‘I visited one of London’s most impressive hidden gems’

If you thought I was going to describe perhaps London’s most iconic building, St Paul’s, as a hidden gem, don’t worry. However, on a recent visit, I discovered there’s a room inside the Cathedral that most people have never seen.

St Paul’s Cathedral has just reopened its library to members of the public, following five years of intensive restoration work. Over 10,000 books and manuscripts were cleaned, recorded and moved off site during the process.

It marked the first time the shelves were emptied since the Second World War. I went down to the Cathedral to take a look at the big reveal.

In a building that’s packed with breathtaking architecture, the library really takes some beating. From its carved Portland stone pillars to its decorated wooden brackets, the room is probably one of the UK’s most majestic places to read a book.

On a library tour, there’s also the chance to hear more about the room’s interesting history, which dates back to 1709.

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It’s not a place for light reading, the room’s books range from first edition Bibles to the rather dispiritingly titled, ‘Birken’s Anatomy of Melancholy’. In fact, the books are so precious that only two to three readers are allowed in the library at once and they have to be supervised by the cathedral’s librarian.

While tourists won’t get to thumb through any copies on a library tour, just seeing the books, many of which are hundreds of years old, is an incredible experience. The Library will host rotating mini exhibitions of some of its most interesting texts.

Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Revd Andrew Tremlett, said: “The Cathedral Library is a remarkable room, and remains one of Sir Christopher Wren’s great achievements.

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“It is fitting that, as we mark 300 years since his death, his Library is able to reopen after five years of painstaking restoration.

“With books, manuscripts, Bibles and liturgical texts dating back hundreds of years, the newly restored Library will provide visitors and researchers with a deeper insight into church history and theology, inspiring new generations to engage with their relationship with the Christian faith.”

Tours of the Library can be booked as an add on to a general visit ticket to the Cathedral under ‘Guided Tours of the Triforium’. As well as the Library, tourists will get to see the Trophy Room and get a great view from the top of the iconic Geometric Staircase.

Don’t miss exploring the rest of the Cathedral and the crypt. I’d recommend hailing one of the cathedral’s volunteers to hear some lesser-known stories and facts. My guide, Andrew, showed me the spot where the Queen Mother once got her shoe stuck in the grate.

The Cathedral is free to visit during services but tourists won’t be able to explore the site if they enter for a service.

History fan? Check out some of the UK’s most under the radar historical sites including an underground grotto.

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