Open House London 2017: Highlights and tips to make the most of the weekend
History and architecture buffs rejoice – Open House London is returning. Now in its 25th year, the weekend is essentially a festival of design, history and architecture. Over 16-17 September 2017, around 800 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some usual fee-paying museums won’t be charging during the weekend, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the clock tower of St Pancras, that are usually off-limits to the public. Some buildings, such as the latter two just mentioned, are only 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 long queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making the most of Open House London. This guide lists what I consider the highlights of this year’s event, although the following section featuring reviews and photos of buildings already visited by Metro Girl, includes further highlights too.
Highlights of Open House London 2017
30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm (long queues likely). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest station: Harlesden.
Drapers Hall. Livery Hall first built in 1530s, twice rebuilt. Featuring 19th century façade and Victorian interiors. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Throgmorton Street, City of London, EC2N 2DQ. Nearest station: Bank or Liverpool Street.
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.
Fuller’s Griffin Brewery. Victorian brewery, built in 1828. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (booking required). Chiswick Lane South, W4 2QB. Nearest station: Stamford Brook or Turnham Green.
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.
Home House. Georgian townhouse with fine interiors, built in 1776. Open Sunday 3pm-5pm (book tour in advance). 20 Portman Square, W1H 6LW. Nearest stations: Bond Street or Marble Arch.
Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday 9am-2pm (book time slot only through website). Lambeth Palace Road, Lambeth, SE1 7JU. Nearest station: Lambeth North.
Masonic Temple. Greek Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, built in 1912. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Andaz Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate, EC2M 7QN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.
One Canada Square. Nineties skyscraper in Canary Wharf with tours to the 39th floor. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (book in advance). One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5AB. Nearest station: Canary Wharf.
Rudolf Steiner House. Unique example of expressionist architecture, built in 1926-1937. Open Sunday 1-5pm. 35 Park Road, Regents’ Park, NW1 6XT. Nearest stations: Baker Street or Marylebone.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Visit the Great Hall and Maggie’s Centre at the 18th century hospital. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (book in advance). West Smithfield, City of London, EC1A 7BE. Nearest station: Farringdon.
Two Temple Place. Victorian office/residential building in an Elizabethan style, built in 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 2 Temple Place, City of London, WC2R 3BD. Nearest station: Temple.
Underground Bunker. WWII bunker 40ft underground, used by Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet, built in 1940. Open Saturday 8.30am-5.30pm (book in advance). 109 Brook Road, Neasden, NW2 7DZ. Nearest station: Neasden or Dollis Hill.
Wrotham Park. Privately-owned Georgian, Palladian mansion, built in 1754. Open Sunday 10am-3pm (book in advance). Wrotham Park, Barnet, EN5 4SB. Nearest station: Hadley Wood or Potters Bar.
Metro Girl’s reviews and photos of Open House 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. Roman home and bath 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.
Charlton House. London’s only surviving Jacobean mansion, built in 1607. Open Sunday 11am-5pm (tours every 90 minutes). Charlton House, Charlton Road, Charlton, SE7 8RE. Nearest station: Charlton.
Crystal Palace Subway. Victorian subway connecting what used to be a train station to the site of the Crystal Palace, built 1865. Open Saturday and Sunday 11am-4.15pm (queues likely). Crystal Palace Parade, Crystal Palace, SE19 1LG. Nearest station: Crystal Palace.
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.
Fitzrovia Chapel. Victorian designed chapel, designed 1891, completed 1929. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Pearson Square, Fitzrovia, W1T 3BF. Nearest station: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road.
Granada Tooting. Former Art Deco cinema with neo-renaissance interiors, now used as a bingo hall, built in 1931. Open Sunday 9am-12pm. 50-60 Mitcham Road, Tooting, SW17 9NA. Nearest station: Tooting Broadway.
Leadenhall Market. Victorian covered market, built in 1881. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm (regular tours). Access from Gracechurch Street, Lime Street and Whittington Avenue, City of London, EC3V 1LT. Nearest station: Monument or Fenchurch Street.
Middle Temple Hall. Elizabethan Hall with hammerbeam roof. Open Sunday 1pm-5pm. Middle Temple Lane, EC4Y 9AT. Nearest station: Temple.
Regent Street Cinema. Britain’s oldest cinema, built 1848. Open Saturday and Sunday 10.15am-12.45pm. 309 Regent Street, W1B 2UW. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Regents Park.
‘Roman’ Bath. 17th century plunge bath, originally part of the old Somerset House. Open Saturday 12-5pm and Sunday 12-4pm. 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.
Temple Church. Medieval church modified by Christopher Wren. Open Sunday 1pm-4pm. Fleet Street, City of London, EC4Y 7BB. Nearest station: Temple or City Thameslink.
Westminster Hall. Medieval hall in the Palace of Westminster, built in 14th century. Open Sunday only 11am-6pm (pre-book in advance). House of Commons (Cromwell Green entrance), SW1A 0AA. Nearest station: 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 Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm. 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 stations: 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 Saturday 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. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 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. Built in 1929. Open Saturday 10am-5pm. Champion Park, Camberwell, SE5 8BQ. Nearest station: Denmark Hill.
During the weekend, there will also be a family festival, Open House Junior, which will feature architecture-themed activities and events for children aged 5-11. Click here to find out more.
Tips on 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 by searching Open House’s official website, buy a physical copy of the guide here or download the free app available on Apple or Android.
- Check out TFL’s website to make sure there are no engineering works affecting your transportation to the sites.
- Wear comfortable shoes and check the weather forecast to inspire suitable clothing. You will be walking and standing a lot.
- Make sure your phone and camera are fully charged and bring a portable charger if you have one so you can search online maps and share photos on social media.
- Bring ID – some official buildings or skyscrapers may want to check you out before letting you enter.
- Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, as more security searches are expected this year.
- Bring your lunch with you – you’ll have plenty of time to eat it if you end up queuing.
- Go the toilet whenever you find a public convenience. Some of the more unusual buildings may not have any available facilities or you could end up desperate for one while in a very long queue.
- 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.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.