Melbourne Introduction Walking Tour, Melbourne

Melbourne Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Melbourne

Melbourne is the capital and largest city in the Australian state of Victoria. The metro area consists of 31 different towns spread around the bay of Port Philip. Indigenous Australians have lived here for more than 40,000 years. European settlement began in the 1830s when settlers arrived from Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). The settlement, incorporated in 1837, was named for the British Prime Minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne.

The city went through several booms and maintains a steady influx of newcomers to this day. The first surge occurred in the 1850s when gold was discovered in Victoria. During this boom, Chinese immigrants began forming Chinatown, a popular destination on Little Bourke Street.

From 1901 to 1927, Melbourne served as the national capital while Canberra was built. You can tour the Parliament House, which is where the national government sat during those early years.

Present-day Melbourne is an international financial center and contains many of the nation's best-known landmarks. It's a UNESCO City of Literature due to its vibrant street art, music, and theater scene. The main part of town, known as the Central Business District (CBD), houses many attractions, including Flinders Street Station railway hub, Federation Square, and the Block and Royal Arcades. The most extensive tram system in the world operates in Melbourne, so getting around is always easy.

Melbourne stands out as a unique walking destination. Winding between buildings and through their ground floors, pedestrians can find hidden restaurants, shops, and street art. These might be considered dark and seedy alleys in any other town, but in Melbourne, these "laneways" and "arcades" are the tour highlights. Don't miss the Block Arcade and Degraves Street. If you'd like to check out even more of these hidden gems, take our Laneways and Arcades Walking Tour.

Melbourne is an energetic city with a ton of things to see and do. For a peek at its top rated attractions, take this self-guided walking tour of Melbourne.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Melbourne Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Melbourne Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Australia » Melbourne (See other walking tours in Melbourne)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Federation Square
  • Flinders Street Station
  • St. Paul's Cathedral
  • Degraves Street
  • Block Arcade
  • Collins Street
  • Little Bourke Street
  • Chinese Museum
  • Parliament House of Victoria
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • Fitzroy Gardens and Captain Cook's Cottage
Federation Square

1) Federation Square

Fed Square, as it is called, opened in 2001 after many years of planning and development. Melbourne had been without a public square since its founding in the mid-1800s. The most obvious place to build one was atop the city's large railway yards, a location convenient to the city center and near the Yarra River.

The square has become the hub of cultural events for the city. It hosts over 8 million visitors and 2,000 events every year. Live performances, food festivals, or cinema screenings are all hosted here, plus many other types of entertainment.

The square's top attractions include the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Ian Potter Centre. The Ian Potter Centre is a historical and modern art gallery, a part of the National Gallery of Vicotria (NGV).

One of the most striking things about Fed Square is the architecture of the numerous abstract buildings you'll see. The buildings are of the deconstructivist style. They have angular, cranked geometries. Larger parts of the buildings are separated by glazed gaps representing the traditional and historic laneways found in Melbourne. The vertical "shards" usually hide things like stairs or elevators (lifts). Keep an eye out for the distinctive pinwheel tiling. Numerous laneways hold stairs that go through the square and connect Flinders Street to the Yarra River.

The riverfront area of the square has lots of trees. The area adjacent to the Princes Bridge is Federation Wharf, where you'll find cafes and a marina.

Why You Should Visit:
It is dead center in Melbourne, you can't miss it! Lots of cultural and group activities going on nearly every day.

Grab yourself some takeaway food and sit here to soak up the Melbourne atmosphere.
The Fed Square website has a detailed calendar for you to keep an eye on.
Flinders Street Station

2) Flinders Street Station

On the corners of Flinders and Swanston Streets is the historic Flinders Street Station, which opened in 1854. When it was begun, this station was the terminus for the first Australian railway. Today, the station is one of the main hubs for the intercity lines and the Metro's suburban services.

