Iconic though St Paul’s may be, the Cathedral as we know and love it today is in fact version six, at least. Mark five was razed to the ground by the Great Fire of London in 1666 – in fact mark three was also burnt out of existence by fire in 1087 – and mark four fell to ruins under Henry VIII’s leadership and parts of it were used to build Somerset House.
Thankfully Sir Christopher Wren’s design, which was completed in 1708, survived 12 monarchs and two world wars, and remains one of the key places of worship for high-profile weddings and funerals.
Already buried in the Crypt at St Paul’s you’ll find (should you be so inclined to look) Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Christopher Wren and the Duke of Wellington. These can be accessed with a sightseeing ticket, which will also get you into the unquestionably cool Whispering Gallery. Not so much a gallery, but a walkway that leads around the inside of the St Paul’s most recognisable bit – its dome. While on this walkway you’ll be able to hear someone speaking from the opposite end, even if they’re whispering, thanks to some impressive early eighteenth-century acoustics.
There are several different tour options depending on how long you’ve got to explore. If you’ve paid for main admission you’ll be treated to an introductory talk that lasts around 15 or 20 minutes before being taken on a 90-minute guided tour (available Monday to Saturday, 10am-2pm). But if you pay a little more, you can also join a more detailed, Triforum Tour that lasts an hour and happens on certain days, so if you’re hoping to join in make sure to check the website before you go.
Those looking for a freebie will find lots to enjoy, too. Church services are run throughout the week, as are Choral Evensong sessions (Monday to Saturday 5pm, Sunday 3.15pm), both of which are free entry. And if you just want to sit on the steps and sing ‘Feed the Birds’ from ‘Mary Poppins’ (many do), the grounds are worthy of a visit. Planted with flowers and trees to encourage wildlife, the surrounding gardens are designed with plenty of areas for tourists and office workers to sit out in the sun.