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According to the National Churches Trust, there are more than 40,300 church buildings in the UK open to the public for worship. Some of these churches in London were built a long time ago, such as Westminster Abbey constructed in 960 AD.
Since then, these churches have managed to escape a lot from the Great Fire of London to World War II and much more. Today, these cathedrals and London churches hold hundreds or thousands of years of rich history worthy of a visit.
Looking to spice up your trip in London? Here are the 10 famous churches in London that are a must-visit.
Famous Churches in London…
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- Westminster Abbey
- Westminster Cathedral
- Southwark Cathedral
- St Brides
- St Pancras Old Church
- St. Dunstan in the West
- St George’s Bloomsbury
- St Mary-le-Bow
- St Etheldreda’s Church
1. St Paul’s Cathedral
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday, 8.30am to 4pm.
Ticket prices: £20.50 per adult and £9 per child.
Located on Ludgate Hill is St Paul’s Cathedral. As the mother church of the Diocese of London, the cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London. As a Grade I listed building, it’s dedicated to Paul the Apostle and dates back to the original church founded in AD 604 at the same site.
However, the current structure dates back to the late 17th century. Designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren, spires of Wren’s City church surround the dome. At 111m (365 feet) high, the cathedral was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1963.
Today, the cathedral is the second largest church building after Liverpool Cathedral in the area. Not only is it a place of worship, but it’s home to a trail of artworks. From the Light of the World Painting by William Holman to St Martin of Tours by Hughie, each piece of art explores key themes of the cathedral’s mission.
Besides the art, you also have rare collections of written texts in the cathedral’s library. The selection of written texts includes mediaeval manuscripts and books from the earliest days of printing. Examples include the William II Charter, Tyndale’s New Testament, St Paul’s Psalter, and many more.
If visiting the cathedral with your family, you’ll find guides who will provide activities such as interactive games, and quizzes. If worshipping, entry is free of charge, but for tourists, it will cost you to explore this famous landmark.
Before leaving the cathedral, make your way to the 5th floor to experience an unparalleled view of London.
2. Westminster Abbey
Opening Times: Daily from 9.30am to 3.30pm
- Adults – £27
- OAP’s and students – £24
- Children (6-17 years) – £12
- Children under 5 – free
In 960 AD, Benedictine monks founded Westminster Abbey. Like St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey is an Anglican church. The church got its first building in the 1060s under the English King Edward the Confessor.
Construction of the Abbey started in 1245 under the orders of Henry III. The Gothic architecture of the Abbey is chiefly inspired by English and French styles from the 13th century. However, some sections show Romanesque or late Baroque styles.
Westminster Abbey was the first church in England to be built on a cruciform floor plan. Since 1066, the Abbey became the location of the coronations of 39 British and English monarchs. It’s also the burial site of 18 English, British, and Scottish monarchs. So far, 16 royal weddings occurred at the Abbey, including the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Each year, Westminster Abbey welcomes more than 1 million visitors. Located in central London, next to Big Ben and Parliament Building, Westminster Abbey is easy to explore and navigate. The Abbey welcomes group visitors of up to 20 visitors, but they must be in the company of a Blue Badge Tourist Guide.
You also have Verger-guided tours where you’re personally guided by one of Abbey’s vergers. The tour is 90 minutes and includes a visit to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, royal tombs, Poet’s Corner, the Nave, and the Lady Chapel.
3. Westminster Cathedral
Opening Times: Open every day
Ticket Prices: Free
Westminster Cathedral is the mother church of the Catholic Church in England. As the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster, it’s the 50th largest church in the world in terms of seating capacity. In fact, the church can seat up to 3,000 people.
Designed by John Francis Bentley, the cathedral stands in the City of Westminster. It’s entirely made of bricks without steel reinforcements. Constructed in the neo-Byzantine style, its completion was in 1903.
For seven days a week, Holy Mass is always celebrated each day as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Throughout the year, the Westminster Cathedral is open to worshippers. It’s free to enter for worshippers who can simply come in and celebrate Mass or light a candle and experience the peace and beauty of the cathedral.
Entry is free for tourists, and they can come in and experience the eccentric design of the cathedral and famous mosaics. One of the cathedral’s friendly Guild of St John Southworth volunteers is available to meet tourists. The guides are always happy to answer all your queries whilst giving you a brief tour of the cathedral highlights.
