Melbourne: A day in the life of a tourist (part two!)

Melbourne: A day in the life of a tourist (part two!)

Our last post from our travels Down Under, left you in Melbourne city centre, following an awesome day of sightseeing where we photographed lots of street art, went up the SkyDeck and took a tour on the City Circle Tram. But believe it or not, there was still plenty more for us to see and do before hanging up our walking boots for the day!

For those of you who may not know much about Melbourne – it is famous for its many lanes, alleys and  little streets, all hiding a host of sights that are easily missed when you stick to the main streets. In 1837, Melbourne’s original surveyor, Robert Hoddle, had the daunting task of designing a city with streets wide enough to accommodate bullock teams hauling big loads of goods. As a result, Hoddle’s final ‘grid’ design included imposing main streets that were great for the bullocks but not so perfect for the local people. In response to this, Melbournians began to create their own ‘human-sized’ networks between these streets, setting up cafes, retail establishments and other, sometimes ‘unseemly’, diversions from the public face of the city.

The Information Centre in Federation Square has a great little Laneways booklet that we picked up earlier in the day, which contains a map and information for a self guided walk. We used this as our bible for the afternoon and set off on the suggested route to explore!

First stop was Degraves Street, a hugely popular laneway and a mecca for Melbourne’s cafe society…

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Walking through Degraves Street and out the other end, we came across a building which brought back memories of the time we lived on the Balearic Islands in Spain – the Majorca Building.  Built in the 1920’s, its terracotta tiles bring a lovely hint of the Mediterranean to the city!

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Following our map through Centre Place (another area for espresso lovers!) and up through Centre Way, we crossed over Collins Street and stood outside the Block Arcade. This arcade was named after the fashionable Collins Street block between Swanston and Elizabeth Street where 19th century Melburnians liked to promenade or ‘do the block’. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside as the arcade had already closed for the evening but we did get to peak through the windows at its famous mosaic floor.

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Our next stop was another arcade – this time Royal Arcade off Little Collins Street – this elegant shopping arcade is the oldest one in Australia and was built in 1869!

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The shopping mall has two famous residents, Gog & Magog – the legendary giants of the ancient Britons who were captured in battle by the Trojans and  made to serve as porters at the gateways of an ancient palace.  They have been immortalised into fantastic pine sculptures and have been striking time in the Royal Arcade since 1892. You can see them as you walk into the entrance – just turn around and look up!

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Making our way out onto Bourke Street Mall we came across one of Melbourne’s most bizarre cultural artefacts – the sculpture of the giant Public Purse! It’s very strange coming across this in the middle of the pavement, and we certainly weren’t the only ones taking photos!

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The rest of our Laneways tour consisted of a walk through more fantastic little alleys, hiding remnants from Melbourne’s past, such as old warehouses, cobbled streets, speciality shops and arcades. The route took us down Hardware Lane, through the Galleria and Howey Place, back down Collins Street and into the upmarket shopping street, Flinders Lane. Traditionally the centre of Melbourne’s rag trade, Flinders Lane is now a hip and trendy street full of boutiques and bars.

It took us a good couple of hours to complete our walk, with plenty of time to stop and take photos along the way as well as read the short history of each site. For a fun and free way to see the city at your own pace, we’d definitely recommend picking up a leaflet from Federation Square and setting off on foot!

Once our Laneways tour was over, we realised that we were rather hungry so headed over to Chinatown for a slap up meal in the Empress of China. We couldn’t believe the portion sizes – massive bowls of rice and noodles for just $6.50, definitely THE cheapest meal we had found in Melbourne so far. We took away three pots of leftovers from the restaurant which kept us fed for the next two days! Oh, and it was really tasty too! We then headed back to Hardware Lane for a leisurely drink in Campari – a funky rooftop bar with bright green synthetic grass for flooring and bright red umbrellas.

Despite the fact that it had been a very long day and evening, we weren’t planning on going home until we had seen the famous Southbank flames erupt along the banks of the Yarra River. Starting at 10pm every Friday and Saturday night, the flames are set off on the hour, every hour, just outside the Grand Casino. It’s quite a walk from Hardware Lane but the various street entertainers we encountered along the way kept us amused as we made our way there.

The long walk was rewarded with a spectacular display of fire, as several giant torches were ignited one by one – setting the night sky alight with a big whoosh!

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Our tourist weekend was rounded off with a drink in the Transport bar back at Federation Square, before hopping across the road to Flinders Street station and catching the train back home…


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