Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, capital of Victoria, is the most European in style, with trams rattling through streets past historic buildings, parks and outdoor cafes. The city centre is laid out in a simple grid pattern, with wide north-south streets gently sloping down to the Yarra River, crossed by a mix of narrow lanes, and the main shopping streets such as Bourke and Collins Streets. The Central Business District is easily navigable by foot, and if a rest is needed after a session of sightseeing or shopping there are numerous pretty parks to rest in, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens and Carlton Gardens. The burgundy-coloured City Circle tram is free, and taking a ride is a good way to get your bearings upon arrival as well as explore the inner city.
Melbourne's population of over three million is made up of a variety of cultures, including Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Greek communities, which have all added their flavour to this thriving city. A fierce rivalry exists between the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, but local residents bask in the satisfying knowledge that Melbourne beats Sydney hands-down on the cultural front, noted for its wide variety of high standard performing arts, as well as its sport. The city plays host to world-renowned sporting events like the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open Tennis and Qantas Australia Grand Prix.
Beyond the city, within an hour's drive, there are numerous places worth visiting, including the Macedon Ranges, which is Australia's spa capital and boasts world-renowned mineral springs. The spectacular Great Ocean Road winds along the coast, passing stunning rock formations such as the Twelve Apostles. One of the most popular self-drive routes for tourists to follow is the circular Great Southern Touring Route, which includes spectacular scenery and takes in some of Victoria's most beautiful, scenic and cultural attractions.
This cottage was originally built in the village of Great Ayton in Yorkshire, England, in 1755, by James and Grace Cook, the parents of Captain James Cook. When the cottage was offered for sale in 1933 it was bought by a prominent Melbourne businessman, Sir Russell Grimwade. He arranged for it to be taken apart brick by brick and transported via ship and train to Melbourne. In early 1934 the cottage was rebuilt on its present site in Fitzroy Gardens, East Melbourne. Even the ivy that adorns the cottage was cut from the original plants in England. Today it provides visitors with the opportunity to glimpse what life was like in 18th-century England, a slightly surreal experience in modern Australia. The historic building also provides audio-visual exhibitions about Captain Cook's life and adventures.
A visit to Melbourne would not be complete without a good look at its main river system, the Yarra River. Often the subject of jokes due to its brownish colour, it is actually not dirty, just muddy. The Yarra has become the focus of much development in the central business district, with many new buildings, walks and parks having been created along its banks in recent years, including the relatively new Riverside Park. For the best view of the Yarra River walk to Princes Bridge, St Kilda Road, or take a cruise along the river from Princes Walk (below Princes Bridge). Otherwise, simply enjoy a stroll or a picnic on the riverbank in one of the public parks.
Victoria's oldest surviving remand prison gives visitors a chilling insight into prison life in a model 19th-century gaol. Behind the thick and forbidding walls Ned Kelly, the infamous bushranger, was one of 135 men and women who were hanged on the gaol's scaffold. Visitors can view the Hangman's Box, the Particulars of Execution book, and other exhibits relating to this grim period of Victoria's history, as well as the death masks used in the study of phrenology to predict criminal behaviour. The Women in Prison exhibition reveals the fascinating stories of the crimes committed by the female inmates. There are free performances every Saturday of , and night performances on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with hangman 'Michael Gately' as he recounts stories of the gaol by candlelight (not for the faint hearted or children under 12 years of age).
The Eureka Tower is the tallest building in Melbourne and the tallest residential building in the world, standing at just over 984ft (300m) tall, and offering 360-degree views over the city. There is a public observation deck on level 88, the Skydeck, which affords visitors with a head for heights a testing experience: a chance to be suspended above the city in a glass cube (The Edge) that juts out from the building by 10ft (3m) to hang out over the city far below. On entry into the cube, the glass is frosted and moves out over the edge of the building, but as soon as the cube is in place the glass unfrosts to the sound of smashing glass, revealing the city far below. The Edge is not included in the Skydeck Experience and requires an additional payment, but it is definitely worth it for those wanting extreme views!
