A who's-who of dead Brits
Westminster Abbey in London, England
This grandiose early English Gothic abbey—St. Peter in Westminster, the greatest Anglican cathedral in London—is one of Europe's major churches and a who's who of deceased Brits—one of the country's greatest honors is to be buried in this hallowed hall.
Every English monarch from William the Conqueror in 1066 to Elizabeth II in 1953 was crowned here (save Edwards V and VIII), and most of them (up to 1760) are buried here as well, some in fantastic tombs. Many of the early 16th-century royal tombs were carved by Pietro Torrigiani, a Florentine who studied sculpture with—and bullied—the young Michelangelo.
The right transept is known as Poet's Corner, with memorials to Britain's greatest writers and creative types, plus the graves of Chaucer, Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Dylan Thomas, Noel Coward, and Sir Laurence Olivier.
Other notables who rest in peace inside Westminster Abbey include Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Lord Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts), and composers Benjamin Britten and Handel. Although the Royal Chapels are closed on Sundays, you're certainly welcome to attend a service.
Here's something kids and adults can enjoy. Westminster's cloisters house a Brass Rubbing Centre (tel. 020/7222-2085), where a few pounds will buy you time with a reproduction brass relief to transfer to black paper using metallic-hued crayons. Prices range from £3 ($5) for a small coat of arms up to over £30 ($50) for a full-sized knightly tomb relief.
Rubbing images from tombs became a major pastime in the 19th century, but as zealous rubbers began to wear down the most popular and historic reliefs, replicas took their place.
Junior can also relax at the rubbing center in the crypt/cafe of Trafalgar Square's St. Martin-in-the-Fields church—perhaps after a long morning trudging through the National Gallery next door.
Tube: Westminster, St. James Park
- Planning your time: A quick spin only takes about 30 to 45 minutes—though the shuffle around the ambulatory and Royal Chapels can be a bit slow during the summer rush, and history buffs will likely want to linger longer over their heroes. Me? I'm usually inside for 90 minutes. ( on London Itineraries.)
- Take a tour of that includes a visit to Westminster Abbey with our partners:
- Westminster Abbey, Britain Through the Ages
- Monarchy and Parliament: Westminster and the Struggle for Democracy
- Full Day in London
- The Original London Sightseeing Tour: Hop-on Hop-off (no site entry)