What To See At Open House London 2020 (That You Don’t Need To Book)

19 – 20 September 2020 is your chance to snoop around London’s buildings, here’s what to see about Open House London.

Due to COVID-19 a lot has changed this year, there’s plenty of online events and self-guided tours. You can see a list of these – including a fantastic selection of virtual tours by fellow Blue Badge Guides – here.

However, there are still amazing interiors, history and viewpoints to explore (in-person) across the city.

But with abundance comes A LOT of admin, so I’ve tried to help narrow down some highlights for you, only including venues that you don’t need to pre-book.

TOP 20 Buildings to See at Open House

I’ve listed my top 20 buildings, all of which are just turn up and queue. Some of the buildings I’ve chosen below can be visited at other times of the year. However, I’ve included them because they’re only usually open during the week or because usually you have to pay.

The full list is below, but here’s a handy map – which you can filter by day – to help you plan your weekend.

Here are my recommendations of what to see at Open House London 2020.

20. 77 Coleman, City of London

Hot off the press (the building was only redeveloped in July 2020), 77 Coleman is one of the only City office buildings to be opening its doors this year.

It overlooks the cute-as-a-button Girdler’s Livery Hall front garden and stands at seven storeys. In terms of aerial London viewpoints, this is your best bet this year!

 

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Open Sunday, 10am-5pm. There are architect tours every hour. See the open house listing here.

19. St Barnabas Church, Sloane Square

If you like your churches Victorian and with oodles of decoration, pop into St Barnabas. Designed by Thomas Cundy, it’s considered the first Oxford Movement Church.

Open House London - St Barnabas

Image from the St Barnabas Facebook Page

Open Saturday, 9.45am-5pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm. See the open house listing here.

18. Cartoon Museum, Fitzrovia

With a library of over 18,000 items, the Cartoon museum doesn’t just celebrate cartoons and comic art, but it considers their place and importance within society. Visiting is a great way to support London’s small, quirky museums.

 

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Open Saturday & Sunday, 11am-4pm. See the open house listing here.

17. Freemason’s Hall, Holborn

The Freemason’s Hall – just off Long Acre – is a huge Art Deco monument, designed by Henry Victor Ashley and F. Winton Newman as a memorial to the 3,225 freemason’s who died in WWI.

Set on an irregular ground plan this is the third United Grand Lodge on this site, the first one completed in 1775.

The Freemason’s Hall is open Saturday & Sunday 10-5pm. However it is worth mentioning that they run free tours throughout the year, but they usually sell out quickly (and are during the week). Their Open House listing is here.

16. St Pancras Church & Crypt

The massive Greek Revival Church by William Inwood & son opens its doors (and crypt) for the weekend. There are also tours every hour.

 

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Open Saturday 10am-5pm & Sunday 1pm-5pm. Their Open House listing is here.

15. St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield

Founded in the 12th century, St Bartholomew’s was once a massive priory on the West Smithfield site. Today the church is one of the City’s most breathtaking spaces.

Hidden Gems of West Smithfield

St Bart’s is open regularly during the week and weekend, but if you’re especially heading to London for Open House then this is a brilliant one for your list. It’s only open on Saturday, 10am-5pm and you can view the listing here.

14. Willesden Fire Station

Give in to your childhood urges and explore a working fire station! Designed in the 1930s, the station still contains many of its original features.

 

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Open Saturday, 11.30am-5pm. View the full Open House listing is here.

13. The Clockworks, West Norwood

Explore a museum, workshop and library dedicated to timekeeping. The Clockworks is set in an industrial space and conserves clocks on site within its specialised workshop. They deal with any timekeeping artefacts; electric or not, old or new.

Open House London 2020

Image kindly provided by Clockworks.org

Open Saturday 10am-6pm with tours every hour. Full Open House listing here.

12. Round Chapel, Clapton

Grade II* Listed, and one of Hackney’s most impressive buildings, the Round Chapel is officially The Clapton Park United Reformed Church and was built in the 1870s.

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

Open Saturday & Sunday, 11am-4pm. Full Open House listing here.

11. Langdon Down Centre, Teddington

The elaborate scenery on the Normansfield Theatre stage is only part of the story. The building also contains the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability, and was previously part of the Normansfield Hospital.

