Unlocking London: Open House 2018
After having lost faith in humanity at Open House 2016 due to abysmal queuing set ups and swarms of rude crowds, in 2017 I only ventured to one tiny place, but this weekend I felt like giving the event another chance. Where better to go than the political heart of London?
Given the general distate for politics I was hoping everything would be empty – I was wrong, but it was the smoothest Open House experience. Once again I didn’t get picked in the 10 Downing Street ballot – has anyone ever been drafted? Or does my dodgy East European last name mean it’s a no no for me on security grounds?
Everyone has their favourites at Open House and mine was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – it’s included in pretty much every news round-up, and was the main reason for me heading to Westminster. It was well worth the trip and probably my favourite Open House I’ve been to so far! I loved everything from the ceilings to the carpet and even the wallpapers. Also … seeing Palmerston, Chief Mouser to the FCO, himself was a purfect treat. And a shout-out to the organisers as it was super quick and efficient with a one-way system taking you everywhere.
Thanks to the Open House app it was easy to see what other places were nearby. I wouldn’t have known about HM Treasury, next door to the FCO which houses a hidden courtyard. Despite being the place where they spend all the money it was pretty stripped back compared to the grandiose FCO building, though they did have super comfy sofa booths. It also included a mini exhibition on the history of the building, for history/architecture geeks to get their rocks off. But really it WAS all about the round courtyard.
Some places only offered guided tours – despite the app not mentioning it, but with so many things on offer it was easy to simply walk to the next place. Having to go to court isn’t most people’s idea of a fun day out, let alone the Supreme Court, but when it’s housed in an amazing building I’m happy to volunteer as tribute. The UK Supreme Court comes with a dream library (though the books are a bit too dry for my liking) including ladders, a tower room and Harry Potter like stairs. If that wasn’t enough, you could also don various judge robes and wigs for your own legal catwalk experience – take that London Fashion Week!
Portcullis House is the little less loved brother of the Houses of Parliament. Sitting just opposite the famous landmark, it’s where lots of important political stuff happens but in a kinda ugly 90s style building. Despite this it has its charms: the open space and lots of light and a great spot to just catch a breath and process everything. While walking around the hall of political portraits I came up with the next Date Game Show hit: you have two potential love birds matched up with show centred around them walking around the hall and giving their opinion on the portraits – yes I know it’s not exactly Love Island, but let’s get some culture into our reality TV!
Another favourite was the Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament and reachable through a cool secret tunnel underneath from Portucllis House. I would have thought being in such a powerful place might have given me a kick, but it was more the giant mural paintings filled to the brim with bearded medieval dudes that really did it for me. It is also currently hosting a free exhibition on votes for women and the representation of women in the House of Commons and House of Lords, so learn about how kick-ass women fought for their suffrage with tickets via
If you look up boujee in the picture dictionary you will see a photo of Banqueting House with its mysterious cellar like space to its grand hall. It’s so extra the powder rooms come with a sit down and re-apply your make-up corner – sadly I wasn’t invited to the next ball/feast/extravaganza…
P.S this is the current state of Big Ben. Does it look bigger with a hood on?
Have you ever been to an Open House style event? Which was your favourite attraction?