What To See At Open House London Festival 2021 (That Hasn’t Already Sold Out)

This year Open House London is a little different; taking place 4-12 September. But Open House London Festival 2021 is still very much the London history Christmas. Your chance to snoop around London’s buildings for free!

Although the following places don’t have a cap on bookings, some of them do require registering in advance as part of Covid-secure regulations, so please use the links provided to double check if you need one of their (unlimited) tickets to enter.

What To See at Open House London 2021

I’ve listed my top historic buildings in no particular order and all of them are just turn up and queue. Some of the sites 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.

New West End Synagogue

A new one for me, I was blown away by this photo on the Open House website so plan to visit this stunning Victorian interior myself! The Grade I listed synagogue was built late 1870s and designed by George Ashdown Audsley. Open Sunday 5 September, 10am-1pm see the listing here.

Open House London

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

Merton Priory Chapter House

Explore the Chapter House ruins, once part of a vast ancient monastery, est.1117 in South West London. It’s open Sunday 5 September 11am – 4pm and Sunday 12 September, 11am-4pm. See the open house listing here.

Open House London

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

Moravian Burial Ground, Chelsea

If secret burial grounds sound like your cup of tea, the Moravian Burial Ground – tucked off Kings Road – is an absolute delight. I’ve previously written about its history on the blog here. It’s open Saturday 4 September 1pm-5pm and Sunday 5 September 1pm-5pm. See the listing here.

Garden Court Chambers, Holborn

Designed by Inigo Jones in the 1640s, this legal chambers is in one of London’s loveliest neighbourhoods, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, that feels like a film set.

One of the city’s four Inns of Court, Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a beautiful place to have a wander at any time of the year, so if you don’t manage to get onto on of the tours (they say on the listing to expect long queues) then you could also enjoy New Square, the undercroft or Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Guided tours (max 10 per tour) happen on the hour. Open Saturday 4th 10am-4pm and Sunday 5th September 10am-1pm.

Open House London

Image from Open-city.org.uk

Inner Temple Gardens

Although they’re generally open throughout the year during the week, if you’ve never had a chance to explore this area before it’s a wonderful little enclave that feels like you’re a world away from Central London. They’re open Sunday 5 September, 1pm-4pm. You can see the listing here.

Open House London

Image from Open-city.org.uk

Temple Church

While you’re in the neighbourhood it’s alway worth popping into Temple Church, one of the oldest churches in London with parts from the 12th century. It’s open Sunday 5 September, 1-4pm. View the listing here.

Open House London

Painter’s Hall, City of London

Although damaged in The Blitz and rebuilt in 1961, the City Livery Hall has a history going back to the 1530s with original objects and features on display. It’s open Sunday 5th September, 10am-3pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

Image from Open-city.org.uk

The Caroline Chapel, Peckham

A personal highlight for me from last year, this crumbling former chapel in Peckham is used as a wedding and events venue, set within a collection of almshouses. It’s open Sunday 5th September, 10am-5pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

School of Historical Dress, Lambeth

Built as the Royal South London Dispensary (a kind of chemist) in 1841, it was used by the Royal Bethlem Hospital in the 1920s before becoming a centre for the study of fashion and everyday clothing throughout history and across cultures. It’s open Sunday 12 September, 11am-5pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

Image from Open-city.org.uk

Bushy House, Teddington

A former royal residence on the edge of Bushy Park, Bushy House has a long history going back to the 1600s and the house and gardens will be open to explore on Sunday 12 September, 10am-4.30pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

York House, Twickenham

Another Stately Home is South West London, York House was built in the mid 17th century with exquisite interiors and elaborate gardens. It’s only open for a narrow window on Sunday 5 September; 2pm-4pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

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

Benjamin Franklin House

You guessed it, it’s the house where Benjamin Franklin lived in London! Based a short walk from Charing Cross Station this Georgian home is not only an atmospheric little museum but for Open House you can enjoy architectural-themed tours. I visited last year and it was great. It’s open Saturday 4 September, 11am-4.30pm and Sunday 5 September, 11am-4pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

Senate House, Holborn

This austere skyscraper by Charles Holden was built in the 1930s and used to house the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. Inside it’s a beauty and regularly used for filming when not in use by University of London students. It’s open Saturday 4 September 1pm-3pm and there’s a virtual tour on Sunday 5 September, 10am-5pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

Charlton House

In South East London, between Greenwich and Woolwich, you can find London’s last surviving Jacobean Mansion. Built 1607, it has a collection of stunning interiors and will be open for tours on Sunday 5th September at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. See the listing here.

