Melbourne & Surrounds
Melbourne, Vic. Photo credit: Emily Fitzgerald/Tourism Victoria
Melbourne & Surrounds
Harbour Bridges and Opera Houses? Pah. Not for Melbourne the attention grabbing landmarks. This is a city of understated, laid-back sophistication and culture. It may not have the sights to wow you, but it has a vibe and atmosphere that can’t help but get under your skin.
It doesn’t even seem to be trying too hard. Melbourne doesn’t have centuries of history (it was founded in 1835). Its weather is famously unpredictable and its attractions are distinctly modest in scale.
Yet for all that, Melbourne is consistently featured in the lists of top places to live. Perhaps it’s a result of the hugely appealing mix of cultures here. Contemporary architecture sits happily (and considerately) with the Victorian. And in the same way, Italian, eastern European, and south-east Asian cultures combine to create a pleasingly international, yet unquestionably Melburnian mix. We love it.
Things to do in Melbourne
A real contributor to the character of the city, Melbourne’s trams have been trundling around since 1885. Use the City Circle trams to get around the centre and they won’t cost you a penny.
If you’re an aficionado, book dinner in the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant and enjoy dinner while travelling through Melbourne and its suburbs.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Clipped and manicured to perfection, the gardens sit on the banks of the Yarra River like a floral supermodel. They’re a delight to explore, and host the Moonlight Cinema and theatre performances in summer.
Old Melbourne Gaol
While the displays aren’t for the squeamish, they are gruesomely gripping. See Ned Kelly’s death mask and the beam from which he hanged, and discover the unsettling stories of the prisoners who were held here. The displays of punishment devices will make your hair stand on end.
Unwind. Let your hair down. And, if you’re anything like us, leave with a considerably lighter wallet.
Fed Square (as those in the know call it) isn’t so much something to do as somewhere to be. Nestled between the CBD and the Yarra, it’s the city’s meeting point, and a prime spot to mix coffee and people-watching amid the quirky and contemporary design.
Scott and Charlene may have moved on (wonder what happened to those two?) but Ramsay Street – or Pin Oak Court as the people who actually live here call it – still has a place in the hearts of Melbourne, and Brits of a certain age. The Official Neighbours Tour is the only licensed one and is approved by the residents whose street and homes (the exteriors, at least) star in the show.
You might bump into a cast member on your tour, and you’ll also find them hosting the entertainment at the Official Neighbours Trivia Night, held at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow. You don’t get that in Albert Square.
Art and culture
Galleries, museums, parks and eateries pepper the city. Many of them line the Yarra River, which is an ever constant presence. Whether you kayak or cruise, it’s worth seeing the city from the water, if only to help get your bearings. Once back on land, try these:
- The National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art: Highlights (of which there are many) include pieces by Stubbs, Turner, Gainsborough and Rodin.
- The Immigration Museum: Discover how Melbourne became so multicultural.
- Royal Melbourne Zoo: Every zoo works hard to win over the kids but few succeed quite as well as this.
- Melbourne Aquarium: Victoria’s most popular tourist attraction ticks all the right aquatic boxes. We particularly like the occasional ‘After Dark’ cocktail parties which let you see the aquarium (and cocktail parties) in a whole new light.
There can’t be many suburbs named after schooners. But then, few areas were quite as affluent as St Kilda in the 1800s. The grand mansions oversaw a more turbulent first half of the 20th Century, but the organised crime, prostitution and drug culture are no more. They’ve been replaced by a relaxed affluence, popular with tourists and locals alike, that has brought with it a safe, beautiful beach, thriving cafés, and a vibrant live music scene.
Also in St Kilda:
- Luna Park: Sister park to Sydney’s funfair, and one of St Kilda’s most famous landmarks.
- Acland, Carlisle, and Fitzroy Street: Boutiques, bookshops, cafés and cake shops loved by tourists and locals. Some grab a bite to eat before hitting the beach; others find enough diversions to never quite make it to the beach.
- Upper Esplanade: Great views of the bay and the Lower Esplanade. Visit on a Sunday if you like your craft markets. The Esplanade Hotel is a favourite venue for live music.
- Lower Esplanade: They’ve been swimming, steaming and spa-ing at St. Kilda Baths for well over a century. Today it’s a stylish health retreat and well worth a visit. Luna Park is on the Esplanade, as is the Palais Theatre which features an impressive programme of international acts supplemented by the almost obligatory tribute bands.
- St Kilda Festival: A part of St Kilda’s music calendar since 1980, the festival does a great job of pulling together – and building on – the threads of a vibrant year-round scene. Make sure you’re one of the half a million attendees if you’re around in February
Fitzroy and Collingwood
Find the bohemian sub-culture of Melbourne alive and well in the shops and boutiques of Brunswick Street and Smith Street.
Parkville and Carlton
For decades, Italians have been an integral part of Melbourne’s heart. Take a stroll down Lygon Street, deep in the city’s Italian quarter, for fine coffee, fresh pasta, and gelato so good it’s worth the brain-freeze.
A question of sport
- If Australia is one of the world’s sporting hotspots, Melbourne is positively nuclear.
- The first cricket test match between England and the Aussies was played in 1877 at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), or the ‘G’ as the locals prefer.
- The MCG is also home to the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame and the Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Exhibition.
- The first Aussie Rules footy match was played here in 1858.
- The Australian (Tennis) Open is held in Melbourne Park each January.
- The F1 Australian Grand Prix is held in, you guessed it, Melbourne.
- The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s premier horse race and they take it really seriously. It’s a national holiday and a highlight of the social calendar for the great and good. The whole country stops to watch the race, held on the first Tuesday in November.
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