MELBOURNE is the most European of Australia’s cities, and while it may lack a truly stunning natural setting or in-your-face sights, it has its share of subtle charms. Here are some tips when visiting this modest but enchanting city.
1) Stay at the Novotel in Collins
A central hotel, most convenient for shopping and dining all around. It is an easy walk to the popular Bourke Street Mall and is located across the landmark Regent Theatre where you can enjoy a taste of Broadway. The iconic Flinders Station – considered the Grand Central Station of Victoria and Southbank – a bustling waterfront hub along the Yarra river is only a few minutes walk away.
Among all the hotels I’ve researched here. This is the best value for money option for families. Not only is the location key, its rooms are spacious and comfortable and it includes a good range for breakfast.
Other hotels you can consider for the same standard maybe the Holiday Inn along Flinders. It also has a good location, dependable amenities and great service. If you want to splurge, don’t consider anything else but The Rialto (Hotel Intercontinental) along Collins – it’s luxury at its best.
2) Eat in …..
Negroni Bar & Grill
We had lunch there on our first day. We chanced upon this restaurant while walking along Collins. We came right after the rush lunch hours so we had the restaurant all to ourselves. They seated us at the Bar lounge in the basement which was actually a nice setting. I can imagine how chic their evening cocktails would be. They serve great Italian food for a reasonable price. Service was friendly and reliable. The restaurant is a popular venue for business meetings as well as casual evening get-togethers.
Beside the Negroni Bar & Restaurant was this charming bakery. The kids enjoyed the variety of cupcakes freshly baked here. You can’t go wrong with their signature Red Velvet but I also liked their Lemon Meringue and other concoctions.
If you love steak, you can’t go wrong at Rare. The menu has helpful descriptions of the different steaks on offer and even a diagram showing which part of the cow they come from. The side dishes were also outstanding, and wine lovers will appreciate the extensive wine list. If you can fit it in, there are indulgent desserts or a selection of cheeses to finish off your meal. Excellent customer service – our server was warm and highly efficient.
The facade of this restaurant is very unassuming of a coffee shop. The open kitchen has some food items on display that I thought it was a showroom rather than a restaurant. I was so curious to try this place so I dragged my ever reliable food partner, Adi to accompany me for brunch. It is a smart spot for speciality coffee and meals in a bright space with industrial looks and a homey vibe.
We wanted to keep our brunch light so we decided to share a plate of Buttermilk French Toast, Rhubarb and Apple with peppered caramel and cold drip coffee mascarpone. Of course with our favorite breakfast protein fix – bacon on the side. It was so delicious we shamelessly cleaned our plate like it was new. They have some breakfast specials on the board but you can also order Ala carte. It is definitely worth trying to brighten up one of your mornings.
My mother in law met her friend for a hearty buffet breakfast here. Located on the 35F of the prestigious Sofitel, the restaurant boasts stunning views of the city and a lovely atmosphere paired with excellent food perfect for any special occasion. Apart from the ambiance, the staff really stress on the importance of presentation. The dishes were divine and so beautifully plated it was almost enough to eat with our eyes!
Even their bathrooms were a feature. I never thought checking out a bathroom could be so rewarding. The views from the wash basins are a treat as well. We found ourselves taking “selfies” in the loo like the other guests.
Blue Train Cafe
It is a fun place by the Southbank with a very friendly atmosphere. We were looking for a casual restaurant to have our last meal in Melbourne together and we decided to select this place that ticks everyone’s craving. Their menu offers a wide selection of comfort food – from pasta dishes, pizzas to steak and seafood. Everyone was content with their orders. The food is nothing fantastic but it’s a great venue for family meals. Pricing is a bit steep considering its in a popular setting but the serving is big so 2-3 light eaters can share.
Cafe Baci – Crowne Melbourne
Café Baci Melbourne is a dine-in restaurant that offers traditional Italian pizzas, pasta, risotto and mains in a casual setting with a good selection of Italian and local wines. Light snacks, including coffee, cakes and gelato are also available all day.
3) See these city attractions ….
Situated on the sunny southern shore of the Yarra, Southbank offers a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Relax in a waterside venue and watch the people passing by. Enjoy lunch, or a spot of retail therapy at nearby Southgate (a popular restaurant and shopping destination), before heading to one of the nearby art galleries, or theaters for a night out.
The Regent Theatre has survived fire, flood, abandonment and repeated threats of demolition to regain its place as one of Australia’s most prized theatres.
The theatre has been meticulously restored, brilliantly recapturing the former glory of its 1929 grand picture palace days.
