The best way to explore any city is by foot – and nowhere is that more true than in Melbourne, with its intricate maze of amazing laneways and arcades. Not to mention its lovely riverside promenade, its busy shopping streets, and the many nice parks dotted around the Melbourne city centre.
But it can all be more than a little overwhelming for first-time visitors. Where do you begin to explore Melbourne? It’s Australia’s second largest city after all, and boasts considerably more tourist attractions, Victorian-era architecture, museums, art galleries, and brilliant coffee shops and bars than your average city.
Fortunately, before my trip to Melbourne in September, I “discovered” (I put that word in air quotes because all I really did was Google walks in Melbourne) a series of self-guided walks on the main City of Melbourne tourism website that take in all of the Australian Second City’s main highlights.
These were my three favourite walks around central Melbourne:
Melbourne arcades and lanes walk
I think my favourite thing about Melbourne is its maze of laneways, which twist and turn through the central business district (CBD). They’re a haven for the more creatively inclined, featuring hole-in-the-wall cafes, cool little bars and restaurants, as well as funky boutiques and kick-ass street art.
It’s easy to get lost in the crowds, which is part of the fun. But the first time you go, you may want to take a map. I can recommend this one. This 2.5km walk takes approximately 1.5 hours. Highlights include funky Degraves Street, with its line of European-style coffee bars, and Centre Place, which is too cool for school.
Melbourne CBD walk
Melbourne is a good city for indulging in a bit of retail therapy – or so I’ve been told by my wife, who shopped up a storm while we were visiting. While she shopped, I explored the city via this Cosmopolitan walk I found on the official Melbourne tourism website. This walk takes two hours to complete and covers a distance of 3.75km, though it may take you longer if you’re enticed inside any of the shops along the way.
If you get tired from all the walking, jump aboard the free City Circle Tram and do a circuit or two around the CBD. They run regularly, and its loop takes you past (or within walking distance of) the Old Melbourne Gaol, Parliament House, Federation Square, the Melbourne Aquarium, the Harbour Esplanade, and the Melbourne Docklands, among many other places of interest.
Melbourne riverside walk
Long-time readers of this blog will know I love drinking by a river (I even wrote a guide to London’s Best Riverside Pubs), so you’ll understand how delighted I was to take this self-guided walk along the Yarra River.
The Yarra will never be one of the world’s most beautiful rivers – it’s far too brown for that – but it still makes for a rather pleasant photograph with the Melbourne city skyline in the background. Plus there’s a whole bunch of good restaurants and bars along both sides of it in the city.
It’s a very nice walk on a sunny day that’ll take you roughly two hours to walk the 4.75km to the Charles Grimes Bridge and back to Federation Square. I recommend you take your time and find a nice bar along the way to enjoy a beverage or two or three before stumbling back to your hotel.