This weekend, though, some of the city's most exclusive doorways are unlocked.
The Open House London Weekend has become a highlight of the design calendar for the curious among us to explore secret spaces in the capital. Since 1992, the not-for-profit organisation has given ordinary citizens a chance to explore their city. Around 750 buildings to open their doors, along with walks, tours, talks by the architects and debates - and it's all totally free.
Here are the ones we're most excited to snoop around. As some venues can get very busy, we've got a mix of the popular and the not-so-well known. London is open!
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. There are rich murals throughout depicting the life of the Buddha. It was built in 1980. Find out more.
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, visitors can decide which areas you'd like to visit. We can't wait to make a beeline for the Herbarium, which now houses around 7 million species. Find out more here.
What better way to spend the week end but at another office? No, we joke, Second Home, the 'creative accelarator' is a new kind of workspace, designed by SelgasCano in 2014, with famous new companies like TaskRabbit taking up home here to work. It's an interesting, environmentally sound design where you can play 'spot the straight edge'- they've tried to have none. Previously a carpet factory and based in Shoreditch, it's open both Saturday and Sunday for tours. Find out more.
Ruins of Garrison Church
If it's a nice day, then visit the most open of open houses: the ruins of this Royal Artillery church, Woolwich, built in 1873 (which was bombed in 1994) contain mosaics that were almost lost to the elements before a lottery fund put on its modern roof. The RA barracks were here until 2007. In a city where everything is being regenerated, it's poignant to find a relic like this and it's in a poignant place. It was just outside the barracks that Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in 2013. 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? You can see from the pictures, there's no great disjoint between it's interior and exterior. This visit's for posterity.
The nearest tube is Aldgate. It's open both days but be aware there will be rigorous security checks and queues. Find out more.
The Chapel of St Christopher, Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital
Tours of Westminster Abbey are fully booked, so visit a lesser-known chapel instead. Built in 1875, and not very well known, the chapel at Great Ormond Street Hospital will provide intimate Saturday tours. This 'Chapel of St Christopher' is beautiful. The interior is Victorian in style and decoration, drawing on round gold forms of the Byzantine era. It was designed by Edward Barry, the son of the architect behind the Houses of Parliament. An incredible little-known gem of a chapel that seems a fittingly beautiful place of solace for the children of the hospital and their families. Find out more.
Old Operating Theatre
Only rediscovered in 1957, this is the only surviving 19th century operating theatre in Britain- and it's in the roof of a church. Accessed only by a spiral staircase you can visit on Sunday and also see the herb garret and museum for surgical history. A theatre in both senses, with seating in the round about the central table. Gruesome and fascinating. Find out more.
The Drapers' Hall
Frequent filming (for film buffs, scenes from The King’s Speech and GoldenEye were filmed here) and events mean that it's hard to visit here without an invite, but it's one of the most beautiful halls in London with a ceiling painted with gorgeous scenes of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The interior dates from 1868 but the livery hall has been here since 1530. You can visit on Sunday from 10 til 4. Find out more
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
You don’t have to have a weird rash to visit. Head
to Goodge Street for a huge, beautiful building that’s still an important
medical centre. Spot references to its function in the art inside and out, including bronze mosquitoes on the exterior (pictured). The great
interior is big enough that you should avoid the overcrowding of other Open House
venues. Inside are many Art Deco features but also a sympathetic but modern courtyard conversion. A surefire hit
is a painting in the library- deemed too rude to be placed above the entrance to
the building when it opened doors in 1929- just don't ask us to tell you what it's of. Find out more.
|What||Open House London 2016: Where to visit|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
17 Sep 16 – 18 Sep 16, Various times
|Website||Click here for more information|