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Things To Do

Hattie Lloyd 23/08/23

Open House Festival

London has so many amazing museums, galleries and free places to visit, that anything kept behind closed doors seems all the more enticing…

…and for just one fortnight a year, those doors are unlocked.

For three decades, Open House Festival has provided the public with legitimate ways to be nosy by throwing open the doors to private houses, mansions, libraries, clock towers, factories and other buildings of particular architectural interest, to all and sundry… for free.

Hackney Town Hall

This year, it’s taking place between 6th – 17th September, during which hundreds of usually private buildings across the capital will open their doors to the public. Buildings like Mansion House, aka the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London; 10 Downing Street; masonic temples; members’ clubs; and everyone’s favourite, the Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility.

It’s not just grand interiors, though – there’s plenty of quirkiness on offer, too. You might want to soak up The Kempton Steam Museum, a strangely beautiful art deco pumping station; an 18th century poet’s subterranean grotto; a 1950s trolley factory in Bermondsey; a once-buried Roman amphitheatre; and not one but three of London’s only remaining windmills.

open house festival

Sun Rain Rooms

New highlights for Open House 2023 include guided tours of the new Museum of London site, as they renovate the old Smithfield market; a rare chance to walk through the surprisingly striking Crystal Palace subway; a mind-boggling Victorian terraced house that appears to float above its basement; and Tonkin Liu’s stunning rainpool studio, tacked onto the back of a townhouse.

You can just turn up to most of the buildings at any time of day, though you might have to queue for some of the smaller or more popular ones. There’s also a few that you’ll have to book in advance, like the gothic clock tower overlooking St. Pancras station, or any of the walking tours, workshops or late events.

But don’t worry, they’re still on the house.


NOTE: Open House Festival takes place from 6th – 17th September 2023, and is completely free. To check out the full list of places you can visit, and to book a free spot for the more popular ones, head HERE.

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