Written by on Wednesday January 21, 2015
Often overlooked by tourists visiting Australia, Melbourne is arguably the cultural heart of the country. The state capital of Victoria, situated on the southeast of Australia, Melbourne is a vibrant city of some 4 million people. Having lived in the city for over a year, there’s so much to do no matter when you visit. From the bustling café culture to the dynamic arts scene and the year-round festivals to world-class sport, there really is something for everyone visiting Melbourne on an Australian cruise.
With an excellent public transport network, getting around Melbourne is straightforward. Many of the main attractions are also in close proximity to each other, so you should be able to visit most attractions on foot. The city centre (or CBD) streets are in grid format so finding your way around is really easy. However, if you need to venture a bit further the tram network is excellent.
To use trams, trains or buses in Melbourne you need to get a myki card which is a plastic card, similar to an Oyster card in London. These can be purchased at premium train stations and stores that display the myki sign, including 7-Elevens (you’ll struggle to not find one of these in the CBD).
If you’re only planning on using the tram and are only in the city for a day a myki Visitor Value Pack contains enough value for one day’s travel in Zones 1 and 2. You also get discount at many of Melbourne’s attractions. These can be purchased at Federation Square, Southern Cross Station and PTV Hubs.
Top tip: The City Circle tram is a free tram service for tourist that runs clockwise and anti-clockwise throughout the CBD. View the route here.
At almost 300 metres tall, the Eureka Tower, located in Southbank has the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere. No matter the time of day you visit you’ll be sure to get stunning views of the entire city. For the daredevils you can also experience ‘The Edge’, a glass cube which projects 3 metres out of the main building! With lifts to the top, the Eureka Tower is accessible to all.
Melbourne Cricket Ground
The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) was built in 1853 and with a capacity of over 100,000, it is the 11th largest stadium in the world. Despite it being the birthplace of Test cricket and the home of the Boxing Day Test, the highlight of the MCG is Aussie rules football. If you’re in Melbourne on a weekend during AFL season it’s almost impossible not to get a ticket for a match. Unlike our own football matches, AFL games tend to be a more family affair with little need for segregation of rival fans.
As well as taking in a game, there are also tours of the historic ground available. View details here. The ground is a short tram ride or walk from the CBD.
Queen Victoria Market
I was a regular visitor to Queen Victoria Market and the ‘Queen Vic’ was a favourite spot of mine. Opening in 1878, the market has been central to Melbourne life for over 130 years and it’s something you have to experience while visiting.
In the summer, from November to March, the market is open late every Wednesday and turns into a fashion, music and street food extravaganza, but my favourite is the food. With over 60 stalls from across the globe it’s an absolute must for foodies! From a traditional Aussie ‘roo sandwich’ to Chinese dumplings and Spanish churros to South Indian salads, there’s something for everyone at The Night Market.
Rod Laver Arena
If you’re a fan of tennis a visit to the Rod Laver Arena is essential. The 15,000 capacity venue has been the home of the Australian Open tennis final since 1988 and also plays host to the world’s biggest pop stars. Looking at a list of the artists that have played there, it’s pretty much a who’s who of music.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Melbourne in January when the Australian Open is on, try and get your hands on a ticket to the Rod Laver. If not, just being inside the grounds of Melbourne Park is an experience in itself. Getting a ground pass is relatively easy. But please take plenty of sunscreen – it’s sure to be hot!
For me, one of the things that makes Melbourne great are its vibrant laneways. A sea of colourful street art, Parisian-style outdoor cafes, quirky boutiques on a musical backdrop of diverse buskers make Melbourne’s laneways up there with my favourite plac\es in the city. Degraves Street is no exception, while Flinders Lane is full of great restaurants and Little Bourke Street is home to Chinatown. And get this; the city has an ACDC Lane, named after Melbourne’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll sons.
St. Kilda Beach
St. Kilda is Melbourne’s most popular beach suburb and you’ll always find plenty to do. As well as lots of bars and cafés, it’s a lovely walk and the beach is also home to the Sea Baths and the iconic Luna Park. The beach is accessible from the CBD by tram and takes around 25 minutes.
Top tip: If you’re there for more than one day, head to St Kilda Pier at sunset and see the blue penguins come back in from sea. (Note: do not use flash photography as this can blind and kill the penguins)
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more peaceful, the city’s Brighton suburb is home to an idyllic beach. The area is some 20 minutes by train from the CBD and is home to the historic bathing boxes of the 19th century, set on the backdrop of the Melbourne skyline.
If you’re not already sold on Melbourne, its food and drink surely will win you over! You’re literally spoiled for choice in the city with first-class cuisine from all areas of the globe. Below are some of my favourites:
- Arcadia, Gertrude Street: Arcadia in Fitzroy (just North of the CBD) is a delightful café, set in vintage surroundings - for me it’s the hippest part of Melbourne. An ideal place for breakfast or brunch.
- Proud Mary, Oxford Street: Be prepared to wait if you’re looking for breakfast at Proud Mary in Collingwood. A favourite with the locals.
- Chin Chin, Flinders Lane (Thai): Chin chin was probably my favourite place to eat in Melbourne. It’s a walk-in restaurant and only takes bookings for tables of 10-12 people. Just turn up, put your name down and they’ll phone you when a table is ready. A large bar area downstairs is available if you prefer to have a drink while you wait.
Note: at busy times a wait of over an hour is not uncommon, but trust me, it’s worth it!
- Cutler & Co., Gertrude Street: If you’re a fan of fine dining, Cutler & Co. is for you. You’ll have to book well in advance for this award winning restaurant however.
- Rockpool Bar & Grill, Southbank: Located at the Crown Casino on the banks of the Yarra River, Rockpool Bar & Grill is perfect for meat and seafood lovers.
- DOC, Drummon Street: DOC has 2 locations in the city but my favourite is in Carlton. Laid back, authentic Italian at its best.
Melbourne has the best, most vibrant nightlife I’ve ever experienced and central to that are its outstanding bars. If you’re a fan of vintage cocktails, Melbourne is the city for you. A slight note of caution, drinks aren’t cheap and cocktails can set you back anything from around $18 - $26.
- The Everleigh, Gertrude Street: Walking into the Everleigh you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. The bar offers table services to groups of six people or less, in an intimate, sophisticated setting.
Top tip: If you can’t decide on a cocktail for you, order a ‘Barman’s Choice’. They’ll custom-make an amazing cocktail based on your favourite flavours.
- Eau De Vie, Malthouse Lane: Situated just off Flinders Lane, with no sign at the door, Eau De Vie is tough to find. Upon opening the door however you’re met with a vibrant, Prohibition-style speakeasy. Expect liquid nitrogen, drinks on fire and of course the Lady’s Leg Cosmopolitan – a drink for four, prepared in a vintage shaker in the shape of a lady’s leg, compete with stiletto.
- Bar Americano, Presgrave Place: A hidden gem, just off Little Collins Street, Bar Americano truly is from a bygone age. You eventually find the entrance at what appears to be the back of a dead end, but that’s part of its charm. The bar itself holds just 10 so be prepared for an intimate experience with plenty of interaction with the knowledgeable bartenders. No pictures allowed though!
- Black Pearl, Brunswick Street: Situated within the buzz of Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street, Black Pearl is a great little bar and a favourite of Melbournians. Thursday – Sunday is a highlight when ‘The Attic’ is open.