Explore Open House London 2019
The beginning of #OpenHouseLondon 2019 is just hours away and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
Its 27th edition includes some of the most iconic houses, offices, landmarks and gardens in the capital. Explore over 800 buildings across all 32 London boroughs with the help of our Guide through Open House London 2019.
You can learn and read all about the highlights of this year’s event on the official site of Open House London 2019, so we’re totally skipping them in favour of our top picks of must-visit places this weekend.
Architecture comes in many forms, colours and shapes that it would be nearly impossible to fit even a tenth of its diversity and magnificence in just one article.
And when it comes to London – our capital has so much to offer. No matter if you find temples fascinating, getting lost in their eternal spirit of style or in thoughts while exploring the post-modern atmosphere – the Swinging City has it all.
From palaces to shrines, from libraries to tunnels, from lecture halls to offices – it’s all embraced by London.
Over 800 buildings open their doors this weekend to satisfy your curiosity and reveal what lies within. The next two days you will have the chance to see a side of the swinging city, which you never knew existed. Enter top-secret locations, feel welcome at private VVIP venues and take a sneak peek at someone’s home while revealing yet another secret of the hidden London.
On the map above we’ve pinned this year’s highlights (of course) but added our perspective as well. The route, we’ve drawn is quite spacious, so in the next paragraph we’ve picked just a few of the places on the map, which are a total must-visit.
Keep on reading to find out which are the hidden diamonds in this year’s Open House London.
Let us lead the way
Okay there are so many ways to get lost in the Swinging City this weekend and since we have a soft spot for making lists, we’ve made one with three distinct thematic options among the countless possible routes to head-on. Buckle up and try to walk them all down.
Go All Political
This is just one of the ways to rediscover London this weekend and feel the power of authorities in your own hands… at least for a little while.
10 Downing Street
You all know that on an ordinary day there’s no access to the house or street for the general public and literally there’s no chance to do a 10 Downing Street tour whenever you want. Still this weekend you’re more than welcome to take a trip to one of the most famous addresses in the world and take a picture in front of the most photographed door in England.
Step Inside 10 Downing Street, the place where the most important decisions affecting Britain are taken. Take a look behind the famous black door of the most important governmental building anywhere in the world in the modern era. It has been the residence of British Prime Ministers since 1735, where some of the most recognizable political figures of modern history have lived and worked – the former office of Robert Walpole, Pitt the Younger, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
The headquarters of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) also open their doors to the public this weekend. The British organisation that represents most of the UK's trade unions was at first intended to be a memorial to the dead trade unionists of both world wars.
This explains its architectural value. Still, there’s much more that its halls can reveal. So take your chance to reveal the secrets of this symbolic building.
The Home of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly is yet another place that you can visit this weekend. The environmentally-aware building awaits you under the motto
We Are All Londoners. By going there you will have the opportunity to celebrate European Culture and Communities with a day of sharing European language, food, art, stories and music.
All of the above in honour of celebrating and supporting European Londoners. In case you need immigration advice or wonder what the impacts of Brexit will be – you’ve just found the right place to get all of your questions answered for free.
Royal Courts of Justice
The magnificent Victorian masterpiece, in the form of one of London’s many public buildings, opens its door for you. The Law Courts, which houses the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales, gives you the opportunity to visit its cells and courtrooms with the court staff prepared to answer all of your questions.
The UK Supreme Court (formerly the Middlesex Guildhall)
The former Middlesex Guildhall is now the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its decisions indeed are affecting the whole Kingdom’s population.
So take the chance to walk the halls of this neo-gothic Grade II listed building.
The Old Bailey
Step inside the most famous criminal court in the world - The Old Bailey - London's principal criminal court for centuries. Nowadays it is a crown court centre, hearing cases from the UK's capital, and those remitted to it from England and Wales.
Crowning the court the Statue of Justice, sculpted by Frederick William Pomeroy, stands 60 metres above the street, cast in bronze and covered with gold leaf. This symbol is instantly recognisable by millions, because of its depiction in everyday news and modern art.
National Audit Office
This exquisite Grade II listed art deco building has a truly fascinating history. It is the home of the National Audit Office since 1986 but was first opened to the public on 5 June 1939 by Imperial Airways. Then the
Speedbird Housewas described by The Times as
The finest air terminal in the world.
