My first glance at a map of the Melbourne CBD was a little overwhelming. There is quite a lot of ground to cover in order to see the many Melbourne sights. However, when we hit the pavement, we found Melbourne to be a very walkable city. With just a few hours, an ambitious person could easily complete this self-guided walking tour of Melbourne; with added detours and stops, it can be done in a day.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Melbourne
Walking tours of Melbourne are an ideal way to get acquainted with the city center – or the Central Business District (CBD) as locals call it. While there are numerous Melbourne Walking Tours that are led by guides, we created this Free Melbourne Walking Tour for visitors who like to explore at their own pace.
At the end of the post, we share our top tips for Melbourne City Walks, suggestions for themed and guided walking tours in Melbourne and two maps so that you can find your way to each sight. We also include turn-by-turn directions within our Melbourne Free Tour.
Pro Tip: There are heaps of distractions along the way (many of which we point out during the Melbourne walk), if you have the time, have some fun and go explore!
Start your Melbourne City Walking Tour at the Queen Victoria Market.
#1 Queen Victoria Market
The historic market has been in operation since 1878 and is now spread over two city blocks, so allow some time, grab a coffee to go and peruse the stalls. Besides the fresh produce market, there is an indoor deli, outdoor general merchandise market and several permanent stores around the perimeter.
Pro Tip: Find out more about visiting the QVM in our blog post: Queen Victoria Market: Day, Night and Weekend.
Walk east on Victoria Street to Swanston and head south to Latrobe to the…
#2 State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria is the second stop on our Melbourne Free City Tour. The library was first opened in 1856 and has been growing ever since, now holding a collection of more than 2 million books, art galleries and historical exhibits.
Pro Tip: It is free to enter the library – and, if time allows, we recommend going in to take a stroll around the domed reading room. Then, go upstairs for a view of the room from above on the balcony and a peek at the historical exhibits as well.
Continue east on Latrobe to Russell Street and turn north to the…
#3 Old Melbourne Gaol
The Old Melbourne Jail is a must-see when city sightseeing Melbourne. The jail operated from 1842 until 1929 as a prison and where criminals who had been sentenced to death were hanged, including the (in)famous Ned Kelly.
Pro Tip: The Old Melbourne Gaol is one of the most popular museums in Melbourne – and a ticket is required to enter. Visitors interested in learning about Australia’s most notorious criminals and exploring the prison cells should book a ticket in advance.
Continue north on Russell Street as it turns into Lygon Street and turn right onto Queensberry Street and head east to the…
#4 Carlton Gardens and Royal Exhibition Building
One of the most beautiful places in Melbourne, the Carlton Gardens is the next stop on our tour. Designated a park in 1839, the 64 acres are perfect for a stroll, rest or picnic.
Pro Tip: Aim for the center of the park and the Royal Exhibition Building. Built in 1880 for the Melbourne International Exhibition, it was also used by Parliament in 1901. It was set to be demolished, but was saved and remodeled in the late 1990s. In 2004, it received UNESCO World Heritage status.
Continue walking east to Nicholson Street and turn south as it becomes Spring Street, passing the Parliament Gardens and view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (if time allows, make a detour to visit the church). On the opposite side of Spring street in the historic Princess Theater. Continue south to the steps of…
#5 Parliament House
The Parliament House is a regular stop on all Melbourne CBD Tours. Built between 1856 and 1930, the Parliament House is where both houses of Victoria’s Parliament – the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council – still meet today.
Pro Tip: The interior can be seen by guided tour on non-sitting days or from the public gallery when Parliament is in session – both options are free!
For architecture and gold lovers, make a little detour and continue south to the Old Treasury Building, which is free to enter and includes intriguing exhibits detailing Melbourne history. For those short on time, cross Spring Street to Bourke Street and head west to Exhibition Street. Go north to Little Bourke and turn west into…
The next stop on our Melbourne Free Walking Tour is fascinating Chinatown. Marked by ornately painted gates and hanging lanterns, walk the length of Chinatown. Like so many foreigners, the Chinese were also drawn to Melbourne in the 1850’s by the prospect of finding gold. Land was purchased by many Chinese people along Little Bourke and the thriving Chinatown remains today with a bevy of Asian restaurants and shops.
Pro Tip: Among the many places and things to eat in Melbourne, Dumplings in Chinatown are a must-try! We feasted at the no-frills, budget-friendly Shanghai Dumpling House – which is open for lunch and dinner.
Continue west to Swanston Street and turn south to…
#7 Bourke Street Mall
Continue on your tour of Melbourne City on the Bourke Street Mall. The retail mecca includes everything from high end shops (hello, Tiffany’s) to the necessities (Target) to the Myer Emporium, the flagship store of the Australian department store chain. With wide sidewalks, there is plenty of room for street performers to entertain those less interested in shopping.
Pro Tip: As you walk down the street, don’t miss Union Lane for a glimpse at the city’s fabulous street art along the way.
