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Open House 2016: Book up or start queuing early – here's our pick of the landmarks to see at this year's festival

Melissa York
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It’s that time of year again when ordinary folks like you and me are given free rein to snoop around other people’s houses. That’s right, Open House is back, a whole weekend dedicated to exploring London’s architectural gems, including famous landmarks and buildings usually closed off to the public.

Explore national icons – like The Gherkin and 10 Downing Street – take guided architectural tours of cultural institutions – such as the V&A and National Gallery – or simply admire some of the most inventive and historic private homes in the capital.

Here’s our pick of the bunch, but for a full programme or to pre-book, visit openhouselondon.org.uk.

Trellick Tower

Book yourself onto a half hourly tour of the lobby and flats in one of Britain’s most famous council blocks. The 31-storey Trellick Tower on Golborne Road in Kensal Green was designed by Erno Goldfinger in 1972 as social housing. But its monumental stature, beautiful detailing and eccentric design has earned it a Grade II Listing for architectural heritage. The views at sunrise from this Brutalist-style tower over the London skyline are mesmerising and don’t forget to visit the surreal boiler house.

Pre-book for Sunday at eventbrite.co.uk.

37a Leamington Road Villas

This converted one bedroom Victorian flat in Westbourne Park has been transformed into a stunning three bedroom home by Studio 1 Architects. Fans of industrial chic design will appreciate the exposed brickwork, concrete floors, skylights and exposed shuttered underpinning with floating oak steps in this unique property. It’s free to wander around from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, but it’s probably best to get there early as queues are expected.

To find out more, visit studio1architects.co.uk

The Foreign Office

Swing by Boris’ new gaffe on King Charles Street, Westminster, to see what’s it’s like to walk the corridors of power. One of the four grand offices of state, this magnificent Victorian building took seven years to build. It was designed by architects Sir George Gilbert Scott and Matthew Digby Wyatt in 1861 and it’s Grade I Listed. Sample the richly decorated Durbar Court, below, the India Office council chamber, Locarno suite and the Foreign Office grand staircase. Large queues are also expected for this venue, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Open Sunday 10am to 5pm, last entry 4.30pm.

30 St Mary Axe

You may walk past it every day, but have you ever been to the top of the City’s most endearing skyscraper? Affectionately nicknamed The Gherkin, this curvilinear office block by Foster + Partners is truly unique, with its distinctive, stripey, tapering form. This soft approach was taken as it sits on the site of the former Baltic Exchange, which was destroyed by a Provisional IRA bomb in 1992. Tours for 30 people run every 10 minutes, lasting about 20 minutes. Expect queues, high airport-style security and bring photo ID.

Open Saturday from 8am to 12pm, Sunday from 8am to 2pm

Abbey Mills

Once described as “the cathedral of sewage”, Abbey Mills pumping station on Abbey Lane (no, not that one) in Stratford. Opened in 1868, this stunning disused station is designed in Italian Gothic style by engineer Joseph Bazalgette, Edmund Cooper and architect Charles Driver. There are tours hourly on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm.

Email londonopenhouse@thameswater.co.uk with Abbey Mills: Open House as the subject

Broadgate Art Tour

Learn about Broadgate’s impressive art collection on a tour with its curator Rosie Glenn. Departing from Broadgate Circle, it’ll showcase works by acclaimed British and international artists, ranging from ceramic, bronze, steel and stone sculptures to paintings and tapestries. The rooftop of 201 Broadgate will also be opened up to the public.

Tours on Saturday at 10am, 12pm and 2.30pm

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