St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s most iconic buildings, scene of many important moments in British history and the final resting place to some of the nation’s most famous figures.
- Look up from the nave and see the stunningly beautiful interior of the world-famous St Paul’s cathedral dome.
- Climb the steps to the Whispering Gallery which runs around the base of the dome and provides wonderful views of the cathedral below.
- Visit the tomb of Lord Nelson, one of the nation’s most well known historical figures, killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
What to See and Do
As you enter the cathedral you get your first look down the spectacular interior of the cathedral through to the dome. Thornhill’s eight depictions of the life of St Paul can be viewed near the entrance, while you will see the huge 30ft tall Great West door as you move along the nave. This is the entrance used when the Queen attends and also for special services. The Nave also holds a monument to the Duke of Wellington as well as providing a view up to the breath-taking interior design of the dome.
St Paul’s Cathedral has a number of interesting chapels to explore, with most leading off from the nave. Among these is All Souls chapel which has a memorial to Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, famed for his recruitment campaign in the first world war. The American Memorial chapel commemorates the Americans based in Britain who lost their lives during the second world war.
The huge crypt of St Paul’s contains tombs of some of the leading figures in British history. From military men such as Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington to artists, writers and scientists including JMW Turner, Joshua Reynolds, Alexander Fleming, Henry Moore and John Donne, there are many famous people whose tombs and memorials can be found in the crypt. Christopher Wren was also buried in the cathedral he designed.
At 111 metes in height the Dome of St Paul’s remains one of London’s most treasured landmarks. By climbing the 257 steps you can view the spectacular cathedral interior from the Whispering Gallery. A further 117 steps brings you to the Stone Gallery, which runs around the outside of the Dome, offering incredible views over London. If you still have the stamina and the head for heights, another 150 or so steps brings you up to the Golden Gallery, the smallest of the galleries, offering more spectacular views of the capital.
Located in the crypt is a theatre showing Oculus: an Eye into St Paul’s. This uses a 270-degree film experience to bring to life 1,400 years of history at St Paul’s. There are three sections to the film, ‘Life of the Cathedral’, ‘Resurgam, I Will Rise Again’ and ‘Virtual Access, the Dome’.
Did you know: (5 interesting facts!)
- The vast crypt at St Paul’s runs the length of the building above and is the largest in Europe and can cater for 250 seated dinner guests.
- When he died at the age of 90 Christopher Wren became the first to be buried in the cathedral he designed.
- In May 1913 a bomb was planted underneath the Bishop’s throne within the cathedral in a suffragette plot, but it was discovered before it was set to explode.
- The Great Paul bell in the South-West tower was the largest bell to have been cast in Britain until surpassed in 2012 by the Olympic bell.
- The sarcophagus originally made for Cardinal Wolsey was never used after his fall from power and was eventually used to adorn the tomb of Lord Nelson.
- 604 – First cathedral dedicated to St Paul is built.
- 963 – St Paul’s rebuilt after being burned down by the Vikings.
- 1087 – Following a fire the Normans aim to build the longest and tallest cathedral, with the work completed in 1240.
- 1526 – Copies of William Tyndale’s translation of the bible into English are burned at St Paul’s.
- 1666 – St Paul’s cathedral severely damaged during the Great Fire of London.
- June 1675 – Foundation stone laid for new St Paul’s Cathedral designed by Christopher Wren.
- 1697 – First service held in the Quire.
- 1940/41 – Though struck by bombs the cathedral survives the blitz during the second world war.
- July 1981 – Prince Charles and Princess Diana married, a day declared a national holiday in the UK.
Facilities and Accessibility
The south churchyard entrance is recommended for wheelchair users as it is step-free. A lift is available for access to the cathedral floor and the crypt, while a chairlift serves the quire and sacrarium. There is a ramp providing access to the south side of St Paul’s also which offers direct access to the cathedral floor only. Accessible toilets are located in the crypt.
There are audio description guides for visually impaired visitors, plus large print and Braille copies of orders of service. There is a guided touch tour offered to visitors to the cathedral if booked in advance. The cathedral floor has a hearing loop system which can be used for all of their services, while a multimedia British Sign Language tour with subtitles is also available. Guide dogs, hearing dogs and assistance dogs are welcome in the cathedral.
For refreshments during your visit, St Paul’s has a cafe and tearoom offering a selection of hot and cold drinks as well as sandwiches, cakes, soup, salads and more. You will find the cathedral shop located in the crypt, where you can buy a range of souvenirs, gifts, books, photographs, prints, CDs, confectionery and more.