Tourist Information Guide

Visitor's Guide To Westminster Cathedral in London

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Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
You could be forgiven for missing Westminster cathedral. It is nestled away between shops and cafes on a wide street leading away from the Houses of Parliament. But when you do find it, you'll be glad you made the effort. Designed in the 'Byzantine' style, the building looks vaguely exotic, with multiple domes and spherical towers. The bricks are striped in terracotta and white, like a childhood fantasy of a cake-like Princess' tower. Step inside and, if you're lucky you'll hear the haunting dulcet tones of the cathedral's resident choir. Either way, you'll find a relaxed sanctum, away from the bustle and noises of the city. Three darkly coloured domes lead down to the ornate alter the stands at the end of the long and narrow room. Distinctive chandeliers punctuate the ceiling.

tip It is important to distinguish between Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey sits less than five minutes' walk from the cathedral, and it is the larger of the two buildings. Westminster Abbey gained extra international notoriety recently as the place where Prince William chose to marry Kate.

On this page you will find an overview to Westminster Cathedral along with a description of what it is like to visit there. We provide you with practical details on ticketing and tours, photographs, advice on where to eat close to the cathedral, location details, contact details and opening times.

The interior of Westminster Cathedral
The interior of Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Cathedral overview

Westminster Cathedral was first opened in 1903. The land was acquired in 1884 by Cardinal Manning - it is a space that was formerly occupied by Tothill Fields Bridewell Prison. John Francis Bentley was the architect who designed the building. In 1977, as part of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Church. This was a symbolic moment as it was the first time that a British monarch had visited a Catholic church since the Reformation (a historical period when the Church of England broke away from the Catholic Church).

Westminster Cathedral is a relatively small place of worship compared to the likes of Saint Paul's Cathedral. It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral that sits modestly back from the main road that runs through the City of Westminster.

The Cathedral should not be confused with Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is the place in which Prince William and Kate got married. It is a larger building that sits opposite the Houses of Parliament. It is about ten minutes' walk from Westminster Cathedral.

Westminster Cathedral is home to the Westminster Cathedral Choir - they are a professional residential choir who sing every day at Mass in the church. It is free to watch the choir sing as it is part of the mass. The mass times can vary, so it is best to check the Official Westminster Cathedral website Music page, but the choir tend to sing at the mass at the end of the day during the week and at masses throughout the day on Sundays.

Choir Performance
Start time: 17:30

If you are a Catholic and you are on holiday in search of Mass, Westminster Cathedral offers a city centre option. It is what is known as the UK's 'mother church' for the Catholic community. It is considered to be the main Catholic Church in the UK. All are welcome at the masses and the mass times can be found on the Official Westminster Cathedral website.

The Westminster Cathedral experience

Westminster Cathedral is not as much of a tourist destination as Saint Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. This means that there are no guided tours of the cathedral. However, on the plus side, it means that you do not have to pay to enter and come and have a look around. Also, there are some aspects to Westminster cathedral that you will not want to miss:

The Tower Viewing Gallery: Once you are inside Westminster Cathedral you can head up its tower to get views of London from 64 metres up. It will offer you the opportunity to get away from the hustle bustle of the city and see it from a distance. For details of what the viewing gallery has to offer and its opening times, see the Official Westminster Cathedral viewing gallery page.

Music: one of the things that Westminster Cathedral is famous for is the high standard of music that is produced in the cathedral. The Choir of Westminster Cathedral are internationally recognised as one of the best choirs in the whole world. They are famous for their daily celebrations of the Divine Office and Solemn Mass. You do not have to pay to see the choir perform, simply head to the church for one of the masses. You can also see other musical events such as organ recitals. To find out more about the musical events taking place, have a look at the Official Westminster Cathedral website music page.

Mass: You can attend service throughout the day every day of the year at Westminster Cathedral. Masses are open to the public and you do not need a ticket to enter the church for the service. To find out the exact times of the services at the cathedral and what each mass entails, see the Official Westminster Cathedral masses page.

tip It is important to remember that Westminster Cathedral is a place of worship. It is important to remember to treat the place with respect whilst you are there. Remember that you should not use your mobile phone whilst you are in there. You should also talk in hushed tones. If you are using a camera do not be too intrusive with it and do not use a flash. Also, ensure that you are wearing suitable clothing - no short skirts and cover your shoulders.

Entrance tickets

It is not necessary to book or buy tickets for Westminster cathedral. It is open to the public at all times and there is no entrance fee.

Opening times

See above for the times when masses are taking place at Westminster cathedral.

Contact details

Westminster Cathedral
42 Francis Street

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7798 9055
(Westminster Cathedral general enquiries)

Website: Westminster Cathedral Official Website

Closest tube stop

Westminster Cathedral's closest tube stop is Victoria. From the tube stop you can follow signs for the cathedral and you will reach it in about five to ten minutes.

Tube Tube: Victoria (Blue Line / Victoria Line and Yellow Line / Circle Line and Green Line / District Line)

On exiting Victoria's train station, head towards the road directly in front of you called Wilton Road. Once you are on Wilton Road head left down the street until you arrive at a big main road called Victoria Street. Turn right down Victoria Street and walk for about five minutes or less until you reach Westminster Cathedral. The whole walk should take you no more than ten minutes. And you will not find it difficult to get to the Cathedral as you will see street signs pointing you in the right direction.

Restaurants nearby

Unlike other cathedrals such as Saint Paul's Cathedral there is no café inside Westminster Cathedral. This means that if you are hungry whilst you are in the area, you will need to venture slightly further afield.

You will find that many of the traditional pubs in the area offer satisfying, affordable and well-made hot food. To find out more about the pubs in Westminster, check out our Guide to Bars in Westminster. If you fancy more of a café experience, you will simply need to leave the cathedral and in the surrounding streets you will find a plethora of options. To find out more about the restaurants and cafes in the area, see our Guide to Restaurants in Westminster.

Westminster Cathedral offers a spiritual experience whether you are religious or not. If you are a history aficionado or if you love architecture, the building and its interior will give you hours of interesting discoveries. If you love to listen to live music, Westminster Cathedral offers you the opportunity to do this for free on a daily basis. If you would like to attend a mass, you will be welcomed to the services here on a daily basis.

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