 

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Open Sunday, 12pm-5pm. Full Open House listing here.

10. Rudolf Steiner House, Marylebone

The first (and only!) example of an Expressionist home in London, it was between 1926 and 1937 and designed by architect Montague Wheeler.

Open House London - Rudolf Steiner House

Image from the Rudolp Steiner House Website

Sunday 1pm-5pm with tours every 30 minutes. The Open House listing is here.

9. Shoreditch Town Hall

This massive civic building now hosts regular theatrical events. The eerie basements are brilliant for immersive shows and the epic Victorian ballroom is very photogenic. They’re running tours every 90 minutes with max 20 people.

 

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Open Saturday & Sunday, 10am-4.30pm. View the Open House listing here.

8. God’s Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

Sure, it’s open regularly throughout the year, but as this is a celebration of London’s quirkier venues this Open House weekend might be time to finally tick it off your list. Plus, they have some neon bending demonstrations you can watch.

Open House London - God's Own Junkyard

Image from Flickr/PaulHudson (Creative Commons by 2.0)

It’s open Saturday, 11am -10pm and Sunday 11am-6pm. View the full listing here.

7. St Anne’s Church, Limehouse

A fine Nicholas Hawksmoor church in the East End, St Anne’s was built between 1714-1730 and the interior space is pretty special.

Open House London 2020

You can also take the chance to admire the peculiar and mysterious pyramid in the churchyard…

Open Sunday, 10am-5pm, view the Open House listing here.

6. Charlton House, Greenwich

There’s more to Greenwich than the famous royal stuff y’know.

For instance, Charlton House was built 1607 for Prince Henry (eldest son of King James I of England who died aged 16). Today it’s owned by a Charitable Trust and run by Greenwich Council, but it has some spectacular original rooms and details.

It’s open on Saturday & Sunday, 10am-4pm. Find out more here.

5. Fitzrovia Chapel, Marylebone

Possibly one of the prettiest rooms in the whole of London, the Victorian former hospital chapel is a favourite of Open House. The first time I visited was last year and loved it so much it got its own blog post!

Although the have regular exhibitions and events open to the public, their free open days are only on Wednesday during regular work hours. For Open House they’re open on Sunday, 10-5pm. See more here.

4. Moravian Chapel, Chelsea

The 18th century chapel stands in grounds remodelled in the 19th century. However the history goes back way further. This was a former stable yard of Sir Thomas More’s Chelsea estate and part of the enclosing walls are Tudor.

 

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Open Saturday & Sunday, 1pm-5pm. See the listing here.

3. UK Supreme Court

With the Foreign & Commonwealth conspicuously missing this year, you can get your Parliament Square fix by visiting the UK Supreme Court. It’s housed in the 19th Century former Middlesex Guildhall which is nothing short of spectacular.

Best London Ceilings

Open Saturday & Sunday 10am-5pm, it’s also open for regular (free) open days throughout the year. Read about my visit here and see the Open House listing here.

2. Oxford House, Bethnal Green

UPDATE – because of the new COVID ‘Rule of Six’ Oxford House has run bookings for visiting their site on Saturday. This hasn’t been updated on the Open House page but probably best not to turn up on spec if you haven’t got a ticket. Or at least contact them beforehand. Sorry for any inconvenince.

Part of the ‘Settlement Movement’ in the 19th Century, when the middle class would move to poorer areas to help the local community, Oxford House was the former base for graduates from Oxford University. Today it has a beautiful wooden chapel as well as an amazing view back across the London skyline.

 

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Oxford House is open on Saturday, 11am-4pm. Read more here.

1. Caroline Gardens Chapel, Peckham

Built in 1827, this used to be part of the largest complex of almshouses in London. Although known as an Asylum, this wasn’t an institution for the mentally ill, but instead acted as an old people’s home. Gutted in the Blitz and now with a new roof, the chapel is one of London’s most atmospheric event spaces.

 

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Open on Sunday, 10am-5pm. View the Open House listing here.

Phew, you made it!

Hopefully that’s given you lots of ideas and inspiration for the 19th and 20th September. If you want even more ideas, you can browse through all the listings of Open House London on their official website here.

Full Open House London Programme

Any other gems I’ve missed? What are you planning on queuing for/visiting this year?

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