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Everything You Need to Know on a Westminster Abbey Tour

Westminster Abbey has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries, and it often lands up on lists of top London attractions. It is an important historical London landmark as well as a religious destination for many. Here is everything you need to know on your Westminster Abbey tour, including highlights, map and more on your visit.

Why take a guided tour to Westminster Abbey?

westminster abbey tour
  • Get insider knowledge: Engage with Westminster Abbey's expert guides on a guided tour to uncover deep insights into its storied history, architectural grandeur, and hidden gems often missed on self-guided visits.
  • Discover exclusive spaces: Guided tours grant access to areas typically closed to the public, including the sacred Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, revealing the Abbey's most revered and significant sites.
  • Maximize your visit: Guided tours efficiently navigate Westminster Abbey's intricate layout, ensuring that you experience all key highlights within the limited time available at this iconic landmark.
  • Better personal engagement: Guided tours at Westminster Abbey provide a personalized experience, allowing for interactive dialogue with the guide, ensuring a memorable and enriching exploration.

Guided tour vs Self-guided tour of Westminster Abbey

Guided tours

Expert Guidance: Tours are led by skilled tourist guides, offering profound insights into the Abbey's history and architecture.

Exclusive Access: Gain entry to otherwise restricted areas with detailed narratives on pivotal sites, including the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor.

Efficient Exploration: Structured tours are designed to guide you through the Abbey's expansive layout, ensuring all significant highlights are covered effectively.

Personalized Experience: These tours offer interactive opportunities for all to engage with guides, ask questions, and delve deeper into the rich tapestry of the Abbey's historical and cultural importance.

Self-Guided tour

  • Freedom to Explore: You are invited to traverse the Abbey at your leisure, dedicating time to areas that most captivate your interest.
  • Flexibility: This approach offers a spontaneous exploration experience, permitting you to dwell longer in favored spots or swiftly navigate to other places as desired.
  • Personal Reflection: The serene ambiance of the Abbey encourages a space for individual reflection and contemplation amidst its hallowed halls.
  • Cost-Effective: An optimal choice for those seeking a budget-conscious visit, this option supports independent discovery of the Abbey's rich heritage.

Westminster Abbey tour highlights

westminster abbey tour

The Great West Door

The Great West Door of Westminster Abbey is often a focal point of Westminster Abbey tours due to its beautiful carvings. The words "Sancta Maria" are written on either side of it in Latin, which means "Holy Mary". Above the door, you can see the 10 statues of Modern Martyrs who sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. 

The West Towers are located on either side of the door. The belfry in the Northwest tower is where all the bells of Westminster Abbey are located. Right across the door on the opposite side, you can see the Crimea Memorial. As you enter through the Great West Door, you reach the nave of the abbey.

westminster abbey nave

The Nave

This is the first part of Westminster Abbey that you will see as you enter it. After the death of Henry III, the old nave of the abbey remained attached to the new building for centuries until it was completed in 1517. On your right is the Coronation Chair that every monarch sat on during their crowning since 1308. A few steps ahead is the Grave of the Unknown Warrior which commemorates the contribution of many warriors in the First World War. As you walk further ahead, you can see the memorial for Sir Isaac Newton, which records some of his revolutionary discoveries and theories. You can also see some graves and floor stone memorials on the floor. 

westminster abbey high altar

The Crossing

Next up, you will enter the crossing of the abbey. Right ahead is the High Altar where all the British Coronations take place. There are chairs on the right side and on the left side is where the Royal Weddings take place, which goes on towards the North Transept. 

As you look up above the High Altar, you can see the Triforium where the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries are situated. Right beneath the High Altar is the Cosmati Pavement that is said to predict the end of the world. 

westminster abbey north door

The North Transept

The North Transept leads you to the North Door of Westminster Abbey. Here, the remains of Prime Minister William Pitt were buried in 1778, and ever since, the North Transept has also been known as the Statesmen’s Aisle. 

