Westminster Abbey is one of the most important religious buildings in the United Kingdom is the traditional site for coronations and burials of English and British monarchs.
Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 and it has been the site of every English and British coronation since William the Conqueror was crowned here in 1066. There have been 16 royal weddings here since 1100, although more than half of these occurred within the past 100 years.
As well as being an important venue for coronations and royal weddings, Westminster Cathedral is the burial site for many British monarchs and many of Britain’s most notable politicians, scientists and writers are buried here including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, William Pitt and William Wilberforce. In all, there are over 450 tombs and memorials in the Abbey.
Although Westminster Abbey has stood on this site for almost a thousand years, much of the present church dates from the 13th century when St Peter’s Abbey (built by King Edward the Confessor) was replaced by a larger Gothic church commissioned by King Henry III and the two towers at the western end of Westminster Abbey were added in the 18th century.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries is a new museum in the 13th-century eastern triforium above the abbey floor that displays an eclectic collection of the abbey’s most important artefacts. This includes several effigies of medieval kings, the 650-year-old Liber Regalis (the coronation rule book), Mary II’s coronation chair and a replica of the Crown Jewels.
Visiting Westminster Abbey
Entry is free with a London Pass or if you’re attending a daily church service (in which case you should enter via the West Gate). Fast-track entry is available for holders of the London Pass and also to visitors who book their tickets online. Entry is cheaper on Wednesday evenings 4.30pm–6pm, although some areas are not accessible at this time.
Verger guided tours cost an additional £5. These 90-minute guided tours include The Shrine (with St Edward the Confessor’s tomb), the Royal Tombs, Poet’s Corner (where many of Britain’s leading writers are buried), the Cloisters and the Nave.
It is advisable to allow a little extra time for security checks that are in place for visitors to Westminster Abbey.
Wheelchair access is available via the North Door. Because not all areas of the Abbey are accessible to visitors with wheelchairs, there is no admission charge for wheelchair-bound visitors and their carers.
Braille visitor guides and a touch tour are available to visually impaired visitors.