Open House is probably my favourite concept, as someone who wants to see the world on a budget. Dozens of cities across the world designate a particular weekend or date and throw the doors open on many of their most important sights.
So, never shying away from an excuse to spend a weekend in the city, I took work off and grabbed my camera. Having not been one of the lucky few winners of tickets to the Flinders Street Station Ballroom, and having completely missed out on booking a number of my other top picks, I instead started my weekend at the Arts Centre.
It’s my understanding that you can just wander the foyers of the Theatres Building (above) and Hamer Hall during the day anyway. There’s currently an exhibition in the Theatres Building about entertaining the troops over the years, which I found very interesting.
But Open House isn’t about seeing the things you can see for free on a regular day. Open House is about going that extra mile.
So we went underground.
A guided tour through not the behind-the-scenes stuff, but behind that. The transformer substation, the cooling units (above), the boilers and the backup generators.
Not everything is going to interest everyone. I know a lot of people who would have been bored to death on that tour. But there really is something for everyone.
For instance, my second tour at the Arts Centre started in Hamer Hall. Through a doorway I’d never noticed before, and suddenly I was in the Performing Arts Centre archives. One of three locations, containing the incomplete, but ever-growing, history of performing arts in Melbourne. Thriving off donations from performers and their families, the collection is truly astonishing. We only saw a fraction of it, including Nick Cave’s notebooks, a stage costume belonging to Dame Nellie Melba and one of the most iconic pieces of stage costuming in Australia… Kylie Minogue’s hot pants from the Spinning Around video.
Just as impressive is their seemingly-complete collection of Dame Edna’s outfits, along with early drafts of a lot of Barry Humphries’ work, signed and annotated.
You do need to plan ahead, and also pace yourself, as I learned from Parliament House. I missed out on the Saturday because the line was immense. So, first thing Sunday I was in queue. And honestly, the building’s interior blew my mind, to the point where the Windsor Hotel and Myer Mural Hall, my next two stops, seemed to pale in comparison.
Parliament House is all neo-Roman columns and 23-carat gold leafing. A large library, not to mention the rooms where Parliament actually sits, and even the hallways are absolutely gorgeous.
I’ve skipped over a few buildings that I went to, the Town Hall, Mission to Seafarers, the aforementioned Windsor Hotel and Myer Mural Hall. All absolutely wonderful places, but either my photos don’t do them justice (Town Hall), or it’s more about the things you learn about the building themself (Mission to Seafarers).
I finished up my weekend at the Melbourne Tram Museum in the old Hawthorn Tram Depot. It was probably the highlight for me, I’ve loved trams since I was a little kid, and getting to climb inside of restored trams from before I was born was kind of cool.
If you’re planning on being in Melbourne in July, I absolutely recommend you arrange your plans around Open House Weekend. It is a great way to not only see the sights of Melbourne, but more importantly, save money on tours, which you can then spend on seeing more of the city’s most amazing sights.