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A little spot of solace and a world away from the usual hustle and hubris of central London, St. Dunstan in the East church garden, just a short walk from both the Tower of London and St Pauls offers a brief respite from the capital’s occasional craziness.
St. Dunstan in the East Church Garden
This is like no other church you’ll visit in central London as it is mainly ruins (as a result of sustained bombing during the second world war) which have no become a public garden that is open to all – the first sight that creates you is of the beautiful church arches that are still standing after the bombing, draped in climbing greenery and ivy (more so in the summer).
With the original church built here at the start of the 12th century (none of which still remains), over the years, St Dunstan in the East has been involved in its fair share of significant events including being partially destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 (you can also stroll along nearby Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London first started). In due course, it was rebuilt in a gothic style with a steeple designed by none other than Sir Christopher Wren.
FURTHER READING – Things to do in east London
Severely damaged again in 1941 during the Blitz, only a couple of the walls and Wren’s towers survived, leaving behind pretty much what you see still today as a visitor. After the bombing, the church was designated a Grade I listed building and reopened in 1971 to the public as free to visit ruins and a garden, with a lawn and some additional trees added, and a small fountain. To this day, it still acts as a poignant reminder (and lasting legacy) of what happened in London during WWII.
St Dunstan in the East truly is one of the most instagrammable places in London and not one that many tourists know about – indeed, we were looking at the Lonely Planet guide to London folding map earlier in the week and noticed it doesn’t feature. As it is so close to the Tower of London, St Pauls and London Bridge, it is definitely worth adding to your ‘ Things to do in London’ list next time you are here.
Depending on when you visit, the amount of people you’ll encounter and your experience here will here vary greatly – visit during lunchtime on a weekday and you’ll likely see lots of besuited city types grabbing a few minutes away from their desks, quickly eating packed lunches or takeaways from nearby food kiosks. However, visit first thing in the morning or at weekends and you’ll more likely see why this little oasis of calm really stands out amongst all the craziness of the capital ; a rare moment of solitude indeed.
Finally, when visiting, make sure you head towards the right St Dunstan church, as there is also a St Dunstan in the West Church near Covent Garden (which is an equally beautiful church and still worth a visit, but with no ‘ruin gardens’ to sit amongst).
St. Dunstan in the East Church Garden and Ruins are open all year round (excluding Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) from 8am to 7pm or dusk, whichever is earlier.
Other London blog posts
- Walthamstow Wetlands in north London
- Borough Market ultimate guide – London’s famous food market
- Guide to Maltby Street Market in London
- Top things to do in Greenwich
- Columbia Road Flower Market, London guide
- Top things to do in Brixton
- The Churchill Arms – the most colourful pub in London
- Top things to do in King’s Cross
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