Walking tours of Melbourne
Melbourne’s city centre is definitely best explored on foot. Laid out in a grid format on the north bank of the Yarra River by Robert Hoddle in 1837, its streets were designed for pedestrians and horse carriages, rather than cars.
Measuring approximately 2km from east to west and 1km from north to south, the grid is also just the right size for meandering along graceful, tree lined streets intersected by buzzing laneways.
Of course the city of Melbourne isn’t confined to the original grid: to the north and east there are parks, museums, state parliament buildings and the character-filled suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy and Collingwood.
Immediately south of the river is the arts precinct housing the National Gallery of Victoria, Arts Centre, Hamer Hall and the Recital Centre – all just a short walk from the Royal Botanic Gardens and Shrine of Remembrance.
And then there’s the Yarra River itself, lined with bars and restaurants from the arts precinct to the docklands along Southbank, as well as a walking/cycling track on both sides of the river leading east.
Here’s a few suggestions for exploring Melbourne on foot.
a quick trip around the city
Collect a map from the information centre in Federation Square and walk north up Swanston Street, passing St Paul’s Cathedral. When you reach Melbourne Town Hall, turn left onto Collins Street from where you can turn right into the Block Arcade, a heritage shopping laneway filled with specialty shops and cafes.
On exiting Block Arcade, cross the road into its counterpart Royal Arcade, which ends in the pedestrianised shopping area, Bourke Street Mall. From here you can head east to Chinatown on Little Bourke Street, taking a quick detour down Tattersalls Lane to see some of some of Melbourne’s funkier cafes.
Continuing along Little Bourke Street will bring you to Parliament House and from there you can head north towards the Melbourne Museum or south past the Treasury Building. If you choose south, turn right onto Flinders Lane to pick a restaurant to return to later.
After crossing the Russell Street intersection, turn left onto Hosier Lane to see the epicentre of Melbourne’s street art scene. A right turn at the end of Hosier Lane will bring you back to Federation Square – all up this circuit will be about 3.6km.
book a walking tour of melbourne
While a self-guided walk around the city is a great way to see Melbourne, it can be more fun to join a tour with the story tellers of the city – here’s a few options:
Laneway photo tour with Melbourne photographer Jaime Murcia
Keen to capture the hidden laneways of Melbourne and improve your photography skills? Then this is the tour for you. There are over 200 laneways in Melbourne bursting with history, street art and cafes and Jaime will take you down his favourites, giving useful tips on how to improve your photography along the way. See my recent blog post on this great experience here.
Hidden Secrets Tours
It’s sometimes a little overwhelming to take in everything a city has to offer in one walking tour. Each Hidden Secrets Tours focuses on one aspect of Melbourne, such as heritage, food or drinks. Group sizes are small and many of their tours include free tastings or coffee stops.
I’m Free Walking Tours
Alternatively, you can just turn up at the State Library to join a free walking tour at 10.30am or 2.30pm. Although, the group can be quite big these tours are a good way to get a feel for Melbourne.
walk around the botanic gardens
If Melbourne’s CBD is the beating heart of Melbourne, the Royal Botanic Gardens are its 35 hectare lungs. Fanning out on the southern bank of the Yarra River, the gardens display almost 50,000 different plants in 30 different collections; including ferns, eucalypts, succulents and 150-year old oak trees.
While it’s delightful to simply walk around the gardens, you can join an Aboriginal Heritage Walk, one of the free guided tours or go punting on the lake, followed by high tea at the Terrace Cafe. From the Melbourne Conference Centre, it’s a 2.6km walk past the Arts Centre to get to the main gate and visitor centre.
visit queen victoria market
Queen Victorian Market, an authentic, bustling open air market, is home to over 700 businesses. Located to the north of the CBD and open every day except Monday and Wednesday, it’s where locals shopping for fresh food mingle with tourists looking for souvenirs, gifts and a bite to eat. Don’t forget to stop for a cheese and spinach borek at the Borek Shop, recently voted favourite eatery by market shoppers.
And, if you’re looking for more, you could join the Ultimate Foodie Tour to discover the best food and speciality products on offer. The best way to get there is to take the northbound tram along Elizabeth Street to Stop 7 – the market is within the free tram zone so there’s no need to pay.