The Monument to the Great Fire of London pays tribute to the memory of those lost in the Great Fire of London, which ravaged the city during the first week of September in 1666. Frequently referred to simply as “The Monument,” this major landmark is a 202-foot-tall Doric column placed precisely 202 feet from where it’s believed the Great Fire first started all those years ago. Designed by the architects Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, The Monument’s internal spiral staircase contains over 300 steps that lead to an outdoor platform with unforgettable views of London.
History of the Monument to the Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London raged across the city between September 2, 1666, and September 6, 1666. Starting in a small bakery on the unforgettably named Pudding Lane, this blaze would, by some accounts, go on to destroy roughly 80% of London. As part of rebuilding efforts conducted in the wake of this horrible disaster, plans were drawn up to create a memorial near where the fire began. The acclaimed architect Christopher Wren and his esteemed colleague Robert Hooke were tasked with providing a design for this memorial. They came up with plans for a 202-foot-tall Doric column, topped by a symbolic flame, to be built exactly 202 feet from where the fire started.
Work on The Monument began in 1671 and it was finished in 1677. When completed, The Monument was for a time the site of experiments conducted by the Royal Society; today it is mainly known for its viewing platform. The Monument to the Great Fire of London has been painstakingly restored approximately once each century ever since its construction, with the most recent project taking place between 2007 and 2009.
Monument to the Great Fire of London Highlights
Unquestionably the biggest highlight of a visit to the Monument to the Great Fire of London is the chance to see London from over 200 feet in the air. The Monument’s viewing platform is accessible to those visitors willing to climb up its memorable spiral staircase, which encompasses 311 steps. Given The Monument’s prominent location near some of London’s most popular attractions, the perspective from its top provides visitors breathtaking views of the city. Plus, if you do brave all those steps, you’re rewarded with a certificate heralding your accomplishment when you arrive back on the ground again!
The Monument to the Great Fire of London is no slouch when viewed from ground level either. Three panels on The Monument’s pedestal—the north, south, and east panels—feature Latin inscriptions that tell the story of the city’s destruction by fire, its extensive reconstruction, and the names of the mayor’s who oversaw the building of The Monument. The pedestal’s west panel is comprised of an allegorical bas-relief sculpture by Caius Gabriel Cibber.
The Monument to the Great Fire of London itself is a Doric column made of Portland stone. The pedestal is approximately 20-feet-square by 40-feet-high. The core of the column consists of a 120-foot-high pillar (15 feet in diameter) topped off by a balcony on which sits a gilt-bronze urn designed to symbolize the terrible fire that destroyed the vast majority of the city.
More to See and Do at the Monument to the Great Fire of London
Keep reading for more things to see and do at or in the vicinity of the Monument to the Great Fire of London.
*The Monument to the Great Fire of London is readily accessible via public transportation; a number of buses, trains, and tube lines service the area immediately surrounding the attraction. If you must visit The Monument via car, be advised that the closest parking is a 10-minute-walk away, near Southwark Bridge, just across the Thames from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern.
*There are no dining options at The Monument, but the surrounding neighborhood is full of coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants for you to choose from. In particular, there are a number of well-regarded Italian restaurants in the area.
*The Monument to the Great Fire of London is located on the north side of the Thames about halfway between St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. A fabulous itinerary including these popular attractions, as well as the Tower Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, can be built around a stop at The Monument.
*If experiencing London from the 200-foot-high viewing platform of the Monument to the Great Fire of London isn’t enough for you, The View from The Shard, with its modern observation deck situated some 70 stories in the air, is just one mile from here, right across iconic London Bridge.
Why the Monument to the Great Fire of London Should Be on Your Must-See List
The Monument to the Great Fire of London commemorates one of the city’s darkest hours, a terrible moment in time that would shape this world-class metropolis for centuries to come. Locals and visitors from all over the world alike have been making the trek to the top of this famous landmark for well over 300 years now; throw in the fact that The Monument’s viewing platform offers splendid views of the city, and it’s definitely a good idea to add this fine historic place to your upcoming London itinerary.