The building used to give direct access to thousands of passengers to platform 17 (now platform 19) of Victoria Station. As for the building's unofficial name and the dazzling prize, its construction cost, you should plan to take a tour through its interior and history this weekend.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Today the magnificent Grade I listed Victorian building, which houses Foreign & Commonwealth Office, is the home of four separate departments of state - those of The Foreign, India, Colonial and Home Offices.
The route, you may take inside it this weekend, will lead you through its most imposing spaces - the magnificent and richly decorated Durbar Court, India Office Council Chamber, Locarno Suite and Foreign Office Grand Staircase.
There's more - the Lancaster House, situated close to Buckingham Palace, is also part of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office estate. So you may step inside this historic house, as well, and see where the American movie
The Young Victoriaand the BBC production
Churchill at Warwere shot and where the high-profile receptions are held.
In case you’re a culture vulture
Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. - as Jawaharlal Nehru has famously said, and when we’re talking about London it is extremely hard to pick just a few of the numerous options out there.
Still, feel free to retrace our steps or make your own in your unique manner.
Benjamin Franklin House
The modest house at 36 Craven Street is the world’s only remaining home of one of the greatest political figures of the 18th century – the scientist, inventor and writer - Benjamin Franklin.
So yes, you can easily say that the building is historically significant by this fact alone. But there’s more – this house retains a high degree of authentic features. The special cultural importance of the building is reflected by its Grade I status and this weekend you can relive the past which fills its rooms.
Van Gogh House
Learn all about 87 Hackford Road and its most famous tenant – the inimitable Van Gogh. Take a glimpse into the stories hidden within the walls and inspire the artists within yourself.
If nothing else, the Pushkin House in London is the centre of Russian culture in the city. The venue is known for its varied programme of all forms of Russian art, history, philosophy and current affairs. Founded in 1954, the building is the oldest independent Russian cultural centre in the UK.
The Royal Academy of Music
Surrounded by Grade I and Grade II listed buildings and located within the Regent’s Park conservation area, two distinct, outstanding performance spaces - the Music’s Theatre and the new Recital Hall - await you hidden behind the listed façade of the Royal Academy of Music’s Edwardian premises.
Simply feel welcome to Britain’s oldest conservatoire.
The Royal National Theatre
The RIBA Award Winner building, housing one of the world's most important producing theatres, is a key work in British Modernism.
Alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House, The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's three most prominent publicly funded performing arts venues.
The arm long list of its profound artistic directors and notable productions includes: Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Peter Hall and Sir Richard Eyre, Hamlet, Othello, As You Like It, Hedda Gabler, No Man’s Land, Amadeus, Pravda, The American Clock, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Anna Karenina, Copenhagen, Far Side of the Moon, The History Boys, Frankenstein and many many more.
William Morris Gallery
We simply can’t put the words London and cultural in one sentence without adding William Morris Gallery to the mix. This will be just a quick mention though, since you can take a look at the world's largest collection of William Morris's work each week from Tuesday to Sunday, displayed in his childhood home in London.
London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art
LAMDA – the world leader and pioneer is the UK’s oldest drama school. More than a century and a half it has kept on influencing the world of performing arts not only in Great Britain but Europe as a whole.
Nowadays the central Victorian building at 155 Talgarth Road is the Academy’s home.
The Grade II listed building at Silk Street is one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture. But there’s another fact that makes this venue so special.
It is the home of Barbican - Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue. As for the name of the cultural centre, it goes over 2,000 years back in time but what does it mean? Go and find out yourself this weekend.
Guildhall Art Gallery
Hundreds of years ago where Guildhall Yard lies today used to stand a Roman Amphitheatre. The time passed but somehow the purpose of this place kept its artistic spirit over the ages.
Nowadays, the home of the City of London’s art collection is partly inspired by the former Roman architecture. Enjoy the marble look of Guildhall Art Gallery.
Wilton's Music Hall
Step inside the oldest Grand Music Hall in the world. Nowadays this is a home to over 300 performances and over 80 productions each year.
All of them are taking place in this unprecedented historically significant venue – noteworthy equally as an architectural feature and as a monument to social history.
Step inside one of the greatest concert halls not only in the UK alone but in the whole world. Specialised in a chamber and instrumental music and songs, the crystalline acoustic of Wigmore Hall will take you to a place you’ve never known.
Lose yourself in the eternity of the sound and let the music take you to an obscure somewhere.
(the former) Granada Cinema
perfect dream-child of the 'thirtiesas described by the architectural historian Sir John Summerson may be made with style but its the story behind it, which is so captivating and enchanting.
