St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is the world’s second largest domed cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. It is a symbol of national pride, focus of London spirituality and a glorious architectural masterpiece.
Sitting at the highest point of the City of London, its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site (AD 604) – and the Romans prior to that. The present cathedral was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren and took over 30 years to build, completing in 1720. The dome has dominated the skyline for over 300 years and, at 365 feet, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967.
The cathedral was the place for the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. It held jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria and peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars, the wedding of Charles and Diana, the launch of the Festival of Britain and thanksgiving services for the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees and the 80th and 90th birthdays of Elizabeth II.
The Guildhall is the ‘Grandmother of all Parliaments’. Home to the world’s oldest continually operating municipal democracy – since 1189 (when the City Of London started to elect its own Mayor free from royal intervention). The building today dates from 1428 – and it is here that visiting heads of state visit to get down to commercial and financial business, following state visits to Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. (Tip; enter the modern offices on the yard and ask the official to let you visit the ‘Great Hall’). It’s the best ticket in town – and free.
The Guildhall complex was built on the site of London’s Roman Amphitheatre. Not discovered until 1998, some of the remains of the Amphitheatre are displayed (in situ) in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery. The Amphitheatre was used for various public events such as gladiator games, entertaining soldiers and the public with animal fighting and public execution of criminals, as well as religious activities. Along with a ‘stylized immersion experience’ this is impressive sight seeing. Chances are, you’ll be alone and again it’s free.