When you approach Westminster Abbey from the outside, you’ll be met with its towering yet austere façade, its medieval gothic towers and pointed spires looming over the surrounding grasslands. However, it’s only when you step inside that you’ll fully appreciate its grandeur and its rich heritage, having played host to 26 royal weddings and 38 coronations, as well as serving as the last resting place for some of the country’s most legendary historical figures.
The structure you’ll see when you visit dates back all the way to 1245, when Edward the Confessor’s 1042 abbey was renovated. It took many years for the abbey to come to be what it is today.
It will take half a day to fully explore the riches of this abbey, from the Coronation Chair to the Nave where tombs of old kings and queens remain. Other highlights include the memorial to Sir Winston Churchill by the West Door, and the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, which serves as a poppy-laden tribute to those who lost their lives in the First World War. Spend a moment in Poets’ Corner too where Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas are among the literary giants buried here.
The 11th century vaulted undercroft of St. Peter is one of the abbey’s oldest parts, and here you’ll see royal effigies, death masks and clothing on display. You can also then explore the tranquil College Gardens outside.
Services at Westminster Abbey are powerful and popular, and ceremonies at Christmas require advance booking. If you simply wish to explore the building, free audio tours are available at the North Door guided tours are also available. Note that photography is not allowed inside the abbey.
Situated near Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in central London, Westminster Abbey is easy to reach by tube or bus, near to St. James’s Park and Westminster Underground stations. It is open every day apart from Sundays, when services are held.