Tips for visiting St Paul’s Cathedral

By Harshitha Jagathiesh

St Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic landmark in London’s heart. 

With its rich history and architectural magnificence, this magnificent cathedral is a testament to the city’s heritage and spiritual significance. 

As you step foot into this awe-inspiring structure, prepare to be captivated by its soaring domes, intricate mosaics, and breathtaking views. 

The cathedral’s striking design, done by Sir Christopher Wren, has been enchanting visitors for centuries. 

While in St. Paul’s, it is essential to remember a few key aspects to make the most of your visit. 

This article will discuss everything you need to know before visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Tips for visiting St Paul’s Cathedral

St Pauls’s Cathedral is etched in history for more reasons than one. 

It is a sacred space that has witnessed the growth of Britain and stood the test of time. 

Maintaining decorum while visiting a sacred heritage space like St. Pauls’s Cathedral is important. 

Here are a few tips for St Paul’s Cathedral: 

Plan your visit in advance

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a popular attraction, so planning your visit beforehand is wise. 

Check the opening hours, ticket prices, and any special events or services that may affect your visit.

Dress appropriately

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a place of worship, so it’s important to dress respectfully. 

Avoid wearing revealing or inappropriate clothing; remember to remove your hat before entering.

Make sure you read the dress code for St Paul’s Cathedral before planning your St Paul’s Cathedral tours. 

Arrive early

To avoid long queues and crowds, try to arrive early in the morning when the cathedral opens. 

This will allow you to explore at your own pace and enjoy the serene atmosphere before it gets too busy.

Take a guided tour

Consider joining a guided tour to enhance your experience. 

Knowledgeable guides can provide fascinating insights into the cathedral’s history, architecture, and notable features.

If you prefer to take a self guided tour then take advantage of the audio guide available with the entry ticket. 

Visit the Whispering Gallery

Climb the stairs to the Whispering Gallery inside the dome and experience its unique acoustic phenomenon. 

Whisper along the wall, and your words will be carried across the gallery to someone on the opposite side.

Explore the crypt 

Don’t miss the crypt beneath the cathedral, which houses the tombs of several historical figures, including Admiral Lord Nelson and Sir Christopher Wren himself. 

Take your time to appreciate the memorials and soak in the history.

Climb to the Golden Gallery

For panoramic views of London, challenge yourself to climb to the Golden Gallery, the highest point of the cathedral. 

The breathtaking vistas are worth the effort, but be prepared for a steep ascent.

Photography guidelines 

Photography is allowed in most cathedral areas, but remember to be respectful and mindful of other visitors. 

Avoid using flash and be aware of any designated no-photography zones.

Attend a service or concert

Attend a service or concert

If you can, consider attending a service or concert at St. Paul’s. 

The cathedral’s acoustics and magnificent interior create an unforgettable spiritual or musical experience.

Reflect and appreciate

Take a moment to reflect and appreciate the beauty and significance of St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

St Paul’s Cathedral facts

This is a fun section in which we have mentioned some of the most popular and lesser-known facts about the infamous St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

These fascinating facts about St. Paul’s Cathedral add depth and intrigue to its historical and cultural significance. 

Architectural Marvel

St. Paul’s Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece designed by Sir Christopher Wren and constructed from 1675 to 1710. 

Its iconic dome is one of the largest in the world, standing at 365 feet (111 meters) tall.

Survival during World War II

St. Paul’s Cathedral miraculously survived the Blitz during World War II. 

Despite being surrounded by the devastation of the bombings, the cathedral remained intact, symbolizing resilience and hope for the people of London.

Whispering Gallery

One of the cathedral’s unique features is the Whispering Gallery; it gets its name from its acoustic properties. 

Whisper along one side; the sound will travel and be heard clearly on the opposite side, nearly 112 feet (34 meters) away.

Famous Burials

The crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral houses the tombs of many notable figures, including Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Sir Christopher Wren himself. 

It serves as a resting place for prominent individuals in British history.

Grand Organ

St. Paul’s is home to the Grand Organ, one of the world’s largest and most renowned organs. 

