentially terribly long waiting lines!

Admission rates on site Admission rates online
Adults 20 £ 17 £
Reduced fares
Students & visitors over 60
17,50 £ 15 £
Children
6 to 17 years old
8,50 £ 7,20 £
Family pass #1
2 adults + 2 or 3 children
48,50 £ 41,20 £
Family pass #2
1 adult + 2 or 3 children
34 £ 29 £

👉 More info: Skip-the-line tickets to Saint Paul’s Cathedral

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!

👉 Find the perfect place to stay in London!

 

👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in London!

🛏️ Accommodation: If you haven’t booked your accommodation in London yet, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Expedia. And for more tips and recommendations, check out the Captain’s detailed article: Where to stay in London?

🎟️ Activities: For your visits and activities in London, the Captain recomends checking out GetYourGuide, Civitatis and Tiqets. Skip-the-line tickets, cruises, guided tours, activities off the beaten tracks… You will undoubtedly find what everything you need… and more! Keep in mind that London is a very touristy city: if you want to avoid queuing for hours, skip-the-line tickets are great time savers!

🎫 Citypass : If you’re spending a few days in the capital, Captain Ulysse recommends investing in a city pass which will give you access to the most iconic monuments and attractions in London. There are 2 options: the London Explorer Pass and the London Pass (which also includes a 1-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour.). These passes have 2 major advantages: the discounts and the skip-the-line accesses.

🚐 Transfers: London is a huge city and the airports are quite distant from the city centre. If you want to avoid spending hours in public transports to get to your hotel, you can book a transfer from the airport. A car will be waiting for you at the airport and will take you wherever you want in the city centre. Find out more here.

🚌 Transports: The capital being quite spread out, there’s no avoiding taking public transports. The good news is that they are quite easy to navigate! You can also opt for a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour, which includes an audioguide and stops at the main attractions and monuments in the city.

✈️ Flights: To get to London, there are plenty of options: planes, buses, trains and even ferries. For your flights, the Captain highly recommends that checking out Skyscanner: you’ll be able to find the best deal for the dates on which you plan on traveling to London. If your dates are flexible, you will even be able to compare prices over several weeks in order to find THE best deal. London is also easily accessible by bus and train. To book your trips, the Captain warmly recommends Omio, which allows you to travel through 44 countries with 207 train and bus companies, including Eurostar.


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