7 Hidden Gems You Can Snoop Around For Free During Open House Weekend

Ellie Sylvester
Dec 12, 2023 By Ellie Sylvester
Originally Published on Sep 17, 2019
Girl enjoying a play in a playhouse

Calling all culture vultures!

Peek behind closed doors and delve into some of London’s best kept secrets and hidden gems for free this Open House Weekend (Saturday 21st September & Sunday 22nd September 2019).

From the most secretive of addresses to the seemingly unattainable, Open House Weekend gives you and your mini explorers exclusive access to private homes, historic landmarks, governmental buildings and more for one whole weekend, completely free.

It’s a great opportunity to get the whole family together and marvel at some truly spectacular architecture, soak up some insider knowledge and snoop around places that are usually completely forbidden to the public!

And with over 800 buildings participating in Open House this year, it’s difficult to know where to begin so, as ever, we’ve got your back.

We’ve rounded up the top 7 buildings to visit so that you can get your comfy shoes on and get exploring!

1. Get artsy at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Calling all budding Picassos! Arty families get set for a super inspiring day out when you visit the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery, in leafy and green Dulwich.

Established more than 200 years ago, this family-friendly gallery is built on the principle that as many people as possible should see great paintings.

With a permanent collection featuring classic Baroque paintings from world-famous artists like Rembrandt and Gainsborough – the Dulwich Picture Gallery is the perfect place to bring any budding artists and creators! As well as the Rembrandts, you’ll also get to explore The Colour Palace - a multi-coloured pavillion where kids can run wild!

free entrance to dulwich picture gallery art for kids

2. Get romantic at Keats House

Home to the infamous romantic poet John Keats from December 1818 to September 1820, snoop around Keats House and discover how this special place inspired his greatest works.

With lots of family events and a beautiful garden to play in, Keats House is a great museum and a real hidden gem.

Kids can dress up and draw, or even try and write their own poems - ahem, ahem… And whilst the grown-ups are having a mooch in the bookshop, let the little ones take part in the drop-in activity ‘Recreating Keats House’ - a fun arts and crafts, poetry inspired activity for the whole family.

keats house in london entrance for free poetry

3. Get stagey at the National Theatre

Curtain up!

Despite the National Theatre being completely free to enter all year round, during Open House Weekend, you along with your budding thespians can take an exclusive tour of architect Denys Lasdun’s concrete theatre haven for free.

All you’ve got to do is sign up at the Dorfman Theatre, inside of the National, and make sure your phone is charged ready to take some epic, architecture pics.

As well as touring the building itself, the National Theatre are also running workshops presenting highlights from the NT Archive sessions, where you can get up close and personal with a treasure trove of archived artefacts.

free tours of the national theatre in london

4. Get recycling at the Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility

Recycling is all the rage at the moment and with Open House Weekend, you can learn how to turn waste into a resource on a tour around one of Europe's most advanced recycling facilities for free. (Litter) Pick the brains of recycling experts and ask all the waste-related questions you’ve ever wanted the answer to.

Despite seeming like a tedious day out, a tour of the Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility is a great way to educate youngsters on the importance of recycling and you’ll be amazed by what really happens when you throw stuff away.

Disclaimer: it doesn’t just disappear! There will also be multiple workshops held throughout the day, from upcycling crafts to bicycle repair!

southwark waste management facility free tours

5. Get testing at Kirkaldy Testing Museum

Words boldly carved above the door of the Kirkaldy Testing Museum read ‘Facts not Opinions’ and if that doesn’t set the tone for what’s in store, we don’t know what does.

The Kirkaldy Testing Museum preserves Kirkaldy's unique Universal Testing Machine and many more smaller machines that will delight budding engineers! Explore the Victorian age of engineering and be fascinated by the expert guides who have extensive knowledge on all things science.

Watch out for the epic machine demonstrations and immerse yourself in the industrial age - this building is certainly going to get pretty busy so we’d recommend getting there early!

kirkaldy museum machinery and engineering for kids

6. Get outdoors at Kenwood House

Now you might have had a kick-a-bout or pitched up for a picnic on the luscious grass that lies beneath Kenwood House but have you ever ventured inside to admire the lavish interiors?

With Open House Weekend, you can combine both - scoff some sandwiches and then head inside to marvel at some glorious artwork - a perfect family day out!

And exclusively for Open House Weekend, you can visit the Kenwood Coach House to see Lord Iveagh’s four-horse drag, alongside the only surviving Romani vardo in London - now that’s pretty cool.

kenwood house outdoors for kids

London Southwark Greater London Hampstead United Kingdom England

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Written by Ellie Sylvester

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ellie Sylvester picture

Ellie SylvesterBachelor of Arts specializing in English

As a passionate Londoner, Ellie enjoys exploring the city's theaters and food markets with her younger siblings. She has a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Nottingham. She's particularly fond of Primrose Hill and the Natural History Museum, as well as the constantly changing Spitalfields Market. In addition to her love of theater, Ellie also enjoys trying new foods and dabbling in musical theater.

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