St. Patrick’s Cathedral Tours

This post is about tours of St. Patrick’s Cathedral including what tour options are available, best times to visit, directions how to get there and more.

 

 


PLAN YOUR VISIT

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most recognizable cathedral in New York, if not the world. In fact, it is the largest neo-Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States.

It is a must-visit for those who love architecture and history, those who worship, and those simply enjoy seeing a place of pure beauty. 

To learn more of its history, read the section below.


How to Get Here

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located at 5th Avenue between 50th and 51st Sts, directly across from Rockefeller Center. Enter from the 5th Avenue side.

Use this link to get Google Maps directions from your point of departure. 

If you join us on our pay-what-you-like walking tour of Midtown Manhattan, we visit St Patrick’s so you will have no trouble at all finding it!

By Subway

  • 6 train to 51st St station
  • E, M trains to 5th Ave – 53rd St station
  • B, D, F, M to 47th-50th Sts – Rockefeller Ctr station

If you are new to the NYC subway, then you may find the 2 articles below helpful.

By Bus 

  • M1, M2, M3 southbound on 5th Ave and northbound on Madison Ave

TIP: Hop-on, Hop-Off buses all make stops right near St. Patrick’s. If you are considering taking a bus tour, read our detailed post on which NYC bus tours are best.


Best Times to Visit

The Cathedral is open from 6:30 am to 8 pm. Hours vary during holidays, so be sure to but check their website before you visit.

With nearly 5 million visitors a year, the Cathedral can be can crowded and the traffic flow is managed carefully. You may have to wait in line at the Visitor’s Entrance on 5th Avenue.

Based on St. Patrick’s Facebook page, Mondays are the busiest day of the midweek with peak hours being from 11 am to 8 pm. 

If you must go on a Monday, try to arrive by 10 am and give yourself 30 minutes time to explore.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are also somewhat busy, so try to arrive by 11 am to miss the crowds. Thursdays and Fridays are slightly less crowded.

 

Popular Times at St Patricks on Monday

 

Saturdays are less crowded with the peak time of 5 pm to 6 pm corresponding to the 5:30 mass.  

Sunday is even less crowded because you cannot take a tour. The busiest hours are 10 am to 2 pm, again, connected with mass times.

 

Popular Times at St Patricks on Sunday

 


Conduct While Visiting

St. Patrick’s requests that you conduct yourself in an appropriate manner for a visit to a house of worship. 

This includes your attire, choice of language (no obscenity), and speaking volume. If you are taking a self-guided audio tour, you must wear headphones.


Visiting During Mass 

Mass occurs at different times during the day. Here is the mass schedule, but check their website before you visit in case any scheduling changes have been made. 

  • Mondays-Fridays: 7 am, 7:30 am, 8 am, 12 pm (Music), 12:30 pm (Music), 1 pm (Music), 5:30 pm (Music on Mondays and Fridays only)
  • Saturdays: 8 am in Lady Chapel (Music), 12 pm, 5:30 pm (Fulfills Sunday obligation)
  • Sundays: 7 am, 8 am, 9 am (Music), 10:15 AM (Choir), 12 pm (Music), 1 pm, 4 pm: Spanish Mass (Music), 5:30 pm (Music)

Note: No talking or photography is permitted during mass.


Hotels in the Area

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, a neighborhood with so much to see. 

Why not stay in the area for the convenience to the many nearby attractions.

You can find some good prices in nice accommodations. For example, Pod 51 is very close by and is a highly rated hotel.

Find other nearby hotels here.

 


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TOURS 

It is free to enter St. Patrick’s and look around on your own. You may want to plan ahead by looking at the busy hours above and choose a less crowded time.

There are no tours led by live tour guides. Your tour options include:

 

 


Official Self-Guided Audio Tour 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral sells a self-guided audio tour you can listen to on your smart device. You are required to listen with headphones. 

This tour is narrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan who gives you an insider’s view of the cathedral’s history. It is similar to the video above.

It is approximately 30-40 minutes and you can move at your own pace. 

The audio tour is available in English, Spanish, Italian & French. There is also a kids version in English.

You should consider buying the audio tour prior to visiting to save time. You can, however, buy it at the Cathedral at the Tour Desk which is open from 8:30 am – 6:00 pm (Monday-Saturday).

Audio Tour Prices

See here for more information on the tour.


Group Tours 

If you are a group of 10 or more, you can arrange for a private tour with a live guide. See more information here

 


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VISIT WITH FREE TOURS BY FOOT

Our pay-what-you-wish Midtown Manhattan Tour stops at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Your guide will share with you a brief history, point out some architectural features and tell you some anecdotes.

 

 

If you can’t take our guided Midtown Manhattan walk when it’s offered, or prefer to explore at your own pace, consider our GPS-led audio tour version which also includes St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Here is a sample of the tour.

Here is how it works:

    1. Download our free app on (iTunes) or (Android).
    2. Download any audio tour(s).
    3. Enjoy the tour(s).

 Visit our main NYC audio tours page to see all the tours we offer and hear samples.

 


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NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

St. Patrick’s is in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. There are countless things to do in this part of the city.

Find out what other sites are nearby from our post on things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Here are some major sites within walking distance of St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

Rockefeller Center 

Directly across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Rockefeller Center. For amazing views, visit Top of The Rock, the observatory in 30 Rockefeller Center.

Museum of Modern Art

This world-class museum is just 2 blocks away from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The MoMA has free admission on Friday afternoons

Central Park

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is 9 blocks south of Central Park. Check out our guide to Central Park or our  GPS-enabled audio tour to explore at your own pace. We also offer pay-what-you-wish Central Park tours.

Times Square

Located about 5 blocks from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Times Square is a must-see New York City destination. Our post on things to do in Times Square lists the many things to do and see in the area.

Grand Central Terminal

About a 15-minute walk from St.Patrick’s is the stunning and historic Grand Central. It is a gem of New York City and should be seen while you are here. Our guide t0 Grand Central Terminal points out what to see there.

You can also join us for a pay-what-you-wish Grand Central Tour or try out GPS-enhanced Audio Tour of Grand Central. 

New York Public Library

Another landmark building where you can take a free tour is the magnificent New York Public Library about a 10 block walk from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

 


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HISTORY

In 1853, at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, Archbishop John Joseph Hughes announced that he would build a new, larger cathedral uptown. 

The church had purchased a plot of land that St. Patrick’s now stands on in 1810, but with no intention of building a new cathedral there. 

People thought Hughes was crazy; the proposed site was considered near-wilderness and was far north of the existing city.

Hughes, however, insisted that the spot would someday be in the heart of New York City and that he would build the most beautiful cathedral in America. He turned out to be right!

The cornerstone for the new cathedral was laid on August 15, 1858. The architect was James Renwick, Jr., and the proposed budget was about $850,000. The church is made of white Tuckahoe marble. 

Though the building progressed very rapidly at the start, it came to a grinding halt during the American Civil War and then resumed when the war was over.

In 1878, when the structure was completed, a fund-raising fair was held in the new cathedral.  The budget had not allowed for the purchase of furnishings. 

Fortunately, $172,625 was raised during the fair, and on May 25, 1879 St. Patrick’s Cathedral was formally opened.

Years or wear and tear, pollution and acid rain had caused the exterior to begin to crumble.  

On March 17, 2012, Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced that St. Patrick’s was to undergo a massive, three year renovation, both inside and out. 

The massive renovation began in May 2015 and cost nearly $200 million. Now, in 2019, the Cathedral is looking better than ever and worth a visit.

 


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About the author

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others.

She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.

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