Every tourist has to visit St. Paul's Cathedral -- it's one of the must-see attractions in London. But thankfully not everyone has to clamber up the 257 steps to the Whispering Gallery -- only the fit ones have to do that. But if you're feeling brave then you will rewarded with one of the best views in London.
Lots of people assume that the Whispering Gallery is what you can see outside: the base of the big green dome. But it's actually just the base of an interior dome, looking down onto the cathedral floor. Christopher Wren's design for St. Paul's is unique in that it actually has three different domes, each inside the one above, and if you want to step outside then you'll have to climb up another set of stairs afterwards (more about that later).
The Whispering Gallery gained it's nickname due to peculiar acoustic effect which enables you to whisper into the wall on one side of the dome, and have it heard just as clearly around the other side. Obviously you will need an accomplice to try this out, and you'll also have to get very lucky with the crowds, because it's not uncommon for fifty people to be trying this out at once, which makes it impossible to hear.
You can't see all that much from the Whispering Gallery itself, just the checkerboard floor thirty metres below and James Thornhill's spectacular paintings above. If you want to see the skyline outside then you'll have to trek up another 119 steps to the Stone Gallery. This will place you at the base of the exterior dome. Another 152 steps will then take you to the Golden Gallery, which is sitting on the very top of the dome.
Craig chickened out of this final climb because he's scared of heights (but to be honest, it was a miracle that he even made it up to the Whispering Gallery!). But he did at least manage to write a review of St. Paul's Cathedral before he fainted. You might like to read it before you go, because he describes what the climb is like (terrifying), how rickety the stairs are (very), and how fit you need to be (extremely). Feel free to ask him a question if you need some advice. You can also write your own review on the forum.
If you're planning on visiting St. Paul's Cathedral then you might like to time it for the afternoon, so you can attend the choral Evensong service as well (if only because it will give you a chance to sit down and get your breath back). Read Craig's review of the Evensong service to see how special it is.
You might also fancy climbing to the top of bell tower at Westminster Cathedral (but happily that one has a lift, so there's no actual climbing involved!).
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