We’re not huge fans of organized tours. Not only do they eat up a chunk of our budget, but we are averse to being paraded through an area by a paddle-wielding guide. We usually prefer doing our own research, defining our own route and moving at our own pace. However, in some cases, joining a tour provides deeper insight, personal accounts and even the ticket to entry – and not all tours come with a price tag. We actually found 5 free tours in Melbourne that exceeded our expectations.
Free Tours in Melbourne: Shrine of Remembrance
Built in 1934 to honor the Victorians who served in World War I, the shrine has evolved and expanded to include an intriguing museum featuring artifacts from all Australian conflicts. Visitors are invited to tour the building on their own, but we were glad we joined one of the two daily free tours. Our guide, a World War II veteran, shared personal stories that enhanced our understanding of the exhibits. Read about our tour here.
Open daily 10 am to 5 pm. Tours daily 11 am and 2 pm.
Free Tours in Melbourne: Parliament House
Melbourne’s Parliament House was constructed between 1856 and 1930 and is still where the Victoria Parliament meets today. When Parliament is in session, visitors can view the proceedings from the public galleries. When they aren’t in session, tours are offered that put visitors in the seats of the politicians in the Legislative Assembly Chamber, the Legislative Council Chamber and the central reading room of the library. Our tour guide gave us a brief, but concise, history of Melbourne’s government and the Parliament House. Not only did he expound on the building’s history, he explained the politician’s terms, positions and seating arrangements, which we found quite interesting. Read about our tour – and subsequent pub crawl – here.
Viewing Parliament in action is open to the public. Tours are offered Monday through Friday on non-sitting, non-holidays at 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 3:45 pm.
Free Tours in Melbourne: Ned Kelly at the State Library of Victoria
Since we arrived in Melbourne, we’ve heard many tales of the famous outlaw, Ned Kelly, but no two stories we heard aligned exactly. The State Library of Victoria not only has artifacts, but they offer a tour that helps separate fact from fiction. Our guide gave us a brief history of the library itself (of which a free tour is also available) before moving into the Ned Kelly exhibition.
He told the story from the beginning of Ned Kelly’s life, even providing background on his family and life in Melbourne at the time. Using photographs, maps and letters on exhibit – as well as the famous armor Kelly was wearing when he was taken into police custody – our guide gave a more accurate picture of the legend and shed light on the many myths.
Galleries open daily 10 am to 5 pm. Ned Kelly tours offered Wednesdays at 1 pm.
Free Tours in Melbourne: I’m Free Walking Tour Melbourne
I was hesitant about going on this tour. Following a guy in a neon green jacket like cattle through the city is exactly what I detest about tours. We had already walked much of the city, but without a guide book. I felt like I didn’t have a historic foundation for what I was seeing – thus, we joined the tour.
The tour lasted a solid three hours and we covered some serious ground on foot. With a decent guidebook, we could have executed the same self-guided tour, but we definitely appreciated his anecdotes, personal recommendations and insider tips. And, speaking of tips, if you take this tour and you think it was at all valuable (like we did), give your guide a tip!
Tours leave from the statue in front of the State Library of Victoria daily at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm.
Free Tours in Melbourne: City Circle Tram #35
Honestly, I wish this was the first thing we did when we got into the city, as it provides an excellent orientation to Melbourne. The old, wooden tram cars rattle in a loop around the Central Business District, detouring to the Docklands. Brief, pre-recorded commentary provides quick facts and details about nearby sights and public transportation connections. Trams come by about every 12 minutes, making it easy to hop on and off, but it’s also nice to give the feet a rest and ride the complete loop, which takes about an hour.
Trams operate about every 12 minutes Sunday through Wednesday between 10 am and 6 pm and Thursday through Saturday between 10 am and 9 pm.
We want to know: Are there any other free tours in Melbourne that you would suggest? Tell us about it in the comments!