London, United Kingdom, probably isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you think of visiting temples. In reality, London is home to many beautiful temples of different faiths. To help you plan out your itinerary, here is a list of eight must-see temples in London, United Kingdom.
Sree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledon
The Sree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledon, opened its doors in 1981 as the first consecrated Hindu temple in Europe. While the temple performs all of the traditional functions of a Hindu Temple, from religious services to birth, wedding, and death ceremonies, the site also adopts an expanded holistic approach. Visitors can partake in discussions by religious experts, philosophy talks, yoga and meditation classes, and health seminars.Shree Swaminarayan Temple Willesden
The Shree Swaminarayan Temple Willesden is a sect of Hinduism with the founder being Lord Shree Swaminarayan. In the 1960′s, there was a group of people who emigrated to Great Britain that followed Lord Shree Swaminarayan’s teachings and wanted a place to come together to pray and celebrate. The building of a temple was discussed and officially opened in 1975. Today the temple hosts many activities, from group prayer to teachings to English classes to yoga.
Also known as the Neasden Temple, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is the first traditional Hindu Mandir in all of Europe. This temple has impressive architecture, made of 2,820 tons of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tons of Italian Carrara that were shipped to India for carving then re-shipped to London to create the temple. The building of the structure is pretty amazing, as it took less than three years to put 26,300 pieces together, essentially like a giant puzzle. Inside, visitors can learn more about Hindu culture through the “Understanding Hinduism” exhibit, as well as grab some Indian cuisine at the Shayona Restaurant and Shop. Moreover, seminars, workshops, and performances for children through senior citizens are provided on a regular basis.
ISKCON-Soho London Temple
While Oxford Street in London may be filled with shopping, nightclubs, and crowds of people, a quick turn onto Soho Street will bring you to an orange and sand colored structure that you might miss if you don’t look closely. This is the ISKCON-Soho London Temple. Upon entering the temple, visitors are asked to take off their shoes and approach the alter in front of them, which features the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara. Upstairs in the temple is the community shop, where you can find spiritual books, chanting beads, incense sticks, herbal medicine, vegan cosmetics, and more. And if you’re hungry, an on-site vegetarian restaurant, Govinda’s, prepares fresh meals throughout the day.
London England (LDS) Temple
While the temples mentioned thus far have all practiced forms of Hinduism, the London (LDS) Temple is actually a Mormon temple. The building was the first temple to be constructed in the British Isles and the second to be built in Europe. The temple is not exactly in London but about 25 miles south in the peaceful English countryside. There are multiple buildings to explore on the 32 acres the temple occupies, the most popular of which includes a 3-story, 40-room Elizabethian-style mansion. Outside, visitors can stroll around the well-manicured lawns, tall Oak Trees, and reflective pond. At night, the temple takes on a new mood as it seems to glow bright white against a black backdrop.
Most people will recognize the Temple Church from the famous Dan Brown novel, “The Da Vinci Code“. This site, which is usually referred to as “The Temple”, is actually a Christian temple, with beautiful medieval architecture and a unique circular nave that mimicks the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the site where Jesus is said to be buried. The temple was named after the Knights Templar, the “order of crusading monks founded to protect pilgrims on their way to and from Jerusalem in the 12th century”. Temple Church has seen a lot of history, for example, being badly damaged during WWII and surviving the Great Fire of London. Today, visitors today flock to not only see the famous site of a book turned movie, but also to see the knightly effigies (once believed to be tombs), the beautiful wooden alter, and the many gargoyles.
The London Sri Murugan Temple is a Hindu temple with a highly detailed facade, an impressive 52-foot tower outside, and polished granite tiles from India inside. Shrines carved from black granite give tribute to the deities that are decorated with flowers and fruits. Those who attend this temple hold Lord Muruga as the only supreme being, with his many faces manifested in the deities housed in the shrines. Whether you go to the London Sri Murugan Temple to attend service, learn about the Hindu faith, or explore the beautiful building design, a visit to this temple is religious space is a unique experience.
Wat Buddhapadipa was the first Buddhist temple ever to be built in London. The building, which was first opened at its present location in Wimbledon in 1976, is designed in a Thai style and used for monastic ceremonies. According to the temple’s website, they are the only traditional Thai temple ever to be built in Europe. While the structures consist of the monk’s house and a cottage, the 4 acres Wat Buddhapadipa resides on features a lake, small grove, orchard, and flower garden.