Open House London: A Weekend of Architecture

Policeman At No. 10 Downing Street, UK
••• Tim Graham / Contributor/Getty Images

For one weekend in September around 750 buildings, new and old, open their doors to visitors. Many are usually closed to the public. And do you know what the best part is? It's all free. Yes, all buildings, usually including the London Eye (at selected tour times), are free for us to enjoy.

The aim of Open House London is to encourage us all to recognize good architectural design and to explore buildings and be able to appreciate what good design means.

(Note: 'Open House' are now calling themselves 'Open City' but it's the same event.)

Open House London Buildings Guide

Open House London Weekend. Not only does it have the building's addresses and information about each site, but the Guide also includes such important information as nearest tube stations, opening times, disabled access, and even which buildings are likely to have long queues. You can buy the Guide online from early August.

What they don't tell you is that you can pick up a copy of the Guide for free from all London public libraries. The Guide is available to buy/download/pick up from mid-August as Open House London is always on the third weekend in September and many buildings have tours you need to pre-book.

Planning for Open House London

Check the dates for this year and the Open House London Basics.

It's important to get hold of a copy of the Open House London Buildings Guide early (from mid-August) so you can pre-book the tours that really interest you as they have very limited places.

Not all places need to be booked so it's best to go through the Guide marking your faves and then try to make as many bookings are possible. Once you've got some bookings you can plan your days with the other buildings you want to see that are open all day.

Check the Open House website a few days before the event as any withdrawals of participating buildings will be listed, so you don't have a wasted journey.

Essential Equipment

Just as you would for a London walking tour, wear comfortable shoes and don't take a huge bag as you'll be carrying it all day. Along with your copy of The Open House London Guide, you'll need an A-Z, a Travelcard for hopping on and off tubes and buses, and a bottle of water.

Some Favorites

Open House London includes such diverse buildings as offices, residential homes, sports clubs, and government buildings.