Open House London

Drapers’ Hall

One of the most lavish City Livery Halls, Drapers’ Hall was a highlight from my Open House visits in 2019 and continues to be one of Open House London’s most popular venues. It’s open Saturday 4th September, 10am-4pm (last access 3.30pm) see the listing here.

St Augustine’s Tower, Hackney

Climb Hackney’s oldest building with epic views across London. Here’s the lowdown from my visit. It’s open Saturday 4 September and Sunday 12 September, 11am-5pm. View the listing here.

Hackney Church Tower

Sandy’s Row Synagogue

A favourite stop on my Spitalfields walking tour, here’s a chance to actually see inside! It’s been in use as a synagogue since 1860 but before that was a Huguenot Chapel. It’s open Sunday 12 September, 11.30am-3.30pm. See the listing here.

Image from Open-city.org.uk

Old Operating Theatre, Southwark

One of London’s best quirky museums, if you can tackle the vertiginous spiral staircase the creepy former operating theatre is well worth visiting! Here’s a blog from when I went. It’s open Sunday 5 September, 10am-5pm. View the listing here.

Old Operating Theatre Museum

Markfield Beam Engine House

Wonderful example of the the ambitious combination of late 19th century design and industry. Throughout the weekend the engine will be running in all its glory (double check the times it’s going on the listing). It’s open Saturday 4 September & Sunday 5 September, 11am-5pm.

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

Lambeth Town Hall

Built in the 1930s the Edwardian Baroque building on Brixton Hall boasts seem beautiful interiors and will be open Sunday 5 September, 10am-5pm. View the listing here.

Image from Open-city.org.uk

Hammersmith Library

Built 1905, the Edwardian library was funded by Carnegie, one of the great philanthropists of his era. It’s open for self-guided tours Saturday 4 September, 10am-4pm. View the listing here.

Freemason’s Hall

Epic interiors within a striking Art Deco building by Ashley and Newman, 1927. It’s open Saturday 4 September and Sunday 5 September 10am-5pm. View the listing here.

Image from Open-city.org.uk

Bishopsgate Institute

A little gem a short walk from Liverpool Street Station, the Victorian Bishopsgate Institute hosts course and events as well as a publicly accessible library. However if you’ve never been before it’s open for drop-in access Saturday 4 September 10am-5pm. View the listing here.

St Mary Magdalene, Paddington

Stunning interiors from GE Street, architect of The Royal Courts of Justice, I visited last year and the restored crypt is beautiful. It’s open for general access Saturday 4 September 10am-4pm. View the listing here.

Hopefully that’s given you some ideas and inspiration for the Open City Festival this year. If you want even more ideas, you can browse through all the listings of Open House London on their official website here.

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

More London Inspiration

18 Comments

  • Dave Strong

    Reply

    Thanks Katie, very useful.

    August 21, 2019 at 7:12 pm
  • Hi Katie, follow you on Insta and checked this page. Iam picking recommendations from here, Very useful. My pick is places with opulent interiors this year.
    XOXO
    Sonal

    August 21, 2019 at 8:37 pm
  • Great recommendations for what to see at Open House! Thanks for sharing. Love your photo of City Hall.

    August 24, 2019 at 12:34 pm
  • Excellent post, thank you! Wish there was more availability at Millennium Mills! But plenty of great other opportunities!

    August 29, 2019 at 11:13 pm
  • Yes! Finally something about Buy Houses.

    September 2, 2019 at 3:23 pm
  • Jenny Rubie

    Reply

    Every year I look forward to these two wonderful days!!! This page showing the places we can only visit with Open House is FANTASTIC!!! It has saved me a lot of time looking and also helped me NOT TO MISS ANYTHING!!! THANK YOU !!! THANK YOU!!! AND THANK YOU!!!
    Jenny Rubie

    September 19, 2019 at 8:40 pm
  • JAmes

    Reply

    Excellent post. Thank you.

    September 20, 2019 at 3:02 pm
  • Ian Johnson

    Reply

    Thanks Katie for that very handy list. I’ve bookmarked it to check back with later this month.

    September 3, 2020 at 1:17 pm
  • Cyril Shing

    Reply

    I was thinking about what could be the unique choices for this year. Thanks for this list. Fantastic, it helps me to make easy decision.

    September 4, 2020 at 11:55 am
  • David Miller

    Reply

    Thanks Katie, some excellent suggestions here which I would not otherwise have spotted/considered!

    September 4, 2020 at 12:45 pm
  • There’s some good ideas there I might try and get to. I need to set aside a bit of time to work out my route and what’s near to other places I’m interested in. I’ve booked a few visits this year but the Open House website seems to be harder to search than usual (no option to search by date, or whether it’s pre-book or not).

    August 18, 2021 at 2:58 pm

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