Cathedral Basilica is a mind-bogglingly beautiful place. I decided to take one of the free guided tours, which provided a wealth of details and context. If I hadn’t taken the tour, I might have hurt my neck by continually staring up at the decorations on the ceiling. Every part of the ceiling has some sort of decoration, whether it’s the tile mosaic or an architectural feature. Actual gold was used on multiple parts of the ceiling. The tour guide said the value of the east dome is about $100 million in today’s dollars!
The amount of decorations is overwhelming. When I was leaving the Cathedral I almost laughed out loud because I realized the ceiling in the entrance area was just as elaborately decorated as the main part of the Cathedral. Now I understand why it took 76 years for the tile mosaics to be completed! I also enjoyed walking around the exterior of the Cathedral, as the architecture is really interesting too.
After taking the tour, I visited the museum in the basement, which had a couple neat construction photos, a few items from Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Cathedral in 1999, but not much else. The Cathedral strongly suggests $2 donations for both the guided tour and basement museum as a way to help defray the maintenance costs of the building. The guided tour was worth well more than $2, but the basement museum was not. I didn't find anything in the small gift shop that struck my interest either.
The key to a successful visit is calling the Cathedral ahead of time to make sure the day & time you plan to visit is open to visitors. The tour guide said that if there’s a wedding, mass, a concert, etc. that they won’t allow tourists in. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about my visit it that there was a lady panhandling on the sidewalk on the east side of the Cathedral, but that was a minor annoyance. While it’s not my favorite destination in St. Louis, Cathedral Basilica is an unforgettable place, and I highly recommend visiting here.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.