It hasn’t been voted the world’s most liveable city for the past 6 years for no good reason. And this doesn’t just relate to the permanent residents of the city, it is an amazing blend of culture, food, scenery & shopping! All the best things you could hope for as a tourist. The only slight negative is that it is an Australian city, and this means it is a little more expensive than other destinations. But it is comparably cheaper than other major Australian cities.
Restaurants, Cafes & Bars
Melbourne has an impressive bar & cafe scene, a collective of all the various cultures and backgrounds that make up the populace. The multitude of small destinations make it impossible to pick a favourite – all we can do is recommend a good bit of bar hopping during your time here. And don’t feel restricted to only heading out over the weekend, most places are open late 7 days a week.
Spend at least a meal or two dining along the Yarra riverfront, there is an almost infinite variety spread over the north and south banks. It is picturesque all hours of the day & evening and affords you an excellent view of the city. I would also advise an evening at Young & Jackson Hotel, the building itself is over 150 years old and it has been a pub for the majority of that, a little piece of Australian history.
Whilst central Melbourne offers a huge selection of eateries, branching out beyond the CBD is equally as rewarding. The suburb of Carlton in particular boasts probably the foodies paradise of Australia, a seemingly unending strip of restaurants, bars & cafes along Lygon Street. This is an area you must make time for – the prices are very reasonable (by Australian standards) and the food & service excellent!
Melbourne is the sporting home of Australia and is among the top sporting cities in the world (previously taken this title for 2006, 2008 & 2010 to date). You’d almost be correct in calling it the religion of the city. Whatever sport takes your fancy, chances are you can find it during the year at one of the many amazing stadiums around the city. For those who are interested, there are many tour companies who cater to your tastes. Alternatively, many of the stadiums are well within walking distance of the CBD.
What time of the year you visit will dictate the sports on offer but year round there is an excellent variety! Please check the comprehensive Victorian sports listing at visitvictoria.com for an up to date list. I’ve prepared a schedule of the bigger sporting events and their regular dates to check yours against.
If you are in town during March – September then you should catch a game of AFL at the MCG or Etihad Stadium. It is only played competitively in Australia and offers something vastly different to other sports, think a cross between soccer & rugby.
The other sporting must do is a day at the horse races. Between Flemington & Caulfield racetracks most weekends are covered from Spring until Autumn, so maybe pack attire more fancy than boardshorts, singlets & flipflops!
Throughout the year there are numerous other world class events, including Formula 1 racing, PGA golf tournaments, football (or soccer) games, the Australian Open tennis championship & much more.
Arts & Culture
Melbourne certainly discerns itself from other Australian cities in this area. There are multiple public galleries (entry fee payable of course!) around the CBD. Our favourite gallery would have to NGV International Gallery, located in Southbank – you will most likely pass it (you CANNOT miss it, it’s HUGE) if you are exploring Melbournes CBD. It boasted an impressive collection for a pair of art amateurs and we certainly enjoyed our time here.
Melbourne offers several other public galleries, get the comprehensive list here, but we didn’t have the time to check them all out!
Beyond the public galleries, Melbourne also offers an unprecedented (we haven’t come across anything similar in our travels!) street art scene. Whilst you can take a tour (see here), it is quite expensive at AU$69 and if you aren’t that fazed, I would recommend stopping by Union Lane to check out the most extensive work for free!
Whilst not something we regularly partake in, Melbourne does offer theatre, musicals & other performing arts on a regular basis. There is plenty of information on what’s on in the Visit Victoria pages.
All the amateur photographers out there needn’t leave their cameras behind. Whilst it doesn’t boast the picturesque, white sand beaches of many Australian destinations (nor the climate to get the swimming gear out of the closet all that often!) it does offer plenty of photo opportunities.
Whether it be the cityscape or looking down the Yarra River it is very visually appealling, particularly when well illuminated late into the night. By day there are many manicured parks & gardens to explore well inside the city limits.
Getting a view of the city can be done by heading to Eureka Tower in Southbank. The entry fee of AU$20 (please check current pricing here) gets you up amongst the clouds and a 360 degree view of the city. The tower is open until 10pm at night, so consider visiting at dusk to view the city in the last light of day and by dark!
Whilst not taking you as high as the Eureka Tower, the Melbourne Star (Melbourne’s equivalent of the London Eye) offers you a look over the CBD and ocean whilst putting on a pretty impressive light show. We did find it a little difficult to get to using the tram service, so allow some time if you plan to check this out.
Inside the CBD, Melbourne offers a FREE tram service. The trams run frequently and all over the CBD area so take advantage of this where possible (see here for the map).
THE CARLTON BREWERY: This didn’t really fit in under any of the categories but we feel it needs a mention. Taking the tour was really a highlight and we would recommend it to everyone with even a slight interest in beer. The tour cost is somewhat subsidised with a cold beer on completion & the lunch menu was decent too!