The current main building of the railway station was finished in 1909. It is an Edwardian design with a distinctive, eclectic, and almost over-the-top style. Its grandiose domes and arches have led to an urban legend that the design was originally intended for Victoria Terminus in Bombay, India. Regardless of how it got here, it is one of Melbourne's most recognizable landmarks and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

If someone in Melbourne says they'll "meet you under the clocks," you'll find them under the station indicator clocks above the main entrance. Another popular spot to meet is "on the steps," a clue to how ubiquitous the station is to daily Melbourne life.

The station's central location in the city makes it a natural stepping stone for pretty much every adventure. It's near Federation Square, the Yarra River, and the shopping arcades and laneways that wind around and through the Central Business District (CDB).

Why You Should Visit:
Even if you don't want to ride the train, this gorgeous big-city building and the delicious eating options inside make it worth a look.

Makes for a good photo opportunity at night when it is lit up!
St. Paul's Cathedral

3) St. Paul's Cathedral

Saint Paul’s Cathedral is the cathedral of the Anglican diocese of Melbourne and Victoria. Located just opposite Flinders Street Station, the cathedral is one of the landmarks that dominates Melbourne’s Central Business District. The location of the cathedral also has historical significance as it was the site of the first Christian service to be held in the newly founded Melbourne in 1835. Thereafter the site became a corn market until the lands were acquired to build the cathedral in 1848.

Designed in the Gothic transition style by well known English architect William Butterfield, the foundation stone was not laid down until 1880. Saint Paul’s was finally consecrated in 1891 and spires were added to the original design in the 1920s.

A T.C. Lewis organ was brought from England for the cathedral and it is considered to be one of the finest surviving examples of the well known 19th century organ maker. The bells were casted by Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London in 1889 and they are rung every Wednesday and Friday evening along with Sunday mornings. It is one of the few opportunities to hear 13 bell change ringing outside of England where the practice developed in the 17th century. Saint Paul’s is open to visitors most of the week.
Degraves Street

4) Degraves Street

Running between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, this spot feels a little like Paris. This short, narrow laneway is made from cobbled stone and is pedestrian-only. You can find many cafes for coffee or wine or gift shops with goods from local artists here. If you're looking for a spot to dine alfresco on a beautiful summer afternoon, Degraves is the place to go. Degraves is often mistaken with Centre Place, another laneway nearby.

Many taller buildings on Degraves have been redeveloped into loft-style apartments, which gives the area a vibrant feel. You're sure to see street performers, street art, and graffiti; all are common here, and all add to the atmosphere.

The spot is named for Charles and William Degraves, pioneers and merchants from Hobart. They set up a flour mill in the area in 1849, and William was involved in local politics for many years.

Degraves connects the bustling Flinders Street Station to the shopping districts north of it, so it's quite busy. Campbell Arcade, which is sometimes called the Degraves Underpass, runs under Flinders Street to make the passage easier. There you'll find the Platform Artists Group who frequently displays artwork there.
Block Arcade

5) Block Arcade (must see)

Block Arcade is, without a doubt, the swankiest and most beautiful stretch of Melbourne. It was opened in 1892 and features an over-the-top French Renaissance architecture that makes the spot memorable. It's full of tall arches, cornices, and lots of decorative tiles. The arcade is full of boutiques and tea rooms and was once the prime shopping district off of Collins Street.

The arcade is L-shaped, with a large domed rotunda on the corner. Entrances are located on Elizabeth Street and Collins Street. The Collins Street entrance is opposite the even older Royal Arcade.

The name comes from the fashionable practice of "doing the block." In the late 1800s, the city's elite would dress in their best and stroll Collins Street and the arcades. It was the spot in Melbourne to "see and be seen."

