Westminster Abbey has presided over the biggest events in the lives of the British Royal Family for nearly one thousand years. Here’s how to plan the perfect trip to the historic church, including information on tickets, tours and opening hours.
Many of Britain’s top sights can be found in Westminster, London, and its surrounding streets. Here, you’ll find 10 Downing Street, home of the British Prime Minister, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence. Westminster is also home to the charming Gothic architecture of Westminster Abbey, where the biggest moments in the lives of many a king and queen, from coronations and marriages, to funerals, have taken place for almost 1,000 years.
A church was first logged here in the year 960, although the current Westminster Abbey building was started circa 1042 under Edward the Confessor, who reportedly wanted a lovely, peaceful place to die. The original church served mainly as a monastery until the Reformation, where it briefly became a cathedral, until Elizabeth I decided it’d be best demoted to the title of Royal Peculiar, i.e., a religious building under the command of the monarch rather than the diocese. After all, the Tudors didn’t exactly take kindly to the idea of God being above them.
Throughout it all, the church has been a central part of the biggest moments in every reign: All but two monarchs of the country since 1066 (starting with William the Conqueror) have been crowned at Westminster Abbey, and many high-profile weddings and funerals also take place here, including that of Kate Middleton and Prince William.
Beneath the famed church’s grounds, and within its transepts and cloisters, are contained the remains of some of the most celebrated Britons to ever have lived. Currently, 17 former monarchs of England and Britain are buried at Westminster Abbey, including Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II and Edward the Confessor. Perhaps more notably still, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Geoffrey Chaucer, Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens are among the many notable individuals laid to rest here.
Visitors can explore many parts of Westminster Abbey either on their own, with an audio guide (which is read by the Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons), or as part of a guided tour. Given that there is so much to see – including Poet’s Corner, where many a revered British writer, playwright and poet, including Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, is either buried or memorialised – a guide is the best way to make sure you won’t miss the significance of small details in this storied, old building.
Read on for important visiting and ticketing information to help you plan your trip.
Hours, Directions & Parking
Hours: Westminster Abbey is a working church and priority is given to worshippers at services (times vary) and individual prayer (entry via the Great West Door) from 10:30am–1pm on Mon–Sat. At the time of writing, Westminster Abbey opens to the general public four days a week on Mon, Tue and Fri from 9:30am–3:30pm, and on Sat from 9am–1pm.
All the times listed above are liable to change at fairly short notice, so please double-check them in advance of your trip. The church is closed to the public during any and all major events, which can include royal weddings, funerals and other key events. Allow at least 90 minutes to properly explore the church during your visit.
Directions & Parking: Westminster Abbey is in Westminster, in Central London, an area that is inadvisable to attempt to drive in, given the restrictions to traffic and parking in the area. If you have no other choice but to drive however, the best bet is to park at Victoria Station (£30 for 24 hours) and walk back towards the river. The abbey is unmissable and is located across the road from the Houses of Parliament.
Public Transport: Being located so centrally, there is fantastic public transport. London Underground – at Westminster Station (District, Circle and Jubilee lines) and St James’s Park Station (District and Circle lines) – brings passengers within a few minutes of Westminster Abbey. Buses 148 (to White City) and 211 (to Hammersmith) stop right outside the church. On nearby Parliament St, dozens of buses stop, including bus nos. 3, 11, 12, 87, 159 and 453.
Tickets & Tours
Tickets only: At the time of writing, tickets cost £18 per adult and £7 for children, although one child can enter for free with a paying adult. Multimedia guides cost an additional £5 to rent. Visiting clergy, UK armed forces personnel and residents of Westminster are granted free entry. You can book tickets directly online with Getyourguide.com, where you can also find more information about making cancellations, getting refunds and changing your dates.
A better option for anybody who will be spending more time exploring the other sights of London is to get the London Pass. This one-to-ten-day pass allows holders access to over 80 top sights in London for free, including Westminster Abbey. Other highlights include Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, the Tower of London, and the View from the Shard. Adult passes start at £54 for one day and £34 for children. A ten-day pass costs £134 per adult and £84 per child. Book the London Pass at Getyourguide.com
Tours: If you’d like to get some local expertise, look for something specific in Westminster Abbey, or combine a trip there with a wider tour of Westminster, a guided tour is a great way to go. These tours handle all the ticketing and timings so that you don’t have to, whilst providing knowledgeable guides. Here are two great tours that unlock Westminster Abbey in greater detail.
Inside Westminster Abbey Guided Tour – £57 per person – This tour offers a unique look at Westminster Abbey through the eyes of an experienced and knowledgeable guide. The tour starts early to ensure that you are one of the first people to enter, for that added layer of ambience and solitude. Your guide will lead you to all the main corners of the building, including the tombs of Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer, while recounting stories from key moments in the history of the abbey, such as the funeral of Princess Diana. This group tour (maximum 15 people) lasts for two hours and is currently available on Mon, Fri and Sat. Book at Getyourguide.com
Kid-friendly Westminster Abbey Private Sightseeing Tour – from £99 per person – Anybody travelling with a family might like to consider opting for a private tour of Westminster Abbey for their group. This tour with a Blue Badge Guide (officially certified by the British Guild of Tourist Guides) gives you a bespoke tour of Westminster Abbey, geared to entertaining the youngsters while informing the adults. You will also see many highlights of the wider Westminster area, including Big Ben, and St James’s Park, while listening to anecdotes along the way. This tour ends outside Buckingham Palace. The listed price is available for groups of six. The larger your group, the lower the price becomes. Book at Getyourguide.com