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union chapel
Photograph: Daniela Sbrisny

You can snoop around London’s most exclusive buildings as Open House festival goes ahead

This year’s event will combine IRL tours with a virtual line-up

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Got a bit bored of your own four walls this year? Check out somebody else’s instead. This month sees the return of London’s annual property perve-athon Open House, the architectural festival that ordinarily gives you full access to some of the capital’s most exclusive addresses. Obviously, it’s looking a bit different in 2020. 

While some properties in the city will still be flinging open their doors to the public, a lot of this year’s action will be taking on a virtual form. Hey, we’ll take anything we can get after being locked out of most buildings for such a long stint. 

Architectural spectacles open to visitors – either virtually or IRL – are gathered into collections on the Open House website. Themes on the programme this year include green solutions and radical designs – you know, classic fodder for architect buffs to get stuck into. But 2020 trends have also emerged: check out buildings with links to London’s colonial past, places of particular local and neighbourhood interest and even cultural centres that now see themselves at risk. That includes a behind-the-scenes peek at the Union Chapel when there’s absolutely no crowd at all. 

While in the past you could enter ballots to shoot up to the top of the BT Tower or behind the famous door of 10 Downing Street, this year’s only ticketed IRL tour is for New Scotland Yard – and the ballot has sadly already closed. But you can still enjoy tours of famous buildings like the Barbican centre, a neon-bending workshop at God’s Own Junkyard and a total of 40 self-guided walks around streets and neighbourhoods.

Or stick to online for virtual street art and pub tours, a trip to see Crystal Palace’s dinosaurs and a heap of documentary and podcast content on London’s hottest properties.   

Open House weekend is Sep 19-20, with additional events happening until Sep 27. Find the full line-up here

Into cultural buildings the most? Check out London’s best museums and when they’re reopening.

Find even more fun in our guide to the best events in London this September

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