Climbing up St Paul’s Cathedral to the Golden Gallery
Are you tough enough to climb 528 steps to reach the pinnacle of St Paul’s Cathedral? We decided to set Neil Simpson the challenge – read on to find out what he thought and how you can do it for yourself.
There are lots and lots of fabulous views to enjoy in London: The Shard, the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie, Duck & Waffle in Liverpool Street, the glass walkways at Tower Bridge… there are so many I could mention, but St Paul’s Cathedral was seriously early to the London views party and it’s pretty hard to beat.
You can climb up the middle of St Paul’s dome during a visit to the cathedral, but every Thursday in August, you can do it in the evening. Christopher Wren’s masterpiece reopens from 7pm until 9.30pm, so that sightseers may watch the sunset. I haven’t ascended St Paul’s Cathedral since I was a little boy, so I decided it was time to return and watch the sun go down at the top.
The doors open at 7pm, by which point there was a huge queue of people outside waiting to enter. The queue moved quickly, but my advice is to arrive as early as you can. Also, there’s nowhere to leave bags, so only take essentials with you. I did not do this and I can confirm that it‘s no fun to drag two bags up and down hundreds of stairs.
Once you enter the cathedral, you’ll be taken aback by the sheer majesty of St Paul’s beautiful nave, but my next tip is to walk straight past this and start climbing – the entrance to the viewing galleries is closed at 8.30pm, so it’s better to go up first and enjoy the cathedral’s earthly attractions afterwards.
The climb starts off nicely, with wide, shallow stairs. I was having a lovely relaxing, time… until the stairs changed dramatically! There are three stages of viewing platforms at St Paul’s, which means that the easy stairs leading to the lowest Whispering Gallery (which is currently closed until at least December 2019) are replaced by narrow, steep stairs to reach the Stone Gallery. Finally, the stairs to the uppermost Golden Gallery are actually a series of tall, skinny and winding metal staircases (pictured above), before a very tiny stairway which looks like it was designed for chimney sweeps.
But finally, when you reach step number 528 and find yourself 85m above the cathedral floor, St Paul’s glorious view makes all that effort worthwhile. It was really busy up there so it’s important to keep moving, but the Golden Gallery wraps completely around the top so I saw absolutely every angle of the city. You can even see the curve of the top of the dome just beneath you, which I thought was amazing: how often do you get to stand this close to such an iconic, untouchable piece of architecture?
If you are fit, able and willing to give your legs one of the best workouts that London has to offer, then the view from the Golden Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral is something that you’ll never forget.
Summer Lates at St Paul’s Cathedral take place every Thursday in August, 7pm-9.30pm
St Paul’s Cathedral is also open Mon-Sat 8.30am-4.30pm (-5.30pm until 31 Aug 2019)
Summer Lates adult £15, child £6.50; regular entry adult £20, child £8.50 (discounts on tickets purchased online)
Times and prices correct at time of publishing
If you’d prefer your London view to come with a cocktail, discover our pick of the top rooftop bars in London
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