The Regent’s lavish rococo interior creates a magical atmosphere for concerts and events in the downstairs Plaza Ballroom, and blockbuster stage productions such as The Lion King, Sunset Boulevard, Love Never Dies and King Kong in the upstairs main theatre.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Opposite Federation Square, on Melbourne’s busiest intersection, the neo-Gothic St Paul’s Cathedral is a Melbourne landmark, built between 1880 and 1931.
Constructed in sandstone, the current building replaced an earlier bluestone church, built on the site where the first public Christian services in Melbourne were led by Dr Alexander Thomson in 1836.
Designed by William Butterfield, the cathedral’s architecture is described as Gothic transitional, combining Early English and Decorative Gothic styles. Highlights include the fine polychromatic brickwork, beautifully patterned floor tiles and mosaics, banded stonework, fine timbered roof and tiled dado walls.
Before Federation Square took the honours, Flinders Street Station was Melbourne’s favourite meeting place, hence the catchphrase ‘meet me under the clocks’.
Flinders Street Station is Australia’s oldest train station, and with its distinctive yellow facade and green copper dome it’s a city icon. Takeaway stands line the concourse, and the upper floors were purpose-built to house a library, gym and a lecture hall, later used as a ballroom.
Flinders Street is the busiest suburban railway station in the southern hemisphere, with over 1500 trains and 110,000 commuters passing through each day. Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, its 708-metre main platform is the fourth longest railway platform in the world.
4) Shop at …..
Collins Place offers a complete indulgence for everyone. You’ll find local and international fashion stores, cafés and great entertainment.
For mouth-watering cuisine Collins Place has an excellent choice of food including Laurent, Rush Sushi, Burger Edge, Feeling Fruity and Kenzan Japanese restaurant. For entertainment there is a Keno theatre showing the best new art-house and alternative films.
Bourke Street Mall
Bourke Steet Mall is the main CBD shopping area. Here you will find the main stores like Myers and David Jones. Lots of small shops and cafes nearby. It is an ideal place for window shopping and rummaging for trendy finds.
Through the ornate archway, past the marble lions and you are transported to the clattering, chattering streets of China, a world of dumplings, dragonfruit and drunken chicken.
Melbourne’s own slice of China is a hub for the local Chinese community, and is the focus for Chinese New Year celebrations and other festivities. It stretches along Little Bourke Street, all the way from Spring Street down to Swanston Street, spilling into the laneways in between.
This is the place to try Chinese and Asian food. There are excellent restaurants specialising in Chinese regional cuisines, with a few Korean, Japanese and Thai options as well.
Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is much more than the city’s fresh-food shopping mecca – it’s a historic landmark, a tourist attraction and a Melbourne institution.
Spread over several city blocks, with more than 600 retailers, Vic Market is a true reflection of Melbourne’s cosmopolitan makeup. Shoppers can find everything from fruit and vegetables to local and imported gourmet foods, fashion and general merchandise.
DFO South Wharf is home to over 100 leading Australian and International stores that offer massive discounts off their every-day retail prices, all under the one roof.
DFO features a successful formula of fashion, children’s wear, footwear, handbags, jewellery, accessories, manchester, sporting goods and apparel. There are food options for every taste, making it easy to replenish in between shopping for bargains. From coffee to snacks and meals, you can grab a bite from one of the beautifully appointed cafés.
5) Do these…….
Federation Square is Melbourne’s most prominent meeting place and a unique cultural precinct which brings together a creative mix of attractions, museums and galleries, and the finest of dining with its many restaurants, cafes and bars.
Federation Square is also a hub of Melbourne activities with function centres, guided tours at 11am and 2pm Monday – Saturday and over 2000 events held annually, including multicultural festivals, markets, film screenings, sporting events and much more.
Queen Victoria Market is more than just a Melbourne shopping mecca – it’s an historic landmark, a tourist attraction and a local shopping institution.
This vast and vibrant centre of trade and commerce was officially opened on 20 March 1878 and has served consumers needs for more than 120 years.
The Vic Market as it is known by Melburnian’s is a great place to get a feel for Melbourne’s diverse cultures.
Spread over 7 hectares, it is the largest open air Market in the southern hemisphere. Almost one thousand traders sell everything from exotic Australian fruit and vegetables and local and imported gourmet foods, meat, fish and poultry to hardware, manchester, clothing and authentic Australian artefacts and souvenirs.
3. Crown Casino
There is always something happening at Crown from live entertainment to themed displays and riverside festivals, Crown truly is A World of Entertainment.
