Greeter Tours help visitors, or wayward locals, find their bearings in bustling metropolitan areas.
I’d done my fair share of exploration in Melbourne’s city centre by the time I signed up for the Melbourne Greeter Service. Yes, I probably should have taken advantage of this free service from the beginning. But I’d heard stories of battle-hardened locals joining the tour and gaining bundles of knowledge, about their own city, they didn’t know. So I had high hopes of an enlightening stroll around Melbourne CBD.
I booked my tour date and time online, via the What’s On Melbourne Greeter Service request form. All reservations must be booked at least 24 hours in advance, but no more than 4 weeks prior to the orientation tour. On top of the English speaking guides, tours are also hosted in German, French, Greek, Dutch and Swedish. My year-10-level German knowledge had all but evaporated, so I wisely stuck with the English option.
True to my early morning form, I was running feverishly late. On my hastened train journey toward the city, I received a call from the friendly team at the Information Centre, concerning my whereabouts. The lovely volunteer guide told me not to rush and that the group would wait for me to arrive. Stress valve released. Incredible support for a free service.
The 9:30 am tour began, albeit a little late, *looks around sheepishly* downstairs at the Melbourne Information Centre, in Federation Square. Our cosy tour group contained various demographics from different countries; comprising of two Brits, ‘zwei’ Germans (I remember some high school ‘Deutsch’), a Frenchman and myself.
Every volunteer is encouraged to cut their own swath through the city. This touring freedom guarantees each group experiences a unique journey. We worked our way through Federation Square and into its adjacent buildings, walked across Yarra River, into NVG International and then back into the CBD chaos. Each stop along the route was intelligently paired with commentary on the history, architecture and indigenous relevance of the area.
In the city, we visited several arcades and laneways; many of which I’d discovered during my street art meander. We also ventured into historical skyscrapers and hidden specialty shops that, as typical tourists, we wouldn’t have thought to investigate. This insight is the real advantage of having a local tour guide.
For example, we ventured inside the Art Deco Gothic inspired Manchester Unity Building. I’d walked past this iconic 12-storey skyscraper on countless occasions but never had the inclination to check it out. Our guide ran through the history of the site, the features of the building (including Melbourne’s first escalator) and the extraordinary pace it was constructed (less than a year!).
After one final coffee break at Centre Place, and a short tram ride, we arrived at the final stop; the State Library of Victoria. From here, the group broke off into the city to continue their own individual adventures. Despite having wandered through the city on numerous occasions before, I finally felt I’d properly engaged with the city for the first time. I thoroughly recommend the Melbourne Greeter Service for anybody (traveller or local) wishing to learn more about this wonderful city.
Get the lowdown.
English orientation tours leave 9:30 am daily (except Good Friday and Christmas Day). Leave anywhere from 2-4 hours for the full experience.
Visiting the Melbourne Visitor Centre is a great opportunity to catch the free City Circle tram that laps Melbourne CBD. Otherwise, jump off at Federation Square on any of the trams running along Swanston or Flinders Streets.