Dig a little deeper for some great surprises
London is a treasure trove of exquisite old houses that make great visits. Some great, rambling examples of monuments to the past – others more intimate examples of where people would live and contribute toward the city’s eclectic history with their contributions only recognised centuries later. Either way they all provide a compelling link with the past and an insight into the lives of its inhabitants. These are just a few that we recommend you get on your trip planner.
Dennis Severs’ House
One of the most unique experiences in the world is the one offered at the Dennis Severs House. Dennis Severs himself was an artist who catered to his guest’s imagination, designing and living in this house as if it were from the 18th century. Your visit consists of a 45-minute tour in total silence as you move from one exquisitely designed room to the next. There are ten rooms in total, and the experience itself revolves around the notion that you have just entered a family home and they are just out of sight. All your senses are evoked on his imaginative tour that tells a story by inspiring your imagination. There are three types of visits, the first are the daytime tours that occur on Sundays and Mondays, the second is the Silent Night tour, which occurs at night from 5pm to 9pm. The third is an intimate and exclusive experience all to yourself.
While Dennis Severs House was built as a piece of living art, the Leighton House Museum is a relic of an artist himself. Not built for the visitor’s benefit but instead for himself. Lord Leighton was a prominent artist in the 1900s. His house, now open to the public, is the only studio that has been converted into a museum in the UK. It’s an artist’s paradise from top to bottom, with key features such as the Arab Hall. This house is filled with paintings in various states of progress, allowing you to immerse yourself into the world of Lord Leighton and his creative process.
Sir John Soane's Museum
Sir John Soane requested upon his death that the house was to remain untouched, turned into a museum, and free to the public. Soane himself was a distinguished architect – it was him who built the Bank of England and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. What he also built, however, was his own home, a project that took several years and a few properties to accomplish. He built this home to exhibit his personal collection, and even had a plan to turn these spaces into a museum while he was alive. That plan didn’t pan out, but that didn’t stop him from building on and increasing the space for his collections as the years went on – an impressive collection, by the way, that includes such items as the sarcophagus of the Egyptian king, Seti I. You can visit this treasure trove from Tuesdays to Saturday, from 10am – 5pm.
Sherlock Holmes Museum Library
For all book lovers, all series fans, all movie fans (Sherlock has been around all the mediums, hasn’t he?) the Sherlock Holmes Museum is the place for you. It’s located at the same address as the infamous detective (though only at the graces of the City of Westminster, who allowed the address change). The museum, which is run by a non-profit organisation, has recreated the house as described by Arthur Conan Doyle in the Sherlock Holmes novels. Though the detective was never a real person, this address has all the makings (it even has an infamous blue plaque outside its door, telling all that Sherlock Holmes was once a resident, and, furthermore, gets all mail sent to Sherlock Holmes). Instead, it’s an imaginative set for fans of the iconic figure and must for all those who love stepping into the past.
Chiswick House and Gardens
This house and gardens are a perfect day out to a lovely landscape. To sell it to you some more, not only are these beautiful locations, but they are also the earliest examples of their kind. The garden began the English Landscape Movement (this would later inspire Grand Central Park in NYC) and the house is one of the first examples of the neo-Palladian design, with its interior designed by William Kent. With a recent renovation, both the house and the gardens are picture perfect and ready to transport you back to the 18th century and their ancient roman inspired roots. The House is open from Sundays to Wednesdays, 10am – 5pm. The gardens, however, are open daily from 7am till dusk and are free to enter. Where better to have a picnic?