London is a city of spires, altars, and awe-inspiring sanctuaries that stretch from the medieval era to modern times. Look past, for a moment, the usual suspects — Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace — and let’s venture into the hallowed halls that echo both with centuries of solemn prayers and spellbinding choral notes.
These aren’t just places of worship; they’re historical landmarks, architectural marvels, and cultural troves all rolled into one. From the awe-inducing splendor of St. Paul’s Cathedral to the lesser-known gems that hold their own in charm and history, London’s religious structures are as varied as the city’s own sprawling narrative.
Whether you’re a spiritual seeker, a history buff, or someone who simply appreciates fine architecture, London’s churches and cathedrals offer a transcendent journey through the ages. So come along, let’s swap our double-decker bus rides for a pilgrimage of sorts — one that promises to be as enlightening as it is captivating.
Westminster Abbey is THE must-see historic church in London, where some of the most famous British monarchs, including Elizabeth I, are buried. If you’re a fan of classic English history, you won’t want to miss this. Elizabeth’s tomb is a sight to behold, where she’s buried alongside her sister Mary I.
Historical Buildings of the Abbey
The Abbey is steeped in more than 1,000 years of history, with buildings and architecture spanning different eras. Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, well-known artists of their time, contributed to the jaw-dropping design of stained-glass windows. Pay special attention to the Rose Window, one of the Abbey’s standout features.
Westminster Abbey has tons of monuments that tell the stories of countless kings, queens, and other historical figures who have shaped London’s rich history. Take a moment to appreciate each one, and maybe snap a few pics for your fellow history buffs back home.
Remember, no trip to London is complete without visiting Westminster Abbey. So, make the most of your time, and take in the incredible sights and history of this iconic church.
Don’t confuse it with Westminster Abbey – they’re two completely different churches. This one is more of a true Catholic gathering place, and with more than 40 masses per week, it’s pretty easy to get in for a service.
The Westminster Cathedral’s architecture stands out with its imposing Neo-Romantic building style, taking influences from Byzantine and early Christian art. Designed by Francis John Bentley, it’s the largest Catholic church in the UK. You’ll find it’s a bustling spot, attracting visitors from all over the globe. Be prepared to be wowed by its intricate details that make it one of the top London churches to visit.
Francis John Bentley
Francis John Bentley, the architect behind Westminster Cathedral, really went all out in creating an impressive space. From the breathtaking ceiling of the Lady Chapel to the reliquary of Saint John Southworth, there’s no shortage of awe-inspiring sights.
St. Margaret’s Church
While in the vicinity of the Westminsters, you’d be remiss to skip St. Margaret’s. This Roman Catholic Church is a true example of the Gothic Revival style, featuring intricate designs and an awe-inspiring presence.
Often referred to as “the parish church of the House of Commons”, it dates back to the 12th century. With its mesmerizing stained glass windows and rich history, once you step inside, you’ll be enveloped by its tranquility, making it a serene oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of Westminster. A must-visit for those seeking a blend of history and spiritual solace in London.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral sits on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. This iconic Anglican cathedral was built after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The fire destroyed most of the city, including the previous church that stood in its place.
As a must-see attraction, St. Paul’s Cathedral holds a lot of history. One notable figure buried here is Admiral Lord Nelson, a British naval hero. He played a significant role in several major battles, and his tomb at the cathedral is a key attraction for many visitors.
Sir Christopher Wren
The man behind the design of St. Paul’s Cathedral is none other than Sir Christopher Wren. As a prominent architect, he was tasked with rebuilding many of the city’s churches after the Great Fire, with St. Paul’s being his masterpiece.
When you visit St. Paul’s, you’ll instantly notice its magnificent dome, dominating London’s skyline. This iconic dome took inspiration from St. Peter’s in Rome. As a remarkable feature of the cathedral, the dome not only showcases Wren’s architectural genius but also represents a symbol of resilience and determination.
During World War II, London experienced heavy bombing known as the Blitz. St. Paul’s Cathedral miraculously survived these attacks despite many areas around it being destroyed. Its survival only added to its significance for Londoners, and today, it stands as a testament to the city’s endurance and strength.
Located on the south bank of the River Thames near London Bridge, Southwark Cathedral is an iconic landmark that’s well worth a visit during your stay in the city. As London’s oldest Gothic structure, dating back to 606 A.D., it boasts a rich history and stunning architecture that you won’t want to miss. The cathedral’s prime position by London Bridge means it’s conveniently situated close to other must-see sights like Borough Market and the Square Mile.
John Dando Sedding
As you explore Southwark Cathedral, don’t forget to appreciate the work that went into its restoration. John Dando Sedding, an English architect and designer, played a pivotal role in transforming the cathedral into the magnificent structure you see today. Get up close to the Gothic details and appreciate this architect’s passion for preserving London’s historical buildings.
After marveling at Southwark Cathedral’s beauty, head over to the nearby Borough Market for some scrumptious food. As one of London’s oldest and most famous markets, it’s a great place to sample diverse and delicious dishes to fuel your exploration of the city’s churches and cathedrals. The market is bustling with lively stalls selling everything, from seafood to artisanal cheese, that will leave your taste buds tingling.
