Open House Festival 2021: All you need to know about the festival of architecture

Highlights of this year’s Open House festival, which takes place 4 – 11 September 2021.

Leadenhall Building view of Gherkin

Open House Festival returns to London in September

The full programme of events and buildings for this year’s Open House Festival 2021 is now live. Previously known as Open House London, what was a weekend is now a nine day festival. For the uninitiated, Open House gives the public the opportunity to step inside some of the capital’s most interesting buildings, from heritage landmarks to modern creations. You’ll be able to see historical features, and dramatic design up close by looking in buildings that are usually off-limits the public. Among the variety opening their doors will be government departments to offices to private homes. As well opportunities to enjoy guided and self-guided tours, there are also walking tours, workshops and children’s activities.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, many participating buildings will be following a booking system and enforcing limited visitor numbers. Last year, many buildings were offering online tours, but fortunately a good chunk of those will be re-opening in 2021 for in-person visits. In previous years, some popular spots have seen long queues to gain access, so it’s worth planning in advance and checking which buildings are offering walk-ins.

On 11 September, the festival will host Open City Families at Canary Wharf, featuring a host of architecture and design-inspired activities and events for children.

As a seasoned Open House London visitor and an Open City supporter, here are some of Metro Girl’s recommendations for 2021:

Open House Festival 2021 highlights

Brixton Windmill, Windmill Gardens, Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, SW2 5DA. Nearest stations: Brixton or Streatham Hill. Built in the early 18th century, it’s the only surviving windmill in inner London. Open Sat 11 and Sun 12, guided tours at 1pm-5pm.

Caroline Gardens Chapel, Asylum Road, Peckham, SE15 2SG. Nearest station: Queen’s Road Peckham. Ageing Georgian chapel now used as an arts centre and events space. Open Sun 5 10am-5pm.

Charlton House, Charlton Road, SE7 8RE. Nearest station: Charlton. London’s only surviving Jacobean mansion, originally built for the tutor of Prince Henry, son of King James I. Open Sun 5, guided tours at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA. Nearest station: London Bridge or Tower Hill. Step inside the London government building overlooking the River Thames. Open Sat 4, walking tours between 10am-4pm.

Dorich House Museum, 67 Kingston Vale, SW15 3RN. Nearest station: Norbiton, Putney or Kingston. Striking 1930s artists’ house, formerly owned by sculptor Dora Gordine and her husband, the Hon. Richard Hare. Open Sat 4 and Sat 11, self-guided visits between 9.30am-5pm.

Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest stations: Holborn or Covent Garden. Art deco building used by the Freemasons. Open Sat 4 and Sun 5 10am-5pm.

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Visit buildings normally off limits to the public at Open House, such as City Hall

Garden Court Chambers, 57-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3LJ. Nearest station: Holborn. Visit barristers’ chambers designed by legendary architect Inigo Jones in 1640. Open Sat 4 and Sun 5, guided tours between 10am-4pm.

Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street, Hackney, E8 1EA. Nearest station: Bethnal Green. Step inside Hackney Council’s headquarters in the neoclassical and Art Deco building. Open Sun 5, general access 10am-5pm, guided tours by council officers at 11am-4pm.

House Mill, Three Mill Lane, Bromley by Bow, E3 3DU. Nearest station: Bromley-by-Bow. Step inside the world’s largest tidal mill, built in 1776. Open Sun 5, guided tours of the mill between 11am-4pm.

Markfield Beam Engine and House, Markfield Park, Markfield Road, South Tottenham, N15 4RB. Nearest stations: Seven Sisters or Tottenham Hale. Visit this striking piece of Victorian engineering, built in 1886. Open Sat 4 and Sun 5 11am-5pm.

Myddelton House, Bulls Cross, Enfield, EN2 9HG. Nearest station: Turkey Street. Georgian villa and former home to horticulturist Edward Augustus Bowles. Open Sat 4 10am-4pm.

Pope’s Grotto, Radnor House School, Pope’s Villa, Cross Deep, Twickenham, TW1 4QG. Nearest stations: Strawberry Hill or Twickenham. Visit an early 18th century grotto, the only surviving piece of Alexander Pope’s villa. Open Sat 4 and Sat 11 10am-12.30pm, pre-book a visit online in advance.

The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, SW1Y 5AH. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus or Green Park. Step inside one of John Nash’s fine Georgian terraces, now home to the British Academy. Open Sun 5, guided and self-guided tours from 12pm-4pm.


  • The Open House Festival 2021 takes place from 4 – 11 September 2021. Events are free, but some require booking in advance or a ballot. For more information, visit the Open House website.

Find out what’s on in London in September 2021 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. All images on my blog are © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl, unless otherwise specified. Do not use without seeking permission first.

Posted on 23 Aug 2021, in Architecture, Festivals, History, London and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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