Why You Should Visit:
The Block Arcade is a popular tourist attraction since it boasts the city's finest Victorian architecture. Walking the arcade is a trip back in time. It's the perfect place to stroll, window shop, and maybe have a bite to eat. The arcade's entrances are six-story tall facades that are some of the best examples of the Mannerist style of Victorian architecture in the city. The arcade is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

If you want to live the Victorian way, you must take tea at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. First opened in 1894, they were completely redecorated in 1976 in Victorian style. Still to this day, the rooms give you the feeling that they are intended for high society. This isn't your ordinary cup of tea!

You may also want to check out the Royal Arcade, right across from the Collins Street entrance of the Block Arcade. Also, Block Court is adjacent. It has an elaborate Art Deco interior. It's no longer an arcade with shopfronts but is worth checking out regardless.
Collins Street

6) Collins Street

One of the city's major streets, Collins Street is part of the original city grid made in 1837. The city grid is named for surveyor Robert Hoddle. True to his specifications, the street is exactly one mile long and one chain (99 feet) wide. It is named for the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, as Tasmania was known then. Lieutenant-Governor David Collins led settlers to found Sorrento in 1803, which was the first British settlement in Australia outside of Sydney.

The east end of the street is known locally as the Paris End since the historic buildings, trees, sidewalk cafes, and small boutiques are reminiscent of France. Near Queen Street, the west end of the street has been home to the financial district since the 1800s. The retail heart of the area is the Block Arcade, which runs between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets.

The first trees planted here were the elm trees, which were added in 1875. Trams were installed in 1885 and were initially cable-drawn until the system was electrified in 1930. Many historic buildings from Melbourne's early boom times were unfortunately destroyed in the 1950s and 60s as the area went through an extensive period of redevelopment.

Notable Victorian buildings like the Collins Street Baptist Church, The Scot's Presbyterian Church, and the Saint Michael's Uniting Church are still present. Alston's Corner, designed by Nahum Barnet in 1914, is an excellent example of Edwardian architecture. At the financial end of the street, you'll also see some Victorian gothic buildings known as the "Cathedrals of Commerce."
Little Bourke Street

7) Little Bourke Street

One of the original east to west roads in town, Little Bourke Street is home to Melbourne's Chinatown, several department stores, and many boutiques.

Chinatown is centered on Little Bourke Street's eastern end, and it features many laneways and arcades. Like other "Chinatowns" all over the world, this was an important area for Chinese immigrants in Australia when they arrived beginning in the 1850s.

You'll still find many shops and restaurants here, but you'll see cuisines from China, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, and Korea all represented. There are annual festivals, like Lunar New Year, that are worth checking out. But even if you visit on a quiet day, the architecture and culture here is a fascinating fusion. Many buildings are Victorian with elaborate Chinese motifs.

If you'd like to learn more about the Australian Chinese population, don't miss the Museum of Chinese Australian History, located on Cohen Place. Another great place to explore is the MidCity Arcade, a covered laneway full of Asian fusion shops, foods, and street art. On Cohen Street, look for the Facing Heaven Archway, a replica of a Ming Dynasty arch with imperial lions guarding it.
Chinese Museum

8) Chinese Museum (must see)

Melbourne’s Chinese Museum is located in the CBD’s China Town and chronicles the history of Chinese people in Victoria. Many Chinese came to Victoria during the gold rush of the 1850s and sent money back to their villages while panning for gold themselves, running market gardens or shops. Many of these immigrants came from poor areas of Southern China around Canton. At the Chinese Museum, you can learn all about the history of this significant minority group and their place in broader Australian society through the many artefacts, photographs and other memorabilia that is on display.

There are several permanent displays and exhibitions within the museum including:

- Discovering Melbourne’s Chinatown: Our History and Heritage;
- Finding Gold, where you get to experience the gold rush through Chinese eyes; - Melbourne’s Dragons, see processional dragons going back a century;
- Bridge of Memories, which charts the social and economic backdrop against which more than 500,000 Chinese have immigrated to Australia over the past 50 years;
- Chinese Australians, is the history of Chinese-Australians going back to convict times.

