Fodor's Expert Review Westminster Abbey

Westminster Religious Building/Site/Shrine Fodor's Choice
Westminster Abbey, London, England

Steeped in hundreds of years of rich and occasionally bloody history, Westminster Abbey is one of England's most iconic buildings. An abbey has stood here since the 10th century, although the current building mostly dates to the 1240s. It has hosted 38 coronations—beginning in 1066 with William the Conqueror—and no fewer than 16 royal weddings, the latest being that of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. But be warned: there's only one way around the abbey, and it gets very crowded, so you’ll need to be alert to catch the highlights. The Coronation Chair, which you'll find in St. George's Chapel by the east door, has been used for nearly every coronation since Edward II’s in 1308, right up to Queen Elizabeth II’s in 1953. Farther along, the exquisite confection of the Henry VII's Lady Chapel is topped by a magnificent fan-vaulted ceiling. The tomb of Henry VII lies behind the altar. Elizabeth I is buried above her sister "Bloody" Mary I in the tomb in a chapel on the... READ MORE

Steeped in hundreds of years of rich and occasionally bloody history, Westminster Abbey is one of England's most iconic buildings. An abbey has stood here since the 10th century, although the current building mostly dates to the 1240s. It has hosted 38 coronations—beginning in 1066 with William the Conqueror—and no fewer than 16 royal weddings, the latest being that of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. But be warned: there's only one way around the abbey, and it gets very crowded, so you’ll need to be alert to catch the highlights. The Coronation Chair, which you'll find in St. George's Chapel by the east door, has been used for nearly every coronation since Edward II’s in 1308, right up to Queen Elizabeth II’s in 1953. Farther along, the exquisite confection of the Henry VII's Lady Chapel is topped by a magnificent fan-vaulted ceiling. The tomb of Henry VII lies behind the altar. Elizabeth I is buried above her sister "Bloody" Mary I in the tomb in a chapel on the north side, while her arch enemy, Mary Queen of Scots, rests in the tomb to the south. The Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor contains the shrine of the pre-Norman king, who reigned from 1042 to 1066. Because of its great age, you must join the verger-guided tours to be admitted to the chapel (£7; book at the admission desk). To the left, you'll find Poets' Corner. Geoffrey Chaucer was the first poet to be buried here, and other statues and memorials include those to William Shakespeare, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, and Oscar Wilde. The medieval Chapter House is adorned with 14th-century frescoes and a magnificent 13th-century tiled floor, one of the finest in the country. Near the entrance is Britain's oldest door, dating from the 1050s. If you walk toward the West Entrance, you'll see a plaque to Franklin D. Roosevelt—one of the abbey's very few tributes to a foreigner. The poppy-wreathed Grave of the Unknown Warrior commemorates soldiers who lost their lives in both world wars. With a separate timed ticket (£5), you can visit the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries located 52 feet above the Abbey floor; it's worth it for the views onto the Abbey's interior below alone, but it also gets you access to a remarkable collection of historical objects that tell the story of the building, including its construction and relationship to the monarchy. Exact hours for the various parts of the abbey are frustratingly long and complicated, and can change daily, so it's important to check before setting out, particularly if you're visiting early or late in the day, or off-season. The full schedule is posted online daily (or you can call). Certain areas of the abbey are completely inaccessible to wheelchair users; however, you will get free entry for yourself and one other.

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Quick Facts

Broad Sanctuary
London, Greater London  SW1P 3PA, England

020-7222–5152

www.westminster-abbey.org

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: £20; audio tour free, £22, Closed Sun., except for worship

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