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Best time to avoid crowds at Westminster Abbey (or is there one?)

In 6 trips and a total of more than 7 weeks in London, I have yet to visit Westminster Abbey. But now I would really like to see the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries, which requires entry into the Abbey and a separate £5 ticket, if I am reading the website correctly. I am afraid my husband will balk at the £50 necessary (2x £20 for senior entry, plus 2 x £5 for the Galleries). But we will be eligible for the 2-4-1 offers as we will have the required train tickets into and out of London. This means we cannot skipmthe line but will have to join the general queue.

So, what is the best time to go? We will be staying very nearby, so first thing in the morning will be easy. Is that the best strategy? Plan to queue around 9 for the 9:30 entry? This will be on a weekday in late May. We have tickets for Shakespeare at the Globe that night, so we don't want to go in late afternoon as Rick suggests.

Thanks for your help.

Posted by
6005 posts

I'm an early person so that's what I would do.

The problem as I see it with a late afternoon visit (and I have done one on an RS tour) is that you are hurried thru as the timing of Evensong may bump in to your visit. They don't allow people to walk around during Evensong which is at 5. They start letting people in for this service about 4:30 or so.

Sadly, I'd suggest another 5£ added to the tab for the Verger tour, lol!! It's excellent and gets you in to the Chapel of Edward the Confessor which has restricted entry. The last time I went the Verger mentioned that the floor is so old it's not able to withstand the volumes of visitors, thus the restriction. The other time you can see it is when you attend one of the small services they hold in there.

There is also a nice cafe off the cloister called the Cellarium.

https://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/food-drink

I also suggest you download the Westminster Abbey app to your phone before you leave home. It's free as is the audio tour but it's so much lighter to carry your phone around. Make sure you have your earbuds with you so you can listen. Even with the Verger tour I spent some time ahead and after listening to a couple of selections from the audio tour.

You'll also get the chance to see the interment site for Stephen Hawking - last spring one of the docents told us it was to be right next to Isaac Newton which I thought was pretty neat.

Posted by
390 posts

I went in December and while it was busy, it was not packed like the times I had visited in the past in June or September. That said, I would go in the morning. I agree with Pam that the verger tour is excellent. If you let the verger know that you are going to the Diamond Jubilee Galleries after the tour, he will direct you. The Diamond Jubilee Galleries are really interesting. Because it is a timed entry, it is not crowded and the docents working the gallery are knowledgeable. It was great to see some of the stained glass and artifacts on display.

Posted by
10381 posts

So should we purchase the Galleries tickets online ahead of time? Say 10:30, assuming that if we queue for entry tickets we should be inside around opening at 9:30? I assume we can visit the Abbey sights before and after but maybe that is not correct.

How long does the Verger tour take? How often do they run? Do we pay for that inside or at the door?

Thanks again for your help.

Posted by
6005 posts

Ooops, I see the Verger tours are going up to 7£ in April. You purchase the tour when you purchase your entry ticket. It has been 2 years since I did the tour but I think it was about 2 hours. I have not been there since the Diamond Jubilee Galleries opened so have not done the 2 together. I did walk around a little before my Verger tour which is when I used my downloaded audio guide.

https://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/guided-tours

Posted by
11 posts

I don't think you can buy the gallery tickets ahead of time without purchasing the entry tickets.

Posted by
10381 posts

So I have decided it would be best to skip the 2-4-1 deal and book online in advance, with a 9:30 entry time. It says 9:30-11:30; does that mean we can enter any time during that 2-hour period, or we enter at 9:30 and have until 11:30 to explore? Then if I choose a time slot for the Galleries of 10:30 - 11:00, do we enter only at 10:30, or can we wait until 10:59 if we want?

We tend to have a two-hour attention span for places like this, so I am thinking we will be ready to leave around 11:30- noon. And we will not have time for the Verger’s tour this trip. If we love the Abbey as much as I think we will, we will return for a more in-depth experience our next visit to London, which will likely be next March.

Posted by
6187 posts

Pam, thank you for the link to the Cellarium. So helpful. Their menu looks so good, and the prices are very reasonable (compared to SF). I already know what i’ll order, lol!
Is it ok to order 4 desserts?

Posted by
299 posts

So I have decided it would be best to skip the 2-4-1 deal and book online in advance, with a 9:30 entry time. It says 9:30-11:30; does that mean we can enter any time during that 2-hour period, or we enter at 9:30 and have until 11:30 to explore? Then if I choose a time slot for the Galleries of 10:30 - 11:00, do we enter only at 10:30, or can we wait until 10:59 if we want?

From my September 2018 visit, the time slot is the window during which you can enter. Once inside, you can stay as long as you like. I spent about an hour in the Galleries (and I really took my time); the website suggests allowing 45 min for the visit.

Enjoy your visit!

Posted by
96 posts

Lola, I wondered this myself, and sent an e-mail to Westminster Abbey:

my email:
"Hello there, If I purchase a ticket for 1330-1530 on any given day, does this mean I need to show up at 1330 and then the time I have in Westminster Abbey ends at 1530 (meaning two hours maximum in the Abbey), or does it mean I have from 1330-1530 to show up in the first place, and then I can tour the Abbey at my leisure until closing time? Thank you for your help - the FAQ does not address this."

response from today:
"Dear Adrienne,
Thank you for your email.
If you select the 13:30 to 15:30 entry time, you can enter any time during those opening times and stay till closing. I would strongly advise you to arrive no later than 15:00.
I hope this helps.
Kind regards,
[name redacted]
Online Ticketing Administration
Westminster Abbey"

Posted by
10381 posts

Thanks, everyone. We have a plan! I will book entry for the first time slot and go at 9:30, with the Galleries sometime between 10:30 and 11:00. We want to be finished by noon as we plan an afternoon walk along the Regents Canal towpath from Little Venice to Camden Market ( lunch will be there). Then back to our hotel to clean up for our evening of early dinner and a play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Tickets purchased for that the day they went on sale.

Posted by
1762 posts

Was there in early December. Walked up and was in line no longer than 10 minutes. Same thing with Windsor castle.

Posted by
10381 posts

But I will be there at the end of May and that is prime time to visit London (our favorite, along with September).