You can also book a comprehensive tour of the cathedral. To do so, visit the Westminster Cathedral website. The cathedral has a café open from Tuesday to Saturday and a team of security officers who keep visitors and worshippers safe.
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4. Southwark Cathedral
- Sunday – 12.30pm to 3pm and 4pm to 5pm
- Monday – Friday: 9am to 5pm
- Saturday – 9.30am to 3.45pm and 5pm to 6pm
Ticket Prices: Free
On the south bank of the River Thames is Southwark Cathedral. Set in the heart of the Bankside community, the site where the cathedral stands has been a place of worship for more than 1,000 years.
The Southwark Cathedral is a vibrant place of prayer, worship, and reflection. It has a busy schedule of events that includes heritage talks, music recitals, family activities, and concerts. The cathedral is 5 minutes away from the London Bridge Underground station that serves both the Northern and Jubilee Lines.
All are welcome to attend a service at the cathedral, and you can check the cathedral’s website for times for the regular services. If you do not wish to attend a service, you can explore the cathedral. However, it’s highly recommended to visit the cathedral during the following times:
Sunday – 12.30pm to 3pm and 4pm to 5pm
Monday – Friday – 9am to 5pm
Saturday – 9.30am to 3.45pm and 5pm to 6pm
The reason why is that parts of the cathedral are usually restricted during services. Since the cathedral is a place of worship, filming and photography are usually allowed outside of services and events.
However, photos taken for the intended use of commercial gain by you or your business will cost you. The cathedral offers drop-in tours led by one of its guides on most days. Before your visit, inquire at the welcome desk or shop to see if a guide is available. The tours last around 45 minutes and are free.
You can get a souvenir map that costs £3 or get the extensive Cathedral Guidebook that goes for £5 before your visit. Groups must pre-book their visits no matter the size.
5. St Brides
Opening Times: Daily
Ticket Prices: Free
St Brides is one of the most ancient churches in London. Worship in the church dates back to the 7th century during the conversion of the Middle Saxons. Founded by Irish monks, it’s believed that the original church is the only Celtic Irish founded church east of Britain.
The present St Brides church is the seventh church to have stood at the present site on Fleet Street. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the 1672 incarnation got damaged during a fire in the 1940s during the WWII blitz.
Standing 69 m (226 feet), it’s the second tallest of all Wren London churches with only St Paul’s cathedral having a higher pinnacle. As one of the most famous churches in London, St Brides is popular for its outstanding ministry and music.
As an oasis of calm amidst the busy Fleet Street, the church is open seven days a week, and entry is free. Tours are available on request for between 5 to 15 people. During the tour, you’ll see the trompe l’oeil behind the Altar.
In the northeast corner of the church, you’ve the Journalists’ Altar. Formerly the Hostage Altar, people held vigils, and candles lit when John McCarthy was being held in Beirut. Today, it serves as a memorial table for many journalists who died in 21st-century conflicts.
Inside the west door, you’ll find the memorial to Polly Nichols, the first known victim of Jack the Ripper. By visiting St Brides, you’ll be experiencing more than 2000 years of history.
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6. St Pancras Old Church
- Monday to Saturday, 9am to 2pm
- Closed on Sundays
Ticket Price: Free
Just opposite Euston Station is St Pancras Old Church. Dedicated to the Roman martyr, Saint Pancras, the church is on Pancras Road in the London borough of Camden. Constructed in the Victorian era, the church sits on a little hillock that rises above the flood valley of the River Fleet.
According to historians, the site was once a rural shrine before it got converted to Christian use. This makes St Pancras Old Church one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in London. Today, you can see Roman tile in the church’s exposed mediaeval wall.
St Pancras Old Church has a churchyard that dates back to the 4th century. For 300 years since 1600, it’s estimated that more than 6 million burials occurred at St Pancras. Records indicate that between 1689 to 1854, over 88,000 burials took place.
It’s not just the church’s age that makes St Pancras Old Church famous. The Beatles have also used the courtyard and grounds for a photoshoot back in 1968. Other famous artists who held concerts at the church include Sam Smith, Tom Odell, Jason Mraz, Laura Marling, and many more.
When you visit St Pancras Old Church, besides exploring the church, we recommend exploring the courtyard. Here, you’ll find the Hardy Tree with gravestones of those buried there close to its trunk.
7. St. Dunstan in the West
Opening Times: Daily
Ticket Prices: Free
Saint Dunstan is one of the foremost saints of Anglo-Saxon England. It’s not known exactly when the original St Dunstan church got built. But historians estimate it was between 988 and 1070 AD.
