Location: Melbourne, victoria

Only a day to spare in Melbourne? Are you mad!? A city this hip and happening should only be done justice with at least a stay of a few days if not more! However, if your time is not on your side here and you’re overwhelmed with cramming in the sights then don’t fret, because there is actually a walking tour that can give you a great introduction to the city sights and a concise history of the place they once called ‘Marvelous Melbourne’ and is the best way to fit in this city’s many sights, sounds and even tastes!

How to see Melbourne in a day

The Free Walking Tour in Melbourne** runs twice a day, everyday, at 10:30am and 2:30pm and meets outside the State Library of Victoria on Swanston Street. You can easily spot the guide in a neon green jacket that says ‘I’m Free’ on the back. The Free Walking Tours operate on a tips basis, so at the end of the tour you can tip the guide what you can afford or what you feel the tour was worth. Tours run for approximately 2.5 hours but depending on the group size and how fast they walk can go to a maximum of 3 hours. Melbourne is a surprisingly walkable city, and believe me, this tour will definitely work up your appetite to sample the best that Melbourne has to offer after the tour, but don’t worry there is a stop halfway where you can grab a coffee and a snack.

Free Melbourne Walking Tour Group

The tour meets on the steps of the Sir Redmond Barry statue outside of the State Library of Victoria, with a brief introduction to both the indigenous heritage and English settlement of Victoria. We were then introduced to a few well known, respected and sometimes disputed Melbourne characters including Sir Redmond Barry and Ned Kelly, as we toured the courtyard of the Old Melbourne Gaol. From here we walked up toward the Labour monuments including the Eight Hour Day Working monument, and were given a brief history on the labour movement in Victoria. A short walk out of the central business district (CBD) took us to view the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, which led us to the law courts and old Parliament of Australia, where our guide explained the Federation movement and its impact on Victoria, namely with the movement of the nation’s capital to Canberra.

After we had walked around the outskirts of the CBD, we headed towards town past the theatre district and on to Chinatown, where our guide explained the different ethnic groups which have over the many years of Victoria’s history have come to call this city home, including the Chinese, Greeks and Italians. Our guide took us along some of the well known ethnic influenced streets and then we meandered through some of the hidden lane ways where he explained the small bar and lane way movement as a means for city revitalisation.

Laneway bars on the Melbourne Walking Tour

It was surprising to hear that Melbourne wasn’t also the night hotspot it is today, and I really enjoyed this part of the tour as I found the contemporary history just as fascinating as the old history. We were also taken through some of the shopping arcades, including the ornate Block Arcade, and then through one of the most popular graffiti lanes in Melbourne, Hosier’s lane, on our way past Flinders Station to Federation Square.

I really enjoyed the tour and even for someone who has visited Melbourne on numerous occasions, I found it gave me more insight into the city that I don’t think I would have gotten had I not been on the tour. It’s definitely a jam packed 2.5 hours of walking, looking and listening and I can see why it’s such a popular tour for people coming to Melbourne. I highly recommend it if you are short on time in this city, or if you want to learn more about the long and interesting stories that have added to the intense fabric of Melbourne.

Our Free Melbourne Walking Tour Group

A few of my favourite drinks and eats in the Melbourne CBD

Whilst you’re cramming in the Melbourne city sight you may not have the time to sit and eat so Wonderbao is awesome for a quick bite on the go, located just down A’Beckett Street. Continuing on with the Asian flavours, for the best ramen in Melbourne you have to go upstairs to Fukuryu Ramen located just off the main Chinatown drag; also, both Wonderbao and the Ramen at Fukuryu are well priced under $20. If your sweet tooth is giving you some grief, you can swan over to either of La Belle Miette CBD locations and pick up a box of two, six, or more macaroons and be transported to Paris.

For a sit down meal and a coffee you can’t go past Manchester Press just off Rankins Lane, where you’ll find probably the best coffee in Melbourne and an assortment of New York style bagel meals. Brother Baba Budan is just around the corner from Manchester Press on Little Bourke street and also has some great coffee, and don’t forget to look up in the cafe at the interesting installation on the ceiling. If you’re after a more substantial meal, then a lunch or dinner at Chin Chin on Flinders Lane will have you needing to be rolled back to your accommodation. And to finish off a spectacularly full and exciting day in Melbourne, kick back at Mamasita on Collin street and take your pick from one of the most extensive selections of tequila this side of Mexico!

Two coffees from Manchester Press Cafe

If you do have more time to spare in Melbourne, why not rent a car and get out on the Great Ocean Road! This iconic and scenic drive is easily done in a day, but two days would allow you to go at a better pace; or you can even head up to the Grampian National Park and see some amazing bushland and native wildlife. And if you enjoy what you’ve read why not like us over on our Facebook page, or follow us on Instagram (@thetravelleur), and keep up with our road trip across Australia!

**Please be aware that I received no remuneration or compensation by the Free Walking Tour Melbourne, and so all opinions on the tour and on any companies mentioned in this article are expressly my own and reflects my experience in July 2014.  

Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.