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Everything You Need to Know About Westminster Abbey

Whether you’re planning a visit, researching, or just curious about this amazing church, we have everything you need to know about Westminster Abbey.

Browse the list of questions we hear most often on our London tours and impress people with your knowledge; we won’t spill the beans about where you found out!

If you enjoy reading about this famous Royal Church, we’re sure you’d love one of our private Westminster Abbey Tours, led by a professional Blue Badge Tour Guide.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about visiting the Abbey on a guided tour.

the towers of westminster abbey against a blue sky

First, what is Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey is perhaps the most famous church in the UK noted for its royal weddings, coronations, and burials.

With a long and varied history, the Abbey has functioned as a working religious site for nearly 1000 years. What began as Benedictine Monastery, has become one of the most popular London attractions.

If this brief history has whet your appetite, check out our Westminster Abbey podcast to learn more!

Info for Planning a Visit to Westminster Abbey

The Houses of Parliament with Westminster Abbey in the background

Are you allowed to visit Westminster Abbey?

The Abbey is open to visitors Monday to Saturday, outside of religious events and holidays, like Easter and Christmas. During these religious events, the Abbey is only open to those who wish to worship, but it is free to do so. 

Is it free to visit Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey is a working church and there is never a charge to enter for worship. The services, including Evensong, which is popular with tourists, are also free to attend. Tourist entry prices are: Adults £18, Children £7, Members of the Abbey – free. Find out more about Westminster Abbey Tickets.

How long does the Evensong last at Westminster Abbey?

The Evensong service lasts about 45 minutes. We would recommend arriving at the West Door of Westminster Abbey about half an hour before the service starts to join the queue of worshipers. This service is free to attend.

Can you take pictures at Westminster Abbey?

Yes, visitors may take personal photographs whilst in Westminster Abbey. Please don’t use flash, selfie sticks, or tripods. You cannot take video recordings. During services, you cannot take photos.

How long do you need at Westminster Abbey?

When visiting as part of our Westminster Abbey Tour, we spend around 90 minutes in the Church. You don’t have to join a tour; you can opt to use the audio guide or stroll through at your own pace. We would recommend planning at least an hour to enjoy the Abbey, as there’s so much to see.

Is there a dress code for Westminster Abbey?

There is no defined dress code when visiting Westminster Abbey. However, visitors are asked to dress in a “respectful manner”. It is worth bearing in mind that it gets quite cold inside the Abbey during winter. 

Are there toilets at Westminster Abbey?

Yes, there are toilets at Westminster Abbey. Located in the Cloisters, they are clearly marked on the map provided to visitors when purchasing entrance tickets. 

westminster abbey cloisters

How much does it cost to tour Westminster Abbey

Find the price of Westminster Abbey admission below

  • Adults: £18
  • Children: £7
  • Members of The Abbey Association: Free

Can I visit Westminster Abbey for private prayer?

Absolutely, you are welcome to visit for private prayer and there is no charge.

Enter through the West door and ask for directions from the Abbey staff.

General Queries About Westminster Abbey

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Where in London is Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey, formally known as the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is located in the City (Borough) of Westminster in central London.

Situated on the west side of Parliament square. You will find the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace are within walking distance. It’s definitely worth adding it to your London itinerary

Check out our blog offering a sample London itinerary if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the options.

Is Westminster Abbey worth seeing?

A visit to Westminster Abbey is a must for anybody with an interest in history and/or royalty.

It is also one of the main London attractions and should be on the itinerary of every first-time visitor to London.

We’ve prepared a list of other “Must-See London attractions” so you don’t miss out!

Is Westminster Abbey included in the London Pass?

Yes, Westminster Abbey is included in the London Pass. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in London, so it’s a great place to visit with your London Pass.

If you’re curious about the London Pass take a look at our London Pass- Is it worth it article.

What are the top things to see at Westminster Abbey?

There are so many incredible things to see at Westminster Abbey, but here are the top highlights we recommend all tourists explore:

  • Coronation Chair
  • Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
  • The Cosmati Pavement at the High Altar
  • Tomb of Elizabeth I
  • Henry VII Lady Chapel
  • Poets’ Corner
  • Cloisters
  • The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries
Westminster Abbey North Door

What is the difference between an Abbey and a Cathedral?

An abbey usually has a monastic background, with an abbot in the leading role (Westminster Abbey was originally home to Benedictine monks). A cathedral is a grand church led by a bishop.

Interestingly, London has its famous Westminster Abbey as well as a Westminster Cathedral, which is located near Victoria Train Station.

What is the difference between Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul’s Cathedral?

Westminster Abbey started as a monastery and has always been linked with Royalty. It is a “Royal Peculiar,” meaning it’s under the jurisdiction of the monarch. St Paul’s Cathedral, on the other hand, is the principal church of the diocese of London, with a bishop and a dean leading the church. 

Of course, we think both are worth visiting!

Take a look at our St Paul’s Cathedral Tour for more details on this extraordinary London landmark.

Can anyone get married at Westminster abbey?

