Melbourne’s CBD is full of interesting self-guided walking tours. We hadn’t done one of these in a while so we decided to spend some time exploring the alleyways and lane-ways of this great city.
Starting in Federation Square we crossed the road to the Flinders Street Station. This is a major landmark in Melbourne, both due to it’s architecture and its collection of world clocks over the mantle of the main entry. This has given rise to the popular meeting place of “Under the Clocks!”
Not far from here is Degraves Street. Historically known for it’s flour mill it’s now a laneway full of espresso and sandwich shops. In fact it was here that we had such souper soup (worst joke ever!). All of the establishments in this street are unique and quirky. One of them has used recycled cinema seats and courtroom benches for furniture.
Continuing up Centre Place and Centre Way you pass a lot of small coffee shops and the Majorca Building – with its Spanish / Moorish themed style.
The next section is known as ‘Block Arcade’. Here you have mosaicked floors separating really upmarket shops – similar in style to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. It is here that one of the gems of Melbourne is located – the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. This amazing cake shop does a really good High Tea – as the queues of people outside testify to. This time we are backpackers but when we return to Melbourne in future we might try it out. Having to stop Karen licking the windows means she is keen to try it as well.
The rain started to fall quite thickly so we dashed across the road to the Royal Arcade. Designed by Charles Webb, this arcade of shops is guarded by the effigies of two figures – Gog and Magog. Interestingly these two are also considered the guardians of the City of London and feature in Irish Mytology – the Lebor Gabála Érenn (the Book of Invasions).
At this point we came to a halt on our tour. We had reached the landmark General Post Office Building. I know what you all must be thinking, John went off course to spend hours exploring this fascinating building?
No. The entire first two floors had been renovated to become Australia’s flagship H&M store. Karen needed a moment to compose herself!.
Nearby in Hardware Lane is the epitome of Melbourne’s lane-way renaissance. Cobblestone streets lined with umbrella covered cafes on both sides. The facades of the buildings giving new life to the old warehouses they used to be. Apart from the cobblestones it reminded John of the area around North Station in Boston.
The serious fashion shopping begins on Little Collins Street nearby before we crossed over to Howey Place where the biggest book shop in the world once stood. Coles Book Arcade at one point stocked over two million books but closed its doors in 1929. It was so big it used to have its own Menagerie, a refreshment room, a band and lots of chairs to sit and read on. Unlike book stores today patrons were encouraged to read in-store with a sign saying
Read As Long As You Like – Nobody Asked To Buy
A few more laneways were navigated before we found ourselves back at Federation Square. This was a great walking tour, with lots to see and explore and plenty of opportunities to shop or have lunch along the way.
The best thing about this tour is that it is free and you can do it by yourself or get a group together.
We found it on the Thats Melbourne website here: