Essential winter events in Melbourne

Melbourne’s arts scene really buzzes in winter, and the city’s love of good times fires up indoors and out. So don’t even think about hibernating. Put these awesome events in the calendar, break out your winter woollies and raise a cup of mulled wine to the season.

ACMI at the re-born Capitol Theatre: Viva Varda

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image has closed for major renovations, but don’t worry, the magic will continue off-site. Mainly at the art deco wonder that is the Capitol Theatre, which has emerged from its own transformation just in time. Be among the first to admire it anew: dive into French New Wave director Agnès Varda’s oeuvre during the Viva Varda season. 21-30 June.

The Winter Village at Fed Square

Embrace the season’s good times, from ice-skating to hot chocolate and caramel apple hot toddies. All this and more await at The Winter Village at Fed Square, a winter-long hot spot filled with see-through igloos. Gather in the big dining hall igloo, or book a private one and snuggle up with cold-weather treats. There’s a big program of wintry events and activities coming up – stay tuned! Until 1 September.

Plastic igloos set up in front of the city skyline at night

Igloo tops at the Winter Village

Winter Night Market

Free live entertainment, open fires and pretty party lights. Mulled wine and hot chocolate (by local legend Mörk no less). Warming dishes from around the world by oodles of street-food vendors, including event newcomers like Pierogi Pierogi and Melted Cheese Bar. Fifty more stalls selling lovely things to brighten your winter, including handmade candles and jewellery. Plus everything from eggnog to snow machines for Christmas in July. Yes, the Winter Night Market is back! 5 June-28 August.

A large red neon sign spelling out 'Winter Night Market' suspended above a crowd of people milling about at a night time market

The Winter Night Market

Docklands’ Firelight Festival

Firelight Festival returns to Docklands, bigger and better in 2019! Running 28-30 June, the explosive three day festival features live entertainment, flame jets, fire drums, water and light shows and fireworks. Warm yourself and celebrate the winter solstice with fabulous food and fire performers. Drumlines, stilt walkers and a one-man band will rove along the harbour, accompanied by live music from around the world including Bollywood, mariachi, gypsy folk and Irish.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo

Even if you’ve seen Swan Lake, you’ve never seen it like this before. Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo is coming to Melbourne to perform LAC, a fresh take on the ballet classic. This deep dive into the psyche blends dance styles old and new, with black-and-white set and costume designs evoking palace and forest. Expect the unexpected, as well as ballet’s timeless beauty. 7 June-6 July.

Oz Comic-Con Melbourne

Geeks, nerds, space cadets and everyone else who’s into popular culture – and who isn’t? Oz Comic-Con Melbourne has got a whole lot of cool stuff you’ll want to check out. There are film and TV guests like Battlestar Galactica’s hot Cylon, Tricia Helfer, and a cosplay championship. Gaming publishers and developers exhibiting and doing panel discussions. Comic workshops, all sorts of awesome merchandise, and more. 8-9 June.

Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Get ready for plenty of hot jazz this winter, from free lunchtime concerts by local up-and-comers to the legendary Herbie Hancock’s concert. The Melbourne International Jazz Festival’s shows range from trad to contemporary genre-busters, on street corners, in clubs, concert halls and the Spigeltent. There are also workshops, films, family-friendly events and even free guided walks that reveal the city’s rhythms made up of everyday sounds. 31 May-9 June

A group of musicians on stage  playing various instruments

Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Wunderage

Circus Oz and fellow contemporary circus troupe Company 2 are collaborating on a new show that invites young and old to dream. Wunderage is a wondrous, immersive experience with no seats or barriers. Thrilling physical circus feats, live music and laughs happen around, beside and above the audience at this world premiere. 20-30 June.

Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Qiang

This is always an exciting time for art lovers, as NGV International unveils its annual Winter Masterpieces exhibition. This year it’s the Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Qiang, which brings eight of Emperor Qin’s life-size soldiers to Melbourne. There are also scores of other ancient Chinese treasures, plus new works by contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. See if you can count the 10,000 suspended porcelain birds in his monumental installation. Until 13 October.

Rows of stone warrior statues

Terracotta Warriors

Disney on Ice Celebrates Mickey and Friends

The world’s most amazing mouse turns 90 this year, so he’s gathering mates like the Toy Story team and the Disney Princesses. They’re putting on a show that’s larger than life, and on ice! Remember your childhood fondness for Mickey Mouse and introduce the kids to him when Disney on Ice Celebrates Mickey and Friends. 4-8 July.

Open House Melbourne

Now in its 12th year, Open House Melbourne is an annual highlight for aficionados of urban design and cool free stuff. The 200+ buildings on the 2019 program include the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music’s new home and the re-born art deco Capitol Theatre. Access to some of them require bookings, so get in early. Or just see what happens on this big weekend of architecture, heritage and the seriously curious in normally off-limits spaces. There are also talks, tours and debates throughout July to get you primed. 27-28 July.

A view down through the layers of a staircase in an old building

Uncover the secrets of Melbourne’s architecture at Open House Melbourne

More winter wonders …

Some major late-winter events are putting the finishing touches on their programs, but now’s the time to add them to your calendar. You don’t want to miss the Melbourne International Film Festival (1-18 August), White Night Melbourne (22-24 August) or Melbourne Writers Festival (30 August-8 September). Melbourne Art Fair should also be returning in August.