There’s so much to see and do in Melbourne that a lifetime isn’t enough to discover it all. Take a guided tour to fast-track your exploration. Take two, or more, because these walks are among the best things in life – free.
Hit the highlights
The Melbourne Free Walking Tour includes many of the sights and stories that makes this city special. See laneway street art and grand Gold Rush-era architecture. Get the lowdown on the traffic quirk that is the hooked turn. Learn about notorious bushranger Ned Kelly at the Old Melbourne Gaol, where he was hanged in 1880. By the end of these daily 180-minute tours, visitors will probably know more than many Melburnians.
Hero or criminal?
Want to know more about Ned? The State Library of Victoria has a significant collection of objects related to this divisive figure. What’s more, this beautiful Victorian-era institution offers a free Ned Kelly tour twice a week. A highlight is the homemade armour he famously wore at a shootout with police, which is riddled with bullet holes. A free Welcome to the Library Tour, which includes highlights such as the building’s magnificent Dome Room, also runs weekly.
Go to town
Completed in 1870, the Melbourne Town Hall has played an important role shaping Melbourne’s past and future. See the wood panelled council chambers, wave at strangers from the portico balcony and see the piano once played by Paul McCartney. Tours are at 11am and 1pm weekdays except Tuesdays, and bookings are essential.
Another impressive 19th century public building well worth a look is Parliament House, where the state of Victoria is governed. Wonder at the abundance of Gold Rush-era marble, chandeliers, gilding and polished wood. See inside the two parliamentary chambers: the green Legislative Assembly and red Legislative Council. Say hello to the statue of Queen Victoria and portraits of every Victorian premier. There are several tours every weekday, except when Parliament is sitting.
Don’t miss the opportunity to discover more about Melbourne’s vibrant Royal Botanic Gardens in the Garden Discovery Tour. Led by an experienced, knowledgeable guide, discover the natural flora and fauna in Melbourne as you peruse rolling landscapes, towering trees and glittering lakes.
Opened in 2002, Federation Square is one of Melbourne’s contemporary architectural icons. Tours of this three-hectare site are offered at 11am daily except Sundays, and explore its history, engineering and distinctive architecture. From the main plaza’s textured, undulating sandstone paving to the buildings’ angular, geometric Deconsructivist exteriors, it’s a must for design fans.
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia is among Federation Square’s tenants, and home to some of the nation’s most important home-grown art. Nearby, NGV International showcases the National Gallery of Victoria’s impressive international collection. Both offer regular free tours of the highlights, specific collections and individual exhibitions, and gallery entry is also on the house. Impressed? Just wait until you see the art!