Awarded The Economist’s ‘world’s most liveable city’ title for seven big years in a row, Melbourne is clearly doing something right. A city that is as renowned for its unpredictable weather as its passion for sport, Melbourne continues to cement its status as a global hotspot.
And whilst the Victorian government may have little control over the temperamental climate, what they can do – and have done for many years – is ensure that this cool cat city has everything on offer, no matter the weather. This commitment to culture, collective and identity is ultimately what sets Melbourne firmly apart. From shopping, exhibitions and coffee through to wineries, entertainment and sport, this self-assured urban sprawl is firmly highlighted on the world map – and the future is only looking brighter.
Melbourne is extremely proud of its diverse and multicultural community. The only visible division amongst this warm and welcoming bunch it seems is the Yarra River, a Melbourne icon with huge cultural significance to the city. Home to over 200 different nationalities, from Italian and Chinese to Greek and Portuguese, Melbourne is a fusion of world cultures and behaviours that enriches city life with a passion and drives the social agenda. The city also benefits from several Melbourne Universities and Colleges located within the CBD. This strong and vibrant student representation illuminates the blend of this young city where over half the population is under 35.
WHAT TO DO?
It’s not about what to do, it’s where on earth to begin. One of the best ways to get the inside track on a new city is to follow the locals. Hidden Secrets Tours are perfect for introducing you to the real life aspects of Melbourne living, and reconstructing the story behind the streets. Rather than wasting time searching for the perfect spot, jump on a walking tour to discover the curious laneways, the quirkiest cafes, the ultimate coffee spots, and the finest eateries. Choose from a range of tour options to get under the skin of this amazing city from those firmly in the know.
If you’re happier to stroll around at your own pace, be sure to check out The Laneways, Melbourne’s unique cross section of alleyways and passages that weave through the city streets. Each has an individual character and charm ranging from street art to food art and everything in between. Browse amongst the retro boutiques, grab a coffee on a crate, share some tapas with friends and watch the colourful crowd meander around you. It’s the best way to absorb Melbourne life exactly as it happens.
Melbourne equals shopping and The Queen Victoria Markets will not disappoint. The largest open-air shopping market in the southern hemisphere, save some time to wander around this incredible seven-hectare experience. Jam-packed with passionate stallholders and hagglers alike, this is a proper local hangout as much as a tourist destination. Stock up on fresh produce, designer clothes and delicious treats, or come back later for the night markets to catch a funky live performance while you inhale the atmosphere. For more traditional shopping opportunities, Bourke Street Mall has all the high street brands on offer, as does Melbourne Emporium and Melbourne Central. Clearly, you can never have enough shopping in a small space – precisely why Melbournians are such fabulous fashionistas. For something a little different head over to Chapel Street in South Yarra, or follow the cool kids to Gertrude Street in Fitzroy for the hippest strip in town.
If it’s submersing in the fine arts that floats your boat, you only need to wander around the city centre to take in some of the stunning and diverse architecture on display. From heritage buildings and cathedrals, from Flinders Street Station to Federation Square and The Southbank Precinct, this city is brimming with opportunities for the arts enthusiast. Check out the National Gallery of Victoria for international art collections, or keep it local at the Ian Potter Centre spinoff – selected to house purely Australian works. The ACMI on Federation Square celebrates the digital age and the contemporary creativity of the moving image. For more traditional surrounds, breathe in some literary history or simply play chess at The State Library of Victoria, a 19th Century marvel. Theatre buffs will enjoy a thriving stage scene with multiple productions staged each week from blockbuster to cutting edge and everything in between.
When it all gets too much and you simply need to be amongst nature again, head over to Royal Park – Melbourne’s largest inner-city park for 181 hectares of absolute peace and quiet. Unless, of course, you wish to indulge in some of the many recreational sport activities on offer. With wide grasslands and native shrubs, this is the perfect place to recharge your city-living batteries. Alternatively partake in the Melbourne religion of sport and catch an AFL match at the behemothic MCG that seats over 100,000 eager fans.
