Temple Bar London lies in the shadow of Christopher Wren’s ultimate masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral. A forgotten relic of the past, the former city gate is flanked by a café on one side and a covered passageway on the other which was once the site of a Freemason Hall.
Today, hundreds if not thousands of people pass beneath the Temple Bar gate on a daily basis, and yet few know of its historical significance in the story of London. And, no, despite its name, you can’t order drinks at this bar!
A brief history of Temple Bar London
Once upon a time, a series of city gates marked the entryway to the City of London. Collectively, these entrances were known as the London bars. Evidence of human inhabitation alongside what is now known as the River Thames has been recorded to stretch back for millennia. Even the Romans set up camp in this part of England, calling their base ‘Londinium’.
Now, some of the most significant Roman remains in the city can be found in the form of the Mithraeum, a mysterious Roman temple of a cult that historians know little about, as well as the former Roman Amphitheatre which is free to visit and can be found beneath the Guildhall. For a closer look at how London came to be, I highly recommend a visit to the Museum of London.
Skip forward many centuries past the Romans and you’ll arrive in the heart of medieval London. A bustling and busy place that would have been filled with all kinds of sights and smells, those living in the city during those days would find the London of today completely unrecognisable. At this time, there would have been eight gates, known strictly as ‘bars,’ guarding the entry to the city.
Temple Bar London in 1870, image via Wikimedia
Unfortunately, over time the gates were all largely damaged and destroyed, with the Great Fire of London pretty much ending the reign of the towering monuments of the London skyline. Though Temple Bar would have once solely referred to the principal ceremonial entrance that led into the City of London, today the term is also used for Christopher Wren’s Baroque masterpiece, which is what you see today.
Created in the 17th-century, the sumptuous entryway was commissioned by Charles II and is often thought to have been designed by Christopher Wren. However, as with many architectural pieces from this period of history, there is no concrete evidence (ha!)
Erected between 1669 and 1672 by a local stonemason, the arch has been moved several times in its history, including to the site of a former hunting lodge of James VI in Hertfordshire. With the redevelopment of the St Paul’s district of the city, Temple Bar London was once more moved into central London, where it can be admired for free to this day. Now Temple Bar London is a Grade II listed monument
How to visit Temple Bar
As you can imagine, with the exception of snapping photos of the architecture, there is little else to see or do at Temple Bar. Of course, you can wander through the gate or enjoy a coffee at the adjacent café, but the main attraction of the site is its fantastic history. Close by, there’s no shortage of London hidden gems to discover, including the site of the first Masonic Temple in London and some of the best wisteria in London come springtime.
Nearby attraction and things to do
Thanks to the gate’s prominent position on Ludgate Hill in the heart of the City of London, there’s most certainly no shortage of things to see and do nearby! Between historic drinking establishments, scouting out filming locations, there’s something for every budget and to suit every taste…
St Paul’s Cathedral: The magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral is easily one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in the UK, if not all of Europe. Crowned by pineapples and characterised by its stunning central Cupola, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to enter into this Place of Worship. However, Saint Paul’s can still be admired via its exterior, especially from spots such as where Temple Bar is located.
Millennium Bridge: So-called thanks to its grand opening to the public in the year 2000, the impressive structures has since become a key player in the London skyline. Linking the area directly surrounding St Paul’s Cathedral to that close to the Tate Modern Museum, the iconic London landmark has since been used in plenty of films, including the Harry Potter franchise.