With Melbourne’s combination of world-class dining, art galleries, homegrown fashion and a packed sports calendar, it’s no surprise Victoria’s capital is regarded the world’s most liveable city.
Wander through Melbourne’s laneways
The centre of Melbourne is threaded with cobbled laneways, which have become a mecca for coffee shops, cafés and unique shopping boutiques. Start at Flinders Street station, wander down Degraves Street, and explore the city’s beautiful arcades and street art around every corner – including from England-based graffiti artist Banksy. Head down Collins Street to visit the exquisite Block Arcade then get your caffeine hit at pocket-sized Brother Baba Budan or Patricia, both on Little Bourke Street.
Laneways aren’t limited to the CBD, just 4km’s north of the city in Brunswick is the fabulous Barkly Square which has created a visual musical arts precinct. ‘The Laneway’ is a dedicated zone of cultural activity for the community to enjoy. Sample delicious foods, see local artists from street and conceptual artists display their talents, to local bands and buskers who fill the area with movement and sound. The Laneway will embrace all Brunswick has to offer and add a rich layer to the vibrant quarter, well worth a visit. http://barklysquare.com.au/
Shop like a local
Melbourne is renowned for its markets, which sell everything from local produce to arts and crafts and vintage fashion. Get amongst the hustle and bustle of the Queen Victoria Markets, the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. You can take a bus from there to the South Melbourne Market, and enjoy dim sim or street-style Mexican food under its historic awnings. On weekends, pick up handmade pieces from emerging Australian designers at the Rose St. Artists’ Market in Fitzroy, just a quick tram ride from the city centre.
Discover why Melbourne is regarded as the world’s sporting capital
Melbourne is Australia’s sports capital and its venues are legendary. Join the fun at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for the Australian Football League from March until September, or the international cricket matches from November until February. Go trackside at Flemington for the excitement of the Melbourne Cup, held on the first Tuesday in November, or be exhilarated by the Australian Grand Prix, when Albert Park is transformed into a high-speed racetrack.
Be tempted by sweet treats on Acland Street
Hop on a tram from Bourke Street in the central business district to the seaside suburb of St Kilda. Here, you can stroll the foreshore to the St Kilda Pier, home to a colony of little penguins or take a ride on the roller coaster at historic Luna Park. Afterwards enjoy sweets at one of Acland Street’s many continental cake shops, such as the kugelhopf (brioche cake swirled with melted chocolate) at Monarch Cakes or a slice of baked cheesecake at Europa Cake Shop.
Explore Melbourne’s vibrant arts and culture
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is Australia’s oldest gallery (founded in 1861) and hosts an exciting range of international and local exhibitions and events, and a collection of more than 70,000 works. Visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) to immerse yourself in the world of film, television and digital culture or take a taxi to the Heide Museum of Modern Art at Bulleen for an insight into Australian artists. In the evening, catch a performance at one of Melbourne’s many theatres, which host everything from musicals to comedy and cabaret. Or if you’re in the mood for jazz, swing past Bird’s Basement jazz club in the centre of Melbourne for gigs from local and international musicians.
Raise a glass at Melbourne’s heritage-filled pubs
A central figure in most Australian cities and towns, the local pub is a place to celebrate and commiserate (depending on which sporting team has won on the day). Home to old school pubs covered in football memorabilia, turn-of-the-century gems run by friendly publicans and casual watering holes furnished with pinball machines, pool tables and couches, visiting one of Melbourne’s character-filled pubs is a great way for visitors to live like a local. Here are some of the city’s most historic pubs, still in operation after more than a century of good times.
Young & Jackson
Established in 1861, the Young & Jackson Hotel is a local favourite that enjoys prime position directly opposite Flinders Street Station. Formally known as the Princes Bridge Hotel, the Young & Jackson Hotel has welcomed everyone from sailors enjoying a tipple before heading off to war, to football fans uniting for a post-match brew, old friends gathering for special occasions and more. Home to a resident Melbourne icon simply known as ‘Chloe’ (a captivating painting that has hung on the wall of the pub since 1909), the Young & Jackson is a much-loved institution where people have come together through wars, depressions, recessions, scandals and more. Cnr Swanston & Flinders Streets, Melbourne.
Proudly family owned and run, the Coopers Inn is one of Melbourne’s oldest pubs. A slice of history found right within the city centre, the Coopers Inn first opened its doors in 1854. A modern refurbishment has updated the interiors yet kept the heritage features of the building intact including an impressive bluestone wall. Serving hearty pub fare and a range of located and imported wines and ales, this classic pub is favoured by everyone from inner city workers wanting to wind down at the end of the day to tourists keen on experiencing a slice of Melbourne’s social history. 282 Exhibition Street, Melbourne.