The Chinese Museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm and is also home to the Chinatown Visitors Centre. Some exhibitions are free and others have an entry fee.

Why You Should Visit:
To see the Chinese contribution to the Australian way of life.
Perfectly situated in the heart of Melbourne and close to Chinatown itself.

There don't appear to be any regularly scheduled museum tours but they hardly seem needed and with your entry fee you'll get a double-sided sheet of paper with basic info about the museum and how to take yourself on a self-guided tour.
Parliament House of Victoria

9) Parliament House of Victoria

Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state of Victoria, and the center of its government is at the Parliament House. Here the 128 members of the Parliament of Victoria meet. It is a bicameral body, with an 88 member Legislative Assembly (Lower House) and a 40 member Legislative Council (Upper House).

The building was created in stages between 1856 and 1929. The first items built were the chambers for the Victorian Legislative Assembly and Council to meet. The library and eastern wing followed, and then the Queen's Hall. Ever since the building's first drawings, a decorative dome has been called for, but this feature was never added.

For 26 years, beginning in 1901, this building was the first home of Australia's Federal Government. The Australian Constitution laid out a new capital city, which would become Canberra, but it did not exist yet. So the new Commonwealth's government sat here, while the Victorian state government used the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

10) St. Patrick's Cathedral (must see)

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is both one of Australia’s most impressive religious buildings and a leading example of Gothic Revival architecture. In 1848, the Augustinian friar James Goold was made Bishop of Melbourne and he sought lands for a Catholic cathedral in the city. After the Eastern Hill site was approved in 1851, William Wardell, one of Victoria’s best-known architects at the time, was chosen to design the church. Although grand plans for a Gothic Revival church were quickly put together, labor shortages due to the gold rush meant that construction did not begin until 1858.

The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1897 after the depression of the 1890s slowed down the final construction. Laid out on a Latin cross pattern, the cathedral is 103 meters high and the tallest religious building in Australia. The Catholic congregation of Melbourne was at the time mainly made up of Irish immigrants so it was decided to honor the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, in naming the cathedral. Saint Patrick opens from 9am to 5pm and volunteers will often guide you through the cathedral.

Why You Should Visit:
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the architectural glories and an integral part of Melbourne.

Be aware of services that may be running. Outside service times you can spend time wandering around and taking photos.
Fitzroy Gardens and Captain Cook's Cottage

11) Fitzroy Gardens and Captain Cook's Cottage (must see)

On the Melbourne Central Business District's southeastern side are 64 acres of green space known as the Fitzroy Gardens. The Victorian gardens house an ornamental lake, a conservatory, a model Tudor village, and Cooks' Cottage. The gardens were first set aside in 1848 and are named for Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, the governor of New South Wales.

Cooks' Cottage was built in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England, in 1755. It was made by the parents of Captain James Cook, the English naval captain who explored and mapped Oceania, including the east coast of Australia. The cottage was moved to this location in 1933. It was deconstructed and then reconstructed brick by brick, shipped in 253 cases and 40 barrels on the Port Dunedin. Even the ivy that grows on the cottage came from cuttings taken at the original site. The cottage, even though it didn't start out here, is the oldest building standing in Australia.

The cottage was restored in 1978, and a cottage garden was created around the house. There is some debate about whether or not Captain Cook ever lived in this house of his parents, but regardless, it's a reminder of a different time. The interior is decorated with antiques, and costumed guides show what life was like in the 18th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Melbourne claims to be Australia's garden city, and the Fitzroy Gardens are the reason why. The tree-lined paths and numerous green spaces are a quiet respite from the bustling city.

The Spanish mission-style conservatory houses impressive floral displays. There are also sculptures, fountains, and a sacred tree.


Refreshments are available in the KereKere Cafe at the visitor center.

Most people spend less than an hour at the gardens, but you could spend an entire day here. It's perfect for a stroll, to get some sunshine and fresh air, or for an afternoon picnic.

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