When it comes to ‘touring’ Melbourne, the landmarks, must-sees and iconic experiences aren’t as grand or obvious as other cities. But, as locals and converts will attest, this just adds to Melbourne’s charm.
We spoke to Fiona Sweetman from Hidden Secrets Tours about the unique experiences to be found on a trip around the city.
When asked what makes the ultimate Melbourne experience, Fiona has trouble narrowing it down, but once again this shows how diverse the experience can be. ‘This is such a difficult question…but I suppose it’s the laneways, a walk through the Botanic Gardens, a nostalgic pasta at Pellegrini’s and a tram ride (outside peak times!)’, she says. ‘The laneways are really where you get to feel the city, the diversity, the people…’
It’s true that Melbourne is known for its laneways. And with that, comes the experience of discovery and hidden surprises. So it’s no wonder, then, that the patrons of Hidden Secrets Tours (30 per cent of whom are Melburnians) comment most regularly on the little details, the ‘microcosm’ of Melbourne’s city centre that can surprise you on every turn.
‘The most common comment we get is about the architecture, and the general diversity of the city,’ says Fiona. ‘People are often surprised by the details they missed if they had already walked through an area we have on our itinerary.’
‘I love the cast iron sunflowers on top of a building on Little Collins and the Majorca Building on Flinders Lane is a favourite, with its Art Deco style and exotic name – it was named after the regional Victorian home town of the architect. I certainly enjoy the space that Lord Coconut has made in Mitchell House and Local Birds in Causeway Lane – the smallest café in Melbourne. If you blink you may miss it!’
Fiona describes Hidden Secret’s Lanes and Arcades tour as the most popular. The reason? It’s not something you can find anywhere else.
‘It’s jam-packed with local information, varied visual stimuli and interesting small businesses all within a small area,’ she says. ‘We can add a new story every 10 meters if we want to. This diversity is difficult to maintain in most places, but in Melbourne there is something new to talk about nearly every day. This keeps it fresh and exciting.’