The Open House London Weekend has become a highlight of the design and architecture calendar. Since 1992, the not-for-profit organisation has given ordinary citizens a chance to explore their city. Around 750 buildings will open their doors, along with an offering of walks, tours and talks by the architects - and the best thing about it, it's all totally free. If you've got children, take a look at Open House Junior, which is specially catered to budding architecture enthusiasts.
But with so much to see it's worth planning ahead. Download the Open House London App (for free) or buy a print programme online for £7. In the meantime, here are the venues we're most excited to snoop around. As some places can get very busy, we've got a mix of the popular ones and the not-so-well known ones.
London is open and ready to be explored!
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Now's the time to take a tour of the Grade I listed Victorian government office buildings nestled in the heart of Westminster. The route will take you through the magnificent and richly decorated Durbar Court, the former India Office council chamber, Locarno suite and Foreign Office grand staircase. Today, all the buildings around the quadrangle house the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The rooms are all used on a daily basis by staff and visitors and are still often used for ceremonial occasions. The nearest tube is Westminster. Find out more.
The Great Barn
Dubbed the 'Cathedral of Middlesex' by Sir John Betjeman, The Great Barn was left to ruin until English Heritage splashed out a hefty £20,000 in 2011 to salvage it.
The Royal manor pre-dates the Norman Conquest and was built by Winchester College in 1491 with help from the William of Wykeham endowment fund. The oak-framed Grade I listed barn is an exceptional example of medieval British carpentry and contains one of the most intact interiors of its era. According to English Heritage, this barn ranks alongside the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey for its exceptional historic interest. The closest tube is Heathrow Terminal 5. Find out more.
Set in 4 acres of its own serene gardens, this is one of the only Thai style Buddhist temples outside of Asia. The outside approach through the grounds to the ornate, slender gables of the building may be surprising in Wimbledon, but the interior is something else. Built in 1980, the temple is covered with rich murals depicting the life of the Buddha. The closest tube station is Wimbledon Park. Find out more.
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew: Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives
Visit the Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives and Tropical Nursery at Kew – all of which are usually closed to the public – and have a peek at what goes on behind the scenes at one of the city's most famous (not to mention beautiful) gardens. With timed tours and drop-in sessions both on offer (tours run both Saturday and Sunday every 20minutes from 10am - 3.30pm), there's plenty to spark your interest. We'd recommend making a beeline for the Herbarium, which now houses around 7 million species. The nearest station is Kew Bridge. Find out more.
Ruins of Garrison Church
If it's a nice day, the ruins of this Royal Artillery church are well worth the trek east. Built in 1873 – it was bombed in 1994 – the church contains beautiful mosaics that were almost lost to the elements before a lottery fund gave funds to restore the roof. The RA barracks were here until 2007. In a city where everything is being regenerated and renovated – every which way you look a crane looms high – it's poignant to find a relic like this. It's also in a poignant place – the church is located just outside the barracks where Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in 2013. The nearest station is Woolwich Arsenal. Find out more.
We are affectionate about the Gherkin in a way we aren't about lots of skyscrapers. Its official name is 30 St Mary Axe and it was the first building to win the RIBA Stirling Prize with a unanimous judge's decision, back in 2004. It was sold in 2014 for 700 million pounds.
What's it like inside? Why not seize the opportunity to waltz around and find out for yourself. The nearest tube is Aldgate. It's open both days, but be aware there will be rigorous security checks and queues. Find out more
Baitful Futuh Mosque – An Open House 2017 designated highlight
The Baitul Futuh Mosque in south London belongs to the capital’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It is the largest purpose-built mosque in Western Europe accommodating 13,000 worshippers. The building is a tasteful blend of Islamic and modern British architecture, and incorporates many of the original architectural elements of the old dairy site on which it was built in 2003. The focal point of the mosque is the hexagonal prayer hall, so take a good long look when wandering around its numerous antechambers. Although the Mosque was badly damaged in a fire in 2015, a renovation project is now in motion. The nearest station is Morden station. It’s open both days, and tours will run every 30 mins. Find out more.
Old Operating Theatre
Only rediscovered in 1957, this is the only surviving 19th century operating theatre in Britain. Originally built in 1822, it's housed in the roof of an old church. The operating theatre is only accessible via a spiral staircase, but it's well worth the climb. While you are there you can also see the herb garret and museum for surgical history. A theatre in both senses, with seating in the round about the central table. The nearest station is London Brisge Tube. Make note that you can only visit on Sunday. Find out more.
For more detailed information on opening times and building listings, check the Open House website and online programme.
|What||Open House London 2017: What to expect|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
16 Sep 17 – 17 Sep 17, Times vary between events
|Website||Click here for more information|