The city of Melbourne is a curious creature of mystery, a mistress of intrigue and culture. Her face is lined with the many experiences of her history and animated by the youthful verve of her future. She is familiar, yet strange and ever-changing, and she whispers of unknown adventures. Do you want to discover her secrets?
If you do, then Hidden Secrets Tours are for you. Since taking the helm in 2006, owner and director Fiona Sweetman, along with her team of urban gurus, has expanded and diversified the tour concept to create a range of exploratory excursions designed to reveal and exhibit the deepest treasures of the city. Encompassing all that is delightful, decadent and obscure, the tours aim to introduce participants to new ideas, places and experiences and give a fresh perspective of Melbourne's complex character, enabling them to form a more intimate connection with the city.
I love the challenge the city sets to seek and discover. I constantly have a list of bars, cafés or new street art that I need to find and explore.
Is the Café Culture Walk your tour of specialty? Yes, I think you could say the Café Culture Walk is my specialty. Like most of Melbourne, I love the perfect latte. The Café Culture Walk gives visitors an insight into the important role coffee plays in our city. Café culture was established by Italians and other migrants who came to Melbourne after the War, so this too is discussed. We also explore the important role small business plays in our city. Most importantly though, we stop to smell, look at and taste coffee and some sweet delights along the way. The walk ends with lunch at one of Melbourne's great cafés.
What are some of the other tours run by Hidden Secrets Tours? Lanes and Arcades, our signature tour, which is a walking tour of Melbourne's hidden lanes and arcades and includes morning tea and lunch, and the Sommeliers' Walk, a food and wine experience with a walk to three of Melbourne's great restaurants to enjoy tastings of food and wine. All tours are available in French.
Do you get more tourists or locals signing up for the tours? 30% of our clients are from Victoria, 20% are international visitors, and the other 50% is made up of fellow Australians and New Zealanders.
Do you think Melburnians miss a lot of the special things about the city due to the day-to-day demands of life and work? Most definitely! So many Melburnians are working longer hours and rush through the streets to get trains, trams and head home. There are so many things going on in the city, it's important that we remember to look up occasionally. This is where our café culture plays an important role. Meeting up with work colleagues or meeting our friends or spouse for a coffee offers us all an excuse to stop, relax and talk.
What sorts of reactions have you come to expect from your clients?
I love watching the reactions of our clients. Most clients from Melbourne will say, 'Wow, I never knew that was there and I walk past this way all the time!' Visitors to the city are always excited to return to the spots we have shown them and explore them more closely. The great thing about our walking tours is that the element of surprise gives the client an insider's view of our city. So our most common reaction is one of excitement, wanting to get back on the street and explore more, this time with confidence and a hidden secrets map.
Hidden Secrets Tours also offer other walks that explore Melbourne's architecture, history, art and design, and vintage shopping scene as well as special event tours. Private and small group bookings are available and can be made online. See the website for more information.