Every September, hundreds of buildings across London throw open their doors for Open House to celebrate London’s architecture and neighbourhoods. So if you love to snoop around, this is the time to check them out. Also … it’s free to attend!
London Open House Festival 2022
This year the Open House Festival runs from 8-21st of September and celebrates its 30th birthday!
There are two types of Open House attendees: the clever ones who buy the brochure and plan things weeks ahead, pre-book and move fast; and then there are the unorganised types like me who pick a few random buildings the night before and hope there won’t be any queues. If you are one of the unorganised types like me, read on for my top tips.
With hundreds of buildings taking part, there’s no shortage of amazing ones to visit. The challenge? Choosing which ones to go to can feel overwhelming, but that’s where I come in. I’ve been to many Open House weekends and I’ve had the opportunity to see some great places and take different approaches, so allow me to share some tips on how to choose where to go.
How to approach Open House Festival 2022
Embrace it and join the big queue if you really want to see it. There are not many places I would wait 45 minutes to get in, but I figured it was my only chance to see inside City Hall before it moved.
Sticking to things that are only open during Open House is a good place to start. Why waste time on places that are open year-round and that you can visit anytime? I’m seeing the Charterhouse on a lot of must-visit lists, but it’s actually open to visit throughout the year too.
On the other side…do hit up those places if you want to save money (they’re often free only via Open House) or to just learn more about your favourite places. They do often have tours or special access during Open House, which can be fun as well
Choose to focus on one neighborhood and explore. Walk around and see where you can get in. I sometimes did that when I went to something I wanted to see and then stayed in the neighborhood to check out the rest and it did pay off.
You can Google the best buildings to visit during the Open House Festival and go with those, they include all the best places, but that also means they will be busy. I’ve selected my favorite ones that are worth the wait below.
Other tips for visiting the London Open House 2022 Festival
- If there is a toilet on offer, go, as you don’t know how long the wait is going to be for the next one
- Get to the place early to beat the queue, obviously, it’s not a guarantee, but it is worth trying
- Honestly, don’t just go for Insta spots, try to also join a tour and learn the history of the buildings
- Try out the small spots as well. Sometimes someone’s modernist house can be as interesting as the grand halls of Westminster
- Don’t treat it like Pokémon Go, trying to hit up everything and cram it in one day, but instead take it slow
- As mentioned, it’s free to attend, but for some places you’ll have to pre-book time slots/tickets
Some of my favourite places I’ve been to and that are open almost every year:
The magnificent art deco structure that is The Senate House, which will blow you away with its grandness as well as the wow moments when you realise you’ve seen this area from a famous film.
The Caledonian Club
Private members’ club The Caledonian Club where the tour guide was charmingly informative and the place is just filled with history.
City Hall, or ex City Hall, with its unique spiral interior and wide-reaching London city view from its viewing area up top.
Foreign Commonwealth Office
Foreign Commonwealth Office. Yes, it’s busy, but it’s so well organised that once inside you will forget about queueing, and you’ll agree it’s worth it when you see the famous ceiling painting and staircase that look like something out of St Mark’s Basilica in the Vatican.
The modernist, pipe-covered Lloyds Building, which is surprisingly even more impressive from its interior atrium.
The concrete monolith that is the Trellick Tower, known for its great vistas and incredible brutalist architecture.
The programme is announced mid August so you’ll have some time to put together where you want to go.