How To Do London Open House
Written by Jaillan Yehia
London Open House is an amazing way to discover hidden parts of the city, and best of all it is completely free.
Here I share my tips for getting the most out of London Open House weekend.
I’d like to share my London Open House philosophy for a perfect weekend in the capital – so, if you’re heading to Open House this year for the first time, here are my tips:
1. Bike It
My first piece of advice is, if you want to really enjoy London Open House, cover a lot of ground and get from site to site quickly, enjoyably and with no fuss, go by bike.
This is the perfect weekend to discover the delights of London cycling. The weather for London Open House has consistently been perfect: pleasant and sunny, but not too hot (this is London in September!) so no sweaty sightseeing for you!
And because so many people are out and about on foot and by bike, and many of the great sites are in the City of London, you’ll get a sense of camaraderie which you won’t find on the average Monday.
Cycling thought the city you’ll also often find unexpected joy in the routes, through charming back streets and as a bonus you’ll probably pass places which are taking part in London Open House without even realising they’re there, then if the queues aren’t too long you can just hop off, lock up your wheels and join the crowd.
2. Book It
If you have pre-booked appointments allow plenty of travelling time – try to get there on time or even early, it makes for a much more pleasant experience as I learned when I turned up huffing and puffing to the fabulous (and let’s face it pretty posh) Reform Club in Pall Mall (no pics allowed in there I’m afraid, but it was truly stunning).
3. Map It
Try to map out a few places which are open on a “show up and get in line” basis which are near your pre-planned buildings, so you can swing by them and check out the queues.
5. Budget It
I also prioritise places which would normally be firmly closed to the public, or which are offering once in a lifetime opportunities to go behind the scenes, as sometimes the queues for the museums and buildings which are open every day anyway just aren’t worth that small saving. Check the usual entrance fee if you plan to visit and ask yourself if you’d rather go sans crowds on a normal day.
For example – Dr Johnson’s House is tiny inside so very limited numbers can go in at any one time, meaning long queues on open house weekend. You can visit on a normal day for just £4.50 and not have to share your visit with thousands of others.
Similarly my local London Canal Museum is only £4 any day of the year, although it’s not as oversubscribed during London Open House as the famous wordsmith’s home.
6. Keep It Local
Don’t just concentrate of famous and iconic buildings. Places near your home, perhaps ones you pass every day, can hold just as much interest and the competition to get inside isn’t as fierce. I got to check out a converted post office and an architects’ office near my Camden home a couple of years ago, and they were very memorable experiences because now when I walk past these buildings I know their unique story.
7. Be Nice
Remember that the stewards are there on a voluntary basis, bless them.
One year my friend’s mum volunteered and I know she was on her feet for hours and absolutely exhausted but she did it just to be part of the weekend – so be nice to them, they deserve it!
And finally – enjoy – you are experiencing an amazing weekend in London and doing money-can’t-buy-it stuff all FOR FREE!
Have a great London Open House Weekend!
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