If you’re all about that history, then Temple Church in London is a must-see. Built in the late 12th century by the Knights Templar, this church served as their English headquarters for a time. You’ll be amazed by its unique design, featuring a round nave (that’s the central area of the church) and beautiful architecture that has stood the test of time.
But the church is more than just a pretty face; it has a rich history too. The Knights Templar were a medieval Christian military order that played a significant role in the Crusades and even had a hand in establishing the world’s first modern banking system. So, visiting Temple Church isn’t just a visual feast but an opportunity to understand a crucial part of medieval history.
Da Vinci Code
Now, if you like your history with a side of pop culture, the Temple Church is your place. The church was featured in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” and subsequently in the movie adaptation. Remember the scene where Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) seeks out the location of the mysterious knight’s tomb? Yup, that’s Temple Church for you!
In the heart of London, you’ll find the historic St. Mary-le-Bow church on Cheapside, one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares. Founded back in 1080 by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, this iconic church has stood the test of time.
St. Mary-le-Bow is famous for its Bow Bells, making it an essential stop on your London churches tour. The church boasts a delicate steeple, designed by renowned architect Christopher Wren, which was completed in 1673. Unfortunately, the church suffered severe damage during WWII but was finally reconsecrated in 1964, featuring beautiful stained-glass windows.
It’s said that a true Cockney is born within earshot of the Bow Bells. So, visiting St Mary-le-Bow gives you a chance to connect with a deep-rooted London tradition. With its impressive bell tower, the church remains a popular destination for those interested in exploring the city’s religious and cultural history.
Fitzrovia Chapel is a hidden gem located in the heart of London. This beautiful Gothic chapel is all that remains of the Middlesex Hospital, which opened in the 1740s. Between 2013 and 2015, the chapel underwent a complete restoration, making it a lasting testament to London’s rich history and the Gothic revivalist era.
With its stunning architecture and historical significance, Fitzrovia Chapel is undoubtedly a must-see for anyone exploring the best churches of London.
You can’t miss St Martin-in-the-Fields when you’re in London, especially during the festive season. This beautiful Anglican church, located in the northeast corner of Trafalgar Square, has been a part of the city since medieval times, with the current Neoclassical building constructed between 1722 and 1726.
At Christmas, this church really comes alive. Imagine the choir singing your favorite Christmas carols and the heartwarming atmosphere while you take in the stunning architectural features. It’s a must-visit spot for tourists looking to capture a piece of London’s history during the holidays.
An interesting historical tidbit about St Martin-in-the-Fields is its connection to healthcare. The church had its own hospital within its parish that took care of the poor and provided medical attention to the needy. Today, this legacy lives on through the work of The Connection at St. Martin’s, a charity organization that serves the homeless community in London.
One of the most captivating features that draw visitors to St. Martin-in-the-Fields is its magnificent stained-glass window. Its contemporary design showcases an abstract representation of the cross with a burst of colors and light, providing a stunning visual. As a tourist, you’re going to want to snap a few photos of this iconic window — it’s a symbol of both the church and the city’s ability to meld history and modernity.
Edward Burne-Jones Cathedrals
When visiting London churches, you’ll surely come across some stunning churches and cathedrals that bear the influence of Edward Burne-Jones, an acclaimed Pre-Raphaelite artist. His distinct style can be seen especially in the intricate stained glass windows featured in these historic buildings. Prepare to explore and bask in the wonder of these artistic masterpieces.
London is home to many iconic churches and cathedrals showcasing the Gothic architecture that Edward Burne-Jones was inspired by. His exquisite stained glass designs demonstrate the idealized pre-industrial world present in Gothic Revival churches throughout the city. As you stroll through London, keep an eye out for these marvels; their majestic arches, towers, and ornate details will surely amaze.
Transitioning to a different realm of architecture, London’s churches and cathedrals also exhibit magnificent examples of Baroque style. Characterized by rich materials and lavish ornamentation, these buildings create an unparalleled atmosphere. Although Burne-Jones’ artwork is often associated with the Pre-Raphaelite and Gothic styles, his influence can be seen in the intricate Baroque details present in these masterpieces.
St. Clement Danes Church
One particular church in the City of London that houses is Burne-Jones work is St. Clement Danes, an Anglican church that serves as the central church of the Royal Air Force. The church, designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren, proudly displays the stunning stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones. As you explore this historic site, your breath will be taken away by the ethereal beauty of Burne-Jones’ artistry, perfectly complementing both the Gothic and Baroque architectural styles within the church.
St. Dunstan & All Saints Church
When exploring London churches and cathedrals, be sure to get to the east side of the city, where you’ll find a gem less adventurous tourists are likely to miss.
St. Dunstan’s, with its picturesque location, stands as a testament to London’s historical tapestry. Situated amidst Stepney, it is often referred to as the “Mother Church of the East End”. With roots that trace back to the 10th century, this ancient parish boasts a rich lineage intertwined with luminaries and seafarers. As you approach, its iconic tower and tranquil churchyard offer a respite from city life, enveloping visitors in an ambiance that feels both timeless and serene. It’s a space so idyllic, you might even forget you’re in London for a moment.