So a whole week after I went to Open House I’ve finally written up all the places I went to. It may have been long and drawn out writing it up, but busy weekends full of interesting places is how I like my weekends to be and so I wanted to do each place justice. So here’s my summing up.
I went to the following places:
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Linnean Society – Burlington House
Society of Chemistry – Burlington House
Society of Antiquaries – Burlington House
University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre
I couldn’t pick out a favourite building as they were all so different and interesting, although I think Custom House was the most disappointing.
- Buy the Open House London booklet as it contains masses of information which is easier to consume on paper than searching online (you can already pre-order next year’s booklet).
- Decide a rough geographical area that you want to spend your day in as otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time travelling.
- You have to plan your day properly well in advance as some of the really interesting unusual buildings involve booking a place. Make sure you know exactly where you’re going to start your day (preferably at the most popular place you’re wanting to visit to make sure you don’t join a long queue late in the afternoon) and then write out a rough itinerary for the rest of the day, but don’t be too strict. Have a few options for later in the day and write down the last entry time for each one, as you may want to vary it depending on your mood and unexpected factors. Also, look for the ones that are open later than most other places. And check that the place you really want to go to isn’t only open for one day.
- Print off the special maps that have been produced for six of the areas with the most places to visit as these are really useful in working out at a glance what else there is nearby that you might not have spotted but can be fitted in to your visit. They are also helpful in places where there are a lot of possible places to visit in a spot where the boundaries of several London boroughs meet as the official booklet lists everything by borough. I particularly found it useful in the area where the City of London, Tower Hamlets and Hackney come together as I don’t necessarily know which borough somewhere is in.
- Check back on the Open House website a few days before you go as there are always last minute changes.
- A long queue doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to wait a long time as I found at both the Foreign Office and Bevis Marks Synagogue.
- Quite a few entries in the booklet say that there is a maximum number on a tour and it’s done on a ‘first come first served’ basis. Don’t let this put you off. Although the Society of Antiquaries stuck rigidly to the number, most places are less strict if it’s only one or two extra and they’re a less popular building to visit.
- Do something old and something new.
- Do something popular and something really obscure.
- Read blogs from seasoned Open House attendees and follow @OpenHouseLondon and #OpenHouse on Twitter for useful information on the day, such as there unexpectedly being no queue at a really popular building. I should add with the latter though that people use #OpenHouse for other things not just this event.
- Take a decent camera that doesn’t need a flash to work well, as most places do allow photography and you can get some amazing pictures of places people don’t see very often. I took a lot of photos, which you can see here on Flickr, but hadn’t taken a proper camera.
- Don’t plan to do anything else over the weekend and don’t go out late the night before.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first Open House London and I can’t wait until next year’s. A festival of some truly amazing buildings that people have created, and a chance to see worlds very different from our own. It’s tiring and very easy to try and fit too much in so don’t forget that there’s always next year.