Over the weekend I put on my walking shoes, threw my camera around my neck, and took myself around town exploring some areas of Brisbane CBD I had previously either overlooked or didn’t even know existed.
This year was the 7th time Brisbane has opened its doors and invited everyone to have a look inside some of the most interesting buildings around town during the annual Brisbane Open House. This means that it has been going on as long as I have lived here, yet somehow last year was the first time the event even crossed my radar! Due to being away or uni assignments or some other excuse, I was unable to go. This year I was counting down – I was not going to miss it again!
Something about wandering around inside the buildings that I walk past pretty much everyday really sparked my interest. When I visit a new city the first thing I do is head straight to the old buildings to soak up the history. So why had I never done this in the city I lived?
Throughout the morning I spent walking around, I realised how easy it was for me to find myself in a new part of the city and how little I really knew about Brisbane’s history. It was fantastic to open my eyes a little more to my local area and get to know a different side of the city I work right in the middle of.
There were so many buildings open to the public across the 2 days of October 8th & 9th that I don’t actually think you could visit them all if you tried. I chose to spend my Saturday morning walking through a few that I thought would be the most interesting to me, and these are the ones I got to.
Brisbane City Hall
This is one of those buildings that I literally walk past everyday when I get off the bus for work at King George Square and I realised as I stepped foot in it for the first time, I really knew nothing about it at all! The first thing you see when walking in the door is the impressive marble staircase. I met one of the many open house volunteers who gave me a brochure and let me know that as I walked around, if the door wasn’t locked then we were welcome to go in and take a look.
I started in the main auditorium admiring the glowing dome. I really have a thing for ceilings, especially when they look like this!
As I began to walk around, I felt like I was getting lost in long hallways moving up and down different floors. I found the Oak Table Room and got to enter Council Chambers. Although photographs were not allowed in there, I can tell you it is a pretty grand looking room, definitely worth a look inside if you get the chance.
My final destination inside City Hall was the clock tower. I never knew you could ride to the top so once I found out you could, I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.
On level 3 I got my free ticket. I had about 30 minutes to wait for my group as only a few people are allowed up each time. Wondering what to do to fill in the time, my question was answered by realising on level 3 was also the Museum of Brisbane – again something I had no idea existed in City Hall! I really enjoyed walking around, especially the 100% Brisbane exhibit which gave a unique perspective on the evolution of the city through the eyes of its residents.
When they called my time to go up to the top of the clock tower we got in the manual operated lift with our guide, which took us all the way to the top though the clock face to the viewing platform. It was a pretty clear day meaning it was the perfect vantage point to look out over the city, all the way to South Bank, Kangaroo Point and out to the suburbs.
Next up on my historical tour of Brisbane’s buildings was Parliament House. I had never really paid much attention to this building, only ever glancing at it through the trees while walking through the Botanical Gardens to QUT. It really is an impressive looking old building, especially with the purple of the jacarandas coming out all around it at this time of year.
Again like at City Hall, I was so impressed by the volunteers. They were so excited to share the history of the buildings, offering little snippets of information for those who were interested.
Walking around I was reminded of our British heritage through the furniture and the overall decor. Floor to celing bookcases lined the walls of the library and the lady standing next to me exclaimed with a giggle how she expected to see Harry Potter appear at any moment. We walked through the House where the representatives sit and into a room that used to be an Opera House but now is used for functions, the most notable being a few years ago for the G20 summit when all of the leaders came together here.
I really enjoyed a look into Brisbane’s history as well as seeing behind the scenes of our Government, into the offices and the rooms in which big decisions are made.
Next up on my self-guided tour around Brisbane was the place I was most eager to see inside of, Customs House. Every time I drive past I always admire the building itself and have always wondered what it actually looked like inside. After a long walk through the Botanical Gardens, along the river in Brisbanes 30 plus degree spring heat, I ascended the steps to the grand looking building, red faced and so very hot.
The first open door led into a function room which was set up ready for a wedding that evening. I walked around, feeling a little like an intruder to someone’s private moment but also intrigued to see it. I took a few photos of the dome in the ceiling (of course) then made my way upstairs, but all that was open was the balcony.
Unlike Parliament House and City Hall, I felt less welcome walking around the halls and decided to leave. As I was, I heard mention of a guided tour beginning in 5 minutes. I probably should have stayed for it to gain a better experience but I was still feeling quite hot and was just ready to move on to the next destination.
All Saints’ Wickham Terrace – Brisbane’s Anglo-Catholic Parish Church
Getting my exercise for the day I walked up Wharf Street. As I turned down Wickham Terrace I walked past this little stone church. With the big orange open house flags waving out the front, I decided to go in and take a look.
The people I met here were by far the nicest I encountered all day. They had compiled so much information on the Church for us to take away. Did you know it is second oldest Church in the Brisbane area? I certainly didn’t. The walls are lined with the most beautiful stained glass windows and the ladies were nice enough to unlock the balcony area with the organ for me to go up and take some photos as usually it is only open while the organ is being played.
Spring Hill Windmill
During the Brisbane Open House you can pre-book tickets to some of the locations as they have restrictions on numbers allowed through. The Spring Hill Windmill is one of those places. I decided against booking at ticket to climb to the top as I didn’t want to have to plan my day around being in one particular location at a certain time. It is still something I would like to do though, maybe another year!
I was happy enough walking around outside taking a few photos as what had brought me to Spring Hill was just next door…
Spring Hill Service Reservoirs
This is another location that I did not know existed until I was researching what I wanted to see during Brisbane Open House. And of course when I found out you can go underground to see the origin of Brisbane’s water supply I just had to visit for myself!
This was a pretty cool place to see with brick archways every way you turn. No longer a reservoir, it is now a popular location for plays and opera performances. That night a performance of Macbeth was due to be performed so props were scattered throughout the different corners of the underground area. I have now put watching a play in the Spring Hill Reservoirs on my must do list!
I had so much fun playing tourist in my own city, and I cannot wait until next year to get around to some more buildings that I ran out of time to see this year. This is a fantastic initiative and I hope it continues long into the future.
If you missed out this year, make sure to keep an eye out as I am sure it will be back bigger than ever again next year!
Did you get out and explore Brisbane Open House? Have you ever looked around your home city/town through the eyes of a tourist?