Heavenly! – London’s Most Beautiful Churches


London churches

Sir Christopher Wren’s masterful St Paul’s Cathedral

Visiting London churches is a highlight of any UK trip, combining awe-inspiring architecture and heritage. Most practice daily worship and represent different Christian faiths, usually Anglican or Catholic, and also offer serenity in a busy city. It’s worth popping in just to admire their spiritual splendour. Here’s London Perfect’s pick of 10 of the most beautiful churches.

London churches

Soaring dome of St Paul’s Cathedral (credit)

St Paul’s Cathedral

The most legendary of London churches, St Paul’s Cathedral once dominated the skyline. Images of the embattled cathedral during the Blitz – when German planes bombed the capital – are iconic. The Grade I-listed domed building sits atop Ludgate Hill. Dating from the late 17th century, it was designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren in the English Baroque style, following the Great Fire of London. This Anglican cathedral held the funerals of Admiral Nelson and Winston Churchill as well as Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding. Visitors can take in the marvelous interiors from ground level, descend to the crypt or ascend to the Dome Galleries for lofty views. Entry is ticketed, with Sunday for worshippers only. St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard, EC4

London churches

Warm glow of lights inside Westminster Abbey at sunset

Westminster Abbey

This stunning Anglican royal church is a World Heritage Site with over a thousand years of history. Founded by Benedictine monks in 960 AD, Westminster Abbey’s soaring Gothic building was begun by Henry III in 1245. It has hosted coronations and royal weddings, including that of Queen Elizabeth II and Philip, and Prince William and Catherine, as well as Princess Diana’s funeral. It’s the resting place of 17 monarchs, statesmen, scientists and soldiers such as the Unknown Warrior. Literary names including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy are buried in Poet’s Corner. Guided tours are available. Westminster Abbey, 20 Dean’s Yard, SW1

Detail of the colourful facade of Westminster Cathedral (credit)

Westminster Cathedral

With its vertiginous bell tower, red and white striped bricks and green domes, the late 19th-century Westminster Cathedral near Victoria Station is not to be mistaken for Westminster Abbey. An important Roman Catholic cathedral, it was designed in Neo-Byzantine style by architect John Francis Bentley. More than a hundred types of marble decorate the extravagant building and there are elaborate Arts and Crafts mosaics. The 14 Stations of the Cross by sculptor Eric Gill are renowned. Enjoy London panoramas from the Tower Viewing Gallery. The choir is also famous. Westminster Cathedral, Victoria Street, SW1

London churches

The Italian Baroque interior of Brompton Oratory (credit)

Brompton Oratory

If you’re touring beautiful London churches, admire this large Neoclassical Roman Catholic church in Knightsbridge. Known as the Brompton Oratory, it’s also called the London Oratory or Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Completed in 1884, it was designed by architect Herbert Gribble in the Italian Baroque style. Mass is celebrated daily and the choirs and organ music are highly respected. Australian singer Nick Cave even wrote a gorgeous love song called ‘Brompton Oratory’ set here. The V&A museum is next door and inviting two-bedroom London Perfect apartment The Walton is nearby. Brompton Oratory, Brompton Road, SW7

Gothic and modern in one glance from Southwark Cathedral to the Shard (credit)

Southwark Cathedral

Anglican Southwark Cathedral commands the south bank of the river Thames between London Bridge and foodie destination Borough Market. The site has been a place of Christian worship for more than a thousand years. Completed in 1897, although begun much earlier, its striking Gothic building has a serene vaulted interior with colourful stained glass windows. Catch the famous choral evensong or daily services, or just wander inside to appreciate its architectural allure. Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, SE1

London churches

Take a stroll through the peaceful gardens of St Mary Abbots Church

St Mary Abbots Church

At the corner of Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street, Grade II-listed St Mary Abbots Church is near many London Perfect vacation apartments and has a lovely garden behind it. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in Neo-Gothic style and completed in 1872, this graceful Anglican edifice features pretty stained glass windows and the tallest church spire in London at 85 metres (listen for its ten bells). Past parishioners include Princess Diana, Sir Isaac Newton and novelist William Thackeray, and children’s author Beatrix Potter was married here. St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington Church Street, W8

Gothic Revival splendour at All Saints, Margaret Street (credit)

All Saints, Margaret Street

A gem of a London church in Fitzrovia, High Victorian Gothic Revival-style All Saints, Margaret Street dazzles with bold red and black brickwork, a spire and ornate interiors. A Grade 1-listed Anglo-Catholic church, it opened in 1859 and was architect William Butterfield’s masterpiece. The decoration inside is especially fabulous, from patterned tiled floors to painted ceilings, friezes and gilded timberwork. Tucked away behind Oxford Street, it provides a peaceful alternative to retail therapy. All Saints, Margaret Street, 7 Margaret Street, W1

Holy Trinity stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris (credit)

Holy Trinity

Dubbed “The Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement” by poet laureate Sir John Betjeman, Holy Trinity Sloane Square is a grand creative marvel. Surrounded by the neighborhood’s luxury shopping stores, this red brick Anglican parish church is unexpected. Architect John Dando Sedding built it in an Arts and Crafts Gothic style in the late 19th century, with a spectacular stained glass east window by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, both associated with this decorative design scene. Fine sculptures and metalwork adorn the interior, beloved of Chelsea’s arty crowd. Holy Trinity Sloane Square, Sloane Street, SW1

Unexpected beauty in the middle of the Strand (credit)

St Mary le Strand Church

Often said to be the loveliest Baroque church in England, Italianate St Mary le Strand with its delicate spire was devised by architect James Gibbs and consecrated in 1724. It was one of many churches replacing those lost in the Great Fire of London. Near Somerset House, it’s considered the “Jewel of the Strand”, but is also an ‘island church’ in the middle of a busy road. Plans to pedestrianize the area will put the Anglican parish church at the heart of a new plaza. Community events include free jazz concerts and exhibitions. St Mary le Strand Church, Strand, WC2

London churches

A pretty view of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square

St Martin-in-the-Fields

One of the most eye-catching London churches, St Martin-in-the-Fields occupies Trafalgar Square’s north-east corner, opposite The National Gallery. This 18th-century architectural beauty was designed by James Gibbs in Neoclassical, Palladian and Corinthian styles. It sports Greek-inspired columns, an impressive façade and steeple. In the vaulted crypt, a popular café hosts music and jazz recitals, including lunchtime concerts, supporting programs for the homeless. Literary mentions of the Anglican church crop up in novels by Dickens, E. M. Forster and George Orwell, and it appeared in the movie Notting Hill. St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, WC2

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