Join Open City for a socially-distanced walking tour exploring the fascinating architecture behind Westminster’s most important cultural icons.
This fun and engaging walking tour focuses on the capital’s cultural heartland in-and-around Covent Garden.
Dubbed High Notes and the High Life, High Art and the High Street, the entertaining and insightful route — led by former Royal National Theatre head of tours Alison Rae — charts the unique and often overlooked history behind Westminster’s great theatres, galleries and cultural complexes.
Revisiting these iconic locations as London re-opens its theatres and cultural delights — the tour will explore the enigmatic surroundings of Covent Garden where high art mixes with street performance, retail with relaxation and world-renowned icons such as the National Gallery and Royal Opera House rub shoulders with the informality of cultural diversions in Trafalgar Square and the Piazza.
The route charts the development of the area from a 'convent' garden of Westminster Abbey into residences for the gentry, and then from supplier of the nation's fruit and veg to a key London destination. It also follows the evolution of west Strand from Royal Mews into the focal point of national celebration, and the re-purposing of Somerset House from 18th century home of Learned Societies to Arts hub housing over 100 creative and cultural enterprises.
This walking tour focuses on how the area has responded to change over the years, adapted and developed to create the vibrant mix of activity we see today.
Highlights include the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane with over 350 years of continuous theatrical use since 1663, with Benjamin Wyatt's 1812 building, the fourth in the site now housing the majority of the public foyer spaces.
This landmark building recently reopened following a major overhaul by architect Haworth Tompkins which restored its historic lobby spaces to their former grand configuration and made the 1920s auditorium more welcoming and effective for contemporary audiences.
Other highlights include the Royal Opera House which has recently been transformed by Stanton Williams Architects — opening up what had previously been a fairly constrained set of spaces to the world outside. The architect’s new Bow Street extension now presents a welcoming public face to the building while the expanded and interlinked foyer spaces breathe new energy into front-of-house areas.
Providing a safe and fun way for enthusiastic urbanists to explore the city, this tour will explore the architecture and history of Westminster’s cultural heartland.
Open City is a charity dedicated to making London and its architecture more open, accessible and equitable.
Open City engages all citizens, particularly from under-represented backgrounds, in architecture and city-making. Our programmes – from the Open House Festival and its international network, to our pioneering education projects – open up buildings, conversations and careers to those normally locked out of them.