London Drum

Visit Westminster Cathedral and see London from the top of its Campanile Bell Tower

Where? Westminster Cathedral, 42 Francis Street, Victoria · Web: westminstercathedral.org Opening times? Cathedral: Usually 8 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Fri); 8 AM to 6.30 PM (Sat); 8 AM to 7.30 PM (Sun) · Bell tower: 9.30 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Fri); 9.30 AM to 6 PM (Sat-Sun) · Treasures exhibition: 9.30 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Fri); 9.30 AM to 6 PM (Sat-Sun) Visiting hours may change Time required? A typical visit is 1 hour Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 11, 24, 148, 507, 211 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Victoria Circle District Victoria Train fares

Craig’s review… Everybody’s heard of Westminster Abbey because that’s where we do all of the Royal coronations, weddings and burials, but not many tourists are aware of Westminster Cathedral just ten minutes down the road. This is the mother church of Roman Catholics (Westminster Abbey is Church of England) and the first time you clap eyes on its exterior of fanned domes, octagon towers and terracotta stripes and spirals you’ll wonder if you’ve stumbled across a Sultan’s palace, or some kind of exotic Byzantine building.

Westminster CathedralPhoto: Craig Cross
Westminster Cathedral – The mother church of Roman Catholics in London

Inside Westminster Cathedral

Inside it’s a completely different story… imagine the interior of St. Paul’s but with soot instead of gold. The ceiling’s covered in a coat of smoke and it almost feels like you’re sitting inside one of Brunel’s old Victorian train tunnels. The columns up the sides are all iced in brightly coloured marble that have those swirling shapes you sometimes see when petrol falls on water.

Westminster Cathedral’s nave and altarPhoto: Craig Cross
Westminster Cathedral’s nave and altar

I like the grandstand racks of ruby red candies outside the chapels as well. A teenage kid has just extinguished a few of the spluttering stubs and is trying to re-light them with his Zippo just for the hell of it – just because he likes the light. Some people light them as an offering to God, but he just wants to burn something.

Gold mosaic in the Chapel of St. JosephPhoto: Craig Cross
Gold mosaic in the Chapel of St. Joseph

View of London from the Campanile Bell Tower

Westminster Cathedral hasn’t had time to accumulate as many famous tombs as somewhere like St. Paul’s but what it does have is a 210-feet bell tower with an observation platform at the top.

Don’t worry about climbing up the stairs because the lady behind the till leads you to a lift. She escorts you to the top and then you have to summon her up with a doorbell when you want to return back down again. So she basically spends her entire life going up and down in this tiny little lift every time a tourist rings the bell.

View from the bell tower at Westminster CathedralPhoto: Craig Cross
View from the bell tower at Westminster Cathedral

When you’re down on the ground the campanile looks like a skyscraper but when you step out onto the balcony you’ll discover that it’s not a lot taller than the surrounding offices. All you can really see is a thin sliver of Buckingham Palace and the top half of the London Eye and Parliament.

Try and find the dome of St. Paul’s without looking at the placard – that should be relatively easy. Nelson’s Column shouldn’t be too difficult either (just follow the line of the Mall). The giant arch of Wembley Stadium is a little bit harder. And if you manage to spot the V&A and Natural History Museum without any help then you’ve done well.

View of London from Westminster Cathedral’s bell towerPhoto: Craig Cross
View of London from Westminster Cathedral’s bell tower

A word of warning about the Big Edward bell: it went off while I was up there and it was extremely loud. I don’t mind admitting that I was a little bit scared, but nobody noticed I don’t think.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Brompton Oratory (walk it in 28 mins or travel from Victoria to South Kensington via tube); St. Paul’s Cathedral (take a tube journey from Victoria to St Pauls) and Westminster Abbey (walk it in 12 mins or travel from Victoria to Westminster by tube)

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon. This review was updated on

Your comments and questions

Anon Not quite what I was expecting. The outside is just plain weird and garish and I don't like it at all. The inside is better - more like a traditional church. The ceiling is interesting because it is black which makes the inside very dark and atmospheric. You walk inside and you go, oh wow!

adette What time are the masses?

Craig Hi Adette. You can see a schedule of all their services here - westminstercathedral.org.uk/​spiritual-life/​mass-and-offices/

tonia Is it free

Craig Hi Tonia. It's free to look inside the cathedral, but you have to pay to climb up the campanile bell tower

John Michael Smith Yet another example of the Catholic Church proving just how alien it could be in church building. Byzantine architecture simply does not suit England's heritage. A lost opportunity when Gothic is the lingua franca of our country. That said Liverpool's modern Catholic Cathedral AKA Paddy's Wigwam though beset by structural failure has much more to offer.

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