A fascinating museum complex situated in the Carlton Gardens, the Melbourne Museum is the largest in Australia, with more than 30 different exhibits covering history, culture, science, animals and more. Its most notable galleries include the Bunjilaka, which explores the history of Aboriginal culture in Victoria; the Science and Life Gallery, focusing on insects and spiders, the marine world and Australia's local flora and fauna; and the Children's Museum, housed in a tilted cube, which offers colourful and interactive displays. Opened in 2000, the Melbourne Museum is a showcase of modern exhibition standards, with a three-dimensional Imax theatre screening documentary films and a resourceful public research centre, where visitors can investigate any subject they wish.
Occupying a whole city block, Federation Square is one of Melbourne's major attractions. A remarkable cultural nucleus, the square hosts more than 2,000 events a year in its outdoor public spaces, St Paul's Court and The Square, and vibrant covered space, the Atrium. Renowned for its unique design, the triangular shapes that characterise Federation Square actually create an abstract map of the Australian Federation. Affording spectacular views of the city, Southbank and the Yarra River, visitors can not only explore the peculiar design of this cultural precinct, but also visit the many galleries, cinemas, museums, restaurants and shops that surround it, most notably the Ian Potter Centre and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
If you are planning a picnic at Birrarung Marr or the Botanic Gardens or just looking for some affordable souvenirs, head to the Queen Victoria market, one of the largest open-air markets in the Southern Hemisphere, with almost 50 percent of the market dedicated to the sale of fresh produce, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, seafood, cold cuts and cheese. A popular meeting place for locals and foreigners, this cosmopolitan market is best visited on a Sunday when adjacent Queen Street is closed down and converted into a sidewalk café area, where buskers entertain passers-by and children's rides are available. Officially opened in 1878, the Queen Victoria Market has been affectionately frequented by Melbournians for more than 125 years and still proves to be the best place for perusing a myriad of clothing, shoes, jewellery, bric-a-brac, antique and toy stalls.
Housing more than 350 different animal species, Melbourne Zoo is a worthy attraction, even by the standards of a country famous for nature conservation and interesting animals. Built in 1862, certain areas of the zoo have been preserved as historic zones, demonstrating to visitors the significant changes the zoo has undergone. Famous for its endemic inhabitants such as the kangaroo, wallaby, koala and wombat, the zoo also has elephants in the Asian Rainforest area, a gorilla exhibit, an Orangutan Sanctuary and Butterfly House. Little more than two miles (4km) from Melbourne city centre the zoo is situated in a breath-taking botanic garden setting that extends 55 acres, including more than four different ecosystems and an impressive 70,000 plant specimens.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is one of the most impressive stadia in the world, and is well worth a visit even for non-sporting types. Originally built in 1853 for the Melbourne Cricket Club (who are still based at the MCG), the stadium has undergone major redevelopments in its history and now stands as one of the most beautifully-finished, spectator-friendly grounds on earth. The MCG also houses the National Sports Museum, comprising the Olympic Museum, the Australian Sports Hall of Fame, the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, and the Melbourne Cricket Club Museum, all of which contain interesting sporting memorabilia. The MCG is used for cricket in the summer (try catch a Boxing Day test match), Aussie Rules football in the winter, and for events like rock concerts and a host of other cultural events year-round.
With miles of coastline, fascinating and unique attractions and fabulous weather, Melbourne is a children's playground - literally. With everything from exciting museums and gardens to beaches and trails, Melbourne has a lot to offer in culture and its outdoors.
Pack a picnic and head to the Royal Botanic Gardens or enjoy a leisurely stroll with the kids if they need to be tired out! Older kids will love walking the Bay Trail from St Kilda to the seaside town of Brighton which encompasses all kinds of scenery past parks, cafes, yachts in the bay and marinas. A trip to the Children's Animal Farm is a must for little ones where a picnic can be enjoyed while the children pet the animals, while the Melbourne Aquarium showcases animals of a different nature. Children looking for a bit of excitement should visit Luna Park to enjoy exhilarating rides and games.