The golden era of British silent cinema erected its temple - The Cathedral of Cinema, called Granada, but the downfall of this glorious epoch meant damnation for its creation as well. The end was truly in 1973 when the former movie theatre was set for demolition.
Fortunately, the people protested and the Government listened to them and saved the building by making it the first Grade I listed cinema in October 2000. Today it may not be the home of new worlds, created by the motion pictures, but at least is still standing.
Аlthough nowadays it is simply known as the Buzz Bingo Hall. The outstanding
Shakespearian Gothicinterior though is fully preserved remaining for Britain's magnificent and sumptuous cinemas of the 1930s.
Willing House The internationally notable designers Heatherwick Studio open their home - Willing House - to the public for the very first time. The building houses 25 years of significant for the architectural world models, collections and artefacts.
The team of 250 professionals is dedicated to one mission - to make our physical surrounding better for everyone by creating soulful designs, which embrace and celebrate the complexities of the real world.
Education is the passport to the future…
…for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today- we’ve borrowed this quote from Malcolm X, because it is the perfect representation of the next thematic route that we’ve picked for you on the day of Open House London 2019 - the educational one.
We will give you the locations alone since eagerness and curiosity should be the only reasons to make you open the doors of knowledge and see the lure of the academic world.
- The British Academy
- Royal Museums Greenwich
- Richmond, the American International University in London
- Old Royal Naval College
- King's College London
- City, University of London
- The London Library
- The Royal Society
- Burlington House
Who Controls the Past Controls the Future
as George Orwell wrote as a warning in his eminent dystopian novel 1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four). And this sentence always recalls another one, which starts to echo in our head:
A nation that forgets its past has no future - those words of wisdom have come from one of the most successful British Prime Ministers - Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill and we couldn’t agree more.
So you can use this weekend to walk through the pieces of the UK’s history, scattered all around London. Starting with the medieval All Saints’ Church in Kingston upon Thames, dating back 1000 years, where the first 7 Kings of England were crowned.
And why don’t you finish with the BedZed - UK's first large-scale, eco-village, completed in 2002?!
Don’t forget about the many Palaces, which lie down in time between those two venues – such as: Fulham Palace – the residence of the Bishop of London until 1973;
Lambeth Palace – the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for nearly 800 years;
Old Palace in Croydon, regularly visited by monarchs of the range of Queen Elizabeth I;
The Old Palace in Bromley – the former official residence of the Bishops of Rochester until 1845;
The White House – the unique Louis XVI style palace with its extremely opulent interior, private gardens and a legendary
Marble Arch, which is the private residence of Prince John Zylinski.
The list with significant for the UK history venues, located in London, is nearly endless, so choose wisely and don’t forget the notable heritage of Great Britain.
That’s not all Folks!
Last but not least – if you’re kind of curious how one of the remarkably strange houses of London looks like, this weekend is design for you, since dozens of private homes will be open to the public to brag with their extraordinary design and give you some bright ideas in the process.
In addition to the numerous venues, which await you around the city during the weekend, Open House London can offer almost 80 different walks and tours, ready to guide you through the rich rich history and unique spirit of the UK capital. Find yourself lost in the past or gain inspiration from the bright horizons of the future ahead of us. When it comes to London you simply never know what awaits you behind the corners of the city, where every possible route can show you a whole new world or a peculiar perspective.
It was extremely hard but we’ve somehow managed to pick just five of the endless possibilities to get through the swinging city this weekend.
- Emirates Air Line Tour - if you’re tech-savvy, take the chance to explore the civil engineering achievements in the construction of the cable car.
- Illuminated River Boat Tour - it sounds like a fairytale because it is indeed pretty close to one of those magical experiences, we’ve read about so many times during our childhood.
- In Ziggy's Footsteps – yes, it is exactly what it sounds like – a tour retracing the steps of David Bowie, which will show you Beckenham through the eyes of the unparalleled performer.
- Murder, Mystery & Medicine - this may sound like a title of an Agatha Christie novel but actually it is a tour through the North of the City of London. And as for the rest – our lips are sealed.
- Secrets of the Devil's Acre - this tour will guide you through Victorian unfamiliar streets to discover more about the history of this significant era in the history of the UK.
NB! Don’t forget to pre-book your place in the tour or the walk of your preference – the sooner the better.
We sincerely hope that this article somehow managed to help in the extremely difficult decision on what route to choose and which doorsteps to overstep this weekend.
We’ll be happy to hear all about the capital’s conundrums you’ve cognized in the comment section below. Show us London through your eyes because it always has been the people who have made it so special.
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