Ben and I spent four days in Melbourne at the end of August. For two of the four days Ben would leave me from 9am to 4pm to attend a certification class which will make it easier for him to get a job in the state of Victoria and bring us one step closer to living in our favorite city. This left me with fourteen hours to fill up exploring Melbourne on my own.
I started planning this trip a month in advance when I highlighted some of the fun things in Melbourne in a Friday Favorites post. I knew the first thing I was going to do in Melbourne was take the I’m Free Walking Tour; after all where else could I get a walking tour of the city on an unemployed girl budget? The I’m Free Walking Tour is also one of the highest rated tours in Melbourne on Trip Advisor so that peaked my interest even more.
After I dropped Ben off at his course I headed towards Brother Baba Budan for some breakfast and tea. Brother Baba Budan had some of the best reviews on google+ and really cool décor in the photos so I figured it would be a great first stop. Well the reviews sure were right! My chai latte was delicious, and the décor was super cool. The only problem was that it was so packed I couldn’t see, or even get to where the food was stored in the display case (around the corner from the cashier) so I wasn’t able to order any food, and had to take the chai to go. Bummer.
The I’m Free Walking Tour of Melbourne
I had just enough time following my tea to wander into a giant Myer in search of a restroom before walking one more block to the State Library of Victoria. Just outside the library in front of a statue of Sir Redmond Barry I found my tour guide Matt in a bright green I’m Free Walking Tour Melbourne t-shirt and about ten people standing around him, some couples, some families, and some solo. Matt would introduce himself to each person that joined the group over the next few minutes and ask where each group was from. Our group was made up of people from Brazil, France, Canada, Australia, the USA, and a few others; he made each one of us feel comfortable and welcome while getting to know more about us and what brought us to Melbourne/Australia before the tour began.
Now I don’t want to go into too much of the history I learned along the way, after all, that’s what Matt gets paid for, and I really enjoyed the tour so I would love for him to share all that with you. So I’ll just tell you that if you decide to include the I’m Free Walking Tour into your trip to Melbourne you will not be disappointed. And if you are one of my friends or family already planning your trips Down Under you will be forced (nicely) to take this tour on your first day in the city. After the three hour tour you will feel comfortable with the CBD, know all the cool shops, museums and bars in the city, and be able to plan out the rest of your trip in Melbourne.
Included on the tour were stops at the Old Melbourne Gaol, the Royal Exhibition Building, Parliament Building, Chinatown, hidden alley and laneways, and street art too!
Oh, and I might add, the tour finishes at the most gorgeous spot in the city to take photos.
The final thing to know about this tour is about how much it costs, free is in the name, so it must be free right? Well the tour is free, however, your tour guide needs to eat right? The tours are run off of tips, so if you like the tour, our don’t like it (although I doubt that) you pay the tour guide what you think they deserve. A similar tour might cost $30 a person before you tip. Not sure what to give? Like I said, I took this tour because it fit my unemployed girl budget, but I gave Matt $25 because his knowledge, personality, and willingness to share everything he knew with me about the city to make my move easier was well worth it!
The State Library of Victoria
Our second day in Melbourne I was free to explore the city on my own, so after a delicious breakfast with Ben at Mr. Tulk I headed back to the hotel, did some yoga, got dressed, and then headed right back to the library. Ben was able to join me on his lunch break so I wasn’t totally alone for this part of the day. The fifth floor of the library featured an exhibit entitled The Changing Face of Victoria which showcased 200 years of historical maps, artifacts, stories, and Batman – no, not that Batman; John Batman, who is credited as the founder (or one of) of Melbourne in 1835, and Melbourne was almost named “Batmania”.
The most fascinating part of the exhibit for me was the history of Ned Kelly and the artifacts that went along with the story. For my American friends who have never heard of Ned Kelly have no fear, prior to moving I had never heard of the him, my suggestion is to rent the movie “Ned Kelly” (with Heath Ledger) right now!, then come back and read the rest of the post. You will not be disappointed, promise.
The Ned Kelly exhibit is full of facts, history, and artifacts from his war on the police in 1880, all leading up to the actual suit of armor he made and wore in Glenrowan siege, and one of the death masks made from his execution.
Just as Ben was about to head back to his class he mentioned that there was a room in the SLV named after his family (I didn’t realize I was dating an Australian celebrity) so we found a security guard and he brought us to the room. I continued to explore the library after Ben left, and utilized the ancestry room to look up both my family and Ben’s family history. Despite not being Australian I was able to use all the library resources to learn about my family history in the United States and Italy.
The rest of my day to myself in Melbourne was spent popping in and out of shops on Bourke Street including Melmounalia which sells locally designed and produced goods (that are adorable), then into Pellegrinis Espresso Bar – the originator of espresso in Melbourne, and finishing off exploring the Royal Arcade all before meeting up with Ben at the Charles Dickens Tavern to celebrate his new certificate and plan the rest of our weekend in Melbourne.