The Fox Classic Car Collection Museum makes a great outing for dads and their sons, as does the Geelong Naval and Maritime Museum, while a trip aboard the Puffing Billy Steam Train through the Dandenong Ranges makes an ideal excursion for the day and a great way to see Melbourne's surrounding areas.
Melbourne has a moderate oceanic climate and the city's weather is notoriously changeable. In the hottest months of summer, January and February, temperatures average between 58°F (14°C) and 78°F (25°C), though it can get substantially hotter. In the spring and summer months cold fronts can cause severe weather including thunderstorms, hail, heavy rain and gales. In the winter months, between June and August, temperatures average between 42°F (6°C) and 59°F (15°C). Melbourne experiences some frost and fog in winter, but snow is rare. Melbourne is best visited between November and March, when it is warmer and less rainy, but some rain can be expected throughout the year.
One of Australia's most cosmopolitan cities, Melbourne has a diverse and exciting dining scene and eating out in this vibrant city can be anything you want it to be. With just about all types of cuisine on offer, the variety of restaurants in Melbourne is astonishing and will see visitors coming back for more.
Although originally based on traditional British food, Australian cuisine has been strongly influenced by its Southeast Asian neighbours and elements of this can be seen in many Australian dishes. Travellers can enjoy sampling some of the most innovative and exciting fusion food in the world as Melbourne offers many of Australia's top-class restaurants. Korean, Japanese and Thai eateries abound in the city.
William Street is the place to go for authentic Indian fare. Chinatown, in Little Bourke Street, is the best for authentic Chinese food. Brunswick Street in Fitzroy boasts an eclectic mix of eateries where visitors will have a hard time choosing where to start. Downtown Melbourne is where the more low-key restaurants can be found, and the chic St Kilda and Chapel Streets are the trendiest restaurant districts for those wanting to sample Melbourne's latest nouveau cuisine.
A long standing favourite in the Melbourne dining scene, Punch Lane has a warm brasserie atmosphere, with red leather seats, dark wooden tables and black boards scribbled with lists of wine available by the glass and daily specials. Loved for it's hefty selection of wines and charcuterie bar where a variety of different cured meats and cheeses can be chosen, Punch Lane is a great after work wind-down or pre-theatre rendezvous. With unpretentious food and an intimate atmosphere, this wine bar combines all the necessary elements to ensure a relaxing evening with quality food and wine in Melbourne's bustling theatre district. Open daily for lunch and dinner, except lunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
A friendly restaurant/bar with attractive modern furnishings, large windows and a sweeping veranda area, Pelican is ideal for an after work drink or snack, slow paced luncheon, night out with the mates or even a romantic date. Oozing a café, health bar and wine bar atmosphere all at once, Pelican is unpretentious but cool, serving fresh, greasy breakfasts, attractive lunches, and a mouth watering selection of Mediterranean tapas that will keep even the most serious snacker occupied. Reasonably priced, considering the location and quality of food, Pelican has been respected since its inception in 2001 and continues to prove to both locals and foreigners that Melbourne's eateries are of an international standard. Open daily.
Something of a Melbourne institution, Syracuse is a restaurant not to be missed. The simple décor, unadorned white walls, classy dark antique tables and chairs, and lofty ceilings and arches, all combine to give this establishment a sophisticated look that is both colonial and Mediterranean. Start with fresh oysters or a crisp salad that is carefully put together, try out the thinly sliced tuna steak accompanied with a salad of lentils, tomato, carrot, shallot, herbs and olive oil, or sample the renowned myriad of tapas, all accompanied with a glass of wine from Syracruse's impressive selection. Open Monday to Friday for breakfast, lunch and dinner and dinner only on Saturday.
With ten years experience under its belt, the highly respected and loved Il Baraco restaurant enjoys a continuous influx of loyal customers who appreciate the carefully prepared traditional Italian food, the palatable selection of wines and sincere service. A quality Italian restaurant, situated in the heart of the business district, Il Baraco attracts both executives and lovers with an intimate ambiance, achieved with a classic combination of crisp white linen tablecloths, dark wooden chairs and soft lighting. Some highlights on the menu include the Yarra Valley quail roasted and served with pecorino ice cream and pomegranate salad starter and the Western Plains suckling pork marinated in grappa, served with black cabbage and vin cotto. Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.
For sushi lovers looking for a fix, Kenzan is a great place to take a group of friends or go on a romantic date. With unmistakable retro charm, patrons can dine at the sushi bar and watch their dinner being prepared or resign themselves to a traditional tatami room, where all the customs of an authentic Japanese evening can be enjoyed. Conducting business for over 25 years, Kenzan is recognised for its attention to detail and quality food. Choose from a wide selection of sushi or opt for a meal off the a la carte menu. For lunch a Bento Box is the best bet, comprising of sashimi, prawn dumplings, small appetizers and rice, all presented in a traditional Japanese box and served with miso soup. A good starter is the refreshing sugaki (fresh oysters with citrus flavoured ponzu vinegar) and a sake teriyaki (grilled salmon) as a main. Open for lunch Monday to Friday and dinner Monday to Saturday.
With a perfect location on the sandy shore of Elwood Beach, Sails On The Bay is a sophisticated Melbourne restaurant that has fused its breathtaking beach location with light elegant furnishings and a seafood menu to boot. Sails On The Bay is ideal for long luncheons or classy evenings out. With floor to ceiling windows, patrons can watch the sunset over the deep blue ocean and hear the waves crashing onto the shore. Starters such as the soft shell crab tempura, accompanied with a mango and asparagus salad, sour cream, chilli and coriander dressing keeps guests coming, as does the seared tuna main with potato and onion salad, zesty lime mayonnaise and salsa verde. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Circa is a sophisticated restaurant with a fashionable pink and white interior, lit by woven basket lights, and a lovely courtyard shaded by olive trees. The varied menu offers an array of dishes accompanied by fresh, home-grown vegetables; the tuna with red mullet and eggplant caviare, on toasted sourdough, followed by pheasant with rhubarb and ginger, is delicious! Open for breakfast daily, dinner Monday to Saturday and lunch on Sunday. Reservations essential.
Evoking images of a smoky bistro, where journalists and the like would discuss the days events, literature and politics, the dark walls, industrial windows and black leather of the renowned Press Club create a chic atmosphere with starched white tablecloths where patrons await the inventive products of master chef George Calombaris. Situated in the centre of Melbourne's metropolis, the Greek dishes served at The Press Club are by no means traditional. Expect to savour meals that are as of yet unheard of, a fusion of the old with the very new. With fresh ingredients that are creatively put together and beautifully presented, a visit to The Press Club is a gastronomic experience. Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday and dinner Saturday and Sunday. Bookings recommended.
Motorsport fans have a real treat when it comes time for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the superb modern Albert Park Lake circuit. The main race is the first on the annual Formula One schedule, and forms the centrepiece of four days of events from karting through all racing categories and off-track entertainment. The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is a street circuit around the ornamental Albert Park Lake just south of the Central Business District. The road surface is comparatively smooth for a street circuit, and the course is considered fast and fairly easy to drive, leading to competitive lap times, despite the fact that overtaking is difficult. The event is very well supported by Australians and attracts some international fans.
Melbourne's premier turf event isn't just any horserace. The annual Melbourne Cup is billed as 'the celebration that stops a nation' and 'Australia's most famous Tuesday'. The race is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere and draws interest from across the world.
First run in 1861, it carries a proud tradition and is the highlight of the four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival. The event is also an excuse for dressing up and sampling gourmet delights, with society embracing the chance to show off and mingle with the fashionable and famous of Melbourne.