It boasts over 7,000 pipes and is played during services and concerts, filling the cathedral with majestic music.

Golden Gallery

Visitors can climb to the Golden Gallery at the top of the dome for breathtaking views of London’s skyline. 

It offers a stunning panoramic vista, rewarding those who conquer the 528 steps with an unforgettable experience.

Rebuilding after the Great Fire

St. Paul’s Cathedral was built after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. 

Sir Christopher Wren’s design was selected among many proposals, and his vision transformed the cityscape.

The Whispering Cone

Another acoustic marvel within the cathedral is the Whispering Cone. 

Standing at one end of the dome’s acoustic ring and speaking into the wall, the sound travels in a circular path, allowing someone at the other end to hear it clearly.

The Great West Door 

The main entrance of St. Paul’s Cathedral, known as the Great West Door, is a massive wooden door adorned with intricate carvings. 

It has witnessed countless historical events and is a symbolic threshold to the spiritual world.

Modern Events and Ceremonies

St. Paul’s Cathedral plays a significant role in modern British life. 

It has hosted numerous important events, including the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

St Paul’s Cathedral was also the venue for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.

Top 10 things to do on your St Paul’s Cathedral tour

Steeped in history, architectural splendor, and spiritual significance, St Pauls’s offers an array of captivating experiences for visitors worldwide. 

If you’re planning a tour of St. Paul’s, get ready to embark on a remarkable adventure filled with awe-inspiring moments and profound discoveries.

This section will unveil the top 10 things to do on your St. Paul’s Cathedral tour, ensuring an unforgettable visit to this architectural marvel. 

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Memorial marker

Before entering the Cathedral, take a moment to observe the memorial inscription.

This inscription acknowledges Queen Victoria’s return to the Cathedral to mark the sixtieth anniversary of her reign. 

On June 22, 1897, a National Service of Thanksgiving was held outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, as Queen Victoria was too weak to climb the steps. 

The clergy of the Cathedral accommodated her by conducting the service outdoors. 

The ceremony took place with Queen Victoria in her carriage, surrounded by dignitaries and troops from the Empire. 

The Fire Watch Memorial

The Fire Watch Memorial

St. Paul’s Cathedral’s western nave has a large, white, diamond-shaped tile on the floor dedicated to the ‘St. Paul’s Watch.’ 

This group defended the cathedral from air attacks during World War II, primarily focusing on extinguishing fires caused by incendiary bombs. 

Their primary responsibility was to monitor and put out any fires resulting from the bombs dropped during air raids while meticulously documenting nightly activities. 

Although St. Paul’s Cathedral endured multiple hits during the Blitz, the Watch’s unwavering commitment ensured the cathedral was safe at any cost.

The painting with ‘celebrity status”

The Chapel of Saints Erkenwald and Ethelburga houses a notable painting called ‘The Light of the World’ by Victorian artist William Holman Hunt. 

The painting portrays Christ in a dim forest, carrying a lantern and knocking on an overgrown door without a handle.

It is often called a “sermon in a frame” due to its powerful and evident spiritual message. 

The door symbolizes the entrance to the human soul, representing the door of our lives. 

A wealthy philanthropist named Charles Booth greatly admired Hunt’s work and arranged for the painting to embark on a worldwide tour in the early 20th century. 

In 1907, Booth generously donated the painting to St Paul’s Cathedral. 

The man who ‘lost America’

A monument in the South Transept of St. Paul’s Cathedral pays tribute to General Charles Cornwallis. 

Despite his triumphs and reputation as a skilled strategist and reformer, his legacy is primarily defined by a significant defeat. 

Cornwallis is primarily remembered as the commanding officer who surrendered at the Siege of Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. 

This surrender marked the conclusion of the decisive battle of the Revolution and played a crucial role in facilitating the progress of American Independence.

The sea-sick lion

The sea-sick lion

The Cornwallis Memorial is across from a monument dedicated to another renowned British military figure, Admiral Horatio Nelson. 

