If you’re like me, time is the most precious commodity when travelling. As a travelling pilgrim, after food and accommodations are addressed, religious sites are the first priority when I arrive anywhere, followed by sightseeing. One place in London checks off three of those boxes and it’s truly a Catholic Wonder not to be missed when you’re in one of the greatest cities of the world.
Technically in the City of Westminster, the Westminster Cathedral is the Catholic mother church of England and Wales, and is the chair of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster (which despite its name, is a metropolitan archdiocese).
Bird’s Eye View
Depending on the criteria of measurement, Westminster Cathedral is between the 38th and 50th largest church in the world by area. The height of the 86.8m (264ft) bell tower is just as impressive. The tower makes Westminster Cathedral the 2nd tallest church in London (after St. Paul’s Cathedral), and the third tallest Catholic church in the United Kingdom. It is roughly the same height as New York’s famous Flatiron Building, when completed in 1902, was the first skyscraper built in New York City.
With such great heights, comes great views, and you don’t have to travel across London using an Oyster Card to see it, as it’s right above you. For only £6 (2017 price), admission to go up the bell tower in a lift is definitely affordable for pilgrims on a budget.
At the top of the tower, all four directions are accessible. To the north you’ll see St. James Park and a glimpse of Buckingham Palace.
To the west is Victoria Station, a terminus for those visitors coming in from Gatwick Airport.
To the south there’s not many recognizable landmarks besides the MI6 building.
To the east you can see the meandering River Thames, Westminster Abbey, the UK Parliament with the Elizabeth Tower containing Big Ben, with the Shard and the top of the London Eye in the distance (visible in the banner image).
If you’re up top with a photographer or someone with an architectural eye, you might be at the top of Westminster for a while. The church has filled in empty wall spaces with a gallery of information for those who fear heights or are bored of the view quickly.
With this added museum space, this may be the best place to stretch your quid, but wait, more awaits when you ring the bell to request the lift to take you back down.
Fuel Up at the Cathedral Cafe
After a thrilling high, fuel up down below in the basement at the Cathedral Cafe. Travel is expensive, and this kitchen rewards hungry pilgrims with a classic British menu perfect for a cultural culinary experience.
Enjoy quintessential items such as baked beans or spaghetti on toast for £2.90, a cosmopolitan breakfast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for £5.80, or a roast dinner with the works for only £6.70.
I opted for this lunch of jacket potato with baked beans, sparkling water, and Tango orange soft drink for a total of £5.70. It’s hard to beat this price anywhere in central London.
If you have room for some British pastries or to grab one for the road, there’s quite a selection to go with a tea you fancy as well. From this image, you can see hot cross buns, an apple strudel, a danish, biscuits and jam, a cinnamon bun, and crackers.
Feed the Soul
Depending on the hours of operation for the cafe or gift shop when you arrive, you may switch this order around (especially if you’re planning to attend Mass before eating).
After seeing the church from above and below, remember to give thanks for your journey and take time to pray and reflect inside the church which is covered in beautiful ceiling mosaic.
Westminster Cathedral has is a Catholic Wonder of all of England, and is rich with religious art, relics, and stories which will draw you towards Christ at the focal point of the church.