Open House London 2019: Tips and highlights of the annual architecture festival

How to make the most of one of London’s most fascinating and photogenic festivals.

View of the City from the Leadenhall Building

Open House London is a must-do for any lovers of architecture, history… or just London really! Whatever your taste in design, you can be guaranteed to find a building that appeals. To those uninitiated, Open House London is a two-day long festival of architecture, when hundreds of buildings open their doors to the public for free. It could be a chance to step inside a government building, a City of London skyscraper, an art deco masterpiece or a brutalist icon – places that would normally be off-limits to visitors.

This year’s Open House London is the 27th and takes place from 21 – 22 September 2019. Over 800 buildings are taking part in the event, with most of these accessible to those who just turn up. However, there are some special buildings – such as 10 Downing Street. the new US Embassy and the BT Tower – which are balloted entry only, so you need to apply before the beginning of September to be in with a chance. There are some other buildings which have limited numbers so offer time slot bookings in advance.

Top 10 tips on making the most of Open House London

  1. Make a list of places you want to visit and also a few back-up options if the queues are too long by searching Open House’s official website. Alternatively, you could buy a hard copy of the guide here or download the free app available on Apple Store or Google Play.
  2. Check out TFL’s website to make sure there are no engineering works affecting your transportation to the sites.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes and check the weather forecast to inspire suitable clothing. You will be walking and standing a lot.
  4. Get up early: Most of the buildings taking part open around 10am or 11am, but some open even earlier. If you get there before they open, you could beat the queues.
  5. Make sure your phone and/or 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.
  6. Bring ID – some buildings may require ID to enter.
  7. Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, as many buildings are subjected to security searches.
  8. Go the toilet whenever you find one. Some of the more unusual buildings may not have any available facilities or you could end up desperate while waiting in a very long queue.
  9. Follow Open House London on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
  10. Share your discoveries on social media with the hashtag #openhouselondon. It’s worth searching this hashtag on Twitter to find out where the long queues are.

Top picks to visit at Open House London 2019

Camden Highline. A tour of the proposed Camden Highline park connecting Camden Town to King’s Cross. Open Saturday and Sunday 9.30am-3.30pm (pre-book only). Camden Gardens, Camden Street, NW1 9PT. Nearest station: Camden Town or Camden Road.

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.

Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden.

Greenwich Pumping Station. Victorian pumping station, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and completed in 1865. Open Saturday 11am-3pm. Greenwich Pumping Station, Greenwich High Road, SE10 8JL. Nearest station: Deptford or Deptford Bridge.

Visit the British Academy at Carlton House Terrace

Guildhall. The City’s base of its 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.

Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (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 Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Andaz Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate, EC2M 7QN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.

The British Academy. Georgian terrace designed by John Nash, built in 1827-1833. Open Sunday 11am-4pm. 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AH. Nearest stations: St James, Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus or Green Park.

The Old Bailey. Edwardian court, built in 1907. Open Saturday 9am-4pm. Old Bailey, City of London, EC4M 7EH. Nearest station: Farringdon or St Paul’s.

Metro Girl’s reviews and photos of Open House London buildings

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 Saturday 10am-4pm (tours at 11am and 2pm). Charlton House, Charlton Road, Charlton, SE7 8RE. Nearest station: Charlton.

Crossness Pumping Station © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Step inside Crossness Pumping Station

Crossness Pumping Station. The Southern Outfall of Bazalgette’s feat of Victorian engineering, as the capital’s sewage system was transformed for its burgeoning population. Open Sunday 10.30am-4pm. The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W, Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ. Nearest station: Abbey Wood (then a bus or taxi).

Crystal Palace Subway. Victorian subway connecting what used to be a train station to the site of the Crystal Palace, built 1865. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (queues likely). Crystal Palace Parade, Crystal Palace, SE19 1LG. Nearest station: Crystal Palace.

Emery Walker’s House. Georgian terrace styled in authentic arts and crafts interiors. Open Sunday 2pm-5pm (queues likely). 7 Hammersmith Terrace, Hammersmith, W6 9TS. Nearest station: Stamford Brook.

Fitzrovia Chapel. Victorian designed chapel, designed 1891, completed 1929. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Pearson Square, Fitzrovia, W1T 3BF. Nearest station: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road.

Granada Tooting (Buzz Bingo Hall). 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.

Royal Hospital Chelsea. Listed Christopher Wren designed Chapel and Dining Hall in retirement home complex for veteran soldiers. Open Saturday (10am-5pm) and Sunday (2pm-5pm). Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, SW3 4SR. Nearest station: Sloane Square.

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 and Sunday 10am-5pm (tours every 30 minutes). 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AG. Nearest station: Green Park, Piccadilly Circus or Charing Cross.

William Morris Society. Georgian house and former home to arts and crafts pioneer William Morris. Open Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm. 26 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, W6 9TA. Nearest station: Ravenscourt Park or Hammersmith.

For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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About Metro Girl

Media professional who was born, brought up and works in London. My blog is a guide to London - what's on, festivals, history, reviews and attractions, as well as the odd travel piece. All images on my blog are © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl, unless otherwise specified. Do not use without seeking permission first.

Posted on 22 Aug 2019, in Architecture, Festivals, History, London and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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