Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,with a rich history spanning back 700 years, there’s plenty to learn about in Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey sees over one million visitors per year.
There has been a religious building on this site since around 1050, when Benedictine Monks travelled to this spot and set up a site of spiritual significance. The first coronation on site was of William the Conqueror in 1066, and Westminster Abbey as we see it today was built between 1245 and 1272 – with the oldest part dating from 1245.
One of the first people to be buried in Westminster Abbey was Edward the Confessor; a king who oversaw the construction of the Abbey. He began the trend of kings and queens being buried in the Abbey – most monarchs were laid to rest there until George II. It now contains the graves of 17 monarchs – kings and queens include Elizabeth I, Edward V and one of Henry VIII’s wives – Anne of Cleves. However, Henry VIII is the only Tudor monarch not laid to rest in the Abbey.
Over 3,300 people have been buried in the Abbey – and some who have wished to be placed elsewhere are commemorated with a plaque. Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are just some of the scientists laid to rest within these walls – and Poet’s Corner has gravesites of notable literary characters such as Charles Dickens, Robert Burns, T.S. Eliot and John Keats.
When visiting Westminster Abbey, spend some time browsing the memorials, try to find your favourite character and learn a little more about some of the most integral people in Britain’s past. One of the most famous is the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Warrior’. It contains an unidentified British soldier who was killed in the First World War. He was laid to rest in the Abbey on 11 November 1920 – and his grave serves to represent all the anonymous fatalities of World War II.
One of the other main attractions is the Coronation Chair. Decorated with birds, foliage and animal patterns, as well as a design of a king, it is the oldest piece of furniture in the country that is still used for its original purpose. It entered the Abbey in 1296 and has been used for coronations since at least 1399. It has been part of 48 coronation ceremonies at the Abbey. In WWII during the Blitz, the chair was evacuated to Gloucester Cathedral to keep it safe. But it was actually in the most peril in 1950 – when it was stolen! However, it was quickly restored to the Abbey in 1951.
The Coronation Chair wasn’t the only part of the Abbey that needed to be protected during the bombings of London in WWII. Some medieval tombs were removed, and ones that couldn’t be were protected with 60,000 sandbags. Luckily, the Abbey exited the war unscathed.
Although Westminster Abbey has a rich and ornate history, nowadays it is most well known as the venue for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding in 2011. This is far from the only thing to see in the Abbey, but visitors can see the exact spot where the two royals said ‘I do’.
The Abbey also has three gardens: named The Grath, The Little Cloister and College Garden – the latter which has been running for over 900 years. Other popular parts of the Abbey are the nave, quire, high altar, lady’s chapel, chapter house and the cloisters. Architecture fans will love to admire the building from inside and outside; when you do, look out for the organ, which was installed for King George VI’s coronation in 1937.
If you’re in need of a refreshment during your trip, visit Cellarium Café and Terrace which is open from 8am to 6pm and has been a part of the Abbey since the 14th Century – it used to be used to store monks’ food and drink!
Before you visit the Abbey, download the Westminster Abbey audio tour app, which is free and discusses some of the things that you will see whilst there. Audio guides are also provided at the Abbey. If you want something a bit more personal, how about attending a Verger tour? They begin at the North Door and show the best of the Abbey in 90 minutes. They cost £5.
The Abbey is sometimes open only for services. Anyone can attend and admission is free. However, if you want to browse the Abbey at your own leisure, you’ll need to visit outside of service hours. It costs £20 for adult online tickets (which are fast track) and £22 to purchase at the abbey. For children aged 6-16 years, tickets are £9 and free for those who are 0-5 years old. Family tickets are available; they cost £40 for 2 adults and 1 child and £45 for 2 adults and 2 children. On a Wednesday evening, entry to the Abbey is half price.
The Abbey is located next to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The nearest tube stations are Westminster – served by the Jubilee, District and Circle lines – and St James’ Park – served by the District and Circle lines. It is also situated near the overland stations of London Victoria and London Waterloo, being 0.8 miles from each.
Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.
Categories: Destinations - Europe