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Get behind closed doors at this year's Open House London

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Time Out London Things To Do

The capital’s brilliant open-access architecture festival will celebrate its twenty-third birthday this year. Now a huge September highlight, it offers admission to places normally off-limits to most of us and it’s so popular that some Londoners plan their holiday dates around it. 

You can explore private homes, historic landmarks, educational and government buildings and all sorts of architectural oddities spanning 30 of the capital’s boroughs. Of the 800-odd venues taking part just a handful of places have to be booked in advance. Not necessarily because they’re the most special: many simply have limited space.

 If you leave it till the weekend of the festival (September 19 and 20) to work out which of all those places you fancy visiting, there’s a risk you’ll go into headless-chicken mode and end up doing nothing at all, so a bit of advance planning will definitely pay off. This year’s programme is announced - and bookings open - on Friday August 14, so now’s the time to do your homework. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s not just about being nosy

Open House London is about more than poking about in hundreds of the capitals most intriguing buildings and having a good old snoop round other people’s houses. There’s a chance to learn about exciting landscape and infrastructure projects too, with walks and talks led by architects and engineers who are perfectly placed to help their audience get under the skin of the city. For the FOMO-afflicted there are even bike tours to help you cram as much as possible into each day.

There are several ways to plan

Pre-order a printed copy of the programme online (normally £8.50; Time Out readers can claim a 5 percent discount until August 25 with the code LONDON); go online and browse the festival website when it goes live on Friday August 14; or download the Open House app (69p now; £2.99 from September 2), which makes it easy to put together your own personal itinerary.

There’s still time to get involved

The festival is mostly powered by volunteer effort and there’s still time to step forward. In return for giving up a morning or an afternoon to help at a participating building you get a badge that lets you jump the queue at some of the most popular places - not to mention the pleasure of contributing to something really special. 

Open House London is on from September 19-20. 

Plan your weekend with our guide to the best bits of Open House London.

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