FeatureNewsOpen House London architecture festival

September 15, 20200
Make the most of the annual architecture festival Open House London


If your idea of an architecture festival is listening to a dreary talk in a lecture hall, then think again. How does a self-guided tour of London’s pubs sound?

The annual Open House London (19-27 Sep) celebrates contemporary and historic architecture.

While most events take place 19-20 September, the festival continues until 27 September.

As well as watching films and listening to podcasts, if you book ahead you can attend physical events, too.

So what are 2020’s highlights?

A guided tour © Open House London
London’s history

The UK’s colonial past has been a hot topic in 2020. But as well as statues and street names, buildings can reveal its past, too.

On a guided Slavery and the City tour around St Paul’s Cathedral, participants will learn about the capital’s links to the slave trade around London Wall.

You will also find out why the Bank of England has apologised. You can learn the significance of the Story of Zong massacre trial, too, which took place in the Guildhall.

London’s culture

London is rightly proud of its rich culture. However, Covid-19 has put cultural institutions under threat.

Show your support for them by joining a walking tour of East London. The East Berlin to East Village tour begins at Hackney Wick. Along the way you’ll see some street art and learn why warehouses are so important to London’s artists.

You can also take a peek at the organ in the Grade I-listed Union Chapel off Upper Street in Angel.

London’s green spaces

If you’ve seen the Royal Parks and want to visit a new green space, then visit an edible community garden near Vauxhall. You can tour Fitzroy Allotments on Highgate Hill, too.

The festival is hosting plenty of family-friendly activities as well.

All ages will enjoy listening to music in the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hackney Central, which will be hosting activities for children.

Meanwhile, you can also make clay sculptures in Rochester Square, a private space in Camden.

London’s places of worship

Whether you’re a long-term London resident or a short-term visitor, you need to see BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, otherwise known as Neasden Temple. During the festival you can tour inside the Hindu temple, which was made from 5,000 tonnes of marble.

You can also meet an architect at New Zawiya in Bethnal Green. Alternatively, why not climb a ladder to peek inside the Grade II-listed mausoleum of Sir Richard Burton in Mortlake?

In addition to these events, don’t miss the tour of the crypt of the Grade I-listed St Pancras Church on Euston Road.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London
London’s local discoveries

If lockdown taught us anything, it was to appreciate what was around us.

Champion previously unsung public buildings on a self-guided tour of London’s pubs such as the Mayflower in Rotherhithe and Cutty Sark in Greenwich. Along the way you’ll discover Victorian fireplaces, original tiling, vintage mirrors and 1920s glasswork.

You can also discover green spaces such as the Grade II-listed Finsbury Circus Gardens and the Grade I-listed Saint Dunstan in the East Garden on a guided walking tour.

Further afield, watch roaming performers in Birchmere Park in Thamesmead.

Explore Marylebone

Chances are you’ve never heard of the 37-hectare Howard de Walden Estate, but you may well have visited without realising.

The estate stretches from Marylebone High Street to the road before Great Portland Street. It covers everywhere from south of Marylebone Road – near Madame Tussauds London – to Wigmore Street behind Selfridges & Co.

Get to know it better on a walking tour. All you need is a smartphone and earphones and you’ll be guided around independent shops, restaurants and period architecture.

Selfridges & Co on Oxford Street © Andrew Meredith


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