How to Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral for Free

St. Paul's

St Paul’s Cathedral in London, England is a must-do for many tourists. But when you’re traveling on a budget, the £18 ticket price for one adult is a bit steep. Luckily, there is a simpler way to visit St. Paul’s – and a way to do it for free!

St. Paul’s is a London landmark, easily accessible from the St. Paul’s tube station, and right across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge. It is home not only to spectacular architecture, but also a wide range of art. There are perks to paying the entrance fee: on the sightseeing ticket, you can climb to the top of the dome for views of the city. You are permitted to take photos during non-worship hours, to remember your visit. And both guided and self-guided tours of the space are available.

Worship Services

But if £18 per person just isn’t in your budget, it is free to enter St. Paul’s and spend time in the space during any of the daily worship times. There are at least three services each day that are open to the public to attend. These are traditional, Anglican services – so anyone familiar with the Anglican order of service will find it all very traditional. Even if the Anglican tradition isn’t one you’ve been part of before, it is not hard to follow along, and the order of service is provided in writing (which tells you when to sit, stand, or kneel).

St. Paul's Cathedral outbuildings

If you would like to attend a service for the religious aspect, of course attend whichever you like. But if it is music you are after, aim to catch the Choral Evensong, offered at least four evenings each week at 5pm. Check the online schedule for times beforehand when planning your visit.

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Evensong is a 45-minute long sung service. It’s somewhat meditative, and is a really lovely way to hear the choir (which is excellent) in the acoustics of the cathedral.

There is plenty of seating at the cathedral, but if you arrive early enough two things could happen. You could get a really good seat near the front under the dome, and look at the choir and the altar front-on.

Or, as when I went to Evensong recently, they may invite you to sit in the choir loft if the whole choir is not in attendance. If there are extra seats in the choir loft, then those who are interested are guided through the cathedral to the front, and get to sit in the choir seats. The view is quite different; you are side-on with the choir, and get to look out over the cathedral, rather than straight at the speakers and singers. But it is very cool to sit where the choir sits. And of course, if you have time, you can go again the next night and observe Evensong from a different seat. This is by far the best way to visit St. Paul’s for free.

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The Surroundings

Don’t forget to tour the grounds around the cathedral as well during your visit. They have some lovely gardens, and there are several spots to get cool photos of the dome. I was there in November, so the sun was setting shortly before the service started, making for lovely photography lighting.

Beautiful views of St. Paul's

And then – should you wish to experience the sublime to the ridiculous – head out from Evensong down Watling Street, very near to the cathedral, and enjoy a pint outside with the raucous post-work crowd. A trip to London is all about balance!

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