Lincoln Cathedral has been the defining building of this wonderful city for nearly a thousand years. Towering high on Lincoln’s high hill, the cathedral is a majestic centrepiece that can be seen for miles in every direction. No matter where you happen to be in the city, the cathedral looms above watchfully. But how do you visit Lincoln Cathedral? What are the quirks you need to know before you go, and the hidden stories to look out for? We unpack everything in this quick but comprehensive visitors’ guide.

To find more ideas for your trip, see our complete guide to things to do in Lincoln.

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Is Lincoln Cathedral worth visiting?

There are lots of cathedrals in the UK. Most cities have one. They are often fabulous buildings that represent some of the greatest architectural achievements in our history, but… let’s be honest here… visiting cathedrals and churches isn’t always the most riveting takeaway from a city stay. Unless you are a historical architecture buff, it can become a little repetitive.

However. A select few of our cathedrals in the UK have a little extra pizazz that make them stand out above the rest. St Paul’s, York and Salisbury are good examples; and Lincoln Cathedral absolutely counts among this number. But why?

First of all, Lincoln Cathedral has a remarkable back-story that makes it significant not only in this country, but on the worldwide stage. Did you know that it was the tallest building in the world for more than 200 years? (For more nuggets of city trivia, check out our rundown of cool facts about Lincoln.)

How old is Lincoln Cathedral?

Lincoln Cathedral was first built in 1072, making it nearly 1,000 years old! But there have been many incidents, updates and refurbishments over the centuries that has changed the face of the cathedral.

When an expansion was completed on the cathedral in 1311, the tip of its spire reached 159 metres, making it the tallest man-made structure on our planet. This surpassed the record that had been held by the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt for thousands of years.

The cathedral then held this record until 1549, when its main spire collapsed in a storm; after this, it wasn’t until the completion of Ulm Minster in Germany in 1890 that another building surpassed the height of Lincoln Cathedral at its pomp.

Lincoln Cathedral from Castle Square
Lincoln Cathedral was the world’s tallest building until its spire collapsed in 1549

Why is Lincoln Cathedral so famous?

Aside from its sheer size and architectural significance, Lincoln Cathedral has been at the crux of many events that have shaped British history. Many of the stories that have accumulated around the cathedral over the centuries can be discovered hidden away within its walls.

Two years after the Magna Carta was brought to Lincoln, the city became the focal point of fighting between the forces of King Henry III and Loui VIII of France. When they clashed in 1217 at the Second Battle of Lincoln, the cathedral was at the turning point of the day when high-ranking French knight Thomas du Perche was mortally wounded at the doors.

When the Magna Carta was published in 1215 – the document that laid the foundations of law and order in the UK – a copy was brought back to Lincoln by the city’s bishop, and has been owned by the cathedral ever since. Today, it is one of only four original copies that survive (although it is on permanent loan to nearby Lincoln Castle, where it can be seen when on display).

Did you know? As the owner of an original copy, Lincoln Cathedral traditionally hosts an annual Magna Carta Lecture, typically delivered by a high-profile dignitary or politician and exploring the history and impact of the charter.

Here is a lecture by former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney at Lincoln Cathedral in 2015 during the 800th anniversary celebrations:

It’s a symbol of home if you live here

For Lincoln locals, the cathedral is as much part of life’s furniture as the sofa in your living room. We can see it from almost anywhere in and around the city, around any corner we turn, as an ever-constant reminder that we are home.

Whether we’re out walking the dog in the evening along the river, shopping down the High Street or returning from a drive out into the countryside, the sight of the cathedral is a symbol of being home. It’s an especially impressive and comforting view at night when lit up against a dark sky, or at sunset when bathed in the last of the day’s light.

When you live in Lincoln, the cathedral becomes a part of your life.

The cathedral can be seen from almost anywhere in and around the city
The cathedral can be seen from almost anywhere in and around the city

Lincoln Cathedral facts at-a-glance

Lincoln Cathedral facts at a glance

Things to see in Lincoln Cathedral

The splendour of Lincoln’s Cathedral’s interior provides more than enough to admire in itself, but there are also a few quirky and noteworthy features to keep an eye out for as you explore. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights…

St Hugh’s shrine

A name synonymous with Lincoln Cathedral is that of St Hugh, the man who rebuilt it after a devastating earthquake in 1185. The French nobleman was a hero of the downtrodden, remembered for standing up for the poor, rejecting laws that would bring about starvation, and giving sanctuary to oppressed Jews in Lincoln and elsewhere in the UK.

When St Hugh died in 1200 he was buried in Lincoln Cathedral, his tomb becoming a shrine for pilgrims and worshippers over the centuries. The shrine still stands by the east window, more than 800 years after his passing.

The Lincoln Imp

You may have heard of the fabled Lincoln Imp as the inspiration behind the nickname of Lincoln City Football Club. The legendary little creature also lends its name to some of our favourite hang-out spots around the city, like the Imp & Angel micropub. But what exactly is the Lincoln Imp?

