The thing that surprises visitors most on a tour of Parliament House is… the accessibility, the sheer size and the symbolism of the building. Parliament House is one of the largest buildings in the southern hemisphere, with 4,500 rooms, 2,700 clocks and 22 kilometres of walkways, to name but a few statistics. For the rest you’ll have to join us on one of our free or specialised paid tours.
My favourite piece in the Australian Parliament House art collection is… That’s a tough question as we have one of the largest and most eclectic art collections in Australia. All our art tells a story of what Australia is all about and what it means to be an Australian - Laurie Nilsen’s Emu tells a beautiful and haunting story - come visit Parliament and I can perhaps show and tell you!
The difference between conducting a tour during sitting and non-sitting weeks is… During non-sitting weeks, the regular free tours run for 45-50 minutes and generally include a visit to both debating chambers. During sitting periods our tours only run for half an hour and don’t include access to the chambers as they are used for debating and other parliamentary business. Visitors can access the chambers at any time, but will have to do so on their own. Our paid ‘behind-the-scenes’ tours will run for the full 55 minutes whether sitting or not, however due to security and privacy reasons, we cannot take you into the private areas on sitting days.
The strangest question I’ve ever been asked during a tour is… Oh, there’s been a few! ‘Do the PM and other politicians live and sleep here?’ (No, they are not allowed to; they all have an office, with a kitchenette and bathroom facilities though); ‘Have you ever met the PM?’ (Yes); ‘What is the rudest thing you have ever heard in Parliament? (This is probably better discussed in private!)
After visitors have been on a tour at Parliament House, I’d recommend they go to... Where to start! The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, the National Capital Exhibition for more info on Canberra and its history, the National Museum of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the Australian War Memorial, a walk along Lake Burley Griffin, the National Gallery of Australia – the choices are endless!
When friends visit Canberra, I usually take them on… a very early morning or late afternoon hike up Red Hill to see the ‘roos and other wildlife – we are the Bush Capital of Australia after all. On Red provides sweeping views and a range of coffees and smoothies for your efforts.
The Canberra event I most look forward to attending is... the Canberra Balloon Spectacular. There’s nothing more spectacular than dozens of balloons in the air, especially seeing them ‘dip’ into Lake Burley Griffin during an early morning rowing session.
The most unbelievable breakfast can be found at... Bookplate, the café at the National Library where breakfast is served until 2pm – breathtaking Leonard French stained windows, beautiful food made from local produce, all with amazing views over Lake Burley Griffin. Or, from our Queen’s Terrace Café at Parliament House, where you can get a satisfying bacon and egg roll and eat it while looking out all the way to Mount Ainslie and the Australian War Memorial.
For a getaway that’s not too far from Canberra, I like to go to... the snow, the coast, the local vineyards (whose wines are served in the Lodge and at Kirribilli House in Sydney), Mt Kosciuszko, Tidbinbilla, Namadgi – the choices are endless!
For a Friday night drink, I hit up… Public in Manuka, a funky local bar and restaurant with a great beer and wine list. Afterwards, for an excellent cocktail and some fun and dance moves you just move upstairs to the Polit Bar, a Manuka institution. The Ostani Bar at Hotel Realm in Barton also runs a good Friday indoor and outdoor session.
Check the Australian Parliament House website for tour details.