Keep your diaries clear for 16 and 17 September, when Londonist’s favourite event, Open House weekend, will once again be unlocking its many doors for all and sundry (whoever the mysterious ‘sundry’ might be). For the few readers not familiar with the concept, it’s a chance to nose around private buildings that would otherwise be off-limits, and at no charge other than £3 for a guidebook.
Everyone’s first question is: can we go up the Gherkin? Probably not, is the answer, as we’ve heard that the limited number of tickets available were snapped up very, very quickly (like, within 5 minutes). But never fear. The list of participating venues was announced a few days ago and there are over 600 alternatives for you to visit. Having ticked off nearly 100 of them in previous years, here are our picks for central London:
Best of the ‘Mainstream’
Bank of England: Get there before doors open to avoid queues. A lengthy tour packed with fiscal fun. Watch out for the owls.
City Hall: Might look a bit grubby from the outside, but Ken’s ‘testicle’ is a marvel from within.
Portcullis House: Unfortunately, Westminster Hall, which is usually part of this tour, is closed for repairs. Portcullis House is still worth a visit, however. The imposing block of MP’s offices above Westminster Tube contain the strangest collection of portraiture we’ve ever seen. Also smells of swimming pools. Odd.
Touch London: A tiny basement showroom near the Guildhall containing a stunning 3D model of future London, and a very knowledgeable guy in a bow tie.
Gibbs Building: New home of the Wellcome Trust, on Euston Road. Worth visiting for the multi-storey sculpture.
HQS Wellington: London’s only floating livery hall.
Victoria House (Southampton Row): Huge, block-filling pile containing modern offices and an art deco ballroom. The hanging podule meeting rooms are an unexpected giggle.
St George’s Bloomsbury: Newly restored Hawksmoor church, looking very handsome.
To view the complete list, you have to either pay for a PDF file or order a brochure (some libraries also stock free copies). Alternatively, just ask us if you want to know whether a particular building is open this year or not.
And most importantly: let us know your tips for interesting places to visit – especially outside Zone 1.
Photo from MykReeve’s Flickr photostream.