You will find the answer inside the cathedral… but you will need to look carefully. The Lincoln Imp is a grotesque inside the cathedral walls with a back-story that has worked its way into the city’s folklore. So the legend goes, the imp wreaked havoc and mischief around Lincoln, until the angels became fed up of it and turned him to stone.

The imp is perched at just above the pillar closest to St Hugh’s Shrine. Don’t worry if you can’t spot it – you can pay 20p to light him up using a coin-operated machine near the Blessed Virgin Mary statue.

Lincoln Imp
The Lincoln Imp is said to have been turned to stone by the angels after wreaking havoc

Which queen is buried in Lincoln Cathedral?

Queen Eleanor of Castile is one of the legendary historical figures associated with Lincoln Cathedral – but contrary to some beliefs, she is not actually buried in the building.

Ever wondered where Charing Cross in London gets its name? It was the last of a trail of crosses between Lincoln and London – known as the ‘Eleanor Crosses’ – erected as a memorial to Queen Eleanor, who died just outside Lincoln on her way to the city.

Eleanor’s husband, King Edward ‘Longshanks’ I of England, had her body moved to London after her death, but he also wanted to leave a piece of her legacy in Lincoln. As was customary at the time, he had her vital organs removed, and then had them buried beneath Lincoln Cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral, Eleanor’s memory is marked with a duplicate of her Westminster Abbey tomb. It stands solemnly next to St Hugh’s Shrine.

Henry Willis’ last pipe organ

The pipe organ is a classic feature of many a cathedral around the world. The elite among cathedrals in the UK are bestowed with organs built by Henry Willis, who was considered the greatest organ-builder of the Victorian era.

Over Willis’ lifetime he built over 1,000 organs, including those in the cathedrals of St Paul’s, Canterbury, Salisbury and Edinburgh. But the last organ he ever built – in 1898 – is Lincoln Cathedral’s. Constructed of some 4,000 pipes, this impressive instrument that continues to fill the cathedral with music is considered one of the finest organs in the UK.

The marvellous rose windows

Lincoln Cathedral is marked by two great circular stained-glass rose windows, facing each other on the north and south sides of the crossing. On the north side there is the Dean’s Eye, and on the south side the Bishop’s Eye.

Rose windows like these are a rare feature in English medieval architecture. The Bishop’s Eye is particularly impressive, originally built in the early 14th Century, and still containing fragments of medieval glass from the 16th Century.

The Bishop’s Eye rose window Lincoln Cathedral
The Bishop’s Eye rose window was built in the 14th Century and still contains fragments of medieval glass

Lincoln’s Wren Library

There are only two libraries remaining in the UK built by the celebrated architect Christopher Wren; one is at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, and the other at… you’ve guessed it… Lincoln Cathedral.

Today, the 17th-Century Wren Library at Lincoln holds a collection of over 10,000 works, including over 250 original medieval manuscripts.

The Wren Library has been undergoing renovation work for some time and is closed to the public until further notice. We hope it will be back open soon and will keep the guide updated with any news.

What is the entrance fee to Lincoln Cathedral?

Admission to Lincoln Cathedral is payable on entry, and you can find details on the website. It is free to enter to attend services, but to explore the building as a tourist the fees are as follows, which includes a free floor tour:

  • Adults: £11 (or £7 on Sundays)
  • Children: free up to 16 years
  • Students at University of Lincoln, Bishop Grosseteste University and Lincoln College: free

If you are a UK taxpayer, you have the option to add Gift Aid to your admission fee, which means that charities can claim an extra 25% of your fee at no extra cost to you. If you do this you will receive an annual pass, and so can return to explore the cathedral again any time within the next 12 months.

Can you take tours in Lincoln Cathedral?

Great news: admission to the cathedral includes a free tour of the floor. For an extra £7.50, you can also take one of the following themed tours:

Roof tour

  • Monday to Saturday, 11am and 1pm, plus an additional 3pm Saturday tour
  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Ages 14+
  • Available to book online

See the breathtaking cathedral roof space up close and learn insights into how it was designed and created.

Tower tour

  • Saturdays at 11:15am and 1:15pm
  • 90 minutes
  • Ages 14+
  • Available to book online

Ascend to the top of the cathedral’s central tower and see incredible views of Lincoln from the highest perch in the city, and look out across the county beyond.

Medieval graffiti tour

  • Wednesdays at 1:45pm
  • 90 minutes
  • All ages
  • Available to book online

Explore hidden messages, symbols and statements made through the art of graffiti throughout the cathedral and learn their meanings from an expert guide.

Symbolism tour

  • Thursdays at 1pm
  • 60 minutes
  • All ages
  • Available to book online

Lincoln Cathedral is riddled with stone carvings and glassworks that conceal religious and political meanings, inside and out. Discover the stories behind the symbols on this tour.