Continue walking west on Bourke Street to the Royal Arcade (then go inside and walk south).
#8 Royal Arcade
Often included on Melbourne Laneway Tours, the Royal Arcade is a quaint covered shopping street that has been around since 1869. The lane is filled with top-end stores.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the statues of Gog and Magog, two mythical creatures guarding Gaunt’s Clock since 1892, that stand above the entrance.
Emerging onto Little Collins, zig zag west and then south into…
#9 Block Arcade
Another upscale covered shopping lane – and perhaps even more opulent than Royal Arcade – Block Arcade, or just ‘The Block’, was once the place to be seen in Melbourne. Opened in the year 1893, The Block Arcade features a hand-laid Italian tile floor and classic architecture from the time.
Pro Tip: The two must-see shops at The Block are the Hopetoun Tea Room and Haigh’s Chocolates.
Exiting on Collins Street, turn left and walk east to Swanston St and to the…
#10 Melbourne Town Hall
Completed in 1870, the Melbourne Town Hall is a historically important social and cultural site in the city. It is also where city council members still meet. Inside, there is an auditorium and a beautiful organ (check the schedule for free organ concerts).
Pro Tip: Visitors can take fee tours of the Town Building, but they must be booked in advance!
Continue walking east on Collins Street, passing the Scots’ Church and turn south on Russell Street. Walk south to Flinders Lane. Rock and roll enthusiasts might want to detour east to AC/DC Lane for street art and a pop into Cherry Bar. Otherwise, turn right and walk west to…
#11 Hosier Lane Street Art
The next stop on our Free Walking Tour of Melbourne is Hoiser Lane. One of the best known laneways in the city for amazing street art, get a good, up-close look at the art on the walls. It isn’t graffiti, which is illegal in Melbourne. The works on this street are commissioned and it’s likely you’ll see someone working on a spray paint masterpiece when you walk through.
Pro Tip: Find out more about the history and culture of the city’s laneways and street art in our blog post: Laneways in Melbourne: Alleys, Arcades and Street Art.
At Flinders Street, turn right and walk west to…
#12 St. Paul’s Cathedral
Next up on our Melbourne Walk is St. Paul’s Cathedral. The first stone of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a gothic-style church, was laid in 1880, but the spires weren’t completed until 1933. The gorgeous interior includes original baptismal fonts and an 1891 organ.
Pro Tip: Guests can use the descriptive brochures provided at the back of the church to complete an informative self-guided tour of the cathedral.
Just south of the Cathedral is…
#13 Federation Square
Anyone who walks around Melbourne will likely end up in Federation Square; it’s at the heart of the city and an entertainment hub. Federation Square, which opened in 2002, is a public space that offers galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and a place to sit back and relax. Although the square is quite modern, there is a much longer history of this location, tracing back to Aboriginals. The unique architecture is meant to bring different parts together as a whole.
Pro Tip: One of the most modern features of Federation Square is the Digital Facade – or the Big Screen. The gigantic screen streams live sports, news and events, so be sure to take a glance to see what’s on!
Just west of Federation Square is…
#14 Flinders Street Station
All Melbourne Sightseeing Tours include a stop at Flinders Street Station; it has long been one of the busiest- and most beautiful – stations in Melbourne. The station occupies 2 city blocks and is the city’s central hub of transportation. Built in 1909, the Flinders Street Station building is a city landmark.
Pro Tip: The corner entrance of Flinders Street Station displays a row of clocks showing the next train departure on each line. In 1983, the clocks were removed and replaced by digital readings. The public was so upset by the change that they brought back the old clocks in one day’s time. If you hear someone say, “Meet you under the clocks,” this is where you will find them.
Head south on St. Kilda Road, crossing Princes Bridge. On the bridge, to the east, you can see the…
#15 Princess Bridge: View of Melbourne Cricket Ground
The Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is better known as the MCG or The G, is a 100,000 seat sports stadium that was built in 1853. It is the biggest stadium in all of Australia (and in the Southern Hemisphere) – and the 11th largest in the world.
Pro Tip: The stadium is now mostly used for Melbourne’s popular game, Australian Football, but also for cricket matches, concerts and, in 1956, the Olympics.
Finish crossing the bridge. From here, those that fancy a bit of nature may want to detour south to the Royal Botanical Gardens (free to enter!). War history buffs will want to head south to the Shrine of Remembrance (also free to enter!). Otherwise, continue west along the river to…
#16 Eureka Tower
You don’t need to go on a Melbourne CBD Walking Tour to see the Eureka Tower; it’s visible from all over the city. However, when you stand at the base of the Eureka Tower and look up at the 975-foot-tall building it seems to go on forever. The top 10 levels are golden in appearance because the glass is gold. The 24-carat gold-plated windows are a nod to Melbourne’s historic gold rush of the 1850s.
Pro Tip: With a ticket, visitors are invited to ride the elevator up to the 88th floor and take in the view, which is astounding.
