Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
Melbourne is Australia’s cultural and sporting capital, home to some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best art, food and music. Those who linger will be rewarded by the city’s slow-burning charm – from antique trams to leafy parks and bay promenades.
The National Gallery of Victoria on Southbank houses arguably Australia’s finest art collection, including works by Rembrandt, Monet and Rubens. It’s also worth visiting its Ian Potter Centre on the opposite side of the river, which displays exclusively Australian art (both free).
Queen Victoria Market is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest open-air market, with stalls selling everything from sheepskin moccasins to organic vegetables. Music and dance performances and culinary events take place periodically (513 Elizabeth St; closed Mon and Wed).
Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted the first-ever game of Aussie Rules football, and was the site of the first Test Match between Australia and England. Four teams now call it home in winter, while summer features many cricket games (Brunton Ave, Yarra Pk; international cricket from £20).
St Kilda foreshore retains many of the trappings of a seaside resort – a palm-fringed promenade, an amusement park and a creaky pier. A breakwater in the harbour is now home to a penguin colony. Penguin Waters offers two-hour tours from Southbank (£35).
The Royal Botanic Gardens are among the finest of their kind in the world. Living alongside joggers, frisbee throwers and strollers, wildlife includes cockatoos, parrots and possums. Turtles and eels can be found in the lakes (free).
Eat and drink
Piadina Slowfood flies the flag for Italian flatbreads. Fillings might include meatballs or provolone and tomato, and stews, curries and bakes are also on offer (rear 57 Lonsdale St; closed weekends; piadinas from £5).
Bar Lourinhã specialises in northern Spanish and Portuguese tapas dishes. Perch at the counter and order homemade chorizo with cider, or wagyu bresaola (salted beef) with anchovy-stuffed olives (37 Little Collins St; closed Sun; tapas from £10).
Wine is the focus at St Jude’s Cellar, its bare-bricked walls stacked with bottles. The kitchen is refreshingly unpretentious, and weekend brunch is a typically Australian affair – try toasted almond porridge with baked rhubarb, or a salt cod omelette (Brunswick St, Fitzroy; mains from £10).
Press Club is a staple of the city’s modern Greek dining scene. Its dining room strikes a chord with polished surfaces and sultry lighting, but the kitchen sticks to the script with lamb with green tomatoes and tyrokafteri – a spicy cheese dip (72 Flinders St; lunch from £25).
Recently relocated to the upper floors of Melbourne’s Rialto Towers, Vue de Monde is a favoured spot for occasion dining with spectacular views. The menu deftly matches French culinary flair with Australian produce – kangaroo might feature on the tasting menu (Level 55 Rialto, 525 Collins St; two-course lunch £40).
An 1890s mansion in South Yarra is the setting for the eccentric Albany Hotel. Recently refitted in a rock’n’roll theme, comfortable rooms see pictures of rock luminaries decorating everything from the walls to the bedheads. Be sure to get a room looking out onto attractive Millswyn Street (cnr Toorak Rd & Millswyn St; rooms from £60).
The Pensione Hotel is a reasonably priced and understated hotel in central Melbourne, reputedly modelled on a European Pensione. Sparsely decorated rooms can be small but are nonetheless perfectly formed, and the rooftop sundeck is a summer bonus (16 Spencer St; from £75).
Owned and operated by Victoria’s YWCA, the Jasper Hotel is a stylish boutique place to stay with all profits going to disadvantaged locals-in-need. Each floor is decorated in a different colour, while spacious rooms feature louvered panels and patterned soft furnishings (489 Elizabeth St; from £86).
Sleep Set in a converted downtown warehouse, Adelphi Hotel was something of a trailblazer for the city’s niche hotels in the early 1990s. There are 34 fashionably spartan suites – but the hotel’s trump card is a glass-bottomed swimming pool on the seventh floor that juts out above the street (187 Flinders Ln; from £115).
An impeccably maintained Italianate villa which previously served as an archbishop’s residence and then a massage parlour, Villa Donati is now a small b&b. Rooms feature a mish-mash of European and Asian furnishings (377 Church St; from £145).