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St Paul’s Cathedral London vs Westminster Abbey

St Paul’s Cathedral vs Westminster Abbey – Which is better?

Asking which of the two—St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey—is better, is like asking a mother of two who her favorite child is!

These Anglican churches have endured their fair share of destruction and reconstruction, eventually becoming synonymous with the British identity and culture.

Today, they attract millions of visitors worldwide, and tourists often wonder which of these two places they should visit first.

In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between the Cathedral and Abbey to help you decide which warrants your attention first.

The best of both worlds

Tourists inside St. Paul's Cathedral

If you were to ask a Londoner, they would rank both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey among those attractions you wouldn’t want to miss when in the UK.

Westminster has more royalty associated with it; when you buy a Westminster Abbey entry ticket, it gives you access to the church and its Poet’s Corner, alcoves, and marble statues.

Westminster is also close to the city’s renowned attractions and spaces like Piccadilly Circus, House of Parliament, Big Ben, London Eye, etc. 

Naturally, you get to cover many more places of interest when you visit the Abbey.

But when it comes to viewing the London skyline and panoramic views of the city, St. Paul’s gains an upper hand.

When you buy a St. Paul’s Cathedral entry ticket, you get access to not just the Cathedral’s sprawling interiors, but also its crypt and magnificent dome—more on this later!

To sum up, our advice to you would be—don’t skip one of these Anglican architectural delights for the other. Visit them both and thank us later.

Time spent at each attraction

You need around two and a half hours to explore St Paul Cathedral’s main floor, crypt, and climb the dome. 

On the contrary, you need at least an hour and a half to two hours to explore Westminster Abbey.

This shows you need more or less the same amount of time at each attraction.

Nothing gets more British than a Paddington Bear Afternoon Tea Bus Tour open for kids of all ages, from two years to 93! The tour involves an iconic double-decker Routemaster bus and an audio and video guide narrated by none other than Paddington and Mrs. Bird. The highlight of this tour is the Paddington-themed afternoon tea featuring savories, cakes, and scones, and unlimited cups of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate as you ride past Paddington’s favorite landmarks such as the Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus, etc.

Distance between St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey

St Paul’s Cathedral is on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London. Westminster Abbey, on the other hand, is located in Dean’s Yard, near London’s House of Parliament building.

Both attractions are just a 14- to 15-minute car drive from each other. They are also well connected by underground tube and taxi services.

So whether you visit the Cathedral before the Abbey or vice versa, make sure you see both attractions as they unravel a world of their own.

Best time to visit St. Paul’s and Westminster

The best time to visit St Paul’s Cathedral is before noon on a weekday. To be precise, it is best to visit the Cathedral as soon as the morning prayer ends at 8.30 am.

If you are visiting Westminster Abbey, aim for the opening hours, i.e., 9.30 am. You can also opt for a late evening Wednesday tour to explore the Abbey unhindered from 4.30 pm to 6 pm.

St. Paul’s and Westminster tickets – what they each offer 

Westminster-Abbey-in-London-with-snow

St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most visited attractions in the UK—meaning it’s always crowded.

Therefore, when you buy a St Paul’s Cathedral Fast-Entry Ticket online in advance, you can skip the long lines at the ticketing counter.

These tickets cost £20 for visitors between 18 and 64 years, £9 for children between six and 17 years, and £18 for students and senior citizens aged 65+ years.

With this ticket, you can walk right in and explore the Cathedral’s huge floor, the Crypt below, and go up the Dome’s galleries too.

Tickets to Westminster Abbey, on the other hand, cost a tad more than St. Paul’s—£29 for adults (17-64 years), £13 for children (6-16 years), and £26 for students and senior citizens (65+ years). 

One similarity between St. Paul’s and Westminster is that infants up to five years can enter for free.

A major distinction between these two tickets—apart from cost, is that the Westminster ticket includes a guided tour, while the St. Paul’s ticket allows you access only to a multimedia guide.

One area where St. Paul’s Cathedral trumps Westminster Abbey in terms of better value and a bang for your buck is its Dome—and those three gorgeous galleries up there.

Again, in terms of sheer magnitude and presence, nothing can beat the magnificence and imposing tombs of those interred at the Crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

That being said, we would still recommend you visit both attractions and in order to save you some valuable time, you could opt for either the London iVenture Pass or London Explorer Pass.

