Take a Virtual Tour of Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries, and it often lands on lists of the top London attractions. It is an important historical London landmark as well as a religious Westminster Abbey tour destination. Read further to learn more about everything that you can see on your visit to Westminster Abbey.
Why Go on a Westminster Abbey Tour?
It seems a pretty straightforward question to ask but the truth about Westminster Abbey is that it's not as simple as it may seem. There must be a reason why it is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving up to 5 million visitors a year. There are many things that set this site apart from others and seeing them firsthand is a must for any traveler.
The history and architecture of Westminster Abbey are two of the most important parts of the site and something that shouldn't be missed by anyone who visits. The outside itself contains some impressive architecture, featuring flying buttresses and large stone statues of kings throughout the ages. The inside of the Abbey is where you get to see what makes this building truly unique. The Westminster Abbey contains not only William Shakespeare's grave, but also the graves of Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens.
For now, read on to take a virtual tour of the magnificent Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey Tour
The Great West Door
The Great West Door of Westminster Abbey is often the 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.
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 has been sitting 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.
As you keep walking ahead, you 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.
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.
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.
After King Edward was canonized in 1161, anyone that visited this Shrine was taken care of by the monks. The monks may not reside here today, but the Shrine is still a site of pilgrimage for anyone who wants to offer their prayers.
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.
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.
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 Tour of Westminster Abbey?
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.
Combo (Save 5%): Westminster Abbey + St. Pauls Cathedral Tickets
Combo: Westminster Abbey + Churchill War Rooms Tickets
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.
Frequently Asked Questions on Westminster Abbey Tour
A. Yes, Westminster Abbey is now open for tours with appropriate Covid-19 safety protocols in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
A. Westminster Abbey is filled with many riches from the past, we suggest that you give yourself at least 90 minutes to two hours to complete the tour of Westminster Abbey.
A. 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.