Considered a diverse and multi-cultural city, it follows that London boasts not only some of the best churches in the UK but is also home to a series of ornate mosques, synagogues, and other religious buildings and sites which are frequented by locals and visitors alike every day.
One of the most interesting things about churches and other religious sites in London is that many people in the city aren’t aware of how integrated such sites are in the city landscape. No matter which of the best hotels in London that you book, you are never far away from a church or religious building that offers solace and worship to those of different faiths.
St Paul’s Cathedral
This could hardly be described as a hidden gem or a secret religious site in London – after all, it appears on virtually every skyline postcard and in every single guidebook and recommended itinerary regardless of how long you are planning to stay in the city.
However, St Paul’s deserves a place on the list because of its incredible dome and the fact that it is still an active cathedral which serves as the mother church for the Diocese of London. A Grade I listed building, the church is visited by just as many architectural enthusiasts as it is frequented by those looking to pray and explore its religious connotations, owing to the incredible art which adorns the walls and ceilings, and the fact that the current structure was designed and built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London destroyed the original church.
Fun fact: Christopher Wren also designed and built the Monument – a viewing platform which marks the site of the great fire.
To continue our theme of well known religious sites in London, we’re moving away from the City of London and towards Westminster – home to parliamentary buildings, Big Ben, vast bridges, and of course Westminster Abbey. An Anglican church which is still very much an active site of religious ceremony, Westminster Abbey is most famous for being the site of royal coronations and weddings – in fact, since 1066 it has seen 39 coronations, and at least 16 royal weddings.
In addition to the celebrations, Westminster Abbey has also hosted funerals and marks the burial site for a number of English, Scottish, and British monarchs – not to mention, it’s a highly visited tourist hotspot when not in use as a church.
Located within close proximity to a number of popular London hotel packages, you’d be hard pressed to find a recommended itinerary that doesn’t include this active church.
Chapel at the Tower of London
This is a very interesting place of worship to consider, largely because it is believed to be the oldest place of worship in London which is still intact. The Chapel, full name being the Chapel of St John the Evangelist, was used as a private worship site for those staying in the White Tower.
While this adds to its historical interest and makes it one of the most insightful religious sites on our list, it also adds a slightly eerie sense owing to the gory past of the Tower of London and the ill fates of many who stayed and lived there.
The Bevis Marks Synagogue
Embracing London’s diverse attitude to religion, this Synagogue deserves a place on our list because it is the oldest custom-built Synagogue in the whole of the UK. What this means is that rather than being converted from something else into a Synagogue to serve the community, its founders (Spanish and Portuguese Jews who arrived in 1701) built the site from scratch to serve as a religious haven.
Today, the Synagogue is as much a visitor site as it is a place of worship, with an onsite café giving it a welcoming community vibe.
London Central Mosque
As you wander from a Montcalm afternoon tea towards Regent’s Park for an afternoon stroll, you may start to see a structure rising up from behind the trees in the distance. Located in the north western corner of Regent’s Park, close to where the park borders with the outskirts of St John’s Wood, there lies the London Central Mosque with its vast golden dome and tower sitting alongside.
With space for up to 5,000 men to worship at any one time, and a balcony erected for women to pray while overlooking the main hall, this Islamic place of worship is so much more than a simple structure for prayer. The London Central Mosque is somewhat of a staple for the Islamic community in London, with a café and bookshop on site, and the Islamic Cultural Centre just next door.
And if you’re wondering why so much of London’s Islamic community is centred on this one site, it’s because the land was donated to the Muslim community by King George VI in the 1940s in exchange for the donation of land in Cairo and Sudan for an Anglican cathedral.
Ruins of St Alphage Church
Despite not being open for active worship or prayer, there is something magical about the garden which has grown around the ruins of the medieval St Alphage Church. Located a stone’s throw from The Montcalm Chiswell Street, the ruins is today surrounded by modern London office buildings and the Barbican estate – with a high rise walkway designed and built to specifically allow tourists and commuters to walk past and over the top of the ruins and really take it in from all angles.
It is believed that the original church adjoined the wall which ran around the outside of the city of London, however over the centuries the structure of the church and its uses have continually changed with repairs and renovations all rendering the ruins entirely separate from what was originally built back in the year 1000.
Visiting the ruins, or any of the sites mentioned in this blog, gives you an idea of how London not only embraces religion but absorbs it into the fabric of the city.