I love a walking tour but when travelling for business it’s hard to know when you will have the time which is why the free Melbourne walking tour was so appealing. No need to book just turn up at either 10:30 or 2:30 daily by the Redmond Barry statue outside of the State library of Victoria.
For those of you, like me, who had never heard of Redmond Barry, I’ll give you a brief overview! Barry is famous in Melbourne because a) he donated his books to form the initial collection of the State Library of Victoria and perhaps more notably in Australia was the judge that presided over the Ned Kelly trial. Interestingly, the library has the famous Ned Kelly suit of armour which can be seen up on the fourth floor of the library. Ned Kelly was the theme that led us onto the second stop of the tour – The Old Melbourne Gaol. For a Melbourne itinerary featuring the gaol click here!
The Melbourne Gaol is a great place to visit with kids – for more kid friendly Melbourne travel inspiration check out this guide
The Old Melbourne Gaol is where Ned Kelly would have spent his final nights. To my non-Australian readers and for those who have seen none of the three films about him – the most recent starring Heath Ledger – Ned Kelly is pretty much Australia’s answer to Robin Hood. He robbed banks for himself but at the same time torched mortgage papers for local farmers. The public loved him and he lives on today as one of Australia’s biggest icons.
After the Gaol we headed to Carlton Gardens, by way of the 8 hour movement monument. The monument celebrates the victory by the trade unions in getting an eight hour working day. The triple 8 on top of the monument signifies 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play and 8 hours of rest. I had no idea that there was movement to get the 8 hour work day let alone that this was first achieved in Melbourne!
I was ecstatic when we reached the gardens as I saw my very first possum! The second Australian wildlife spot of my trip!
The walk through the gardens ended at the Royal Exhibition Building. Melbourne’s answer to the Crystal Palace Exhibition Building from London’s Great Exhibition. It is a beautiful building and tours are offered.
The next stop was at the State Parliament. a beautiful building from the Marvellous Melbourne period. The period after the Gold Boom! Many of Melbourne’s most impressive buildings date from this period.
If the first half of the tour was about the history and politics of Melbourne then the second half was devoted to modern life. So it was onwards to Stevenson Laneway.
Stevenson Laneway was the first art lane way we visited. The lane has a really good permanent pop up bar and also some great art. I hadn’t realised that this was all perfectly legal. Businesses can apply for permits for artists to decorate their walls and it becomes quite the tourist draw!
My favourite was this piece by Matt Adnate. He specialises in portraits especially of Aboriginals – but more on this later! Discovering these laneways is another great free thing to do in Melbourne and after the tour was finished I headed back to spend more time perusing the art!
The second type of lane way we discovered is one of the many coffee lane ways that Melbourne is famed for. Melbourne after all invented the flat white so it is not surprise that they love their coffee culture.
After a brief stroll through the coffee lane way we headed to the second art and in my opinion most impressive lane way. I had strolled down Hosier Street the day before and found that the artworks had already changed! As a Valentine’s Day treat a new work had just popped up! It was one of the groups favourites and with this political satire it is hard not to see why!
Impressive as this is, my favourite artwork was this other Matt Adnate piece. It is one of his specialist Aboriginal pieces. You can’t really tell from the photograph but the city of Melbourne skyline is reflected in his eyes.
From Hosier Street we went to Flinders Street Station. I had thought a couple of days before that there was a certain Indian influence to the design and legend has it that the designs for the Melbourne and Mumbai station were switched so each city got the wrong station. I don’t know how true the story is but I can certainly see where the legend came from.
We entered Federation Square from the station and learnt about the modern and unpopular architecture there. The buildings here are meant to look like urban camouflage which I can totally see. I don’t think it is particularly ugly but apparently it is wasn’t so popular when it was built but this could have been due to the overspend!
We crossed the river to the final stop of our our tour at the Melbourne Arts Centre which afforded us great views of the city from across the river.
I really enjoyed my Free Melbourne Walking Tour and Melbourne impressed me on the whole with the variety of free things to do in the city! We walked around 5km and our guide Laura was extremely knowledgable – this is just the stuff I could remember but she was full of other fun facts! Though the tour is billed as free, the guides make there living through tips. Tours in Melbourne typically cost around $30 a person and I think Laura’s tour was well worth it. I loved this tour because you didn’t have to book in advance. I would recommend this as a must for any visitor to Melbourne and will look for other free tours in other cities!
Have you ever done a free tour? What did you think?
Looking for inspiration of what to do in Melbourne with kids, then check out this guide