Making the most of Open House London

Step behind some usually locked doors this September, for London’s annual Open House event.

For one weekend a year, some of the most fascinating places in London that are usually kept under lock and key are opened to the public. It’s a brilliant opportunity for anyone staying at a serviced apartment in the capital to seek out a different side to some of its historic buildings and shouldn’t be missed.

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The lowdown

This year’s Open House London will take place throughout September 17th and 18th, offering access to more than 800 buildings. Another bonus is that it’s free, so there’s absolutely no excuse to get involved. Pre-order the guide to get properly organised for your visit and book a spot for any places that are likely to be oversubscribed.

Top tips

· If you’re trying to go to multiple venues, be sure not to try and cram too much into a single day as you’ll end up rushing around and feeling exhausted.

· Aim to visit buildings not too far from each other to cut down on the time it takes to get between them.

· Ask questions, as people will be really keen to tell you information about places that the public don’t usually get to see.

· Take your camera – who knows when you might get the opportunity to see such unexpected architectural beauty again.

Highlights

With so many buildings involved, there’s something to pique everyone’s interest, but here are some of the venues you may wish to consider:

10 Downing Street – Whitehall

This really is the hot ticket, as it’s unusual to be allowed to snoop around the prime minister’s residence. Step behind the big black door to see that it is actually made up of two houses, with a grander one behind, offering views of Horse Guards Parade. Also, be sure to look out for Larry the cat, as the other famous resident of the property is unlikely to be at home.

Places are so sought after for a tour of 10 Downing Street that they are decided by ballot, so be sure to put your name forward if you’re interested.

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Lancaster House – West End

One of the finest town houses in London and still home to many of the paintings and objects bought by the first Duke of Sutherland, Lancaster House is an opulent spectacle. Over the years it has welcomed Queen Victoria, Chopin and Garibaldi, but is now mainly used for government receptions. G7 summits have been held at the 35-foot long table and independence documents for the likes of Malaya and Rhodesia were signed here.

If the grand staircase and stunning receptions rooms look familiar it might be because they have stood in for Buckingham Palace on film, with scenes for The King’s Speech and Downton Abbey filmed at the house.

Tours will be operating throughout the weekend, but pre-booking is essential.

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Buddhapadipa Temple – Wimbledon

Seeing a traditional Thai temple in Wimbledon is extraordinary enough from the outside, but once over the threshold there’s a golden statue of the Buddha inside. When it was constructed in the 1980s, it was the only Thai temple in Europe and it remains a beautiful and reflective place to this day. The grounds stretch for four acres and include an ornamental lake, flower garden and orchard.

Ten-minute tours will be carried out on both the Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 5pm.

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Deephams Sewage Treatment Works – Upper Edmonton

For an entirely different look behind the scenes, see how 209,000 tonnes of water is processed every day at a sewerage works. Water treatment has been carried out in the area since the late 19th century and over the years, the systems have been upgraded and expanded several times. Once again, the Deephams Sewage Treatment Works is being brought into line with the most recent technology – a process that is expected to be finished by 2018.

The 30-minute tours are certainly illuminating and should be booked in advance.

Senate House – Bloomsbury

Constructed in 1936, Senate House is a beautiful combination of Art Deco design and stunning Portland stone that really is a product of its time. This has been recognised in its classification as a Grade II listed building. But if you think it looks magnificent from the outside, just wait until you see its period features and panelled rooms.

It is home to the administrative headquarters of the University of London, but its library really is the star of the show. Filmmakers used it for an adaptation of Richard III in 1995 and you can see why, because of its lavish detailing.

A great option if you haven’t been particularly organised about Open House London, as the tours are pretty informal, so just pop in between 10am and 5pm on the Saturday.

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