Only a very small group of people may celebrate weddings at Westminster Abbey:

  • Members of the Royal Family
  • Members of the Order of Bath
  • Residents of the Abbey precinct

The most recent Royal wedding was that of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

Parliament square with Westminster Abbey in the background

Is Westminster Palace the same place as Westminster Abbey?

No, these are two separate buildings, however, they are very close to each other. Westminster Palace is the old official residence of the Kings and Queens of England.

It’s situated next to Westminster Abbey, but it’s a separate building (it has its own church!). You may also know this building as the Houses of Parliament.

Is the lady chapel part of Westminster Abbey?

Yes, the Henry VII Lady Chapel, now more often known just as the “Lady Chapel”, is a large and impressive structure inside Westminster Abbey. Separated from other parts of this historic church with brass gates and stairs leading up to it in order for security purposes- so that only those who have been granted access may enter.

About the History of Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey tour with Let me show you London - view of stained glass windows with light streaming in

How old is Westminster Abbey?

The current church was consecrated in 1269. However, there was a monastery here from 960AD, so it has a long history as a religious site. Only small parts of the cloisters remain from the original building today. 

What is Westminster Abbey famous for?

Most recently, Westminster Abbey is famous for hosting the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton in 2011.

It is also the venue for Royal Coronations, including that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and for the burials of notable people throughout British history.

What are some lesser-known facts about Westminster Abbey?

-During WW2, some effigies and other treasured artefacts were stored in Piccadilly Tube Station, to ensure their safety during air raids.

-The cloisters contain a simple wooden door, which is actually the oldest door in the country, dating back to the 1050s.

-Visit the Henry VII Lady Chapel to find a statue of Saint Wilgefortis, the bearded lady. She didn’t wish to marry and prayed to become unattractive. Overnight, she grew a beard and her fiancé called off their engagement. A dubious miracle?!

-Whilst in the Lady Chapel, check out the damage to the walls, dating back to WW2!

-Oliver Cromwell was originally buried at Westminster Abbey. However, his body was exhumed several years later. He was posthumously executed by hanging and then beheaded. His head was kept on a spike near the Houses of Parliament as a warning.

-Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most celebrated civil rights leaders in American history. His statue can be seen above the West door, in the Modern Martyrs collection.

Martin Luther King Jr on the Modern Martyrs statue at Westminster abbey west front

Is Westminster Abbey Catholic or Protestant?

What started as a Catholic Monastery converted to the Church of England denomination (Protestant) during the Reformation of the 16th Century. Today, it describes itself as a working and inclusive church celebrating the Christian faith. 

Questions About Who is Buried at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey tour with Let me show you London - Skyline of Westminster Abbey with detailed towers and facade

Who is buried at Westminster Abbey?

Many famous Britons, both Royalty and not, are buried at Westminster Abbey. In total, there are around 3,300 tombs scattered across the church.

Some names you might recognise include:

  • Charles Dickens
  • Issac Newton
  • Elizabeth I
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Georg Fredric Handel

Who is buried standing up in Westminster Abbey?

Ben Johnson, the poet, playwright, and actor, is the only person buried in an upright position. The story goes that he couldn’t afford the space required for a regular horizontal grave, so the Dean at that time agreed to him being buried standing up. 

Will Queen Elizabeth II be buried at Westminster Abbey?

There are plans in place for Her Majesty’s future funeral arrangements, all under the name “London Bridge”.

One scenario would see the funeral held at Westminster Abbey, with the body then being moved to Windsor Castle. A burial spot is reserved in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for Queen Elizabeth II.

Is Mary Queen of Scots buried at Westminister Abbey?

Yes, Mary Queen of Scots is buried at the Westminister Abbey. Her remains were moved from Peterborough Cathedral to Westminster Abbey in 1612 on the order of James I.

Her tomb can be found in the South Aisle of the Lady Chapel, opposite her cousin Elizabeth I.

Abbey Exterior

How are bodies buried in Westminster Abbey?

Very few bodies are in individual memorials/tombs in Westminster Abbey; some, however, do lie directly under them.

There are communal vaults below the church and most bodies rest in peace in there. In some cases, bodies were cremated and the ashes placed in the tomb.

Is William Shakespeare buried in Westminster Abbey?

William Shakespeare has a life-size marble memorial within the walls of Westminster Abbey in Poets’ Corner. However, he is actually buried in his home town of Stratford upon Avon, at the local Holy Trinity Church.

How many people are buried in Westminster Abbey?

There are some 3,300 people buried within the walls of Westminster Abbey. These tombs are scattered around the church as well as beneath the floor of the Abbey.

As you might imagine, there is limited space remaining for burials, the most recent burial was that of renowned scientist Steven Hawking.

Westminster Abbey close-up of the exterior

We hope this answered all of your questions so now you have everything you need to know about Westminster Abbey! When you’re ready to visit, we would love to show you around. Feel free to peruse our London Tours to plan your journey in the city.

If you have any more questions about the Abbey, feel free to contact us.

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