I discovered a free walking tour of Melbourne, so one winter’s day decided to try it out.
“The Melbourne Free Tour is a three hour walking tour around one of the most culturally captivating cities in the world. Follow the story of Melbourne from European settlement right through to modern times and get an insiders guide to the lane ways, arcades and street art scene!
The tour guides are committed to providing everyone with an incredible tour. Discover the stories that shaped Melbourne, the contemporary culture and local hotspots.”
So we met at the State Library in Swanston Street, outside the large statue of Raymond Barry. The tour operators wear a bright green shirt and appear to all be friendly University Students.
During the Gold Rush, Melbourne was once the richest city in the World (now it’s just the most expensive). Lucky that the Gold Rush occurred during one of the most opulent and grand periods of architecture; the Victorian Period, called Marvelous Melbourne, because now we’ve got loads of beautiful old buildings to show off. Parliament House, the Princess, Regent and Her Majesty’s Theatres, the Royal Exhibition Building, Flinders Street Station, the State Library and other architectural icons can all be attributed to Gold Rush wealth.
We have many examples of opulent old architecture right next to…
The first stop is the blue stone Old Melbourne Gaol, built in 1839 and site of Ned Kelly’s execution and the youngest prisoner, Micheal Crimmons served three months jail for loitering at the tender age of 3 years old.
Then past some old terrace houses in Clarendon St which are typical of the Marvelous Melbourne period in the 1880s (when Melbourne allegedly drank more champagne than Paris), through the Carlton Gardens which house the Royal Exhibition buildings, built for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880.
We then traveled down Spring St, passed the Princess Theatre (built by successful gold miners), State Parliament, Treasury Building and The Hotel Windsor, which is the oldest hotel in Melbourne. The tour then winds it’s way through some of Melbourne’s famous laneways, housing famous restaurants and upmarket cocktail lounges such as Ginger Boy, Misty and MoVida.
A short trek through China town and passed the China Museum reminds everyone that over 40,000 Chinese immigrated to Melbourne during the 1850s Gold Rush and helped influence business and culinary traditions.
A brief break at QV arcade, which was the site of the former Queen Victoria Women’s Hospital, some of which has been preserved is enjoyed, before heading down towards famous Bourke St shops of Myer, David Jones and some old Victorian arcades, the most notable of which are the Block Arcade and Royal Arcade.
The tour winds down as you pass windy Federation Square, with glimpses of the MCG, opposite magnificent but under appreciated Flinders Street Station, over the Yarra bridge and culminating at the Arts Centre with Spire.
Although the tour is free, they appreciate a ‘donation’. (and do not hesitate to remind you of that fact.)