This small group walking tour is the ultimate introduction to Melbourne. Explore the famous CBD laneways, enjoy the street art, sample delicious dumplings, coffee and sweet treats, and visit a trendy inner-city bar. Duration: 3 hours (approx.)
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Walking tours are a wonderful way to get under a city’s skin.
On foot you can uncover treasures you might otherwise miss, and that’s certainly the case in Melbourne. There are themed walks highlighting the city’s famous laneways, history, coffee culture and foodie scene, but which one to choose? Well, on The Melbourne Experience with Walk Melbourne Tours, you won’t need to choose, because it covers them all. The walk offers a taste of everything that makes Melbourne special, and here’s my top tip if you are planning to do this tour: don’t eat lunch first. There’s a lot to taste!
The walk begins with an introduction to Melbourne’s eclectic laneways and arcades. In Union Lane, our guide Melinda explains that while graffiti is still officially illegal in Melbourne, around a dozen lanes like this are designated ‘high tolerance zones’ — which basically means graffiti is all but actively encouraged. The result is alleyways of kaleidoscopic colour dotted around the city. Melbourne’s laneway network is also home to the city’s coolest boutiques and trendy eateries. It’s a major drawcard for visitors, and one that sets Melbourne apart from other Australian cities.
There’s a different take on street art in nearby Presgrave Place, where a small outdoor gallery has evolved organically following someone’s simple act of putting a framed picture on the wall.
Food tastings are a delicious feature of The Melbourne Experience and our first culinary encounter happens at Princes Pies in Howey Place. Prominent chef Matti Fallon is aiming to take the humble meat pie to a new gourmet level. While enjoying my pie, I’m struck again by how many things I don’t know about my home town. Melinda points out the glass and wrought iron canopy over the lane — all that remains of Cole’s Book Arcade. Back in the 1890s, a million books lined this laneway. I could sit here all day imagining what was probably the bookshop of my dreams, but the promise of coffee further on gets me moving again.
Next there’s a visit to a Melbourne architectural legend — the Manchester Unity Building. The Art Deco stunner was Melbourne’s tallest building when constructed in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression. Men would queue for two miles hoping to score a construction shift. It was the first Melbourne building to have elevators, and later, the first to have escalators. It remains one of Melbourne’s most loved buildings.
Melinda comes good on the coffee in Degraves Street opposite Flinders Street Station. This is the epicentre of Melbourne’s bean scene, and Tulip Coffee is one of the newer additions. It might be over 30 degrees but it’s never too hot for a good Melbourne latte. And this one is very good.
Centre Place, once a row of dingy garages, is now the poster child of Melbourne’s laneways. It’s home to trendy hole-in-the-wall-style eateries, including ShanDong MaMa Mini. We drop in to sample some delicious Chinese dumplings.
Nearby Collins Street is the business heart of Melbourne. Back in the 1800s, wealthy locals would promenade along this grand thoroughfare, which became known as ‘doing the block’. That tradition lent its name to the stunning Block Arcade — one of Melbourne’s most visited attractions. This historic edifice is filled with boutiques selling everything from art and homewares to herbs and honey. And cake. Melburnians have been flocking to the famous Hopetoun Tea Rooms for coffee and cake for 125 years.
In the Block Arcade and nearby Royal Arcade — the oldest surviving shopping mall in Australia — we sample sweet treats from several chocolate and sweet shops before riding the sugar wave to La Belle Miette in Hardware Lane to try their #omg French macarons.
Our last stop is Whitehart — a trendy bar in a former laneway car park. We enjoy an included beverage to wrap up the tour.
The Melbourne Experience walking tour provides a great introduction to the CBD, and visits plenty of places you probably wouldn’t find on your own. The tour is well researched and informative. The food tastings are all included in the tour price. They’re an eclectic, if not slightly odd combination of meat pie, coffee, Chinese dumplings, chocolate coated pretzels, honey, herbal tea, macaron and beer or wine. Just remember my top tip!
At three hours, the tour is a little on the long side (especially on a hot summer’s day). However, the walking is easy. You’ll cover around four kilometres at a leisurely pace. The tasting stops allow time to sit and rest and much of the tour is under cover away from the elements.
All in all, The Melbourne Experience walking tour is an ideal option for a first-time or time-poor visitor to Melbourne who wants to get under the city’s skin.
Louise travelled as a guest of Walk Melbourne Tours.
Additional images: Bigstock
Louise Reynolds made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world — and has so far visited around 30 countries across five continents and the Pacific. A hopeless Francophile, she has a particular love for France, its language and pretty much all things French. Louise’s favourite way to see the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand. She also has a passion for her home state of Victoria and loves exploring its diverse regions.