Top Tips for Planning Your Open House London Tour

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Open House London is a two-day event which is usually held one weekend in September. It is organized by Open City and caters for fans of architectural history. The Open House series has been running since 1992. In that time, organisers have managed to grant hundreds of thousands of visitors exclusive access to private stately homes and more.

The tours rely on the generosity of the owners of various houses around London. If they are willing to open their doors for a few hours then Open House will pay them for the privilege and visitors are permitted inside. The tours don’t just cover the historical houses of London. Similar events are held across the United Kingdom.

There are even Open House events in other cities around the world such as Barcelona and Athens.

Usually held on the third weekend of September, Open House features hundreds of buildings, walks and trips along hidden roads – most of which are within easy reach of the Montcalm London. There are even Open House tours into the disused underground stations beneath the city. In 2005 some of the most famous buildings in London were open for visitors: Horse Guards barracks, Lancaster House and Mansion House to name but a few.

New to Open House London?

Open House is a huge affair. According to the organiser’s website the event attracts around 250,000 people each year. Some of the houses can be accessed relatively easily but some will require permission and lots (and lots) of queuing. After a lengthy Open House session, you’ll be longing for some downtime at the The Montcalm Hotel London Spa.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Open House events are free and fully inclusive. But then again, some of the houses may be barred at the last minute… it all depends upon whether or not the owner has had a last-minute change of plans.

So, without further ado here are some top tips to remember when you are planning your Open House London.

Top Tips

Open House is more than just a tour. Its aim these days is to promote historical relics and raise awareness of the need for our history and cultural development to be remembered and appreciated. All ages of visitor are welcome. But bear in mind: the houses that you enter are privately owned and you are there at the grace of the home owner. Always be respectful.

Victoria Thornton, the founder of Open City says of the tours: “Open House is a unique and vibrant annual event, offering people across London the chance to explore and learn about the capital’s architecture.”

And the Open House events do not just include visits to old buildings. Some of the newest buildings in London were on the manifest for last year’s tour.

Open House takes place towards the end of September. The itinerary and details of this year’s event are yet to be released. The website mentions August as a formal release date for the schedule.

How Many and How Much?

Over 800 buildings around London participate in Open House. That means one of two things: either you plan well ahead of your visit to make the most of the time allowed or you visit a few buildings this year and wait until next year to do those you have missed.

The Open House event is FREE, but you will need to enter a ballot to visit places such as Downing Street. The ballot will open when the event list is released publicly. You will have to be quick though because some of the more popular buildings will book up very fast. Once you’ve booked your hotel and spa in London, you can at least rest easy in the knowledge that you have a base from which to work.

You can turn up on the day to an open House but be prepared to queue, and be prepared also for the fact that it is the householder’s prerogative to close their doors to the public.

Thousands of people join the Open House every year so in order that you get to see the buildings you want to see you will need to act fast: enter the ballot as soon as it is opened, get to a building early to beat the queue and take plenty of provisions with you, just in case of a long wait.

What Kind of Locations Can You Look Out For?

In addition to Downing Street, in previous years visitors have been able to access the secret bunkers of Churchill and his Cabinet, deep beneath London. The British Museum sometimes opens its doors to visitors, too. While The London Underground is also keen to promote its development and change over the years. Some very ornate yet disused stations can be visited during the Open House weekend.

It remains to be seen whether underground stations will be on this years’ itinerary.

If going underground is not for you then how about exploring some of London’s green spaces? Previous Open House events have included tours of dozens of landscaped areas around London including cemeteries and private gardens of the rich and famous. Land that used to be used for railways and canals is also up for grabs on an Open House tour.

A Touch of Royalty

One of the most popular royal palaces for touring is Kensington Palace. Here Princess Diana lived and up until recently the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The palace has been open in previous years but again it remains to be seen whether it will be again.

If you enjoy 17th Century architecture then head for the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House, a sight to behold inside and out.

Boroughs that participate in the scheme are numerous. They include: City of London, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Merton, Richmond, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. If you know of a building that you would like to see that is housed within one of these boroughs then keep an eye out for the 2019 programme of events.

If you are looking for something in addition to your spa and afternoon tea in London, you may just be in luck!