These passes allow you to visit not just the Cathedral and Abbey, but many other attractions in London too. 

History, style, and architecture

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey share several striking similarities.

First and foremost, they are shaped like a cross. 

Both have witnessed key moments in British history—from royal coronations and weddings to state funerals and national commemorations. 

In terms of age, Westminster trumps St. Paul’s for being the older of the two. 

Once a Benedictine monastery, Westminster is more than a millennia old and houses Britain’s oldest door, built in 1050.

In comparison, St. Paul’s started as a small 7th century church, and the Cathedral you see today was built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1710.

What sets them apart are their building styles: Westminster is a Gothic structure, while St. Paul’s has a distinct Baroque style to it.

In terms of sheer magnificence and grandeur, nothing beats St. Paul’s and its Dome with the Cathedral being taller and lengthier than the Abbey—You have to be there to see it!

Want to make the best of your trip to the cathedral and other nearby attractions? We recommend the St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London & River Cruise ticket that whisks you around London’s iconic landmarks and a cruise along the Thames. Another equally interesting ticket is the Welcome to London Tour ticket; it includes a live English tour guide who takes you through significant landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben.

The Interiors of the Cathedral and Abbey

Interior of the Westminster Abbey, London

If you like white marble edifices, head to St. Paul’s. 

If you’re looking for a more traditional church feel, Westminster will surely delight you with its wooden, brown and golden interiors, marble statues, alcoves, etc.

When it comes to British history, Westminster has the better sway: it houses the tombs of royalty, scientists, poets, and the who’s who of England.

But that doesn’t mean St. Paul’s Cathedral is any less. This is the only Cathedral in the world with a full-length crypt below it.

And then there’s the Cathedral’s Dome that reminds one of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. In fact, St. Paul’s has a very Vatican feel to it.

St. Paul’s Dome

St. Paul’s Cathedral at Dusk

The easiest way to access the Dome is when you buy the St Paul’s Cathedral Fast-Entry Ticket.

If your destination is the galleries, remember you need to climb 528 steps to reach the top-most part of the Dome, the Golden Gallery.

The very first Dome gallery you’ll encounter at 250 steps is the Whispering Gallery. This masterpiece by Sir Christopher Wren is renowned for being an acoustic phenomenon and speaks volumes about Wren’s architectural ingenuity.

If you climb another 128 steps above (378 steps from the Cathedral floor), you’ll reach the Dome’s Stone Gallery—an outdoor observation deck encircling the exterior of St. Paul’s Cathedral Dome.

This is where all the panorama shutterbugs gather; from here, you can view the River Thames, Tower Bridge, and the London Eye. 

The Golden Gallery, though being the smallest gallery among the three, puts you at the highest point of the outer Dome. The view from here is magical, with London’s skyline looking as grand and beautiful as it can be. 

Royal weddings and funerals 

This is one area where Westminster emerges as a clear winner. In fact, if you are interested in royal history, all roads lead to the Abbey!

And it’s not just coronations we are talking about; Westminster has hosted a whopping 17 royal weddings! The first royal wedding to occur here was that of Henry I and Princess Matilda of Scotland in 1100.

Similarly, when it comes to coronations, William the Conqueror was the first to be crowned king in Westminster in 1066. King Charles’ coronation on 6th May 2023 was the latest royal ceremony to be held at the Abbey. 

Though St. Paul’s Cathedral hasn’t seen many high-profile weddings like those witnessed at Westminster, it did host the ‘wedding of the century’. On July 29, 1981, nearly 750 million people watched Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s marriage unfold like a fairytale.

When it comes to burials and funerals, Westminster again has the numbers in its favor; Close to 3,300 of England’s best have been buried or honored at the Abbey.

Are you up for some adventure? Buy the London Outdoor Escape Game: The Great Fire ticket and follow the path of the 1666 Great Fire of London that razed some of the city’s most iconic attractions to ashes. Unlock clues and solve puzzles on your phone while reenacting the story of amateur fireman Gregory Grail on this self-guided tour.

Source
# Stpauls.co.uk
# Wikipedia.org
# Britannica.com
# Tripadvisor.com

The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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