If you were to exit the abbey from the North Door, you would see St. Margaret’s Church right ahead of you. Dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch, this smaller church was constructed right next to the abbey for people to attend mass. This way, the abbey monks would remain undisturbed during their prayers within the abbey. 

westminster abbey edward the confessor's shrine

Chapel of Saint Edward

To the left of the Crossing and before the Statesmen’s Aisle, you can find an aisle to your right that leads you to the Chapel of Saint Edward. As you climb up the stairs within, you can see the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor. King Henry III built the Chapel of St Edward and the Shrine within to pay his respects to the saintly Edward the Confessor. You can see the tombs of many other monarchs that came after Edward, including King Henry III himself. The monks may not reside here today, but the Shrine is still a site of pilgrimage for anyone who wants to offer their prayers. 

elizabeth I westminster abbey

Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I

As you exit down the stairs from the Shrine of St Edward and take a right, you can head straight towards the hind sections of Westminster Abbey. Right at the entrance to the Lady Chapel, you can see a sign on the left that leads you to the tombs of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I. Both Queens are buried here together in a single tomb. 

After the dissolution of the monasteries, Queen Mary I turned Westminster Abbey into an Anglican Church. However, Queen Elizabeth changed this once again in 1560 and the abbey was given the name of a Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster. 

Their joint tomb only has the effigy of Queen Elizabeth I. 

westminster abbey queen mary
henry vii chapel westminster abbey tour
westminster abbey poets' corner
westminster abbey chapter house

Chapter House

As you head back towards the Nave, right next to Poets’ Corner, there is an alley to your left that leads you to the Cloisters. The Cloisters are connected to the Chapter House and the Pyx Chamber as well. 

The Chapter House is located in the East Cloister and this is where the monks of the abbey ‘hold chapter’. The abbey monks come here to pray, to read and to discuss businesses for the day. The Chapter House was a part of Henry III’s rebuilding of the abbey and was most likely completed in 1255.

westminster abbey pyx chamber

Pyx Chamber

The Pyx Chamber can be found right next to the Chapter House. This is the oldest surviving room of the abbey where you can find elements of architecture used in King Edward the Confessor’s building of the abbey that existed before Henry III rebuilt it. This room was probably used as a sacristy during Henry III’s reconstruction. The floor still has a few tiles that date back to the 11th century. The Pyx Chamber gets its name from “Trial of Pyx”, a trial of melting down measured silver coins to check if they were pure. The stone table that was used to melt these silver coins still exists in the chamber. 

How to take a Westminster Abbey tour? 

Westminster Abbey welcomes anyone who wants to offer or attend a service for free. However, if you want to take a tour of the building, you will have to buy the tickets for the same. Westminster Abbey is a working church and it’s possible that the abbey itself or some regions within will be closed on certain occasions. To make sure that you gain entry into the abbey, it is recommended that you book your tickets beforehand. Not only do you get to select the date and time slots for your entry, but you can also enjoy free cancellations if you decide to change your mind. 

Westminster Abbey Map

westminster abbey map

Westminster Abbey is an impressively large building. Spanning over 32,000 sq. ft., Westminster Abbey is an iconic landmark in London and one of the UK's most visited tourist attractions. Visitors to the abbey are greeted by its massive Gothic façade that looms over Parliament Square.

To make sure that you cover all the spots and don't get lost within the abbey, we recommend that you keep a map of the monument with you on your visit. You can simply download the map onto your phone and it will show you the best routes to cover the abbey.




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Frequently asked questions about Westminster Abbey tour

How can I take a tour of Westminster Abbey?

You will have to buy a ticket to take a tour of Westminster Abbey. Buy Westminster Abbey tickets online with ease and get instant confirmation. 

Where can I book Westminster Abbey tour tickets?

You can easily book Westminster Abbey tour tickets online here

How long does a Westminster Abbey tour take?

Westminster Abbey is filled with many riches from the past, we suggest that you give yourself at least two to three hours to complete the tour of Westminster Abbey. 

Can I take a tour of Westminster Abbey after I have offered my prayers?

You can enter Westminster Abbey for free if you want to offer your prayers. However, to be able to take a tour of the abbey afterward, you may still have to buy a ticket. Make sure to book your tickets online and beforehand to make sure that your visit goes smoothly. 

Are guided tours available every day?

Guided tours are available most days, but the schedule may vary due to special services and events.

Can children participate in guided tours?

Yes, children are welcome on Westminster Abbey guided tours, and family-friendly options are available to make the experience engaging for younger visitors.

Is photography allowed during guided tours?

Photography is restricted within certain areas of the Abbey during guided tours to preserve the sanctity and ensure the smooth conduct of the tour.

What should I wear for a guided tour of Westminster Abbey?

Comfortable walking shoes are recommended as considerable walking is involved, and respectful attire should be worn as the Abbey is a place of worship.