What started out as the Australasian Championships in 1905 has become what is known today as the Australian Open. It has been staged at six different venues: New Zealand, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. Since 1972, the tournament has been held every year at Melbourne Park. The Australian Open is one of the four tennis championships that make up the 'Grand Slam,' along with the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, making the tournament a prestigious event for the top tennis professionals. Although the tournament was originally played on grass, two hard court surfaces are now used. The Australian Open is second only to the US for attendance numbers and is a very popular tournament with spectators.
The Melbourne Writers Festival is the city's premier literary event, well-established after nearly three decades. Every year the festival draws together well known and talented writers, artists, thinkers and performers from around the world. There is generally something for every lover of good writing, with a wide range of genres covered, from novels to film, journalism to song writing, comedy to cartooning, and even advertising and politics. The full program and bookings are available on the official website listed below. Past celebrity guests have included Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, Bill Bryson, A.S. Byatt, J.M. Coetzee, Paulo Coelho, Seamus Heaney and Ian Rankin, among many others.
Melbourne has a vibrant nightlife encompassing cocktail lounges, pubs, underground dance clubs and international theatre productions. There is no one distinct party area; instead, various entertainment pockets can be found in Melbourne.
Melbourne's Central Business District was once very quiet after dark but the last few years have heralded a resurgence of nightlife in the CBD which is now home to plenty of bars and nightclubs. Hotspots in the CBD include King Street and Swanston Street.
The most famous nightlife districts are the Collingwood and Fitzroy neighbourhoods in northeastern Melbourne, where night-time entertainment venues centre on streets including Brunswick, Johnson, Smith and Fitzroy. The LGBT nightlife hub is Commercial Street.
The charming St Kilda neighbourhood is also a good bet after dark as the crowds of beachgoers tend to move into the pubs and bars as the sun goes down.
Shopping in Melbourne is fun and varied as the city offers both enormous malls and department stores and small quirky side-street boutiques and speciality shops. From various shopping precincts, malls and markets, there are purchases available to suit all tastes, budgets and needs. Most stores are open all week from 10am; many stay open till 9pm on Fridays.
The main shopping strip is on Bourke Street with Bourke Street Mall at its heart, while the east end of the street has mainly fashion boutiques and bookshops. There are bargains galore to be found at Queen Victoria Market, while Melbourne Central is the place to find leading Australian and international labels. There are laneways and arcades throughout the city offering everything from magic spells and antique books to eclectic fashions and household goods. Chinatown, encompassing Little Bourke Street and the neighbouring lanes, offers Asian grocery stores, Chinese medicine, music and jewellery. The Sunday's Market at the Art Centre is good for unique jewellery, ceramics and glassware.
A goods and services tax refund is available to tourists so it is a good idea to keep receipts from large purchases - to qualify for the tax refund at the airport travellers need to have spent A$300 or more.
Melbourne's efficient public transport system is an integrated service utilising trams, trains and buses, with standard fares. The best way to see the city and central suburbs is by tram, a fast, cheap and convenient system that is one of the largest and oldest in the world. The Free Tram Zone was established in 2015 and provides free transportation around the CDB. In addition to this, the City Circle tram route loops around the CBD's perimeter. It provides a commentary and the trams are a very convenient way to tour the city centre, providing a service that passes many of the city's main attractions. The suburban train network is extensive and is the fastest way to reach outlying suburbs, and also has an underground city loop. Buses cover the areas that trams and trains don't reach, as well as those they do, but are little used by visitors; on weekends there is a limited night bus service. Taxis, highly visible in bright yellow, are numerous but expensive. Car hire companies are available throughout the city.
The second largest city in Australia, Melbourne is brimming with a wide variety of attractions to enthral just about every kind of traveller. Whatever your taste or interest, there is bound to be something in Melbourne for you.
