Finding a City Church

Interested in taking a wander to a nearby church but not sure where to go? (Here are some good reasons to visit a city church). There are 48 churches in the square mile of the City of London plus around 10 towers or standing remains of churches.  It’s my current mission to visit as many of them as possible. My aim is to find buildings that are free to access and suitable to wander to during work hours for a head clearing, restorative moment of tranquility*. 

See if you can find a church near you or take a look on this Friends of the City Churches map. (To visit a church elsewhere in London, take a quick search on Google or even simply look up and see if there are any spires or towers on your commute).

Are city churches open to the public?

Some are open only for church services or charge to access. However, many churches are open most of the time – particularly during the middle of the day or longer if it includes a cafe or food stalls outside. Others are open when church watcher volunteers are present. You can see the church watcher timetable here: http://www.london-city-churches.org.uk/. Do also check individual church websites for more information about visiting.

Here is a summary of some of the City churches I’ve visited so far that are regularly open and welcoming; churches that can be used to get you out of the office and gaining some resilience building tranquility:

(Please note that opening times refer to week days)

Chapel of St Ann inside St Andrew by the Wardrobe

St Andrew by the Wardrobe

Queen Victoria Street EC4V 5DE | Near Blackfriars station | Open 9am – 4pm

Welcoming rating: ***

The Wardrobe of the title refers to the ceremonial robes stored in the nearby King’s Wardrobe which burnt down in the Great Fire of London.

Go to: See a giant 15th century bell in the entrance hall. Wander up the steps and through or round the church to take a shortcut through the streets. Sit in the Chapel of St Ann, which is open every day in the week from 9am to 4pm.

St Bartholomew the Less

West Smithfield, EC1A 7BE | Near Barbican station | Open 7am – 8pm

Welcoming rating: ****

This church sits within the hospital grounds.

Go to: Visit a church that feels particularly open and comfortable to wander into. There are benches in the churchyard as well as a fountain in the main square along with the nearby hospital museum that’s worth popping into.

St Benet Welsh Church viewed from the underpass

St Benet Welsh Church

Paul’s Wharf, EC4V 4ER | Near Blackfriars station

Welcoming rating: **

This church was closed when I visited but does open on Thursdays when church watchers are on duty.

Go to: Be surprised how such a beautiful, historic structure can stand alone, incongruously surrounded by roads and towers built around it.

Reclining Nude I

St Botolph Without Bishopsgate

Bishopsgate, EC2M 3TL | Near Liverpool St station | Open 7.30am – 5.30pm.

Welcoming rating: ****

Botolph is the patron saint of wayfarers.

Go to: Enjoy this large and welcoming church as well as the garden space and benches outside. You can also see this reclining nude and an interesting square fountain.

Key of Return in St Clements Church

St Clement Eastcheap

Clement’s Lane, EC4N 7AE | Near Monument station | Ring bell for access via Amos Trust

Welcoming rating: **

This is St Clement’s of the nursery rhyme (as in, oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement’s).  It houses the Amos Trust offices, a small, creative human rights organisation.

Go to: See the beautiful, graffiti-ed Key of Return on the altar. Many refugees keep their door keys as a memento, knowing that they will probably never return home. The Key of Return is a reminder of this and the right to return.

Pelican in Her Piety carving
Wooden carved Pelican in Her Piety

St Michael Cornhill

St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill EC3V 3PD | Near Bank station

Welcoming rating: **

Go to: See the unsettling Pelican in Her Piety – a wooden carving of a pelican wounding her breast in order to nourish her young with her blood – inside the church and the fabulous stonework on the outside.

Water feature in the St Stephen Walbrook churchyard

St Stephen Walbrook

39 Walbrook EC4N 8BN | Near Bank and Cannon St station | Open 10am – 3pm or 4pm

Welcoming rating: ***

Go to: See an unusual and impressive layout with circular pews and Henry Moore’s central altar. Also sit in the churchyard around the corner from the main building.

St Mary Aldermary

Watling St EC4M 9BW | Near Mansion House station | Open 7.30am – 4.30pm

Welcoming rating: *****

Go to: Visit the cafe inside, buy souvlaki from the stall outside and eat it in the pews, join the yoga or meditation classes.

HInged heel patten

St Margaret Pattens

Rood Lane Eastcheap EC3M 1HS | Near Monument station | Open 10.30am – 4pm

Welcoming rating: ***

St Margaret Pattens has two associated Livery Companies; the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers and the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers.

Go to: Discover what a patten is (namely, ‘undershoes of wood and metal strapped beneath their wearers’ shoes to raise them out of the mud of the streets’ and see a display of them.

Jaunty unicorn at St Mary Abchurch

St Mary Abchurch

Abchurch Lane EC4N 7BA | Near Cannon St and Monument stations | Open 11am – 3pm

Welcoming rating: ***

Go to: See this cheery unicorn and a magnificent painted ceiling.

St Mary Moorfields

4-5 Eldon Street EC2M 7LS | Near Liverpool St station | Open 6.45am – 6.45pm.

Go to: Visit a beautiful, aromatic catholic church practically on the doorstep of Liverpool St station.

Welcoming rating: *****

Where will you wander? Add visiting a local church to your list of places to wander in 2020. Let me know if you discover somewhere new or make a trip to a local church part of your work routine.

St Etheldreda’s Chapel

14 Ely Place EC1N 6RY | Near Chancery Lane and Farringdon stations | Open 8am – 5pm

Welcoming rating: ****

This is one of my favourite churches in the City. It’s a particularly special place that instantly takes visitors back in time. Access it via Ely Court from Hatton Gardens to wander through a long, interesting alley way.

Go to: Experience a moving sense of peace and history.

St Alban the Martyr

St Alban the Martyr

Brooke St EC1N 7RD | Near Chancery Lane | Open 8am – 6pm

Welcoming rating: ****

Go to: Explore a majestic church full of history and accessible via a hidden courtyard full of flowers and and greenery. The courtyard entrance includes a memorable sculpture of Jesus with arms outstretched.

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan-in-the-East

St Dunstan’s Hill EC3 | Near Tower Hill and Monument stations | Open 8am to dusk or 7pm

Welcoming rating: *****

Go to: Sit in a spacious, beautiful churchyard that feels like a scene from a fairytale with cobbles, tumble down church ruins and greenery.

(*Special thanks to my friend Barbara – a church watcher and medieval architecture enthusiast – who not only opened my eyes to the accessibility of church buildings but also has guided my mission to visit city churches with oodles of knowledge, stories and insight).

Anise uses coaching walks to help you evaluate your work and move forward. Wondering what’s next for you? Try a Winter Wayfinding Walk.

Visit Walk Coach Learn to find out more about how coaching walks could support and energise you or your team.

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