Duke of Wellington
Dating all the way back to 1853, the Duke of Wellington is Melbourne’s oldest licensed pub. Having been owned and frequented by countless colourful characters over the years, the ‘Duke’ is an essential part of Melbourne’s tapestry. Located within walking distance to some of the city’s biggest sporting arenas (including the MCG), the Duke of Wellington has seen many post-match celebrations since its inception. While the Duke’s interiors may have been updated, the down-to-earth spirit of Melbourne still flows freely throughout the pub – as does the beer, wine and spirits. 146 Flinders Street, Melbourne.
Open seven days, the Mitre Tavern is one of those places that demands a visit. First licensed in 1868, this cottage-style pub is now flanked by skyscrapers yet still retains the charm of yesteryear thanks to a commitment to providing guests with ales and meals in a traditional setting. Pies, burgers, crumbles and puddings all feature on the menu, as do beers and wines from local and international brewers and winemakers. An atmospheric spot to drop into for an after-work beer or warming lunch, this tavern wouldn’t look out of place in the English countryside. 5 Bank Place, Melbourne.
Labour in Vain
First licensed in 1853, Fitzroy’s Labour in Vain has enjoyed many incarnations over its years of operation. First a pub and hotel frequented by travellers stopping in on their way to the Plenty River, the building changed hands many times throughout history, being used as a butchery and confectionary at times. Now operating as a pub once again, the Brunswick Street stalwart is a low-key drinking spot dedicated to preserving the heritage of the building and providing ales and entertainment to locals and visitors alike. Live music is a part of the Labour in Vain’s charm, with most gigs coming free of charge. A simple set up and no-fuss approach from staff ensures that the casual vibe of the Labour in Vain lives on more than 160 years after it was first licensed. 197A Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
After you have explored the all that the city life has to offer, only less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne you will find the Yarra Valley; home to vineyards, fine dining and quaint accommodation; making it one of Melbourne’s favourite weekend breaks.
The Yarra Valley is Victoria’s oldest wine region, dating back to 1838, and has garnered a global reputation for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Sample the local produce, known for its fresh produce, including freshwater salmon, trout and caviar, as well as handmade cheeses and preserves.
Sculptured into the Healesville landscape, the TarraWarra Museum of Art showcases Australian works from the mid 20th century onwards. Australia’s first significant privately funded public museum, it was established by philanthropists Eva and Marc Besen, with works chosen from their private collection.
Another day trip or weekend trip is to The Dandenong Ranges also only an hour from Melbourne and also accessible on the V-Line train service from Melbourne. The Dandenong Ranges are home to many established cool climate gardens. The National Rhododendron Gardens in Olinda are a must; see camellias, daffodils, Rhododendron, azaleas. Admire the kaleidoscope of colour at the Tesselaar Tulip Festival (early Sept to Oct).
Board the Puffing Billy steam train and breathe in the cool mountain air through the open-sided carriages, one of the world’s finest preserved steam railways as it wends its way for 24 kilometres through the tall mountain ash forests and fern gullies of the Dandenong Ranges.
Explore the pretty villages of Olinda, Sassafras and Belgrave. Maybe it’s the cool mountain air, but there’s a fascination with Devonshire teas in these parts.
Ever gone fruit picking!? The rich soils of the Dandenong ranges are perfect for growing fruit. You can join in the fun by going fruit picking in season at Cherryhill Orchards, Blue Hills Berries and Cherries, and Kookaberry Berry Farm.
If you feel the need to leave dry land, the Murray River provides countless ways to enjoy Australia’s longest river.
Tackle the king of the river
For anglers, there’s no bigger prize than hooking a Murray Cod, Australia’s largest freshwater fish. If you go in search of this mighty fish be prepared for a battle – a Murray Cod can measure more than a metre long and weigh more than 25 kilograms. Other desirable species include golden perch, trout and freshwater crayfish.
Paddle along the calm waters
There’s no better way to connect with the river than to be in it. Hope into a kayak or canoe and explore this tree-lined river a stretch at a time. Tackle level five rapids or head to a beginner’s area and enjoy the calming river atmosphere as you paddle past red gums.
Feel the vibes at a riverside music festival
There’s plenty of culture to be enjoyed along the river year-round. Echuca hosts the Riverboats Music Festival each February. On the weekend before November’s Melbourne Cup, Mildura hosts a jazz festival that runs the gamut from traditional to avant-garde in a variety of venues around town.
You can also ride among the red gums on horseback, or savour sunshine, water sports and tranquil riverside scenery on a houseboat. You will find plenty of ways to the enjoy the Murray.
main picture Laneways of Melbourne