Open House London 2016: Highlights and tips to make the most of the weekend
History and architecture buffs rejoice – Open House London is returning. Now in its 24th year, the weekend is essentially a festival of design and architecture. Over 17-18 September 2016, around 700 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some will be fee-paying museums opening for free, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the clock tower of St Pancras. Some buildings, such as the latter two I just mentioned, are entry by ballot or booking in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and the Billingsgate Roman Bath House, are likely to have a queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making 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.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking and standing a lot.
- Make sure your phone and/or camera is fully charged so you can search online maps (or bring an A-Z) and share photos on social media.
- Bring ID – some official buildings or skyscrapers may want to check you out before letting you enter.
- Buy an official guide book for £7 (available to order here) or search the listings online on OpenHouseLondon.org.
- 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 for security reasons.
- 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. This is also handy for checking out where the long queues are.
- Follow Open House London on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
Highlights of Open House London 2016
30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Saturday 8am-12pm, Sunday 8am-2pm. (groups of 30 every 10 mins). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.
Airport House. London’s first ever airport in Croydon, built in 1928. Open Sunday 11am-3.30pm. Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 0XZ. Nearest station: Waddon or South Croydon.
Alexandra Palace. Visit the WW1 relics in the rarely-seen basement and see the progression on the restoration of the Victorian Theatre in this Victorian entertainment palace, built in 1873. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (pre-book 30 min tour in advance via the website). Alexandra Palace (meet on South Terrace for tours), N22 7AY. Nearest stations: Wood Green or Alexandra Palace.
ArtsLav. A former Victorian men’s public toilet has been semi-restored as an underground arts hub. Built 1898. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 180 Kennington Lane, Kennington, SE11 4UZ. Nearest station: Kennington or Elephant & Castle.
Bank Of England. Imperial classical headquarters of England’s bank, built in 1925-1939. Open Saturday and Sunday 9:30am-5pm (book via the Bank of England website). Threadneedle Street, City of London, EC2R 8AH. Nearest station: Bank.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest station: Harlesden.
Brixton Windmill. Restored Georgian windmill, built in 1816. Open Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm (book in advance via the Brixton Windmill website). Windmill Gardens, Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, SW2 5EU. Nearest station: Brixton.
Caledonian Park Clocktower. Victorian clocktower and former centrepiece for Caledonian Market, built 1850-1855. Open Sunday 10am-3pm (book in advance via Islington council website). Market Road, Islington, N7 9PL. Nearest station: Caledonian Road.
Clissold House. Georgian villa, built 1793. Open Sunday 1pm-4pm. Clissold Park, Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 9HJ. Nearest stations: Manor House, Finsbury Park or Stoke Newington.
Finsbury Town Hall. Art Nouveau, Victorian building from 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon, EC1R 4RP. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel.
Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden.
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 stations: St Paul’s, Mansion House or Moorgate.
Hogarth’s House. Georgian former home of artist William Hogarth, built in 1715. Open Saturday and Sunday 12-5pm. Hogarth Lane, Great West Road, Chiswick, W4 2QN. Nearest station: Turnham Green or Chiswick.
Hoxton Hall. Victorian music hall, built in 1863. Open Saturday 1-5pm. 130 Hoxton Street, N1 6SH. Nearest stations: Hoxton, Old Street or Liverpool Street.
Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-3pm (pre-book only through Archbishop of Canterbury’s website). Lambeth Palace Road, Lambeth, SE1 7JU. Nearest station: Lambeth North.
Rudolf Steiner House. Unique example of expressionist architecture, built in 1926-1937. Open Sunday 2-5pm. 35 Park Road, Regents’ Park, NW1 6XT. Nearest stations: 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.
Metro Girl’s reviews and photos of Open House London buildings
Banqueting House. Only surviving building from Whitehall Palace, built in 1619. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Banqueting House, Whitehall, SW1A 2ER. Nearest stations: Westminster, Charing Cross or Embankment.
Billingsgate bath house. 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 (queues likely). 101 Lower Thames Street, EC3R 6DL. Nearest station: Monument.
Caroline Gardens Chapel. Partially-derelict Georgian chapel used as an arts and event space, built 1827. Open Sunday 3.30-9pm. Asylum Road, Peckham, SE15 2SQ. Nearest station: Queens Road Peckham.
Charlton House. London’s only surviving Jacobean mansion, built in 1607. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Charlton House, Charlton Road, Charlton, SE7 8RE. Nearest station: Charlton.
Dennis Severs House. Georgian townhouse and unique setting for a historic ‘still-life drama’, built in 1724. Open Saturday 12-4pm (book tours in advance). 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, E1 6BX. Nearest stations: Liverpool Street or Shoreditch High Street.
‘Roman’ Bath. 17th century plunge bath, originally part of the old Somerset House. Open Saturday and Sunday 12-5pm. Strand Lane (access via Surrey Street steps), WC2R 2NA. Nearest station: Temple.
The Royal Society’s Carlton House Terrace. 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 11-4pm. 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AG. Nearest station: Green Park, Piccadilly Circus or Charing Cross.
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.
- City Hall. Headquarters for the London Assembly, built in 2002. Open Saturday 10am-6pm. The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA. Nearest stations: London Bridge or Tower Hill.
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Victorian government buildings, built in 1861. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. King Charles Street, Whitehall, SW1A 2AH. Nearest station: Westminster.
- Royal Courts of Justice. Victorian, Neo-Gothic hallowed courts of the law, built in 1874. Open Saturday 10am-4pm. Strand, WC2A 2LL. Nearest station: Holborn or Temple.
- Marlborough House. Early 18th century former royal residence, originally designed by Sir Christopher Wren and his son of the same name. Now home to Commonwealth Secretariat. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Pall Mall, SW1Y 5HX. Nearest station: Green Park.
- Royal College of Nursing. Office combining 1920s purpose-built structure and converted Georgian townhouse. Open Saturday 10am-5pm. 20 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, W1G 0RN. Nearest station: Oxford Circus.
- UK Supreme Court at Middlesex Guildhall. Grade II-listed Neo-Gothic building dating back to 1913, featuring exhibition on the Magna Carta. Open Saturday and Sunday 9.30am-4.30pm. Parliament Square, Westminster, SW1P 3BD. Nearest station: Westminster.
- William Booth College. Grade II-listed headquarters for the Salvation Army, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (architect who designed Battersea Power Station and the red phonebox). Built in 1929. Open Saturday 10am-5pm. Champion Park, Camberwell, SE5 8BQ. Nearest station: Denmark Hill.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s history blog posts, click here.