Must See and Do
With over 1300 years of history to explore, it can be hard to know where to start, so here are our top recommendations.
- Marvel at the Octagon tower and lantern. One of the wonders of the medieval world, this incredible structure, suspended high over the centre of the Cathedral, was completed in 1342. If you are feeling adventurous, you can book yourself onto an Octagon Tower Tour with one of our experienced guides and climb the 170 steps to explore further and admire the view from the top.
- Experience the light and space of the Lady Chapel. Started in 1321 and taking 28 years to complete, this chapel is the largest of its kind in England, with intricate carvings and an elaborate vaulted roof. Although damaged in the C16th at the Reformation, the Lady Chapel today provides a beautiful space and amazing acoustic.
- Explore the Choir and Presbytery. Extended in the C13th, this was once the most holy part of the Cathedral. Its rich decoration was lavishly restored in the C19th. Take time to spot the medieval misericords, the ceiling bosses, and, around the choir aisle, ornately carved memorials and tombs.
- Climb the 288 spiral stairs to the top of the West Tower. Our specialist tower guide will share with you the stories, history and its significance to the Cathedral. At the top you'll be rewarded with far reaching views across the medieval city of Ely and the East Anglian landscape. (Please note: West Tower Tours are not available all year round)
- Acknowledge the size and beauty of the Norman Nave with its unique C19th painted ceiling and the story it depicts. Pause a while and soak in the atmosphere as you sit in one of the side chapels, or stop to reflect and light a candle for someone close to you.
- Visit the Stained Glass Museum and learn about the history and art of stained glass. Located at the Triforium level above the Cathedral nave, it is the only museum of its kind in the UK and show cases exhibits from the C13th to the present day.
- Follow in the paths of medieval monks as you explore the lovely grounds and medieval precinct. The Benedictine monastery was closed in 1539, but many of the buildings survived and are still in use today. A short stroll through the grounds leads to the14th century Almonry Restaurant and Tea Rooms, with its spectacular views of the Cathedral from its gardens.
- Experience the sights and sounds of the English choral tradition. Choral Evensong takes place daily during term time at 5.30pm or 4.00pm on Sundays and performed by our resident choristers or lower voices. Visitors are very welcome to join in or simply observe one of the most mesmerising practices of daily worship.
- 'Discover more and book a guided tour'. There are several tours to choose from including the Cathedral Highlights Tour, the Monastic Buildings Tour, Tower Tours or Special Interest Tours which cover a range of subjects from St. Etheldreda to Filming at Ely. Further information about all these tours, including prices, availability and restrictions, can be found on our Cathedral Tours pages.
- Explore different aspects of the Cathedral with one of our colourful trails such as The Green Man, Modern Art, The Monastic Trail or, for younger visitors, The Peregrine or Childrens' Trail.