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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bring ID – some buildings may require ID to enter.
- Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, as many buildings are subjected to security searches.
- 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.
- Follow Open House London on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
- 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.
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. 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.