Saints & the City: A Walk
For somewhere so unashamedly dedicated to Mammon, the financial center of London also offers plenty of spiritual comfort (which no doubt comes in handy when stocks start tumbling). Our favorite historic churches can be comfortably toured in a day -- or an afternoon, if you're quick.
Beginning at Temple Tube, turn left out of the station, and head north up Arundel Place. Turn right onto the Strand, and stroll east along Fleet Street till you reach Prince Henry's Room, 17 Fleet St. (tel. 020/7332-1097), one of London's only surviving houses to pre-date the Great Fire of 1666. Turn right through the stone arch by the house, down Inner Temple Lane to Temple Church, King's Bench Walk, EC4 (tel. 020/7353-3470; www.templechurch.com), a round church founded in the late 12th century by the Knights Templar, one of the most powerful religious military orders during the Crusades. Much restored and rebuilt in subsequent centuries, it has enjoyed a resurgence of interest since being featured in The Da Vinci Code. Admission is free. Opening hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Friday 11am to 12:30pm and 1 to 4pm, Wednesday 2 to 4pm, Thursday 11am to 12:30pm and 2 to 3:30pm, Saturday 11am to 12:30pm and 1 to 3pm, and Sunday 1 to 3:30pm.
Back on Fleet Street continue east. Take a right down Salisbury Court, and then a left onto St. Bride's Passage for St. Bride's, Fleet St., EC4 (tel. 020/7427-0133; www.stbrides.com), perhaps the city's oldest church, founded back in the 6th century. Rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire, its distinctive multistep spire was said to have inspired the design of modern wedding cakes. It's known as the "Journalists' Church," owing to its proximity to Fleet Street, the old home of the British Press. It's free to enter. Hours are Monday through Friday 8am to 6pm, Saturday 11am to 3pm, and Sunday 10am to 1pm and 5 to 7:30pm.
Return to Fleet Street and head east along Ludgate Hill. A diversion north up Old Bailey will take you past the Central Criminal Court (also more commonly known as the Old Bailey). If you crane your neck you should just about be able to make out the statue of Lady Liberty holding a sword and a set of scales perched upon its roof. Carry on north, along Giltspur Street and West Smithfield, bearing right until you reach St. Bartholomew-the-Great, 6-9 Kinghorn St., EC1 (tel. 020/7606-5171; www.greatstbarts.com). Begun in 1123, this is one of the best examples of large scale Norman architecture in the city. Admission is £4, and it's open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm, Saturday 10:30am to 4pm, and Sunday 8:30am to 8pm. Opposite, St. Bartholomew's Hospital ("Barts") has a small Hospital Museum of medical curiosities (North Wing, West Smithfield, EC1; tel. 020/3465-5798; www.bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk). It's free, and open Monday through Friday 10am to 4pm. Guided tours of the collection are given at 2pm on Fridays (£5).
Retrace your steps back down to Ludgate Hill and continue east until the glorious façade of St. Paul's Cathedral, surely the city's finest church, looms into view. Pass through the cathedral's churchyard onto New Change, site of a major new shopping center, One New Change, and then right on Cheapside for St. Mary-le-Bow (tel. 020/7248-5139; www.stmarylebow.co.uk), otherwise known as the "Cockney Church"; to be a "true Cockney," you must be born within the sound of its bells. First erected around 1,000 years ago, it was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire and again, in the style of Wren, after World War II. It's open Monday to Friday 6:30am to 6pm; admission is free.
Continue east, then southeast down King William Street, and finally east along Eastcheap and Great Tower Street to All-Hallows-by-the-Tower, Byward St., EC3 (tel. 020/7481-2928; www.allhallowsbythetower.org.uk), just down the road from (and providing elevated views over) the Tower of London. When the first church was built here in the 7th century, the site had already been in use for several centuries. You can see Roman, Saxon, and medieval remains at its small museum. The famous diarist Samuel Pepys supposedly watched the progress of the Great Fire from the church's spire. Admission to the church is free; a crypt museum tour costs £6. Museum hours are Monday to Friday 10am to 5:30pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm, and Sunday 1 to 5pm. The church is open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm.
From here it's a short walk east to the nearest Tube station, Tower Hill.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.