Open House Festival returns to London in September with access to these nine properties

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Every year, Open House opens the doors to buildings in London, allowing us to explore quirky and historic sides of the city that we might not otherwise have the chance to see. Although festival tickets can be purchased in seconds, there are still many architectural delights you can experience without an appointment, all for free. Walks, lectures, tours and activities are also on the program to immerse you even further in the hidden stories of the capital.

Town hall

September 4, 10 am-4pm. Pre-book here.

You might have missed snooping around 10 Downing Street, but to get a taste of what a center of political power is, head to Town Hall instead. It’s home to the Mayor of London and the London Assembly, and its leaning spiral shape was actually designed this way to save energy. Learn more about it on a walking tour that takes you through the building.

Queen’s Walk, SE21 2AA

The north wing of St Barths hospital

September 5, 11 am-4pm. Pre-book here.

Art lovers will want to head to Farringdon next month when St Barth opens its Grade I listed north wing. Inside its gates are stunning paintings by English artist William Hogarth, who decorated the grand staircase from the north wing of the hospital. You will also find a museum and a special traveling exhibition of the Wellcome Collection to complete a historic day.

West Smithfield, EC1A 7BE

Brixton Windmill

September 11-12, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Pre-book here.

Windmills aren’t the first type of structures you would easily associate with London, but at the time there were a few dotted around. Brixton Windmill is the only survivor in the town center. Climb inside the mill and learn how this Grade II listed building was used to produce grain during the days when Brixton Hill was made up of open fields.

Windmill Gardens, SW2 5DA

Devonport Mausoleum

September 4-5, 10.30am-4pm. No pre-reservation required.

Within the grounds of the former Devonport Nursing House is the Devonport Mausoleum, the final resting place of some of England’s most famous naval figures. They include Sir Thomas Hardy, who was Nelson’s flag captain during the victory at Trafalgar and Admiral Lord Hood, an admiral in the American Revolutionary War. Learn the stories of these sailors and see the restored mausoleum in all its solemn splendor in a walk-in session throughout the weekend.

National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, SE10 9NF

Freemasons room

September 4-5, 10 am-5:30pm. No pre-reservation required.

An open house staple, this is your annual chance to immerse yourself in the secret world of the Freemasons. The lobby is the HQ of the United Grand Lodge of England and has been the home of the Dark Clan since 1927. Designed by architects HV Ashley and F Winton Newman, it is shaped like a pentagon and houses mosaics, stained glass windows and ornamental curiosities to bring the world of Freemasons to life.

60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ

Keats House

September 5, 11 am-4:30pm. No pre-reservation required.

From December 1818 to September 1820, the romantic poet John Keats lived in a beautiful Regency villa in Hampstead. Visit its ancient excavations and the same inspiration that struck the blacksmith while he was there might have you scribbling worms on the way home. There will also be lectures, tours, and poetry readings to help flow these creative juices.

10 Keats Grove, NW3 2RR

Rio Cinema

September 11 10 am-11am. Pre-book here.

The Rio in Dalston is one of London’s most iconic cinemas, a Grade II listed Art Deco wonder that makes the movie you watch a little better. Opportunities to enter the building are limited – even on the open day – but book a seat for the hour-long tour and chat to dive into the heart of the cinema.

107 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB

Royal Opera

September 4-5, 10:30 am-4:30pm. Pre-book here.

You may have seen a performance at this opulent performance hall, which is home to both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, but during this edition of Open House you will be able to tour the entire building. Visit the Ballet Studio, Grand Staircase, and the legendary Crush Room, and be sure to catch some of the hourly performances in the Paul Hamlyn Hall.

Covent Garden, Bow Street, WC2E 9DD

Fulham Palace

September 5, 11 am-3pm. Pre-book here.

It might not be as famous as Buckingham Palace or St James’ Palace, but Fulham’s official residence of the Bishop of London is just as well worth a visit. The building spans entire periods, with a Tudor mansion, Georgian extensions and a Victorian chapel, taking you through a full range of architectural history. There will be free historical tours throughout the day, as well as hands-on archeology, craft activities, and a stroll on the foreshore.

Bishop Avenue, SW6 6EA

What to do in London in September

The best art exhibitions coming up next month


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