Traveling can be expensive, but it turns out that you can spend an entire day in Melbourne almost for free. Today we did an extensive walk through the city, visited some highlights and ended our day at a free concert. Total expenditures: A$10,- on public transport and an undisclosed amount on beer and wine.
We started off from our great apartment in South Yarra. This was certainly not a budget apartment, but it has a kitchenette, so mrs. Pirate prepared some lunch for later that day.
To get our blood flowing we started a brisk pace, walking through Fawkner park until we reached the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne. I don’t know what it is with Australians, but they certainly know their gardening.
The botanical gardens also house the historical Observatory buildings, from where the British endeavoured to map the southern skies. I don’t know if you can enter those buildings, but there are a lot of information stands that tell you a lot about the history.
Next to the observatory buildings we found the Shrine of Remembrance — a memorial for the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) troops that was originally built for WW1, but was later extended to include WW2 and all other military operations. Our Rough Guide was a bit dismissive of the monument, but it turns out to be super interesting: the memorial is not just a memorial but also a museum dedicated to all ANZAC operations.
As a European, I’ve had my fair share of history on the world wars in school, but it turns out that the Australians were highly underrepresented in my education. Thank you Shrine of Remembrance for setting the record straight. If we didn’t have any other plans, we could have spent hours in this free museum.
But we did have other plans, so after a quick home-made lunch in the gardens we continued our city walk down St Kilda Road until we reached the National Gallery of Victoria. Just in time to join the free tour!
The museum houses a surprising amount of high quality European art, including a lovely altar piece from Ghent, but their Australian art collection is also very impressive. And we were lucky to discover the special exhibition on the works by Julian Opie. I never heard of him before, but his pop-arty pieces are worth a visit.
Again, you can easily spend an entire day in this museum, but we had a plan! So we crossed the Yarra river and visited St Paul’s Cathedral.
From there it was another fifteen minutes walk down Swanson Street. We passed the windows of the Myer department store and looked at the big queue of people that wanted to see the Alice in Wonderland Christmas display. We marvelled at the trees that were wrapped in festive Christmas sweaters. Did I mention that Australians can be weird?
By now, the day was almost over so we left the Victoria State Library with its free exhibit on Melbourne on the second floor for another day. We also postponed our visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol (which is actually not free, but worth the admission). Instead, we went home to have some dinner and prepare ourselves for the last activity: a visit to The Tote Hotel.
The Tote Hotel hosts all kinds of concerts. In the weekends they are usually ticketed events, but since this was a weekday, we had some free live music in the bar. That’s right: in the bar. No podium, just a band on the floor. Needless to say it was a bit crowded, but the vibe was just right. A perfect ending to a perfect, and very cheap day in Melbourne.