Westminster Abbey was founded in AD960 as a Benedictine monastery. This was when most European Christians were Roman Catholic, but following the Reformation in the 16th century the Church of England was formed. Many traditions remain in the Abbey but services are conducted in English, and not Latin.
Westminster Abbey is the nation’s Coronation Church and also the burial and memorial place for historical figures from the last thousand years of British history.
Monday to Saturday: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 9.30am-4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm)
Wednesday: 9.30am-7.00pm (last admission 6.00pm)
Saturday: 9.00am-3.00pm (last admission 1.30pm)
On Sundays the Abbey is open for worship only.
Check official website for current opening times.
90 minute verger-led tours, in English only, are available to individuals for a small additional charge. Audio tours (English version narrated by Jeremy Irons) take around an hour and available in seven other languages: German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese. They are available at the Abbey’s Information Desk near the North Door.
Photography and filming (pictures and/or sound) of any kind is not allowed in any part of the Abbey at any time. Visitors can take pictures in the Cloisters and College Garden for personal use only. Postcards showing the interior of the Abbey are available to buy in the Abbey shop. The use of mobile phones is permitted in the Cloisters and College Garden. Keep mobile phones switched off within the Abbey church.
You can see inside Westminster Abbey for free. The Abbey never charges people who want to worship but they rely on admission fees from visitors to cover running costs. Evensong is the most beautiful of services where the Abbey choir sings. The Choristers of the Choir are educated at Westminster Abbey Choir School and are all extremely talented. Evensong is at 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, plus at 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
What To See
Top Tip: The Abbey staff are extremely knowledgeable and always willing to answer questions. I’ve learned much more from speaking to Abbey staff than from guidebooks.
Do try to see the various British royalty tombs and the Coronation Chair near the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, plus the additional Coronation paraphernalia in the Abbey Museum. Poet’s Corner has tombs and memorials for such well-known writers as Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence, and Alfred Lord Tennyson.
The Grave of the Unknown Warrior is a fascinating story of a body brought back from France after the First World War, along with 100 barrels of French soil to bury him. The black marble slab is from Belgium and the gold lettering was made from shell cases collected on the fields in France.
The only Congressional Medal of Honor given outside of the US was presented to the Unknown Warrior on 17 October 1921 and this hangs in a frame on a pillar nearby. College Garden is thought to be oldest garden in England at nearly 1,000 years old. Pick up a leaflet at the garden entrance to learn about the planting. College Garden is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Family Top Tip: Children can dress as a monk and have their photo taken in the Cloisters. Go to the Abbey Museum and ask to borrow a costume!
Where to Dine Locally
Opposite the Abbey is the Methodist Central Hall. There is a cafe in the basement which is nothing fancy (plastic chairs and vinyl tablecloths) but does serve decent hot and cold food at reasonable London prices. It’s a huge dining space and I’ve always found it a haven from the hustle and bustle of Parliament Square. The Supreme Court is opposite too and has a great cafe in the basement.