Built between 1175 and 1490 Wells Cathedral has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”. Set in the medieval heart of England’s smallest city, Wells is the earliest English Cathedral to be built in the Gothic style and has an international reputation. The current building is a significant landmark in Somerset and the South West.
As well as its iconic West Front, Wells Cathedral has unique features that separate it from other English cathedrals including the beautiful ‘scissor arches’ supporting the central tower; a structure which was added in 1338 after the weight of a new spire on the top of the tower threatened to collapse the whole thing. The Cathedral also houses one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the country. Experts agree that the Jesse Window at Wells Cathedral is one of the most splendid examples of 14th century stained glass in Europe, narrowly escaping destruction during the English Civil War.
The Cathedral also boasts the famous Wells Clock (which is considered to be the second oldest clock mechanism in Great Britain), the fascinating octagonal Chapter House and one of only four chained libraries in the UK.
Adjoining the Cathedral is Vicars’ Close, which is thought to be Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited street. Vicars’ Close was designed to provide accommodation for the Vicars Choral, who sing the daily services, and this is still the case today. The medieval windows of the houses and the garden archways seem to have survived more or less intact until the early nineteenth century, and even now a few still exist.
Visit highlights include:
• The magnificent West Front which contains one of the largest galleries of mediaeval sculpture in the world
• Our stunning scissor arches
• The second-oldest surviving clock face in the world
• Vicars’ Close; the oldest continuously inhabited street in Europe
• Our impressive Chapter House
• One of the most substantial collections of mediaeval stained glass in England
TripAdvisor ranked number one attraction in Wells
We welcome visitors every day of the year to experience this wonderful and holy place. We do not charge an entrance fee however we do ask visitors to make a donation if they are able to do so. We receive no direct state aid and need over £4000 per day for the maintenance, upkeep and running costs of this magnificent working Cathedral.
Well over 1000 services take place in the building each year which are open to all.
On most days of the year (Monday to Saturday), regular, scheduled tours are available with one of our guides. They are free of charge, last approximately 1 hour and can add significantly to your enjoyment and appreciation of the Cathedral.
We also offer free weekly stained glass and embroidery walks which take place from April to October and showcase the Cathedral’s unique stained glass and beautiful embroideries. Starting at 11.15am and 11.40am respectively every Saturday and Wednesday, no booking is required.
Special interest tours also run on specific dates during the year for our individual visitors which need to be pre-booked. More information can be found on our Wells Cathedral website.
Shopping and hospitality
A warm welcome awaits you at our Cathedral shop which stocks a wide range of unique mementoes and gifts. Many of our products are sourced and manufactured locally and are individually designed and unique to Wells Cathedral.
Our Cathedral café boasts views to the magnificent West Front of Wells Cathedral and over the tranquil moat of the Bishop’s Palace. Our food is freshly prepared and baked by our team in the Cathedral kitchen each day – including our homemade bread! – using local Somerset and Fairtrade produce wherever possible. Join us for morning coffee or afternoon tea or perhaps at lunchtime for a warming bowl of homemade soup. Other light lunch options include panninis, quiches and salads.
All profits generated from our shop and café are used to help maintain the ministry and fabric of Wells Cathedral.
When term breaks up the Cathedral offers sessions for children accompanied by their parents or guardians. Our holiday creative workshops always prove popular and details are posted on the Cathedral website. We also provide free family trail leaflets in the form of our Primary Guides and Secondary guides which are available free of charge on arrival.
Pre-bookable Group Tour Packages
We strongly advise that all visiting groups pre-book their time at Wells Cathedral. Parts of the Cathedral can also sometimes be restricted for the primary purpose of worship which we can advise you on. We encourage groups to visit us between 10am and 4pm Monday-Saturday and between 12.30pm and 2pm on Sundays, to avoid our daily services. We can also tailor packages, offering special interest tours and adding catering options.
Pre-booked groups of 10 or more receive a range of exclusive benefits including:
• A group rate of £5.70* per head, inc VAT (a saving on the ‘walk-in’ suggested donation of £6)
• Free tour guide (including foreign language guides)
• Free place for the group organiser, tour manager or bus driver
• Free familiarisation visit for the tour leader ahead of the visit
• Option to pre-book leaflets
*£10 per head for Special Interest Tours with minimum group size of 8
Please book all group tours by contacting email@example.com or telephone 01749 674483.
Make a Day of It
Medieval Wells, with its attractive shopping centre packed full of independent retailers and high street names, and the surrounding area can provide visitors with a full and varied itinerary:
Our neighbour, The Bishop’s Palace, home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for 800 years
Book a Walking Tour of Wells.: www.wellswalkingtours.co.uk
If you are visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday the Somerset Farmers Market is a real treat; packed with local food producers and right in the heart of the city.
And Weston-super-Mare, Glastonbury Abbey, Wookey Hole and other local Somerset attractions are just a short distance away.
|2017 Season (1 Jan 2017 - 31 Dec 2017)|
* Opening Times:
The East End of the Cathedral starts to close from 4pm onwards in readiness for Evensong, the remainder of the East End closes at 4.30pm and the Chapter House closes at 4.55pm.
Occasionally the Cathedral, or parts of it, may also need to close or only offer restricted access for a service, special event, or general maintenance. Please check our Cathedral Closures page on our website for more details.