The grand old girl of Melbourne's east end is one of the city's most elaborate icons.
The expansive steps, the majestic colonnade and the classical street lamp posts combine to create a commanding presence. They even named the nearby ‘Parliament Train Station’ after it! So, it’s no surprise I overlooked its neighbouring little brother, the Old Treasury Building, trekking my way up to the landmark.
In a developing Melbourne CBD, rife with modern, innovative infrastructure, this structure is a throwback to post-commonwealth British rule and the traditions of the Westminster system of government. The insides of the building are as haughty as the exterior; laced with gold leaf detailing, more Roman Corinthian architecture and constant reminders of the reigning monarchy. And, if you needed any more convincing, the pub across the road is called ‘The Imperial’. Enough said.
The Parliament of Victoria is still very much active today, with various members using the facilities at any given time. Legislative Assembly and Council also sit on numerous days throughout the year, so, understandably, it’s not a place you can just wander on your own. Fortunately, multiple tours leave each and every weekday and, even better; they’re free!
Because of the obvious sensitivities of an operating parliamentary building, there are a couple of precautions in place. These include a security screening on entry and storing any of your bags before commencing your tour.
The group were greeted by a formally dressed and assuredly spoken gentleman, who seemed to fit his surroundings perfectly. Not only did he take us through the inner sanctum of the building, he also explained the inner workings of the ridiculously regimental legislative process on the way.
I know what you’re thinking, it all sounds a bit ‘bleh’ and you may question whether it’s worth draining an hour of your precious travel schedule on something as tedious as ‘government procedure’. And I understand if you don’t believe me, but it was actually really engrossing. Who would have thought an hour listening to politics would fly by so quickly.
Our guide’s ongoing commentary highlighted the overly formal (some might say pedantic) traditions in each legislative chamber; the explanations also accurately echoed the pompous grandeur of each room. It came as no surprise when he mentioned that the building was constructed from the profits (and precious metals) leftover from the gold rush era.
14 million dollars worth of gold line the interior of the building. Tour Guide
I understand if politics isn’t your thing (it certainly isn’t my passion) but if you have an interest in history or architecture, the Parliament of Victoria free tour is not to be missed. For those of you that are there just for the happy-snaps, there are also 20-minute ‘express tours’ that’ll give you enough time to satisfy the culture requirements of your Instagram feed.
Get the lowdown.
Tours are available weekdays 9.30 am, 10.30 am, 11.30 am, 1.00 pm (Express Tour), 1.30 pm, 2.30 pm, 3.30 pm and 4.00 pm (Express Tour) excluding public holidays and when Parliament is not sitting
Visiting Parliament is a great opportunity to catch the equally nostalgic free City Circle tram that laps Melbourne CBD. Otherwise, jump off at Stop 9 (Spring Street) on any of the trams running along Bourke Street.