Living in London is amazing and sometimes I like to indulge my inner tourist. We all do, I think! There is so much to do in this city, and so many great ways to see it! I discovered Open House London several years ago (LOL look at this vlog I did the first time I went!), and have made an effort to go the last two years. This year though, I had a game plan. I set a reminder alert and got in early to do my bookings! What exactly is Open House London you ask? Well, it’s a weekend every September, where buildings normally closed to the public (or that charge a fee) are open for tours and the like! It’s a really great way to see a more secret part of the city and boy is it fun!
Open House London Stop #1:
St Pancras Chambers and Clock Tower
Early (and rainy) Sunday morning, Nicole and I found ourselves outside of perhaps one of the most recognizable buildings in London, The St Pancras Hotel. I’ve missed out on it for the last three years, as it’s so popular. This year, I was determined, so I set alarm reminders for when listings for 2018 would go live and booked that very day! Anyway, I digress…
On the tour, we were able to see the hotel lobby, that grand staircase and the famous clocktower! When we weren’t singing ‘Wannabe’ to each other (LOL), we were very busy oogling all the gorgeous architecture. Like ‘pick-your-jaw-up-off-the-floor’ levels of gorgeous.
I mean, look at it! And it only took a mere 5 years to build?!
Some fun facts we learned?
-St Pancras was originally built as a station and hub of the Midlands Railway Company. As such, all of the building materials were sourced from the Midlands!
-There’s only one statue on the whole building! There were meant to be more in the stone niches around the rest of the building, but… ya know…. budget cuts.
-The bell chamber isn’t real! It was always a train station and was never going to have bells. The design was just to look like the tower on top of a gothic cathedral!
-The corridors of the hotel were all built wide enough that two Victorian women in full hoop skirts could pass by each other.
-The clock used to be set two minutes fast, to encourage people to hurry up so they didn’t miss their trains!
Basically, I’d like to live here, please and thank you.
Open House London Stop #2:
Have you ever walked around a place and thought, ‘I feel like I’ve been here before’? Well, the next stop on our list certainly ticked that box! Lancaster House, tucked away between St. James’s Palace and Green Park, is a historic house used these days for formal and royal events. It’s all very lush with state rooms, ball rooms, and even has a drawing and music room. Faaaancy, huh?
I mean, it’s absolutely stunning. I’d visited Lancaster House before, but it’s just as gorgeous as I remember. It’s also a popular stand in for Buckingham Palace in lots of film and television. BRB, just gonna go channel my inner Claire Foy.
Some little indie things you might recognize Lancaster House from: What a Girl Wants, The Crown, The Kings Speech, Downton Abbey, The Young Victoria, The Theory of Everything, The Importance of Being Earnest
Basically, OMG Colin Firth has walked around and through here on a number of occasions and I think I might faint. The NATIONAL TREASURE THAT IS COLIN FIRTH.
Open House London Stop #3:
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
For our final stop, we hopped on a plane, whisked away to a majestic Hindu Temple in… oh, no, wait, we’re still in London. Who’da thought? I will admit, I’ve never been to this area of London before, though I was always aware of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, and Open House London seemed like the perfect opportunity. This beautiful temple is open throughout the year, so if you do want to visit, I’d recommend it!
Photography isn’t allowed inside, but I think you can guess, based on how gorgeous the outside is, that the inside would match. I can confirm it does. It’s gorgeous. Peaceful, a place of worship. This particular Hindu Temple was the first of it’s kind in Europe, and apparently was hand-carved in India before being assembled in London!
What a work of art! It was genuinely moving to witness!
One of the really incredible things about Open House London? I feel like I could participate every year for the next 10 years and still have more to see. We were exhausted after just visiting three locations, so I wouldn’t do more than that. Besides, if you try to jam too much in, do you really appreciate what you’re seeing? Pick a few things, and take your time! It’s such a great way to see the city, and embrace your inner tourist!