If you’re going to London for the first time, you’re probably considering visit one a London cathedral. The two most popular choices are Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
This post will hopefully help you choose which London cathedral you want to visit if you only have the time (and money) to visit one. It can be a difficult choice, so I hope lying out the pros and cons of each will help you make your choice.
Westminster Abbey is filled with centuries of British history. Kings, Queens, poets, scientists, and many other historical figures are buried in the Abbey. It is also a popular venue for royal weddings- it has hosted 17!
Westminster Abbey is the most conveniently located London cathedral. It is right in the heart of the City.
If you take the Underground, get off at either Westminster station or St. Jame’s Park station. Westminster is the most convenient stop and can be accessed from the Jubilee, District, and Circle lines. St. Jame’s Park station can be accessed from the District and Circle lines. And don’t forget to use your Oyster card to save money on public transportation in London.
Follow the signs for Westminster Abbey when you get off the Underground, and you will be able to see the cathedral as soon as you get to street level. All you will have to do is walk across the street, and you will be at the Abbey.
Westminster Abbey is centrally located, so you are able to walk to it if you’re in Piccadilly Circus, the West End, or at Buckingham Palace.
It’s location is extremely convenient, and there are lots of tourist sights nearby.
No matter what London cathedral you go to, entry is expensive. That is one reason people only visit one of the two main London cathedrals while on holiday.
Entry to Westminster Abbey is £20 if you buy tickets in advance. It costs £22 if you buy tickets at the door.
The Abbey is always busy, so buying tickets online is a good idea assuming you know when you want to visit. It will save you money and time standing in line.
What You Get to See
Westminster Abbey has lots of unique things for you to see.
You are able to see the tombs of Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Sir Issac Newton, and Queen Elizabeth I. There are over 3,300 people buried or commemorated in the Abbey, so everybody is guaranteed to find someone they are interested in.
You also have the opportunity to view the Coronation Chair that monarchs sit in when being coronated. It is near the exit and definitely a must-see!
You also get to wander through the gardens. They are filled with beautiful flowers and are extremely peaceful. When it isn’t too busy that is.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is also steeped in history. Martin Luther King once spoke at the cathedral. The Suffragettes even had a plan to blow the cathedral up.
You can get off the Underground at the following stops for easy access to St. Paul’s Cathedral: St. Paul’s, Mansion, Blackfriars, and Bank. The most convenient is to take the Central line to St. Paul’s and walk from there.
You will not be able to see the cathedral when you exit the Underground station, so be sure to check a map at street level to make sure you are going the right way. You will not need to walk more than 3 blocks to get to St. Paul’s. If you feel like you’re walking a long ways, you are probably heading in the wrong direction.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is not as centrally-located as Westminster Abbey, but there are still other tourist sights in the area. It is close to The Globe, Monument, and the Tate museum. So there is definitely a day’s worth of sights to see close to St. Paul’s.
Just like Westminster, it is expensive to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral.
If you buy tickets online in advance, the entrance fee is £17. Same-day tickets purchased at the door are £20.
Entrance to the dome is included in the price of admission.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is normally not as busy as Westminster Abbey, so you are more likely to not have to wait in line if you’re buying your ticket on the day you are visiting the cathedral.
What You Get to See
You get to climb the dome when you go to St. Paul’s. The views from the dome are my favourite in all of London. You will get a unique view of London from the sky from the top of St. Paul’s.
You also get to see the High Alter. It is a particularly stunning piece of architecture. My favourite part of any cathedral or church is the organ, and St. Paul’s has a huge one! Sometimes they are even played while people are wandering through the nave.
Similarities and Differences
This is an extremely difficult question to answer because they are both historic sights that deserve to be seen. They do, however, offer two very different experiences.
- Both cathedrals cost basically the same
- They both have historical significance
- An audioguide is included in the price of admission at both cathedrals
- They are both convenient to get to
- Westminster Abbey has more royal history
- You get a bird’s-eye view of London at St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Westminster Abbey is home to the tombs of some of the most influential people in British history
- St. Paul’s Cathedral is arguably a better piece of architecture
Trying to decide where to stay in London? Check out this article!
Which London Cathedral Should You Visit?
The London Cathedral you choose to visit on your trip is ultimately your choice. I can’t tell you which one you will enjoy more.
If you enjoy royal history and historical figures, you would probably prefer Westminster Abbey.
If you enjoy architecture and seeing London from above, you would probably prefer St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I feel one visit to Westminster Abbey was enough for me. However, I would go back to St. Paul’s Cathedral multiple times. This is due to the viewing area from the dome. You will always be able to see something new from the top of the cathedral. The London skyline is always changing, so every time you went up, you get to see something you didn’t see before.
I enjoyed visiting both cathedrals. They both have something unique and worthwhile to offer.