Art lovers will enjoy the National Gallery of Victoria; history buffs will relish touring the Old Melbourne Gaol; and culture vultures will love exploring the Chinese and Melbourne Museums. Those with a fear of heights should steer clear of the Eureka Tower, but thrill-seekers will be in heaven on the 88th floor of Melbourne's tallest building, which offers breath-taking panoramic views of the city. Children of all ages will love the Melbourne Zoo which boasts more than 350 different species of animals, and a day in the Royal Botanical Gardens is not to be missed.
Visitors keen on sightseeing will do well to purchase one of the iVenture Cards specific to Melbourne, all of which can lead to huge discounts on attractions and tours when used extensively enough. The cards come in several different categories and can be purchased online.
The famous lyre bird, which has the ability to mimic any other bird, is the most important inhabitant of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, just 25 miles (40km) from Melbourne via Burwood Highway or Canterbury Road. The park, covering 3,215 hectares, plays an important role in protecting the famous birds. Visitors enjoy walking, cycling and picnicking in the park at venues with enchanting names like Ferntree Gully, One Tree Hill or Sherbrooke Forest. The park is rich in wildlife and spectacular mountain ash forests and fern gullies are to be seen. The historic Puffing Billy steam train runs from Belgrave to Lakeside close to the park, and there are numerous craft shops, antique shops, gardens and restaurants in the area. Dandenong Ranges National Park allows visitors to escape from the bustle of Melbourne for a taste of the Australian wilderness just beyond the city.
This historic town of great elegance and charm is the gateway to the goldfields. The name is an Aboriginal word meaning 'resting place', which is well suited because a tranquil lake and botanical gardens are the focal point of the city. The main Avenue of Honour is lined with 4,000 trees as a memorial to citizens who served in World War I. The city is steeped in the history of the Gold Rush era. Visitors enjoy the Eureka Trail, a two-mile (3km) walk that retraces the route taken by the police and soldiers during the Australian rebellion of the Eureka stockade in 1854, and it is possible to undertake a self-guided Heritage Walk through the inner city's streets. Ballarat is also celebrated for its fresh produce, sold at farmer's markets which occur almost every weekend somewhere in the city.
From Melbourne one of the most popular self-drive routes for tourists to follow is the circular Great Southern Touring Route, which includes spectacular scenery and takes in some of Victoria's most beautiful, scenic and cultural attractions. The first part of the route hugs the coastline going south along the Great Ocean Road, renowned for its coastal scenery, passing lush Otways rainforests and on to the magnificent limestone rock sculptures known as the Twelve Apostles in the Port Campbell National Park. Other attractions along the Great Ocean Road include the historic villages of Port Campbell, Queenscliff, Portland and Port Fairy, as well as resort towns and coastal cities such as Torquay, Apollo Bay, Geelong and Warrnambool.
The lofty summits and ridgelines of the Grampians region provide inspiring natural beauty in a park that is home to a variety of habitats, unique wildlife and more than one third of all the plant species found in Victoria. The park is particularly well known for its colourful displays of springtime wildflowers, which are at their best during October. There is an abundance of wildlife in the lowlands, including emus, kangaroos, possums, koalas, wallabies and more than 200 species of bird. The park also has some interesting Aboriginal art sites among its 167,000 hectares of woodland, heath, swamp, forest and sub-alpine zones. There are campsites and some wonderful overnight walking trails in the park, as well as some shorter walks for those just wanting a pleasant stroll.
The Puffing Billy Railway is Australia's Oldest Steam Railway. A century old, the train still follows its original mountain track in the scenic Dandenong Ranges, offering spectacular mountain views and winding through cool fern gullies between Belgrave, Emerald Lake and Gembrook. The whole trip takes two hours in each direction. Tickets can be bought before boarding the train, which departs several times a day, but bookings are essential for the special luncheon or dinner trips, which include a meal in the first class carriage. The train sometimes hosts other fun events, like comedy nights. Family tickets are available and kids will love the novelty of travelling by steam train!