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Melbourne is packed with enough things to see and do to satisfy nature lovers, artists, sports fans and foodies. Here’s Forbes Travel Guide’s round-up of the best activities in Melbourne:
1. Visit Federation Square. It makes sense to start your trip in the city’s hub, not least because the nice-sized visitors’ center is housed there. But the 41,000-square-foot square itself is an attraction. Grab a flat white — espresso topped with steamed, foamy milk — and take in the futuristic architecture, watch groups performing tai chi or get a free 50-minute tour (Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m.) of the square.
2. Check out local laneway art. Many Melburnians will tell you that the top restaurants, bars, boutiques and galleries are hidden in the laneways, the alleys that run behind the city streets. Yet the laneways are best known as a giant canvas for public art, their walls covered with elaborate murals and stenciling. In recent years, respected street artists Banksy and Logan Hicks have added their work to the mix. To see some art, walk down Hosier Lane, Caledonian Lane and Centre Way.
3. Shop at the Queen Victoria Market. A stop at this iconic market is a must on any Melbourne itinerary. Dating back to 1878, Queen Victoria Market is home to nearly 1,000 vendors selling every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable, along with meat, fish, clothing and handicrafts. Among the more exotic offerings are giant squid and kangaroo meat. A hot jam doughnut from the market’s food truck is an essential part of the experience. Tours and cooking classes are widely available, and the Wednesday-night market features live music and dance performances.
4. Go for a game of Australian Rules Football. In Melbourne, it won’t be long before you hear talk of “the footy,” Australian Rules football. This fast-paced, aggressive blend of rugby, Irish Gaelic football and the Aboriginal game marngrook is a passion of many Australians, but it’s most popular in Melbourne, where the sport originated and most of its teams are still based. Take in a match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground or Telstra Stadium, where the tickets are cheap, the meat pies are hot, and the crowds are loud and good-natured.
5. Explore the Royal Botanic Gardens. Home to more than 50,000 plants from Australia and beyond, these magnificent gardens on the south bank of the Yarra River are among the best of their kind worldwide. Wander through rainforest, herb gardens, cacti and succulents, and admire the rare collections of roses and orchids. This is a lovely spot to relax with a book or a picnic. Look for Moonlight Cinema and theater performances during the summer months.
Here are my 10 favourites things to do in Melbourne!
1. Take the Hidden Secrets Laneways and Arcades walking tour – This is the best Melbourne tour encompassing art, architecture, history, pop culture, shopping, fashion, cafes, restaurants and bars; they have it all! If you like this tour they also do several other amazing tours (coffee culture, sommeliers city walks, a vintage outing and Melbourne by the book).
2. Shop Brunswick & Gertrude Streets in Fitzroy – Filled with unique shops, galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants you are sure to enjoy Melbourne’s trendiest/hipster neighbourhood. In addition to the shops make sure you take time to visit a cafe, restaurant or bar and soak up the Melbourne atmosphere. My favourite places in this neighbourhood are Little Creatures Dining Hall, Mario’s,Flowers Vasette (the best floral displays I have seen anywhere), Zetta Florence, Klein’s Perfumery,Fitzroy Nursery (for all things garden chic), The Gertrude Street Enoteca, Cutler and Co and Ladro.
3. Dine on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant – It really is the quintessential Melbourne experience however book early as it’s very popular. I am always amazed that the waiters never spill a drop while pouring drinks on a moving tram. You will also find it’s excellent value. If you are lucky your waiter might be Joe the famous singing waiter!
4. Take the 112 tram from Fitzroy Street in St Kilda to Brunswick Street in Fitzroy – Enjoy all of Melbourne’s best neighbourhoods (St Kilda, Albert Park, South Melbourne, the city and Fitzroy) on Melbourne’s favourite mode of transportation. If you venture as far as Fitzroy North stop in at theTramway Hotel for a suitable end to your journey, the food is excellent and it’s one of my favourite places (lots of vegan/vego options plus great pub fare for their friends!).
5. Take the Melbourne Sports Tours Sports Lovers Tour – Melbourne is sporting crazy and this tour will give you the sporting fix you must have while visiting. Be sure to include the National Sports Museumand the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG). You will also get a great city tour from Anthony, so even if everyone in your party is not a sporting fanatic you will all enjoy his tour.
6. Cycle upriver on the Yarra River cycle paths from the city as far as you can go – Melbourne is flat and easy to cycle so rent a bike (just behind Federation Square at Federation Wharf) and enjoy the vistas and some fresh air. If you prefer an organised bicycle tour Real Melbourne Bike Tours are excellent and depart from the bike rental office. The tour will take you all over the city from St Kilda to Lygon Street. On your return check out Riverland Bar right next to the bike rental shop, enjoy a beer or wine with a gourmet sausage sizzle and take in the breathtaking views of the city, Princes Bridge and Alexandra Gardens.
7. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens – Australia’s most comprehensive botanical gardens is a magnificent urban retreat any time of year. While there check out the newly restored Guilfoyle’s Volcano which is an irrigation feature that was built in 1876, its most intriguing.
8. Visit the National Gallery of Victoria (two locations at Federation Square & St Kilda Road) – Both galleries are excellent but my pick is the Australian gallery in Federation Square. The architecture of the gallery as well as the collection make it a not to be missed spot for any visitor to Melbourne.
9. Visit the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen – Formerly a private residence this 17 hectare estate now houses an outdoor sculpture garden and three galleries filled with Australia’s best contemporary art. You will also find Shannon Bennett’s restaurant garden and Cafe Vue for a wonderful lunch. It’s a bit of a hike to get there (a 25 minute drive from the city) but well worth the adventure.
10. Visit the exhibition galleries in the dome of the Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria – Here you will find Ned Kelly’s armour, a possible solution to the Jack the Ripper mystery and one of the worlds 100 surviving complete copies of James Audubon’s Birds of America. The book is in double elephant folio (you will get it when you see the book). The gallery and the exhibits are a hidden gem of Melbourne. A bit of history about the Library is that it was the first public library in the world which was open to anyone (in those days libraries were for gentry only). When it opened in 1856 the only requirement for entry was to be 14 years of age or more and to have clean hands!