Attraction Reviews,  Things to Do

Southwark Cathedral Review: So Much More than a Church

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Are you a fan of history, Gothic cathedrals, and free attractions? Well, then you must head down to Southwark Cathedral. This church is over 1000 years old and, which – some say – is even better than St. Paul’s!

Southwark Cathedral, also known as The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, is a London landmark that I have passed many times in my life since I lived just a short walk away during my “London years.” In fact, if you’ve been to Borough Market before, you may have seen the church without knowing it, as it is located right next to the famous food market, and looms over many of its stalls.

If you’ve wondered about visiting this iconic building and whether or not it’s worth it during your London itinerary, read my Southwark Cathedral review where I cover the basics of visiting and share some of my top tips for spending time at this beautiful place.

Bonus! While admission to Southwark Cathedral is free, you can receive a souvenir map (£3 value) if you show your London Pass during your visit. Click here to read my London Pass review and click here to buy your own London Pass and save during your London trip.

Basics of Visiting Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral Review Hero

Before jumping into my experience at Southwark Cathedral and what you’ll find there, I wanted to start my review by covering some of the basics of how to visit.

Location & Transport

Southwark Cathedral is located across the road from London Bridge Underground Station. As mentioned, it’s right next to Borough Market, at the oldest crossing point of the River Thames. (For a long time, this was also the sole entrance to the City of London; learn more about Roman history in London.)

I recommend getting there by tube as London Bridge is just a 5-minute walk away and served by two of London’s most efficient tube lines, the Northern and Jubilee. Alternatively, several buses stop nearby (17, 21, 35, 40, 43, 47, 48, 133, 141, 149, 344, and RV1).

My Southwark Cathedral Review would be remiss if it didn’t mention the most exciting way to get there: by boat! The London Bridge City Pier is a mere 7 minutes away on foot. You can get there via the MBNA Thames Clippers, which runs every 20 minutes from Putney to Royal Arsenal Woolwich.

Note: I do not recommend driving to the Cathedral (or driving at all in Central London during your visit!). Not only does it not have parking space, but there is also very limited street parking in the surrounding area. (Even the disabled parking is 10 minutes away!)

Hours, Admission & Tickets

If you ask me if Southwark Cathedral is worth it, I would say, definitely, yes… the price can’t be beat! Not only is this church beautiful, it is also free to visit. (A donation is encouraged, but not mandatory, and possible to make via card.)

The Church is open daily. However, the church’s opening hours and the cafe and shop hours are slightly different. The following are the church’s opening hours for London travelers who wish to visit but not attend a service:

  • Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
  • Saturday: 9:30am to 3:45pm & 5-6pm
  • Sunday: 12:30-3pm and 4-5pm

If the Church is holding an event during these hours, it will not be open for visits so it’s best to check the website before you head down: closures will be announced on this page. (At least three schools hold their graduation ceremonies here, so events are a common occurrence.)

Pro Tip: I recommend going down on a Tuesday or Thursday, as it may be possible to take a (free) 45-minute tour if guides are available.

Southwark Cathedral holds several services daily, at which visitors are welcome. I have been several times, and have always been warmly received – the choir, in particular, is a real pleasure to listen to. The following timings are the regular service timings, which are subject to change, so click this link to check the services before visiting.

  • Sundays: 8:30 morning prayer, 9am Eucharist 11am Choral Eucharist 3pm Choral Evensong, 6pm Compline and Benediction (only on the fourth Sunday of every month)
  • Weekdays: 9am morning prayer, 9:30am Eucharist (Tuesdays only), 12:30pm Midday prayer, 12:45pm Eucharist, and 5:30pm Evening prayer or Choral Evensong
  • Saturdays: 9am morning prayer, 9:30 am Eucharist, and 4pm Evening Prayer
  • Daily: between 10:30am to 4:30pm, there are hourly prayers, lasting about two minutes.

Pro Tip: There are often candlelight concerts held at Southwark Cathedral. These involve a small fee but are one of the best ways to see it! Prices start from about £20. (Click here for the music line-up, which ranges from classical to Coldplay and Taylor Swift.)

Food Options & Facilities

The Cathedral has its own cafe, run by Comptoir Gourmand, a family business based in nearby Bermondsey. It serves homemade baked goods, which are made at Maltby Street (a short walk away.)

Unfortunately, the prices reflect the artisanal quality, and the quality of the food and drink can be a bit hit-or-miss. However, it is certainly a peaceful spot to have a coffee, if you’re tired of the hustle and bustle of Borough Market! 

I must confess that I’ve never tried the food at this cafe, as there is just too much choice at Borough Market! Some of my top recommendations for Borough Market are Elliot’s, a small wine bar, and the duck confit wrap (from Le Marche du Quartier, takeaway only.) The market is also a great place to pick up some London food souvenirs, such as sustainable crackers made from juice pulp!

Gift Shop & Souvenirs

Southwark Cathedral has a gift shop on its premises, as well as online. They sell interesting things such as signed copies of Lara Maiklem’s Mudlarking (if you’re not familiar with the term, learn more here) and a line of gifts dedicated to the Cathedral Cat, Hodge. You can, for example, go home with a terracotta tile with Hodge’s paw print!

My Experience at Southwark Cathedral

I can’t remember when I first visited Southwark Cathedral, but the most memorable time would definitely be during the Christmas service. The music of the organ and choir was delightful. (If you don’t want to attend a service, you can sometimes hear them practicing on regular days.)

As an animal lover, the second most memorable aspect would definitely be the cathedral cat. The cat you’ll see today is Hodge, but the first cathedral cat was Doorkins, a stray who turned up in front of the Cathedral during the winter of 2008. Doorkins was so famous, that she even played host to the Queen in 2013, inspired a book, and raised funds for other stray cats! (Sadly, she crossed the rainbow bridge in 2020 – you can see her grave marker in the garden.)

I can go on forever about animals, but I assume you’d rather hear about other things in a Southwark Cathedral review, so let’s move on to the garden. 

I enjoyed going on the Shakespearean Botanical Trails in the summers, where you’ll find plants grown to commemorate London’s famous playwright, who was once a resident in the parish. There is also a life-size statue of him in the garden and a stained glass window of one of the scenes in his plays. (The Globe is a short walk away, too!)

As a food blogger, I also found the fifty-plus types of herbs in the garden fascinating. (Some, such as Sweet Woodruff, were used for household purposes, such as fumigation, and not cooking!) Sadly, we aren’t allowed to eat in the garden, as it would be a wonderful place to sit down for a bite!

So with all that, can you guess whether I think Southwark Cathedral is worth visiting? Yes, of course! Southwark Cathedral is definitely worth visiting if you’re interested in churches, architecture, history, music, or even plants! It will take you around 30 minutes for your visit, excluding the time for a guided tour or sitting down for a coffee. 

Have any other questions after reading my Southwark Cathedral review and whether you can add this to your London itinerary? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t Forget! While admission to Southwark Cathedral is free, you can receive a souvenir map (£3 value) if you show your London Pass during your visit. Click here to read my London Pass review and click here to buy your own London Pass and save during your London trip.

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Zhen fell in love with London when she first visited at the age of 4. After that, she was lucky to have the opportunity to live in UK for 11 years, 7 of which were spent in London. (She particularly adores the areas around Kensington, Southwark and Baker Street!) As someone who loves both food and travel – don’t we all? – you can find her sharing her Asian food recipes over at greedygirlgourmet.com.

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