Updated: May 21, 2015
Westminster Abbey - History:Besides St. Paul's Cathedral, the only other church in London that is a "must see" is Westminster Abbey. The abbey was founded over 1000 years ago and has a history that includes some of the great kings and queens of England as well as most recently holding funerals for Diana, Princess of Wales (1997) and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (2002). When you walk into this church you feel the presence of all that have come before you. I am not a religious man, but the history that surrounds the abbey is powerful and to miss this church on your visit to London would be a shame. Westminster Abbey is loaded with the tombs of famous men and women like Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Henry VII, and Geoffrey Chaucer. The church was the site of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and to this day Westminster Abbey still offers daily prayer and worship for those that seek it. Since this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of London my advice is to get there early (when it opens) and try to beat the crowds that start forming by mid morning.
Just what is inside Westminster Abbey? Before you step inside the doors where photos and video filming are not allowed, make sure you get some pictures from the front entrance at the Great North Door. Admission is $12 GBP for adults and goes down for seniors and students. The good news is that unlike other attractions that require extra payment for the audio guides, they are FREE and definitely worth picking before you begin your tour. The audio handsets are the best way to see the abbey on your own time schedule and learn all about the history that is stored here. I would say give yourself a good hour to visit the abbey and perhaps more if you want to see every corner of it. As you enter make sure you get the audio hand set and it will guide as to where to start the tour of Westminster Abbey. Be sure to grab one of the brochures at the door and to get a visual of what the interior offers, see the MAP Here. You are first directed to the middle of the abbey towards the Quire. Then the tour takes you over to the Shrine of Sir Edward the Confessor and then on to Henry VII's Lady Chapel. Eventually the tour winds you through the Poets Corner and then outside to the Cloisters and then back into the Chapter House and eventually around the Cloister Garth back into the Nave where you finish the self guided tour. The audio tour highlights are the major tombs that are in the abbey and gives you a great historical timeline of British history. On a recent visit in March 2009 my tour took about 1 hour and it seems that I learn something new each time I visit. What I prefer to do is start up at Buckingham Palace and slowly make my way down Birdcage Walk towards Big Ben, the House of Commons, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. See the map below for the general area around the abbey.