Continue strolling west along the river toward the Polly Woodside ship and take a walk along the…
#17 South Wharf Promenade
Continue your Free Walking Tour Melbourne along the beautiful riverside stretch in South Wharf. The stylish South Wharf Promenade is lined with fun and modern restaurants – and is anchored by the convention center and a shopping mall.
Pro Tip: A number of waterfront bars are the perfect place to have a meal or a drink with a view. It’s particularly nice at sunset!
Continue along the promenade and cross the Webb Bridge and head into the…
The Docklands District is the last stop on our Self-Guided Free Tour of Melbourne. The historic area dates to the 1850s when the Victoria Harbor (then called Victoria Dock) was the main port in Melbourne, accepting both immigrants and shipments. The harbor continued to be in use until the 1960s when it was deemed too small for cargo ships. A revitalization project has renamed it the Docklands and has breathed new life into the area, including a beautiful promenade and waterfront restaurants.
Pro Tip: To end your Melbourne Walking Tour on a high note, hop on the Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel. It stands at 400 feet and offers 360-degree views of the city. Buy your tickets in advance online!
After you explore the Docklands, catch a free City Circle Tram back to the CBD or your next destination.
Melbourne CBD Map: Tourist Walking Route
Below we feature two Melbourne Maps; the first is an interactive Melbourne City Attractions Map and the second is a printable Melbourne City Map Tourist Walking Route.
Melbourne CBD Map with Landmarks
Melbourne City Tourist Map Walking Route
To print this map of Melbourne, click on the map to enlarge it, then right-click and select Print.
Walking Tours Melbourne CBD: What You Will Need
You don’t need much to enjoy walking tours in Melbourne, Australia, but having a few essentials can make the trek around the city much more comfortable!
We use the GlocalMe mobile hotspot, which allows us to connect up to five devices at one time. The device also allows us to purchase data online or use local SIM cards.
Wear comfortable shoes! While the city is relatively flat with nice walking paths, our Melbourne City Walk covers some ground. I like to wear lightweight shoes – like these Columbia shoes or slip-on Skechers. Kris likes to wear Merrell trail shoes – even in the city.
Weather changes quickly in Melbourne; bring an travel umbrella, lightweight rain jacket, wide-brimmed travel hat and sunscreen. A collapsible water bottle is also ideal for travelers – and there are places around the city where you can refill!
Although we have included 2 Melbourne city maps above, a detailed paper Melbourne CBD map – like this one on Amazon – is probably much better. You can also pick up a free map from a Melbourne tourist office.
There are many Melbourne restaurants along the route where visitors can stop for lunch or snacks (we even highlighted a few of our favorite spots!). However, you could also pick up cheese, bread and fruit at the Queen Victoria Market and have a picnic lunch in a park or along the river.
More Melbourne Tours
We outlined what we think is the best Free Walking Tour Melbourne. That said, there are several guided tours of Melbourne that may pique your interest.
Melbourne City Tours: Laneways
Walking tours of Melbourne Laneways and Arcades offer a fabulous introduction to Melbourne’s unique cafe and street art culture. Use the info in our Laneways in Melbourne blog post or join a guide for an introduction to the unique lanes. The small-group tours include history, architecture, and coffee. Get more details!
Foodie Discovery Walking Tours Melbourne, Australia
Combine city attractions and culinary tastings in one tour. Let a guide lead the way to the best foodie spots in the city as you get a local introduction to the coolest cafes, the best dumplings and hidden hot spots. Find out more!
Guided Tours Melbourne City
City visitors who would rather tour Melbourne City with a guide can join a highly-rated local guide on a walk to the top sights. Read fellow traveler reviews!
Pro Tip: Not a fan of big group walking tours? Hire a local guide for one of the Melbourne Private Tours – like this one!
Guided Walking Tours Melbourne: Free
Visitors looking for Guided Free Walking Tours of Melbourne will find that there are numerous companies offering free city walks. While these can be excellent tours, it is important for participants to acknowledge that the Guided Free Tours in Melbourne are not, in fact, free. The guides expect – and deserve! – to be compensated for this time in tips.
Melbourne Bus Tour
If our outlined Melbourne City Tour requires more walking than you like, consider using the Melbourne Sightseeing Bus. The double-decker Hop On Hop Off bus has two routes, on-board commentary and offers tickets for 24 and 48 hours. Reserve your seat!
Other Melbourne, Australia Tours
Walking tours are not the only interesting tours in the city! In fact, some of Melbourne’s best tours are inside! Find out more about top tours in our blog post: 5 Fantastic Free Tours in Melbourne.
Want to get out of the city to see more of the surrounding region? There is no better tour than a trip along the coast. Find out everything you need to know in our blog post: Great Ocean Road Day Tour.
Looking for more fun activities in Melbourne? Use our ultimate guide to the Best Things To Do in Melbourne!
We Want To Know: What are your must-see sights in the city? Is there anything you would add to our Free Self-Guided Walking Tour of Melbourne? Tell us in the comments!
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