We kick off a new series this week looking at 10 of most memorable (and historic) views of London and to kick it off, we’re looking at the views from one of London’s most prominent historic institutions, St Paul’s Cathedral.

There are two external galleries at St Paul’s – the first is the Stone Gallery which stands at 173 feet (53.4 metres) above ground level. Encircling the dome, it is reached, via a route which takes the visitor through the internal Whispering Gallery, upon climbing some 378 steps.

Located above it, encircling the cathedral’s famous lantern (which sits on top of the dome), is the Golden Gallery. It stands some 280 ft (85.4 metres) above the cathedral floor, and can be reached by a climb of 528 steps.

From it – and the Stone Gallery below it – can be seen panoramic views of the City of London and across the Thames to Southwark.

The lantern above, meanwhile, weighs some 850 tonnes and on its top sits a golden ball and cross – the current ball and cross, which weigh about seven tonnes, were put there in 1821, replacing the original ball and cross which had been erected in 1708.

St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London from 1710 into the 1960s (when it was surpassed by Millbank Tower and what is now known as the BT Tower). Sir Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s is not as tall as the original medieval cathedral which reportedly had a spire reaching 489 feet (149 metres) into the sky compared to St Paul’s as it is now, standing to a height of some 365 feet (111.3 metres) above ground level.

WHERE: St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard (nearest tube station is St Paul’s); WHEN: The galleries are open from 9.30am to 4.15pm, Monday to Saturday; COST: £18 an adult/£16 concessions and students/£8 a child (6-18 years)/£44 a family of four; WEBSITE: www.stpauls.co.uk

PICTURES: Top – Looking up at the lantern with the Golden Gallery around the base; Below – View looking west from St Paul’s down Fleet Street (the spires of St Brides and St Dunstan-in-the-West can be seen).

The countdown of our 10 most popular posts for 2011 continues with numbers six and five…

6. The Royal Wedding – A view from The Mall: Another Royal Wedding entry, this post from April was all about the glamour and excitement of the day itself as we joined the crowds lining The Mall;

5. Treasures of London – The Whispering Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral: One of London’s star sights, the Whispering Gallery at St Paul’s has long held a fascination for visitors and Londoners alike.

London, along with the rest of the world, will this week pause to remember 11th September, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people died after planes were flown into New York’s World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon (a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania). In preparation for the 10th anniversary, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a 10 metre high sculptural memorial, After 9/11, in Battersea Park which controversially uses steel girders from the towers in its design. But London already has a memorial to the events of 11th September. This is located in Grosvenor Square Garden, opposite the US Embassy. Opened on 11th September, 2003, the memorial features a pavilion which has three bronze plaques listing the name of UK citizens, UK Overseas Territories and people of dual nationality who lost their lives. The site was chosen partly on the basis that it was at the foot of the nearby Roosevelt Memorial that people laid flowers and lit candles in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Plants at the memorial include white Bianca Roses which were among the flowers in the Queen’s bouquet laid at Westminster Abbey in a service held on 29th November, 2001, and were the roses that family members laid on the innocent victims memorial outside the abbey . In addition, more than 3,000 of the rose petals cascaded from the Whispering Gallery to the altar of St Paul’s Cathedral on the  first anniversary service.

Queen Elizabeth II attends the tercentenary service at St Paul’s. PICTURE: Graham
Lacdao/St Paul’s Cathedral

A service was held at St Paul’s today in celebration of the 300 year anniversary of the cathedral’s completion.

The tercentenary service also marks the end of a massive 15 year, £40 million repair and cleaning project, meaning the cathedral is now clear of scaffolding for the first time in 15 years.

Designed by the indomitable Sir Christopher Wren, work on St Paul’s Cathedral began in 1677 and was formally completed in 1710 (although it had been holding services since 1697). (For more on the history of St Paul’s, see our earlier post, part of our series on Wren’s London, here).

Said to have the largest dome after St Peter’s in Vatican City, St Paul’s has been at the centre of London’s (and the United Kingdom’s) religious and political life for centuries, hosting state funerals (Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill’s were all held here) as well as the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and many celebration services.

Sights include the crypt – containing the tombs of both Nelson and Wellington – and the Whispering Gallery (see our earlier post on the Whispering Gallery here) as well as the exterior viewing galleries.

To celebrate the cathedral’s liberation from scaffolding, St Paul’s is holding a 300th Anniversary Photography Competition in which photographers are invited to submit their best exterior shots of the building. The 10 winning images will then be displayed in the cathedral crypt. The competition runs until 16th July.

To enter, upload pictures to St Paul’s 300th anniversary competition group at Flickr – www.flickr.com/groups/stpaulslondon/. For more information, see www.stpauls.co.uk/photocomp.

Found 98 feet (30 metres) above the cathedral’s floor, the Whispering Gallery at London’s iconic St Paul’s Cathedral is an architectural marvel.

As with other “whispering galleries” found around the world, its construction is such that something whispered into the wall on one side of the gallery, which runs around the interior of the cathedral’s inner dome (part of the first ever ‘triple dome’), can be heard on the other side of the gallery, around 100 feet (30 metres) away.

The dome (pictured right), the design of which draws inspiration from that of St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, was constructed to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. The cathedral, including the dome, was essentially completed in 1708.

As well as giving views down into the cathedral, the Whispering Gallery – a relatively easy climb of only 257 steps – also provides a close-up view of murals painted on the dome’s inner surface by Sir James Thornhill. Painted between 1715 and 1719, these depict images from St Paul’s life.

Two further galleries on the dome are also publicly accessible – the Stone Gallery, which stands 173 feet (53.4 metres) above the cathedral floor, and the Golden Gallery, which stands 280 feet (85.4 metres) above the cathedral floor and offers stunning views of the city as well as southward over the Thames. But be prepared for a long climb – 528 steps – up what are in places narrow, winding staircases.

The current ball and cross on top of the dome date from 1821 (these replaced those which had first topped the cathedral). Together they stand 23 feet (seven metres) high and weigh seven tonnes.

WHERE: St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard (nearest tube station is St Paul’s); WHEN: The galleries are open from 9.30am to 4.15pm, Monday to Saturday (small children must be accompanied by an adult)/Cathedral is open from 8.30am;  COST: £14.50 an adult/£13.50 concessions and students/£5.50 a child (6-18 years)/£34.50 a family of four; WEBSITE: www.stpauls.co.uk