One of London’s most famous landmarks, the Westminster Abbey is a must-see when you visit the capital city of England! Throughout the years, the 700-year-old church has held burials of many historical figures, as well as royal coronations and even weddings. Most recently, it was the site of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding on 19 April 2011!
A church was built at the site of the present-day Westminster Abbey as early as the tenth century, by Benedictine monks. Built in 1245 the Abbey was influenced by a gothic architectural style.
The striking architecture as well as the historical importance of the Westminster Abbey ensured it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Monarchs have been crowned at the site ever since 1066, and the Abbey is the burial site of 17 monarchs along with many other significant historical figures. The burial of the writer Geoffrey Chaucer within the Abbey began what is now known as the Poets’ Corner.
Around Chaucer’s grave, writers and poets were either buried or memorialized. The Poets’ Corner includes names such as Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, William Wordsworth, John Milton, Alexander Pope and William Shakespeare.
Inside Westminster Abbey
Besides the Poets’ Corner, there are several other things to see in Westminster Abbey such as the church houses the Coronation Chair, or King Edward’s Chair. This ancient throne was commissioned by King Edward in 1296, and contains the Stone of Scone, which was the Scottish coronation stone. Almost every sovereign of England and later Great Britain has been crowned on this wooden throne. The last occasion it was used was Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. Today, the Chair is heavily guarded, as many visitors over the centuries have tried to carve their names into the wood.
Coronations are not the only occasions the Royal Family visits Westminster Abbey. In fact, the Royal Family has had ties with the Abbey for centuries. The Abbey has seen sixteen royal weddings so far, of which the most recent was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. For their wedding, the Abbey was completely transformed. Almost 30,000 flowers adorned the interior of the Abbey, and there were even eight real trees placed alongside the main isle. The ceremony was attended by many members of the Royal Family, as well as by members of foreign royal families, politicians and celebrities such as Sir Elton John, David Beckham, Guy Ritchie, Joss Stone and many more.
When you’re walking through the nave of the Abbey, where the Royal Wedding was held, you’ll notice that there’s only one grave you are not allowed to step on. This is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The tomb contains an unidentified British soldier who was killed during the First World War. The grave represents all the fallen soldiers of the war. In France, a similar grave can be found at the Arc de Triomphe, also containing the bones of an unidentified soldier.
The Grounds of Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey also contains four gardens: the Garth, the Little Cloister, College Garden and St. Catherine’s Garden.
The Cloisters of the Abbey wrap around the Garth, which is a square stretch of grass.
The Little Cloister was a place for people recovering from illness, and it contains a fountain and several scented plants.
The College Garden was used as the Infirmary Garden, yet you can still find many medicinal herbs here.
St Catherine’s Garden is part of an area where ruins of the old monastery can still be seen.
The Abbey can be visited from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm on weekdays (until 6 pm on Wednesdays), from 9.30 am to 1.30 pm on Saturdays, and is closed for regular visitors on Sunday.
As a visitor the entry charge is £16 for adults, £13 for students, and £6 for schoolchildren. Children under 11 can go for free when an adult accompanies them. However, there are daily services held in the Abbey you can attend for free. On Sundays, the Abbey is also open for visitors who wish to attend any of the services, such as Holy Communion, Choral Evensong or Evening Service.
For service times, check out the official Westminster Abbey website.
How to Get There
Westminster Abbey is located at the Southern side of Parliament Square, west of Westminster Palace. You can get there by taking the London Underground to St. James’s Park (District and Circle lines) or to Westminster (Jubilee, District & Circle lines). If you’re visiting the Abbey in the morning or early afternoon, you’ll have plenty of time to also stop by the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben afterwards. For more about the Palace of Westminster, check out Visiting Parliament in London.
If you fancy staying in an apartment of your own during your visit, we have many London vacation rentals available in the area around Westminster Abbey as well as in other neighborhoods!
Have you ever visited Westminster Abbey?
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