Nelson, a highly esteemed naval captain, led the British warships against the French during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. 

The sculptor, John Flaxman, included a lion at Nelson’s feet, symbolizing British pride, courage, and strength. 

However, some observers believe that the lion appears rather sickly. 

Nelson suffered from seasickness throughout his naval career. 

It is possible that Flaxman intended to acknowledge Nelson’s human side by depicting a symbol that typically represents power and vitality as somewhat unwell.

The effigy of John Donne

St. Paul’s Cathedral’s South Quire Aisle has a unique memorial honoring John Donne, a revered seventeenth-century British poet and preacher. 

The monument consists of a tall statue depicting Donne wrapped in a ghostly shroud. 

This sculpture is a tribute to his literary achievements and tenure as the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral during the last decade of his life.

Notably, the effigy is believed to accurately represent Donne, as he posed wearing a shroud shortly before his death. 

American Memorial Chapel

The American Memorial Chapel is located at the eastern end of St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

It was established in 1958 to honor the 28,000 American soldiers who died in World War II while serving in British or Canadian units. 

The chapel features elaborate limewood carvings that depict various emblems, symbols, native plants, flowers, and birds representing the United States. 

The Victorian Mosaics

Queen Victoria once expressed her dissatisfaction with St Paul’s Cathedral, describing it as dull, dingy, and lacking a holy atmosphere. 

In response to her comment, mosaics were commissioned to adorn the ceiling and walls of the quire.

These mosaics were designed by William Blake Richmond and installed between 1896 and 1904.

These depict the song of Creation from the Old Testament on the ceiling and narrate the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary.

Christopher Wren’s resting place

Christopher Wren’s resting place

Below St Paul’s Cathedral, in the Crypt, is a quiet atmosphere where numerous notable individuals from Britain’s past have been laid to rest. 

Sir Christopher Wren, the brilliant architect responsible for rebuilding numerous churches and designing iconic structures like St Paul’s Cathedral, is also interred here. 

It might be surprising to find that there is no elaborate memorial or statue commemorating Wren’s achievements. 

A simple black stone slab marks his grave, with an inscription above it. 

The inscription explains that his lasting monument can be observed in the architectural marvels and cityscape surrounding the area.

Nelson’s ‘second hand’ sarcophagus

Britain’s renowned military and naval heroes, Arthur Wellesley and Horatio Nelson, were laid to rest in St Paul’s Cathedral after elaborate state funerals. 

Nelson’s tomb features a shiny black marble sarcophagus, which is surprisingly one of the oldest artifacts in the cathedral, dating back to the 1520s. 

Initially commissioned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the sarcophagus remained unused after Wolsey’s disgrace and dismissal. 

It was stored at Windsor Castle until King George III presented it to the Admiralty nearly 300 years later as a fitting tribute to Lord Nelson. 

Nelson’s journey back to England and an intriguing incident involving a barrel of exquisite brandy- will be shared during the live tour.

If you are planning to visit St Paul’s Cathedral, also read about 

Are you planning to visit St Paul’s Cathedral? 

Here is a brief of all the St Paul’s Cathedral tickets to help you plan your visit.

Entry ticket: This simple entry ticket offer skip the line benefit and lets you enjoy a self-guided tour around the Cathedral. 
Buy This Ticket | Learn More

St Paul’s Cathedral + Westminster Abbey: Get the combination ticket to enter the most famous Churches in London. 
Buy This Combo | Learn More

St Paul’s Cathedral + Thames River Cruise: With this combo, you can tour the Cathedral and then enjoy a river cruise on the Thames. 
Buy This Combo | Learn More

London Pass: Visit more than 85 attractions within 2 to 10 days. You do not have to purchase individual entry tickets and get to save about 50% on admission tickets.
Buy This Pass | Learn More

Go City London Explorer Pass: With this pass, you can visit St Paul’s Cathedral and a choice of 2 to 6 attractions in London. 
Buy This Pass | Learn More

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About the author

Harshitha’s heart lies where greeny mountains meet stretches of beach. She believes getting lost is the best way to explore