The Plus Ones’ Guide To Open House Melbourne

Let me put it out there, I LOVE Open House Melbourne weekend. It is one of my favourite weekends of the year as it lets me unleash my inner architect. More than that, as a Melburnian it allows me to explore and learn about buildings and our history in a very unique way.

Held on 26 & 27 July, this year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever. The city is opening up over 100 buildings, throwing a few parties, and has launched a new speaker series. There are six precincts in the CBD area: North, East, South, West, Docklands, and Central.

As a three year veteran of Open House Melbourne I thought I’d share some of my experiences and handy hints on how to get the most of the glorious weekend this is:

Ruki’s Top Tips for Open House Melbourne

  • Pre-plan
  • Pick a precinct
  • Find buildings that pique your interest (taking note of the length of the tour times)
  • Try not to pick more than five buildings in a precinct. Tours range from 30-60 minutes and lines are usually 20-30 minutes. As such five buildings can easily make for an eight hour day.
  • Don’t go with a big group. I went with nine friends one year. It was a disaster.

Because of queues/closing times, I think that five buildings a day is realistic. But of course, you can try more…

Here are my experiences from previous years:

Year 1 – I foolishly tried to do two precincts in one day, Central and West. I didn’t live close to the city back then and wanted to make the most of the journey in. I learned. The scale of the event makes it very tough to properly check out two precincts in a day. However, going to Denmark House, Donkywheel House, the Law Chambers and the Queen St rooftop garden (all for the first time) was a day well spent. The lines were unexpected but the tours were great!


Year 2 – The next year I learned to do one precinct per day and knew about the lines. The East with its College of Surgeons, churches, and secrets kept me well entertained. I highly recommend the College of Surgeons. If it’s anything like the year I went you will be led around by a kindly retired surgeon who will tell you a good story or two.


Year 3 – Docklands. Whilst much maligned by us Melburnians, the architecture of some of the newer buildings (like NAB) the Port of Melbourne boat tour, and the Mission to Seafarers were fantastic. Then the next day I gave the North’s hospital precinct a good work out. The Royal Children’s Hospital, Walter & Eliza Hall and The Royal Melbourne tunnels were eye-opening.


What will Year 4 hold? The South I think. Government House, The Melbourne Observatory, Cottages, and the Victorian Barracks. Hopefully I’ll also have some luck with the ballot (Flinders St Station Ballroom please, please, please!…even The Plus Ones can’t skip the queue when it comes to this.)


The organisers have done a fantastic job mapping out the event. Make sure to check out their tips. There’s also an Open House + Nite Art collaboration (think art in the J Substation). We went on the tour during Nite Art and it’s not to be missed.