For unbeatable views of the City, head out – and up – to the Eureka Skydeck for a knee-knocking ‘edge’ experience. Situated 285m above sea level, you can perch in a glass cube jutting out a whole 3m from the building. Not for the faint hearted.
WHERE TO GO?
Widely acknowledged as the Australian capital of coffee and a food-lover’s dream, it’s very hard to get it wrong in Melbourne. But don’t take that risk. With such a worldly population, Melbourne has a budget friendly option for everyone whether it’s hole in the wall or rooftop views.
Foodies will love Cutler & Co in Fitzroy for some fine dining Melbourne style, or Donovans in St Kilda for more beachy elegance. Prefer it more casual? Get your Inca on and watch your food as it comes to the table at Pastuso, home of South American fare and the pisco sour – as well as younger sibling to equally popular San Telmo. Share a parilla with friends or grab some empanadas at the bar, washed down with some mighty Argentine Malbec. Italian lovers must head straight to Lygon Street, the home of Little Italy and all things Italiano – as well as Milk the Cow – Australia’s first licensed fromagerie serving up over 180 cheesy varieties. If you’re prepared for a wait, pop your name down at Chin Chin for some Thai-tastic dishes, or skip the queues and grab a bar-pew at Movida for tasty tapas. Beef brisket doesn’t get any better than at Fancy Hanks, one of Melbourne’s original BBQ joints. Head upstairs for a post-prandial at Good Heavens and enjoy the rooftop views to end the night.
For the fancy pants option head to the Lui Bar, sitting 55 floors up with panoramic views of the state capital this is one lofty cocktail bar with prices to match. Take it down a notch at The Everleigh and sup on an old school cocktail from your leather-bound booth. Gin lovers will be in seventh heaven on discovering Gin Palace (when you eventually find it). Well-hidden in a basement location and offering over 200 of your juniper favourites, this is definitely worth the look. Head to The Berlin Bar to experience the communist East of crates and industry alongside the opulent West with cosy booths and lush velour. Keep it fresh and fun in summertime at Madame Brussels, or enjoy the riverside vibe at Abory Bar & Eatery. Outstanding coffee is fortunately available on almost every corner. But if you only had one pick, make it Market Lane Coffee at Queen Victoria Markets. As well as delivering the perfect roast, you will learn all about the journey your little beans have travelled to spend time with you.
OUT AND ABOUT
Getting around in Melbourne is super easy. As well as being a walkable city, there are endless opportunities by bike, tram, bus or train. As well as the free City Circle tram loop to give you that extra leg power boost, there is an extensive network of trains and buses to get you around the city and beyond.
When you’ve had enough of the CBD, explore some of the neighbouring suburbs that complement the city. Discover Fitzroy, Melbourne’s oldest suburb and once a gritty run-down area. Fast-forward to the coolest hotspot around today and undisputed pub capital. For fashion, dining and dancing, this is the place to see and be seen. Perhaps best known for the Italian strip on Lygon Street, Carlton also delivers a cultural blend of modern and traditional. Visit the fantastic Melbourne Museum, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, or take in the 19th Century world heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building. Home to The Melbourne Fringe Festival, North Melbourne is a thriving hub for creative arts and performance. Outside of the Fringe it offers outstanding sports facilities and burgeoning shopping enclaves.
You simply can’t live in Melbourne and not tick off the Great Ocean Road. Over 240KM of adventure awaits as you experience The Twelve Apostles, pristine coastlines, native wildlife and spectacular surf. This is Victoria at its finest. For twinkling views of the city lights head to The Dandenong Ranges just 30 mins out, where the leafy suburbs blend in to a bushwalking paradise. Don’t forget to duck in to a cellar door in The Yarra Valley, home to over 80 vineyards dating back to 1838 and famous for producing some of the best Chardy and Pinot Noir. Take a day out on the wild side to explore Phillip Island just off the South Coast. Spy on the resident seals from Nobbies Outcrop, and join the crowds for the daily sunset Fairy Penguin Parade.
There’s always something new to discover in Melbourne. Explore the unknown and make this city your own.