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Get an eyeful of these 12 gorgeous ceilings in London (for free)

Written by
Katie Wignall

Across London there's plenty of gorgeous buildings stuffed with history – but it's often the ceilings that'll leave you even more awestruck. Look Up London's Katie has rounded up 12 inspiring views above your eyeline that won't even cost you a penny (no one wants to pay for a crick in the neck). 


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1. Old Royal Navy College, SE10

 Painted from 1708 to 1727 this epic ceiling covers an impressive 5,683 square foot. You can see why it's known as the 'Sistine Chapel of the UK'.

2. Kenwood Library, NW3 

Tucked on the edge of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is a seventeenth-century Neoclassical Villa, boasting an art collection of Rembrandts and Vermeers. The Library, built 1767 to 1769, has been restored back to its kitschy, pastel glory.


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3. Leadenhall Market, Gracechurch Street

Dating back to the fourteenth century, the covered ceiling was designed by Horace Jones in 1881. He seems to have carved out a niche in markets, designing Spitalfields and Billingsgate too.


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4. Two Temple Place, WC2R

Built in 1895 with no expenses spared, the grand staircase and stained glass ceiling above were no exception for William Waldorf Astor, the richest man in the world at the time. Two Temple Place is free to visit during their annual exhibitions (usually January–April).


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5. Lloyds Law Court Branch, 222 Strand 

With interiors dating from late nineteenth century, this rather fancy bank branch was a failed restaurant (twice). It's still well worth popping into though, especially for the sumptuous lobby covered with Royal Doulton tiles and the ornamental fountains at each end. It also shares a history with Twinings Tea next door, when the family thought they'd try their hand at banking, but eventually decided to stick with tea and coffee.


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6. St Mary Aldermary, Watling Street EC4M 

The inside of this church is so lavish it's usually only seen in cathedrals. It's the only parish church in England to have such impressive fan vaulting, a gothic style where the rib-like lines of the ceiling spread out like a white fan. There's also a coffee shop inside to boot.


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7. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, NW10

Constructed between 1992 to 1995, Neasden Temple is the first traditional Hindu Mandir in Europe. Built according to the rules of tradition Mandir architecture, it's made of 26,300 separate stone blocks, each carved in India creating a self-load-bearing building with no iron or steel supports.

8. Royal Courts of Justice, Strand 

You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just walked into a church, but these are actually the high court and court of appeals. Built in the 1870s by George Edmund Street, he'd be happy for the comparison having worked on many cathedral designs including Bristol and Christ Church in Dublin. You can take a full tour on Open House Weekend, but also just pop in and sit in a courtroom during the week. 


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9. Tate Britain, SW1

Never mind the world-class collection of British Art, it's worth popping in to see the revamped Tate Britain updated by Caruso St John Architects in 2013. The showstopper is the domed glass rotunda and spiral staircase which hadn't been on show since the 1920s. Bonus fact: this site was originally Milbank Penitentiary, a prison and departure point for nineteenth-century criminals being sent to Australia.

10. Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC2A  

The buildings of Lincoln's Inn are usually only open for private events, but you can still soak up the atmosphere in the surrounding grounds. Have a wander below Inigo Jones' atmospheric seveteenth-century vaulted undercroft which sits directly below the chapel.


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11. St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook EC4N

One of the 52 churches rebuilt after the great fire, it's worth looking up at the 19-metre-high dome inside, based on Wren's original design for St Paul's Cathedral. This church's open, breezy space also makes it perfect for classical concerts.

12. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road SW7

  Considered a 'cathedral to nature' the Hintze Hall's ceiling is covered with 162 individual panels of flora and fauna.

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