Open House London 2015: Highlights and advice on how to make the most of the weekend
The third weekend of September sees the return of Open House London. Now in its 23rd year, it’s essentially a festival of design and architecture. Over two days, around 700 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some will be museums which are usually open to the public for a fee will be free, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the BT Tower. Some buildings, such as the latter two I just mentioned, are entry by ballot only so you need to apply in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and Lambeth Palace, are likely to have a queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to getting the most of Open House London.
Tips to making the most of Open House London
- Comprise a list of places you hope to visit and also a few back-ups if the queues are too long.
- Check out TFL’s website to make sure there are no engineering works affecting your transportation to the sites.
- Buy an official guide book (available to order here) or download the app on iTunes or Google Play for £2.99.
- Make sure your phone is fully charged so you can access Google maps… or bring an A-Z.
- Bring ID – some official buildings or skyscrapers may want to check you out before letting you enter.
- Bring your lunch with you – you’ll have plenty of time to eat it if you end up queuing.
- Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, which will inevitably end up getting searched at many buildings.
- Go the toilet whenever you find a public convenience. Some of the more unusual buildings may not have any available facilities.
- Share your discoveries on social media under the hashtag #openhouselondon.
Highlights of Open House London 2015
30 Cardozo Road. A partially subterranean house built in 2013. Open Saturday 10am-5pm. 30 Cardozo Road, Holloyway, N7 9RL. Nearest stations: Holloway Road or Caledonian Road.
30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Sunday 8am-5pm (groups of 30 every 10 mins). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.
55 Broadway (London Underground Head Office). Late 1920s office building featuring sculptures on its exterior. Open Saturday and Sunday 10.30am-5.30pm (pre-book tours). 55 Broadway, Victoria, SW1H 0BD. Nearest station: St James’s Park.
6 Bevis Marks. Modern glass 16-floor office block with roof terrace in the City, built in 2013. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 6 Bevis Marks (Entrance on Bury Court), City of London, EC3A 7BA. Nearest station: Liverpool Street or Aldgate.
Admiralty House. Grade I-listed Georgian building, now used by Cabinet Office, built in 1785. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Ripley Courtyard, Whitehall, SW1A 2DY. Nearest station: Westminster, Charing Cross or Embankment.
Airport House. London’s first ever airport in Croydon, built in 1928. Open Saturday and Sunday 11am-3.30pm. Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 0XZ. Nearest station: West Croydon, East Croydon and Purley (then a bus).
Bank Of England. Imperial classical headquarters of England’s bank, built in 1925-1939. Open Saturday and Sunday 9:30am-4pm. Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8AH. Nearest tube: Bank.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 9am-4pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest tube: Harlesden.
Bruce Castle Museum. Tudor manor house, built in 1514. Open Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm. Lordship Lane, Tottenham, N17 8NU. Nearest station: Bruce Grove.
Carshalton Water Tower and Historic Gardens. Early 18th century building featuring plunge pool, orangery, saloon and pump chamber. Open Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm. West Street, Carshalton, SM5 2QG. Nearest station: Carshalton.
Finsbury Town Hall. Art Nouveau, Victorian building from 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon, EC1R 4RP. Nearest station: Farringdon.
Fitzrovia Chapel. Newly-restored, Grade II-listed Victorian chapel on the site of the former Middlesex Hospital, dating back to 1891. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Fitzroy Place (off Mortimer Street), Fitzrovia, W1T 3JE. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus and Goodge Street.
Guildhall. The City’s base of their municipal Government since the 12th century, built in 1440/1789. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Gresham Street, City of London, EC2V 7HH. Nearest tube: St Paul’s, Mansion House or Moorgate.
Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday only 10am-4pm (tours every 15 minutes). Lambeth Palace Road, Lambeth, SE1 7JU. Nearest tube: Lambeth North.
New West End Synagogue. Grade I-listed Victorian synagogue, built in 1879. Open Sunday 10am-2pm. St Petersburgh Place, Bayswater, W2 4JT. Nearest station: Bayswater or Queensway.
Old Royal Naval College (Painted Hall, Chapel, Discover Greenwich). 18th century Naval buildings in Greenwich. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm. West Gate (King William Walk), or East Gate (Park Row) and Romney Road crossing. Entry from pier via Cutty Sark Gardens SE10 9LW/9NN. Nearest station: Maze Hill, Greenwich or Cutty Sark.
Rudolf Steiner House. Unique example of expressionist architecture, built in 1926-1937. Open Sunday only 2-5pm. 35 Park Road, Regents’ Park, NW1 6XT. Nearest tube: Baker Street or Marylebone.
St Leonards Air Raid Shelter. Four roomed war shelter, built in 1938. Open Sunday 1-5pm. St Leonards Court, Palmers Road, East Sheen, SW14 7NG. Nearest station: Mortlake.
The Roof Gardens & Babylon Restaurant. 1930s architecture with stunning themed roof gardens, built in 1938. Open Sunday 8-11am. 6th Floor, 99 Kensington High Street (entrance on Derry Street), W8 5SA. Nearest tube: High Street Kensington.
Westminster Hall. Medieval hall in the Palace of Westminster, built in 14th century. Open Sunday only 10am-5pm. House of Commons (Cromwell Green entrance), SW1A 0AA. Nearest tube: Westminster.
Wilton’s Music Hall. Oldest music hall in London still in its original form, built in 1859. Open Saturday 10am-5pm. Graces Alley, Ensign Street, E1 8JB. Nearest station: Tower Hill, Shadwell or Aldgate East.
Metro Girl’s reviews of Open House London buildings
Neo-classicism, masques and an execution site: The history and beauty of Banqueting House. Only surviving building from Whitehall Palace, built in 1619. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Banqueting House, Whitehall, SW1A 2ER. Nearest tube: Westminster, Charing Cross or Embankment.
Visit the ruins of an old Roman bath house with Open House London. Billingsgate Roman Bath House ruins in the basement of a modern office building, dating back to 2nd-3rd century and discovered in the 19th century. Open Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm. 101 Lower Thames Street, EC3R 6DL. Nearest tube: Monument.
Regency London, John Nash and the Third Reich: Visiting The Royal Society’s Carlton House Terrace with Open House. Grade II-listed townhouses designed by John Nash, now used as the HQ of the Royal Society. Built in 1828. Open Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12-5pm. 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AG. Nearest station: Green Park, Piccadilly Circus or Charing Cross.
- Royal Courts of Justice. Victorian, Neo-Gothic hallowed courts of the law, built in 1874. Open Saturday only 10am-4pm. Strand, WC2A 2LL. Nearest tube: Holborn or Temple.
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Victorian government buildings. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. King Charles Street, Whitehall, SW1A 2AH. Nearest tube: Westminster.
- City Hall. Headquarters for the London Assembly, built in 2002. Open Saturday 9am-6pm. The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA. Nearest tube: London Bridge or Tower Hill.
Middle Temple Hall: Legal life, Twelfth Night and a rare survivor of Elizabethan architecture. A rare survivor of Elizabethan architecture, built in 1562. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Middle Temple Hall, Middle Temple Lane, EC4Y 9AT. Nearest tube: Temple.
Knights, Shakespeare and lawyers: Visit the Medieval Temple Church at Open House London. Medieval church, built in 12th century. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Fleet Street, City of London, EC4Y 7BB. Nearest station: Temple or City Thameslink.
- Open House London takes place on 19-20 September 2015. Check out the Open House London website for more information.
For a guide to what else is on in London this September, click here.