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
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).
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).
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
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
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
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;
Melbourne is infamous for its erratic climate. December to February is usually
warmest – and most hectic. The city has a busy festival schedule year round, including
Comedy Festival in April and the Melbourne
Festival of the Arts in October.
Downtown is pedestrian-friendly, with one of the world’s most extensive tram
networks. Trains and buses also operate, and the ‘myki’ card, similar to London’s Oyster
Card, is now being rolled out (fares from £2).
No carriers fly direct to Melbourne. Qantas flies via
Hong Kong from Heathrow (from £1,235). Emirates flies from Gatwick via
Dubai (from £1,550). Tullamarine airport is 16 miles from the city centre –
regular buses run to and from downtown
The article 'Mini guide to Melbourne, Australia' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.