Think of Melbourne like you would cool East London – just with better weather, less pollution, nearby beaches, world-class coffee everywhere, and a brunch scene that rivals all others.
And, like London’s own home of hipsters, liberal Melbourne has its own set of impressive art galleries, museums, bars and pubs, music venues, and a whole heap of well-manicured beards and top knots.
Sadly, many people who visit Australia tend leave Melbourne off their travel itinerary, instead opting for trips to Sydney, Queensland and Canberra (and we still don’t know why people even go to Canberra; this city of politicians has very little going for it).
So we’ve decided to show off all the reasons why any trip Down Under must include a good few days in multicultural Melbourne.
The Melbourne food scene is as huge as it is diverse, so let’s start with one of the city’s most favourite past times – brunch.
Melbournians delight in eating smashed avo on toast with the perfectly poached egg every weekend. But they often go further, coming up with more inventive and exciting dishes served with the best coffee you’ll ever sip. Try out Auction Rooms, Finders Keepers, Two Birds One Stone, and Hardware Societe. And be sure to visit Lune Croissanterie for the best pastries in Australia.
You can then head to Victoria Street in Richmond for the best Vietnamese restaurants (choose whichever looks the busiest), including Chin Chin, Lucy Liu and Mamasita in the CBD, Chinatown for cheap dumplings where you can bring your own booze, Victoria Market for fresh produce and the famous Night Market, as well as Lygon Street in Carlton for a huge array of classic Italian bistros.
There is enough on the menu to ensure you return home with a bit of a bigger belly (hopefully a slightly more tanned one, too). Embrace this inevitability from the outset, and eat as much as you can, trying as many different cuisines as possible. This is an immigrant country after all – and each new culture that settled here has brought yet another delicious treat to eat.
Art and culture
Melbourne is known as the centre of culture in Australia. Start off at the National Gallery of Victoria for world-class exhibitions celebrating local and international artists. And be sure to experience one of their Friday night openings where you can look at art, listen to live music, and get a bit boozy.
And if you have enough time, check out the Immigration Museum, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the Ian Potter Museum of Art, and the Centre for Contemporary Art.
Melbourne is also known for its street art. The best can be found on Hosier Lane, Centre Place, AC/DC Lane, Caledonia Lane, Croft Alley, and Duckboard Place. And, if you go on a sunny day, you’ll almost certainly see some artists doing their thing.
Comedy shows, theatre and music are held at the famous Arts Centre but smaller and more intimate gigs are always being held on Brunswick Street, Smith Street and Sydney Road – think of these areas as what edgy Shoreditch used to be before gentrification. Here, you’ll also find cool cocktail bars, clubs, and kick-ass kebabs.
Melbourne is located on a bay, and so has its own beaches. Strolls along the boardwalk at St Kilda are a huge hit for tourists while the beaches around Brighton, Elwood and Williamstown are notorious for days of tanning and swimming.
But the best beaches are located a little further out. Get a car for the day and drive along the Great Ocean Road for crazy views of the coast and surrounding forests behind Lorne and beyond.
Torquay is also a hub for surfers (both professionals and amateurs) and is a good spot to stop off in for fish and chips, shopping at the surf stores and experiencing the lifestyle of a small beach town.
But if hikes up mountains, swimming in lakes and camping in forests are more your thing then trek out to the Grampians National Park, Wilsons Promontory or the Dandenong Ranges. Each is worth exploring – and don’t fear the snakes and spiders.
The local flora and fauna in these parts of the world are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Seeing kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras in the wild is extra special, so swap the zoo for the real thing.
Lead image by Roberto Seba