If I could impart one tip for visiting London, it would be to plan ahead. Dan and I decided to "Wing It", which led to a lot of wasted time and money. We had a general idea of the things we wanted to see, but didn't make an actually plan.
On the second full day of our trip, we decided to get The London Pass. If you are planning on hitting a lot of the major attractions and you're up for cramming in more than one thing in a day, then The London Pass might be your best bet.
The pass can be purchased for a single day or multiple days, with the per-day price declining with each additional day. We picked a two day pass for sixty-four pounds a person. The pass includes entry to a majority of the big tourist attractions, plus a lot more. The pass comes with a booklet explaining all of the attractions and it was a helpful guide to figuring out the best way to use our passes.
Again, I would highly advise going to The London Pass website prior to your trip and seeing what they have to offer. Plus, you can purchase the pass in advance and save time on having to buy it at an office in London. Vacation time is precious, don't waste it!
We purchased our pass early in the morning and headed straight to St. Paul's Cathedral. Dan had been to St. Paul's before and wanted to make sure to arrive at opening to hopefully miss the big crowds. As we were finishing up, the Cathedral was swarmed by bus loads of tourists.
St. Paul's is gorgeous and simply unlike anything that I have ever seen in America. It's absolutely massive.
The Cathedral was completed during the reign of Queen Anne and there is a statue of her in the west- front of St. Paul's.
Photography is not allowed inside the cathedral. Although I wish that I had been allowed to take pictures, I probably had a better visitors experience without worrying about my camera. I often find myself so concerned with taking pictures, that I miss out on giving myself over fully to the experience.
St. Paul's is opulent and grand. The entire building, inside and out is a work of art. There are sculptures, paintings and murals absolutely everywhere. It was overwhelming.
Below the main level of the Cathedral is the crypt. When I think of the word "crypt" the imagery that comes to mind is of a dark and foreboding place. A closed off, tight space. The crypt at St. Paul's is located adjacent to the cathedral's cafe. It's light, clean and even a bit sterile. It reminded me of where my mom is interred at Forrest Lawn Glendale, except with a lot more sculptures! Like Forrest Lawn, there are famous people buried here, including Lord Nelson and Lord Wellington.
If you are physically capable, then you must climb to the top of St. Paul's.
The climb comes in three stages and is not for anyone with limited mobility. The first climb, from the Cathedral Floor to the Whispering Gallery is the longest, but easiest. If you are moderately fit and can climb stairs, then you can make it.
The Whispering Gallery is a circular viewing area of the interior of the Cathedral. There are benches around the circle and if you whisper, people sitting on the other side of the circle can hear you. Fun with acoustics!
The second climb is from the Whispering Gallery to The Stone Gallery, an outdoor viewing area. The climb to The Stone Gallery is more intense, with narrow passageways and uneven stairs. This is not for the claustrophobic.
The third climb is up to the Golden Gallery, the highest outdoor viewing area. This is the most intense climb and is on a metal spiral ladder. If you are going to attempt any of the climbs from the Cathedral Floor, make sure to wear supportive shoes. Heels and sandals would be a terrible idea!
The views are amazing and worth the effort.