Melbourne is a city characterized by its multicultural residents. It is an inspiring melting pot teaming of life. In this multimillion city in southern Victoria, the residents are descendants from all over the world. The European heritage is particularly visible. Many Greeks, Italians and Englishmen settled down here during the 1960s and the 1970s. Also, immigrants from Asia have contributed to shaping the city. Vietnamese and Chinese have brought parts of their culture and created a great diversity that is clearly sensed when you walk through the different districts and not least the suburbs. It is an exuberant mix of people of different ethnic backgrounds, making Melbourne exciting, unpredictable and interesting. Old traditions meet the present and are constantly shaping the country’s perhaps coolest and hippest metropolis, creating a modern destination. The result is a plethora of tasty dishes and cultural works of art. As if that’s not enough, Melbourne was in 2011 chosen as the world’s best city to live in.
Museums, theatres and shops are in plentiful in the city centre. Melbourne is much more than stately skyscrapers and a grey concrete jungle. Explore Melbourne’s surrounding districts, and don’t miss the suburbs. This is where you will find the genuine Melbourne, where you will get a chance to get closer to the true locals. Public transport forms a comprehensive network that makes it easy to get around the city. The different districts have a wide variety of characters. From café-dense student areas to hip bar districts and exclusive areas south of the river. The street art is exploding in all its colours, covering alleys and industrial premises with eye-catching motifs. Wander along lush parade streets, go window shopping for retro accessories in magnificent buildings and take a break at the beach on St Kilda. Hang out up with skateboard kids in their cool caps and bronze-tanned kite surfers. Cool off with a dip in the pleasantly warm sea. And buy a bunch of popsicles that quickly melts away in the sun. A lovely thing about Melbourne is that it’s easy to get around. Just wait for the first best tram to come by, squeaking its way through the city. Jump on board and whiz on to the next stop. Paying the fares with the Myki card means that you easily can change between bus, tram and train. If you ever get enough of big city life, there are many options to choose from. Drive west towards the beautiful coastal-stretch of the Great Ocean Road. Or take the ferry to the island of Tasmania.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
Lace up your walking shoes and pack a large bottle of water. Melbourne’s neighbourhoods are best discovered on foot. When you get tired of wandering around for your own machine, use the public transport. Only a few kilometres north of the city is Carlton (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/carlton.d7159), home to many Italian descendants and the place where you will find Melbourne’s Little Italy. Look at admirable Victorian architecture and countless delicatessen shops along Lygon Street. The Carlton district features The University of Melbourne and RMIT University. The green area of Carlton Gardens (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/carlton/carlton-gardens.d508165) is located in-between buildings, with nice promenades and beautiful fountains. East of Carlton lies Fitzroy (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/fitzroy.d178400), a district with lots of overwintering hippies and mainstream hipsters. This is the street-artists’ headquarters, and you will often see brick-houses spruced up with graffiti murals. Popular Brunswick Street is the street for vintage shopping. Along Smith Street lies murky bars and shabby beer hangouts. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can look for new design and art at Rose Street Artists’ Markets (rosestmarket.com.au).
Travel three kilometres southeast of the city to Richmond (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/richmond.d178451). This district has undergone a change in recent years. Today, old industrial premises have been transformed into shopping malls and sophisticated outlets. However, football still has a strong grasp on the neighbourhood, and it is more of a rule than the exception to hear the pubs vibrate by sing-along after the games. Many Vietnamese and Greeks live in Richmond. Victoria Street offers plenty of cheap Vietnamese restaurants, and for a good souvlaki, head to Swan Street Hill.
Those who enjoy the combination of town and beach lives in St Kilda (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/st-kilda.d181708). It is a bohemian district located six kilometres southwest from the city at Port Philip Bay. Many young people choose to settle here, and during the summers, noisy backpackers are flocking here. The main street, Fitzroy Street, is packed with cafés and outdoor diners. Along Acland Street, smaller shops and bakeries line the street. In the middle of the hottest days, an excursion to the sandy beach is perfect. Take a stroll on the pier with a bag of fresh fish and chips or cycle along the esplanade, lined with palm trees. Or if you like roller coasters and heart-stopping attractions, visit the 100-year-old amusement park Luna Park (lunapark.com.au).
The district of Northcote is located seven kilometres to the northeast and is constantly growing. With a bit of a distance from the city, it is a place close to lush parks that are well suited for walking and running. More and more cafes and bars are popping up making Northcote an area to be reckoned with. There is a good vantage point from the top of Ruckers Hill. Williamstown (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/williamstown.d178450), also known as Willy, has a fantastic location right where Yarra River’s water flows into Port Philip Bay. Williamstown also has a beautiful view of the skyline of Melbourne. The district is a small pleasant harbour community full of sails and sailboat masts. On the eastern side of the river is Port Melbourne, where modern buildings soar. South of Yarra River lies the more fashionable area, South Yarra (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/south-yarra.d6052026). It houses people with generous bank accounts and fast cars. Many exclusive restaurants but also nice budget options are available in this area. Prahran and Windsor are close to each other, almost melting together as one. Vintage fanatics will thrive here. Walk along the entire Chapel Street and browse among local goods and clothing. Don’t miss Prahran Market that is marketed as the food lover’s market (prahranmarket.com.au). They are open every day except Mondays and Wednesdays.
Good to know
There is a large Visitor Information Centre at Federation Square along 2 Swanson Street and a smaller one along Bourke Street. For more attractions and travel packages, you can take a look at wotif’s website (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne.d178283).
