St. Paul’s Cathedral is both a spectacular sight and gives you spectacular views of the rest of the city. That is, if you make it all the way to the top of the dome it will. We had a great time visiting this impressive and historical church.
How to Get to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London
There are several Tube stops within walking distance of the great church. The closest is called, as you might expect, St. Paul’s. Because the St. Paul’s station is serviced only by the Central (Red) line you might get off at a different stop if you are riding the Circle (Yellow) or District (Green) lines. Blackfriars, Mansion House, and Cannon Street are all reasonably close.
Because London has some of the best signage in the world once you exit your chosen Tube stop you just need to look either for street signs or the maps on posts to direct you to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can also follow signs for the One New Change shopping center since it is just across the street.
We arrived early in the morning before the Cathedral opened and we were able to get breakfast at a M&S (grocery store) in the shopping center. The Cathedral opens at 8:30. When arrived there just a few minutes before opening there were just a few other people waiting for it to open. It did not take long to get through the security check and inside.
Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral will run you £18 if you purchase tickets there. We opted to get the London Pass while we were visiting and that allowed us to enter at no additional charge.
What You Will See at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London
There is a lot to see at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is a large and very important church. We suggest getting there right when it opens at 8:30 AM. This gave us an hour to explore the ground floor and crypt before the galleries leading up to the dome opened at 9:30 AM.
While you can use an audioguide provided by the church we opted to use the Rick Steve’s audioguide in the Audio Europe app. That helped us to get plenty out of our visit but not spend all day there.
Remember, as with most churches, you cannot take photos inside the Cathedral. please be respectful.
The Ground Floor
There is plenty to see at ground level. You can look up at the massive dome that you will get to climb to later. You can see some famous works of arts and statues. If the choir is practicing downstairs you can hear the music carrying up through grates in the floor.
My favorite part of the ground floor however was the American Memorial Chapel which is behind the alter. As an American it was cool to see that the Brits were so grateful for our help that they made this beautiful chapel. The stained glass here is beautiful and contains references to each of the United States.
The crypt is the basement floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral. You will have to exit through this level so you might save it until the end, but if you have time before the galleries upstairs open you might visit the crypt first and then come back upstairs.
The crypt contains the tombs of many famous individuals including Lord Nelson and Duke Wellington. These two men were responsible for the defeat of Napoleon, so if you have visited the Tomb of Napoleon in Paris it is an interesting contrast to see these tombs.
The Galleries and the Dome
Once it is 9:30 AM the galleries will open up. According to Rick Steves the entrance can change from day to day. We had a bit of trouble finding it when we were visiting and walked past it like three times. There should be someone checking tickets and passes again at this entrance.
You have to climb a lot of narrow, steep steps to get to the top of the dome. There are three levels or galleries and once you start you can’t turn around until you reach the next level. Because Meagan is currently pregnant she chose to only climb to the first level, the Whispering Gallery. It is quite a ways up all on its own and looks down inside the church giving you great views that you are not allowed to take a picture of.
I decided to climb all the way to the top. The stairs after the Whispering Gallery become extremely tight spiral staircases. The views from the second level, the Stone Gallery were not very good due to restoration work they are currently doing on the church. Because of that almost no one spent any time at that level while I was there.
The third level, or the Golden Gallery, is outside like the second level was. But no restoration work was being done on this level while I was there. It is not very big because you are right at the top of the dome, but it is really cool. You can circle the entire building and see all the views of the city. We had a similar experience when we were in Paris last year as we walked around the Towers of Notre Dame.
Then you head back down a different set of stairs than you came up. But you will pass the Whispering Gallery again, so if you left anyone there like I did you can pick them up.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is a great place to visit in London. It shouldn’t take you all day but plan on a couple of hours for it. There are free bathrooms on the way out of the church (through the crypt) but if you use them you will need to present your ticket again to get back inside the church.
If you can climb to the top of the galleries you should. It is well worth walking up all those steps.