Stained glass tour

  • Last Friday of the month at 1:45pm
  • 90 minutes
  • All ages
  • Available to book online

The cathedral’s stained glass windows are among its most stunning unique features. Join an expert guide to learn in detail about their history, designs, and how they were constructed and maintained.

Another way to gain insights into the building is to take the hop on hop off Lincoln sightseeing bus tour. Running through the summer months, it begins and ends outside the cathedral, and includes a detailed section about the building’s history and significance.

Lincoln Cathedral inside nave
Tours inside Lincoln Cathedral include the opportunity to explore up into the roof and tower

Cathedral shop and café

As part of major regeneration works at Lincoln Cathedral supported by £16.4 million of National Lottery funding, a new visitor centre was unveiled in 2021 on the west side of the complex.

The space repurposes the old deanery building into a contemporary shop and café. With high-ceilinged rooms, ample windows and white-painted walls, the new facilities are spacious and full of light, looking out onto the revitalised Dean’s Green gardens.

You will also find the shop and café putting forward an array of local produce and talent. The walls are adorned with works by local artists, and in the shop you can buy illustrations and glassworks by popular Lincolnshire-based crafters. The shelves are stocked with jams, chutneys, artisan chocolate, gins and ales made by independent local businesses.

Read more about the space in our review of the Lincoln Cathedral shop and café.

When can you visit Lincoln Cathedral?

Lincoln Cathedral is open seven days a week, from 10am–4pm Monday to Saturday and 11:30am–2:30pm on Sundays.

How to get to Lincoln Cathedral

Such is the dominance of Lincoln Cathedral on the city’s skyline that it’s impossible to miss when visiting. The entrance point is located in the heart of the uphill area, about 15–20 minutes’ walk from the train station. You can see the cathedral’s precise location on the map below:


Lincoln Cathedral parking

For short visits, there is a limited amount of free road parking around the city centre with maximum stays of 1–2 hours. However, to explore the cathedral in depth and allow time to enjoy the surrounding area, we recommend staying in one of the many car parks around the city centre.

The closest car parks to the cathedral are:

  • Castle Hill – LN1 3AA
  • Langworthgate – LN2 4AW
  • Flaxengate – LN2 1JX
  • St Paul’s Lane – LN1 3AL

Each of these is less than ten minutes’ walk away and priced similarly, around £5 for three hours (with options for shorter stays). You can find the full range of car parking options and price information on the City Council website.

Where can you stay near Lincoln Cathedral?

As the cathedral is Lincoln’s central landmark, naturally there is a good choice of places to stay nearby. These are some of our favourite hotels close to the building:

  • White Hart Hotel: a bit of luxury in the middle of Lincoln’s historic quarter, just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral. Restaurant and bar on-site.
  • Tower Hotel: we love this stylish boutique hotel with a restaurant and lounge bar in the Bailgate area, less than ten minutes’ walk from the cathedral.
  • The Castle Hotel: a choice of luxury hotel rooms and self-catered apartments in a modernised Grade II listed building, with free on-site parking.
  • The Lincoln Hotel: a Best Western hotel in a restored 1960s building with cathedral views.
  • Pemberton House: not a hotel but a self-catered apartment, set inside one of the most iconic buildings in Lincoln. The Grade II listed Tudor building is situated at the top of Steep Hill, midway between the cathedral and castle.

For more ideas, read our guides to places to stay in Lincoln.

Restaurants near Lincoln Cathedral

There is no shortage of good places to eat near Lincoln Cathedral, with the uphill area featuring some of the best restaurants, cafés and pubs in the city. These are our picks of the best:

  • The Wig & Mitre: this traditional old pub is part of the furniture in the historic quarter, and serves a lovely range of local and international cuisine with regular specials.
  • Adam & Eve Tavern: great pub grub and friendly service in one of the city’s oldest buildings.
  • Olé Olé Tapas Bar: our favourite among the many excellent international restaurants in Lincoln. Make sure you try the dátiles con bacon (dates wrapped in bacon).
  • The Bronze Pig: one of Lincoln’s few fine dining restaurants. You’ll need to dig into your pocket, but it’s worth it to make the occasion special.
  • White Hart Hotel: worth another mention here, as the hotel’s Grille restaurant serves delicious food. Come on Thursday for steak night!
  • Dough LoCo: Lincoln has many brilliant pizza restaurants, but this one is our favourite! An amazing selection on sumptuous pizzas just a minute’s walk from the cathedral.
White Hart Hotel Lincoln
The Grille restaurant at White Hart Hotel is a short walk from Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral also has an annual marquee at the Lincolnshire Show, featuring various interactive workshops and replicas.

For something different, check out our rundown of Lincoln’s best tea rooms, several of which are in close vicinity of the cathedral.

Have you visited Lincoln cathedral? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.

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Everything you need to know about visiting Lincoln Cathedral, including what to see, arrival information, opening times and nearby amenities. #lincolncathedral #lincoln #lincolnuk #lovelincoln #cathedrals

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