Melbourne is well known for its unpredictable weather. Rain is not uncommon. And yes, the winter can bring some cool and windy days, and in the summer, unbearably warm days are not uncommon.
You can get to Melbourne by car (wotif.com/Car-Hire), bus, train or plane (wotif.com/Flights). There are two airports in the area. The larger of them is Melbourne Tullamarine Airport which is located about 22 km from the city. The airline Jetstar also uses Melbourne Avalon Airport, which is located 55 km away. However, there are airport buses for all arrivals, so there is no problem getting into Melbourne no matter where you land. In Melbourne, Southern Cross Railway Station and Flinders Street Station are two major bus and train stations. Greyhound is the largest bus company running to and from Melbourne. Local traffic is operated by Public Transport Victoria (ptv.vic.gov.au). They have a great online travel planner that you can use. To travel with them, you need a so-called Myki card that you charge with money (ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki). If you stay for a few days, it might be worth investing in a visitor card (ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/visiting-melbourne). Trams running along the City Circle Line are free (ptv.vic.gov.au/route/view/1112). If possible, avoid driving a car in Melbourne. It is not easy to navigate through the city when there are so many buses and trams. In addition, there are special traffic rules. You can also travel with Melbourne Hop-on Hop-off buses (wotif.com/things-to-do/shore-excursion-melbourne-hop-on-hop-off-bus-tour.a402770.activity-details). Another option is to see Melbourne from the saddle of a bicycle (wotif.com/things-to-do/melbourne-city-bike-tour.a558339.activity-details).
Finding accommodation in Melbourne is no problem (hotelscombined.com/Place/Melbourne.htm). It’s just a matter of deciding how much money you are willing to spend for a night’s sleep. If you visit one of the suburbs you can delight in lower prices than what the inner city offers. If you are a backpacker going to St Kilda, check in at Base St Kilda (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Base_Backpackers_St_Kilda.htm) at 17 Carlisle Street. This hostel is large, modern and has a great location. It is one of the most popular hostels in the area and many of the visitors travel alone, so it is easy to meet new people. The nearest campsite is Melbourne BIG4 Caravan Park (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Melbourne_BIG4_Holiday_Park.htm) located just below 10 km outside the city. It is a large park where you can put up a tent or rent a small cottage. The area is fresh and equipped with a kitchen, swimming pool and a children’s playground.
If you want to stay centrally but cheap, Melbourne Central YHA (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Melbourne_Central_YHA_Hostel.htm) is a good choice. From 36 dollars per night you get a bed. The hostel is located at 562 Flinders Street and features free Wi-Fi and a lovely patio with BBQ. Richmond Hill Hotel (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Richmond_Hill_Hotel_Melbourne.htm) is located at 353 Church Street in the Richmond district. Here are accommodation options for 55 people in a three-star accommodation in a beautiful old building. Choose from simpler rooms to fully equipped apartments. The Richmond Hill Hotel is more like a bed and breakfast than a classic hotel since a filling breakfast is included in the price. There is also a cocktail bar and a garden terrace on site.
A Saturday around Melbourne
08:00 – Start in St Kilda
Start your day with a hearty breakfast in St Kilda at Il Fornaio (ilfornaio.com.au) at 2C Acland Street. Say hello to the ultimate brunch. There is no way you will leave this place hungry. Banana pancakes with pistachio ice cream, poached eggs with hollandaise sauce, quinoa porridge with fresh berries. And strong, black coffee. Stay for a few hours and taka a peek at people strutting by.
11:00 – Beach visit
You simply cannot leave St Kilda without visiting the beach. Although it can be full of people on a sunny day, it should be ok if you show up early. So, on with a generous layer of sunscreen and spread out the towel on the hot sand. Run into the water to cool off. Relax with a book in your hand, or a local magazine. When the sun sits too high, it is time to move on.
13:00 – Peaceful lunch
The second meal of the day is enjoyed at the Vietnamese restaurant Uncle, at 188 Carlisle Street. Here, the kitchen staff create modern dishes that are a delight to the eye. There are, among other things, fresh oysters, rich noodle and hearty banh mi. The restaurant has bright rooms with wide windows and is one of the best places in the area to get some Asian food.
16:00 – Tram trip
Trams are undeniably a charming way to travel. If you wait for tram number 16 and travel to one of the universities, half an hour later you are in Carlton. Visit the picturesque Carlton Gardens and walk eastwards towards Fitzroy. Visit the Rose Street Market (rosestmarket.com.au) and look for cool works of art. Stop on Smith Street for a beer in the sun.
18:00 – Theatrical Titanic restaurant
Next stop is in Williamstown. At 1 Nelson Place lies the Titanic Theatre Restaurant (titanic.com.au). And it’s just as weird as it sounds. Go back in time and dine in a restaurant whose staff are dressed as the crew of the famous vessel that sank in 1912. And in addition, they all play different roles. To top it all, the food is of the highest class. Three-course menu. Reserve a table in advance.
20:00 – Towards the skies
What is the best way to finish a busy day on? On a roof terrace in the centre of where everything happens of course! Head toward the inner city to pop into the mysterious bar Made Brussels (madamebrussels.com) at 59 Bourke Street. This is a hidden bar with a bit expensive but very tasty drinks. Go up the stairs to get a view of the city and feel at home among plants, benches and colourful pillows. It feels a bit like you’re in a crazy dream world.