My Great Ocean Road drive was over and it was time to explore the city of Melbourne.I wanted to see the city’s iconic landmarks,the bustling streets, the famous local markets,the art centers and also wanted to know the city’s history,culture and heritage.As we explored various options for the city tour,my friend suggested me to go for the Melbourne Free Walking Tour.The walking tour is operated by a local company “i m Free”.It organizes daily walking tours through the city for the tourists.The tours are of three hours and covers almost all the places of importance in the city of Melbourne and the the walking tour is free,yes absolutely FREE..I thought it would be real fun to walk through the city like a Melbournian with a Melbournian to explore the city.I scanned through the webpages of the Melbourne Free Walking Tour and came to know that no prior registrations are required for the walking tour.The only thing one has to do is to meet the I m Free guides present in front of the Victoria state library at the designated time.
Next morning i boarded the metro from the Williams Landing to Flinders sreet station and within forty minutes i reached at Flinders.Then i walked a little to the state library of victoria to find the i m Free guides in green shirts standing in front of the statue of Sir Redmond Barry.I introduced myself to the guides and surprised to know that one of the guides had visited India.Then we talked about the places the guide visited in India.It was 9.45 am then and there was only one other traveler waiting for the tour.The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne is the largest library in the state of Victoria.Many people were waiting outside in the queue as the Library opening time was 10am.As the library opened at 10 am ,the people rushed into the library.The travelers joined one by one and we were total 27 travelers from different parts of the world joined the tour that day.We were divided into two groups to be led by two guides.
At 10.45am we started the Walking tour.The guide was a young university student in the second year of his Bachelors in History and International relations and working for i m free.He gave us a brief history of Victoria and and the city of Melbourne and its riches and cultures and how the city has made its way to the most livable city in the world.We started our walk to the Old Melbourne Gaol and the guide was talking about the city pointing to various directions and answering questions from the travelers.It was spring in Melbourne but that day it was cold (Weather in Melbourne is erratic) and the wind was blowing slowly.I was feeling a bit cold but was excited to see Melbourne walking with the group.We visited the Gaol and then headed toward the 8-8-8 tower which is the symbol of eight hour movement by Victorians to break down the day into eight hours of work,eight hours of play and eight hours of rest.I really liked the eight hour movement history.
Then we moved on to the Royal Exhibition building.It is a 19th century world heritage building built for the the Melbourne International exhibitions.Known for its magnificent design and architectural grandeur,this building is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most visited places by the tourists in the city.We could only see the beautiful building from the outside as some exhibitions were going on inside.The Carlton garden in front of the Royal Exhibition Ground is a beautiful garden with sprawling lush green lawns and the cluster of trees.This is where i spotted a marsupial for the first time in my life, a baby possum.The walking path inside the garden through the greenery was an absolute walking delight.
Melbourne is a pedestrians friendly city.To cross the roads you have to press the buzzer to and once the buzzer rings the vehicular traffic will make way for the pedestrians.I find it very safe practice of crossing busy roads.From the Carlton gardens we moved to the Victorian parliament building in the Spring street and then to the Bourke street which is famous for its shopping mall.The advantage of a guided walking tour is one can see the city from close quarters and at the same time get the knowledge of the city from the local guides and know about the city’s best eateries,coffee bars and other places of interest.
From the Bourke street we walked to the China town.They say its a small Chinese world out there in Melbourne with the largest Chinese population in Australia.The China town was dotted with restaurants,outlets and shops of Chinese ethnicity.The guide boasted it being the largest Chinese settlement in the southern hemisphere though i had no idea what other places other than China the Chinese are settled in.After China town i lost my group on the way and found myself on the street art corridor.
Left alone i explored the city’s beautiful street art lanes.It was a beautiful experience walking through the street art lanes and watching artists giving life to their arts on the walls and tourists looking bemusedly to the beautiful arts on the wall.Then i accidentally found the walking tour group on the way at Flinders and re joined them.We walked next to the Federation square which is known as Melbourne’s cultural melting point.One can find every day some other programmes in that open spaces of the square.We roamed around the open spaces of the Federation square as the guide went on explaining the importance of the place in the city.
Then we moved onto the princess bridge on the Yarra river from where the entire cityscape on both the banks of the scenic river was visible.The guide pointed to the Eureka towers, the tallest building of the Melbourne city.He further went on to explain the redline on the Eureka tower which signifies the bloods spilled by the miners who revolted against the oppression of their colonial masters in the Eureka stockade rebellion.Then the walking tour came to an end on the terrace of a building looking over the beautiful Yarra river.We thanked the guide for the beautiful city tour.The walking tour is free but they survive on the tips from the travelers.Everybody offered tip to the guide what they think he deserved.
It was a great experience walking on the streets/lanes of Melbourne with the i m free tour to explore this beautiful city.It was informative, full of fun and the guide of the tour was genial and engaging answering all of our questions.Being a backpacker tight in budget i gave AUD 10 as tip to the guide and posed with him for a photograph for my memory of the trip.If you are in Melbourne and want to explore the city i would strongly recommend to you to take the Melbourne Free Walking Tour.