It's London Open House weekend! OK, so it kicks off tomorrow, but today's your last chance to plan and plot which fascinating buildings to visit this year. There are more than 700 to choose from, and you haven't got a hope of visiting more than a couple of percent of them. Better select your handful with care.
It used to be easier, because the event didn't used to be so popular. You could turn up on the day, even at the more specialist locations like the Cabinet Office or St Pancras Midland Hotel, and still be pretty certain of getting inside. No longer. The queues at some buildings are ridiculous, and unless you arrive first thing in the morning you face the choice of queueing for hours or giving up and walking away. Several institutions have raised the drawbridge and become "pre-book only". You have to ring or email in advance (it's almost certainly too late now), and hope that you're fast enough or lucky enough to get a ticket. At some of the 'biggie' locations, it's almost farcical. Tower 42 (ex Nat West Tower) is open for a measly four tours this weekend, each accepting only ten people. The forty tickets went up for grabs on the Open House website at 9:57am on Monday 9th August. By the time I'd typed in all the necessary details and clicked underneath, the site informed me that sorry all four tours were fully booked. I immediately switched to Centre Point, only to discover after typing everything in that all 180 places there had been snapped up too. And all this before the official 10am kickoff. Ah well. I did get my third place special, which I'll tell you all about later.
One of the tricks in working out where to go for Open House is not to waste your time going to places that are normally open anyway. Another is to check precisely where you're going on a map before you get there, because it's not always easy to find the building with the big green banner if all you have is the street name. And another is to pick places fairly close to one another, because you don't want to waste half your day on trains or even worse on bloody rail replacement buses.
So here are a few suggestions for you. Some central biggies, in case these are places you've never visited before. And some enjoyable locations further out, because not all of London's most amazing buildings are in the centre.