The first church was rebuilt in 1831 after wear and tear of time took its toll. In World War II, the tower of the church got bombed by Germans. However, they later rebuilt it in 1950 thanks to the generosity of Viscount Camrose, a newspaper magnate.
Today, St. Dunstan in the West is a well-known landmark thanks to its magnificent clock. The clock dates back to 1671 and was the first public clock in London to feature a minute hand. Besides the clock, you’ve the statues of King Lud, his sons, and that of Queen Elizabeth I.
Inside the church, the high altar and reredos feature Flemish woodwork that dates back to the 17th century. There are also monuments from the original church as well as two bronze figures that date back to 1530.
Lord Baltimore, the founder of the State of Maryland in the US, was buried at the church in 1632, and so was his son. Visitors are welcome in the church to pray or light a candle. On Tuesdays from 1am to 3pm, Friends of the City Churches church watchers are available to answer visitors’ questions about the church’s history.
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8. St George’s Bloomsbury
Opening Times: Daily, 1pm to 4pm
Ticket Prices: Free
Built by Nicholas Hawksmoor, a protégé of Sir Christopher Wren, St George’s Bloomsbury features classical references and baroque style. This architectural gem has one of the most eccentric spires in London. Since its consecration in 1731, the church has become an important landmark and a place of worship for Christians in London.
Built as an auditory church, its space was specifically designed for the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. Basically, the church wanted to ensure that all members of the congregation heard the service.
The interior is modest but during restoration, they installed a 17th-century Dutch chandelier. Loaned from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the chandelier formerly graced the Grand Entrance. Over two metres wide and weighing 740kg, the chandelier features 36 scrolling branches.
Besides being a landmark, St George’s Bloomsbury is famous because of the funeral of Emily Davison. Emily met her death after throwing herself in front of the King’s horse. This was at the Epsom Derby. The funeral took place in 1913.
It’s also famous for hosting the Museum of Comedy. Founded by Martin Witts in 2014, it’s based in the repurposed crypt of the church. The Museum of Comedy is a space for up-and-coming comedians looking to make their way into the industry. Comedians are usually allowed to try out fresh jokes in a relaxed atmosphere.
9. St Mary-le-Bow
Opening Times: Monday to Friday 7.30am to 6pm
Ticket Prices: Free
Founded in 1080 by Lafranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, the church of St Mary-le-Bow is a landmark in the city of London. Internationally famous for its bells, it’s the third highest of any Wren church after St Brides and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Constructed from Caen stone from Normandy, they dedicated the church to St Mary. The architect of the church was Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, who also designed the first St Mary-le-Bow.
The early church had two levels with a lower undercroft that featured round stone arches. This led to the church being known as St Mary of the Arches which eventually became St Mary-le-Bow.
The church windows are some of its prominent features following its 1964 restoration. They have rounded arches with small round windows above them. Beneath the church, there is an 11th-century crypt. Originally built as the undercroft, it features Norman-era round arches and groined vault.
The church is always open for visits on weekends on an informal basis. However, you can contact the church if necessary.
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10. St Etheldreda’s Church
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday, 9am to 5 pm
Ticket Prices: Free
In the heart of London is St Etheldreda’s Church, a beautiful and historic church. Located in Ely Place, off Charterhouse Street, the church building is one of only two surviving from the reign of Edward I. The church dates back from 1250 to 1290 and it’s dedicated to Etheldreda, an Anglo-Saxon saint.
As the oldest Catholic Church in England, it was the town chapel of the Bishops of Ely between 1250 to 1570. Today, St Etheldreda’s Church consists of a chapel and a crypt. It’s used for masses, weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Annually, the Blessing of the Throats is usually held at the chapel. This is because many people often invoke St Etheldreda for help with infections of the throat.
As aforementioned, St Etheldreda’s Church is in Central London at Ely Place, a historic gated road off Holborn Circus. There is street parking at Ely Place, but on weekdays, it gets busy. Besides driving to the church, you can reach the site via tube stations, buses, and overground trains.
To wrap it all up, you absolutely cannot miss the chance to visit these incredible churches in London! They’re not only famous for their stunning architecture, but also their rich history that has shaped the city we know today.
So, whether you’re a Londoner or just passing through, be sure to check out these amazing London churches for a truly unforgettable experience.