Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom and perhaps the most famous church in the country. Westminster Abbey is a mainly Gothic abbey church just across from the British houses of parliament and Big Ben. Here one can hear Big Ben chime every hour in the heart of London.

Another thing that makes Westminster Abbey so special is that is the traditional coronation site of the British kings and queens as well as the burial site for English and then British monarchs. Visiting Westminster Abbey is certainly one of the top things everyone should do when visiting London for the first time.

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Background of Westminster Abbey

Originally the Abbey was a Catholic Benedictine monastic church and then it was a catholic cathedral. But later the Anglican church split from the Catholic church under the reign of King Henry VIII and the Catholics were driven out. During the reign of the long-ruling Queen Elizabeth I, it was redesignated as the Church of England "Royal Peculiar" and was responsible to the English monarch directly.

While there may have been a much older church on the site found in the seventh century, the present church was built in 1245 by King Henry III. For those interested in medieval England, time one's trip to England with England's Medieval Festival In Sussex and see the past come to life.

Visting Westminister Abbey

Westminister Abbey is open to the public most days. But remember it is a living and working church and so some areas are closed off to the public at times and opening hours are reduced according to its schedule.

Opening Times: 

  • Monday To Friday: 9:30 am to 3:30 (Last Entry)
  • Saturday: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm (Last Entry)
  • Sunday: Open for Services

Admission Fee: Approx. £24 ($32) Per Adult (£10 Per Child 6-17) ($13)

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Verger Guided Tours

One can also enjoy a verger guided tour. With these tours, one can get to see special parts of the Abbey that one otherwise wouldn't be able to see. Attractions here include the Tomb of St. Edward the Confessor (which is not accessible to general visitors). One will also get to see the Poet's Corner, royal tombs, the Lady Chapel, and the nave.

The tours are limited to only 10 people were tour and they are only offered in English. While general admittance tickets to the Abbey can be purchased in advance online, the verge tour can only be booked on arrival at the Abbey. When booking tickets to the Abbey, try to book the entry slot 30 minutes before the tour is due to start.

  • Limited: Verger Tours Are Limited To Just 10 People
  • Times: Tours run At 11.00 am and 11.30 am Monday To Saturday
  • Cost: For A Verger Tour It is The Abbey Entry Price Plus £10

Group Tours Of The Abbey

There is also the option for private tour groups (as well as groups from schools or universities). These tours are welcomed up to 20 visitors and must be accompanied by a Blue Badge Tourist Guide.

Blue Badge Tourist Guides offer specialist, private tours in over 30 languages and charge an extra fee. Normally one books a Blue Badge Tourist Guide and then books tickets to the Abbey.

  • Languages: Blue Badge Tourist Guides Are Offered In Over 30 Languages

These can be booked through Guide London or the British Guild of Tourist Guides.

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Its Importance For Coronations and Burials

The English (and after the union of the English and Scottish crowns - British) tradition of coronating their monarchs here goes back a thousand years. The tradition began with William the Conqueror in 1066 in the older abbey on the site.

Before that, there was no fixed coronation site with Bath, Canterbury, Winchester, and Kingston-Upon-Thames being the sites of earlier coronation ceremonies. Since then there have been 38 coronations and 16 royal weddings at the abbey.

  • First Coronation: William the Conqueror in 1066
  • Most Recent Coronation: Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953
  • Number of Coronations: 38 English and British Coronations
  • Weddings: 16 Royal Weddings Since 1100
  • Burials: Over 3,300 People Have Been Buried At The Abbey

Plenty of people are buried at the Abbey. In fact, since 960 AD, over 3,300 people have been laid to rest here including at least 16 monarchs, 8 Prime Ministers, the Unknown Warrior, and many notable British actors, poets, etc. Some have even dubbed it "Britain's Valhalla".

Some of the big names of people now buried at the Abbey include Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, George Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare.

The Abbey is in the very heart of London and has long been the heart of the nation. Next time in London be sure to pop into this church entwined with the British monarchy.

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