During my walks around the city of Melbourne today – in between running a couple of errands here and there – I chanced upon the Melbourne Visitor Centre located at Federation Square along Flinders Street. The building itself was pretty nondescript as it was literally a glass box with a contemporary minimalist touch as you can see below.
However, what I experienced when I stepped inside totally blew me away! These guys have thought of possibly anything and everything needed to make a tourist feel welcomed, and they have gone to great lengths there.
Let me take through a pictorial journey to describe what I mean.
The first part is a panel describing the different aspects of Melbourne, be it their attractions, shopping centres, restaurants and shows. These are neatly divided into various zones, with accompanying brochures.
There is also a “What’s On” portion which has brochures on what’s hot and happening – literally as it is summer here – in the city. Being a foodie, I picked up one called “Summer Serve” which highlighted culinary attractions in the blazing months.
This enlarged map helps visitors to immediately orientate themselves around the city – which is blessedly built around a very convenient grid system. There are plenty of free maps that one could pick up here, which are organised into different themes and done in multi-languages to cater to different nationalities.
This is probably my favourite section of the Visitor Centre – the transport section. It tells you exactly which mode of transport would suit you best depending on where you want to go in Melbourne itself or its surrounding areas. This includes biking trails, walking trails, public transport, driving and others.
To make travelling on your own even easier, there is a brightly lit map of the tram and public bus network in the city and its immediate surrounding areas.
For those who are more computer savvy, they can surf on this interactive system to find out which bus to take where and how much it costs. Neat.
Of course, when all else fails, speaking to a human helps. Through an efficient queue system, you can wait your turn to enquire about how to go where, or what to do when. Its kind of like a free concierge service.
Wait there is more…. You can also book your tours, hotels, transportations and other packages here, with retail assistants tending to your needs. There is also an internet web portal which helps you to find out which hotels best suit your budgets and expectations.
Finally, as in any good tourist oriented outlet, there are souvenirs that you can bring home. Of course, this isn’t the main reason why people come to a visitor centre, but still its good to cater to those urges to splurge.