Do you love peeking behind closed doors? Then Open House is for you. Set aside some time during 4 – 12 September 2021 to explore. You just need to decide what to see at Open House London. There is a lot to choose from, more than 800 properties ranging from Waste Management to Number 10 Downing Street.
What is Open House London?
Open House London is the third weekend in September when buildings across London open their doors to the public for free. It is the biggest architectural festival in the world. Some of those buildings are open ordinarily but either you’ll get in free where you usually have to pay or you’ll parts of the building that are normally out of bounds. 4 – 12 September 2021 is the weekend to set aside.
How does Open House work?
Entry to every building is free. Some you need to book, others you just turn up. Take a look Open House London website for inspiration and full details. In addition to exploring the inside of buildings there are guided and self guided walks and cycle routes to admire architecture from the outside.
What to see at London Open House that needs booking
Every year a few places need booking, here are my highlights
Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding father’s of the United States of America lived in a terraced house below Charing Cross station. Benjamin Franklin’s House is sparsely furnished but tells the story of his London years very well.
Royal Overseas League
Whilst picnicing in Green Park I have often looked up and seen people sitting on a balcony over looking the park having a far more genteel lunch. They are members of the Royal Overseas League, a private members club. You not only get to explore the buildings, on the day I visited we were invited to take tea in the dining room and become of those people on the balcony. I loved the Crinoline Staircase, so called because its bannisters are bowed out to allow the wide skirts of a crinoline to pass by.
When the artist J M W Turner decided that he wanted country house, his gaze turned to Twickenham. He designed this dream house and moved in with his Dad. No longer a rural idyll Turner’s House is a tranquil delight.
The Charterhouse is a slice of Tudor London hidden between the Barbican and Smithfield. It has grand rooms, a cloister, a chapel and is still a working alms house. The Charterhouse Open House online offer is a floral crown making workshop with the Charterhouse gardener.
What to see at London Open House without booking
Not everywhere needs pre-booking but do be prepared for queues.
The Fitzrovia Chapel is a tiny jewel box of building. It looks like nothing from the outside but inside it glows with with gold mosaics. Visit and gawp. Expect long queues.
Romanian Cultural Institute
If you’ve ever wanted to see what one of the grand mansions in Belgrave Square look like inside then head for the Romanian Cultural Institute. They always have a fascinating display of Romanian art and craft as well.
Emery Walker’s House
Emery Walker was William Morris’s best friend. His house was reflects his position at the centre of the Arts and Crafts movement. It remains pretty much as he left it and is a fascinating insight into Victorian artistic life.
Virtual Tours for London Open House
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
In most years you queue round the block to visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during Open House weekend. In 2020 you settle down in front of your laptop and enjoy the online tour
The Royal Society is housed in a row of John Nash houses on Carlton House Terrace overlooking the Mall and is home to the cream of Britain’s scientific community. This year tours are online for interiors that are just as spectacular as the exterior.
Have you explored London Open House? Where did you go? And where will you go this year?