For centuries this has been one of London’s most iconic buildings, and it remains a breathtaking structure, inside and out. Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece, was started in 1675 and took 35 years to build. It was actually Wren's third design; the Trophy Room has his 20-foot "Great Model" of design No. 2, rejected for being too "Italian" (in other words, Catholic). Indeed, it's thanks only to Wren's spectacular architectural off-roading that the iconic dome of St. Paul's exists at all, given that the approved plans featured a steeple instead. In the crypt is Wren's famous and succinct epitaph, which his son composed and had set into the pavement: "Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice" ("Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you").
Up 163 spiral steps is the Whispering Gallery, with its incredible acoustic phenomenon: you whisper something to the wall on one side, and a second later it transmits clearly to the other side, 107 feet away. Ascend to the Stone
Gallery, which encircles the base of the dome. Farther up (280 feet from ground level) is the small Golden Gallery, the dome's highest point. From both these galleries (if you have a head for heights) you can walk outside for a spectacular panorama of London. The remains of the poet John Donne, who was Dean of St. Paul's for his final 10 years (he died in 1631), are in the south choir aisle. The vivacious choir-stall carvings nearby are the work of Grinling Gibbons, as are those on the great organ, which Wren designed. Behind the high altar is the American Memorial Chapel, dedicated to the 28,000 GIs stationed in the United Kingdom who lost their lives in World War II. Among the famous figures whose remains lie in the Crypt are the Duke of Wellington; and, Admiral Lord Nelson.
Free, 20-minute introductory talks happen all day. Free 90-minute guided tours take place Monday–Saturday at 10, 11, 1, and 2; reserve a place at the welcome desk as you arrive. A tour of the Triforium (upper galleries) can be taken on Tuesday and Friday at 2, but you have to book at least two working days in advance; call or see the website for details. Save £2.50 per ticket and get fast-track entry by booking online.