Open House Melbourne is an annual event where almost 200 buildings are opened to the general public to free or very cheap tours. These can range from council buildings normally impossible to get behind the scenes of, to private residences — and anything in between.
This list will recommended those that will be free the weekend of 30-31 July and not require a paid pre-booking, as the buildings requiring pre-booking last year went faster than an empty table at the Emporium food court.
Council house 2 – CH2
A remarkable building that you’ve walked past twenty times without seeing it, CH2 was an experiment by the then Melbourne City Council to make a new ‘green’ building, and this resulted in the country’s first 6-star green star rated building. A mix of innovations and dismal failures, is worth checking out to see the forerunner of more famous green buildings like the NAB building in Docklands.
Myer Mural Hall
A bit of history preserved in the modern Myer Bourke Street centre, the Hall is a large rectangular room covered in murals depicting famous people, fables, and historical scenes. The view of over the mall is not to be missed either.
Russell Place Substation
An operating substation, you descended into the bowels of the city to check out Frankensteinian levels of electricity running into the surrounding few blocks. Be warned, trying to get in is like eating at Chin Chin on a Friday — get there early or be prepared to queue.
Mission To Seafarers
Part of a worldwide network, the Mission to Seafarers is an organisation dedicated to giving boat workers a home away from home when landing at a foreign port. Unusually for Melbourne architecture, it is based on old Spanish missions with its doomed roof and adobe coloring. It’s a great insight into a support service for a vital, but easy to ignore, work culture.
Port of Melbourne Boat Tours
A free 45-minute tour of Melbourne Ports, you’ll get a guided commentary from actual port staff. Caveat: there are only six tours available so get there early or have a full phone battery.
Rarely open to the public, this is the Governor’s residence for the state of Victoria. Incredibly opulent, the dining table is almost as long as a cricket pitch while the ballroom can fit a thousand guests.
But don’t limit yourself to these six buildings. You have an entire weekend to explore! Here are our top tips from our previous guide from TPO co-founder Rukmal:
- Pick a precinct. You can filter buildings by the 8 precincts.
- 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.
Dan is a blogger living in central Melbourne. Lover of all things foodie, pop culture, science and history, and sharing all of this from in and around the heart of Melbourne.
Open House Melbourne 2016 runs Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 July. Admission is free and most buildings are accessible.