Architecture of Westminster Cultural Landmarks Walking Tour with Open City Friends - Friday 16 December 2022 1pm

Architecture of Westminster Cultural Landmarks Walking Tour with Open City Friends - Friday 16 December 2022 1pm

Regular price £19.50
Tax included.


Join Open City Friends for a walking tour exploring the fascinating architecture behind Westminster’s most important cultural icons.

This event is for Core (£10) and Keystone (£25) Friends only, if you'd like to attend please become a Friend at either level today.

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 fun way for enthusiastic urbanists to explore the city, this tour will explore the architecture and history of Westminster’s cultural heartland.

Key information

Meet: At the war memorial on the River Terrace (facing River Thames) Waterloo Bridge end of the terrace of Somerset House, WC2R 0RN

End: Ends at Drury Lane

Duration: 2.5 hours approx

Alison Rae has a background in performance and venue management and was for 10 years, until 2020, Head of Tours and Visiting at the National Theatre, London.

Rae is an accredited Lambeth Guide and has devised Tours within the South London borough as well as events and tours for London Festival of Architecture. She is a Tutor at Morley College, for the Lambeth Guiding course. A former Trustee of Poet in the City Alison is Chair or Visit Theatres, the Channel Route of European Historic Theatres, and holds an MA in Cultural Leadership from City, University of London.

Rae is a graduate of the inaugural 2021 Golden Key Academy — a masterclass for urban and architectural tour guiding run by Open City. She joined the Open City tours team in summer 2021 and also guides the Open City Cultural Landmarks of Westminster tour.


If you find you can no longer make the tour for Covid or any reason we are unable to transfer you to another date, but please feel free to pass your booked place onto a friend to go in your place. 

In the event your tour date is cancelled due to Covid or any other reason you will be provided with the opportunity to book onto a rescheduled date, book onto another tour, provided with a credit note (with no expiry date) or you can request a refund. 

All ticket purchases are in support of the work of our organisation including our pioneering education programmes. We really appreciate your support! 

Get in touch with Adrianna at with any queries.