The Crown Entertainment Complex located on the north bank of the Yarra River combines gaming, hotel, convention, restaurant, retail and comprehensive entertainment facilities in one of the most innovative and technologically-advanced sites in the world.
Created to reach for the sky, nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the awe inspiring view of Melbourne from the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform.
Skydeck 88 is the only observation deck in the world that can thrill you with ‘The Edge’ – a glass cube which projects 3 metres out from the building – with you in it – suspended almost 300 metres above the ground!
5. Great Ocean Road
Described as one of the world’s greatest coastal drives, a trip down the Great Ocean Road with it’s severity and striking contrasts will remain etched in your memory forever.
The Great Ocean Road region demonstrates the power of the sea as it ruthlessly battles the land. View pristine beaches, sleepy seaside hamlets and the majestic monoliths dramatically protruding from the sea.
6. Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
Visitors to Melbourne Star will enjoy a wealth of information about Melbourne, including its history, culture, eccentricities and the ‘Star’ qualities of modern Melbourne, through a pre-boarding display and story panels, ‘Tales of Melbourne’, and via specially researched cabin audio.
7. Melbourne Zoo
Over 250 species from around the world can be found in the beautifully landscaped settings of Melbourne Zoo, just five minutes from the city centre.
Stroll through the lush Asian and African rainforests, Australian bushland and even underwater! Walk where tigers roam and monkeys swing from tree to tree. See eye-to-eye with Orang-utans in their special elevated exhibit, explore the Trail of Elephants, and then head down the bush track to see unique Australia wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, wombats and emus. Submerge yourself in our underwater world to see Victoria’s iconic Little Penguins and Australian Fur Seals.
There is something new to see and do each season at Melbourne Zoo. Our new Lion Gorge experience will have you come face-to-face with our magnificent African Lion bachelor group. Lion presentations are daily at 1.20pm, when the three lion brothers share lunch. As a part of our Lion Gorge experience, you’ll also see our new African Wild Dog pack settling into their new home, as well as be amazed by the critically endangered Philippines Crocodile.
Let the kids free at Growing Wild, a world-first exhibit focused on creating play opportunities and nurturing an early love of nature. The exhibit is filled with animals, sculptures, tunnels and sounds, so kids can scramble, crawl and climb or stand look-out like a meerkat. Get up close to our irresistible Ring-tailed Lemurs inside Melbourne Zoo’s walk-through Lemur Island exhibit! This new multi-million dollar experience is specially designed to bring visitors and lemurs together in the same space, enabling you to get closer to our lemurs than ever before.
Zoo keeper talks and feeding times are a great opportunity for visitors to find out more about the fascinating world of wildlife and the conservation programs Melbourne Zoo supports.
Children under 16 years of age receive free entry every weekend, during Victorian Government school holidays and on Victorian public holidays.
8. Melbourne Sealife Aquarium
Melbourne Aquarium features 12 amazing zones of discovery, including interactive animal encounters and iconic state of the art displays.
Home to thousands of aquatic animals, the must-see SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium is an entertaining and educational experience with four amazing worlds to discover and enjoy.
The state-of-the-art Antarctica exhibit provides face-to-face experiences and magic moments with majestic King and Gentoo penguins. See them splash in the pool and walk beside them as they slide across the snow covered ice. Interactive displays and stunning visuals are sure to entertain and educate you about the coldest, windiest and driest continent on earth.
Prepare to be surprised as you experience Seahorse Pier, Seahorse Pier, a whole-new exhibit housing the largest collection of seahorse and seadragon species in the world. Experience a rainbow of stunning colours and weird and wonderful creatures in their new, mystically-themed underwater wonderland.
Journey from River to Reef and engage with the mysterious sea jellies and Giant Pacific Octopus. Be amazed by colourful tropical animals in the stunning Coral Atoll and a wide variety of exotic freshwater animals such as sharks, turtles, frogs, snakes, eels.
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium’s 2.2 million litre Oceanarium features a panoramic Fish Bowl viewing area that puts you right in the action as you are surrounded by an underwater world filled with intimidating sharks, massive stingrays, turtles and thousands of amazing aquatic animals in Sharks Alive.
With daily animal feeds and diver presentations adding to the adventure, SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium is a completely engaging experience.
9. Phillip Island Penguin Parade
Travel from Melbourne to Phillip Island to watch hundreds of little penguins emerge from the surf to return to their burrows for the night. Marvel at the penguins as they waddle up the beach, feed their young, and vocally interact with each other. Phillip Island has the largest little penguin colony in the world, and you get to see them in action in their natural habitat! En route to the penguin parade, drive through the affluent suburbs of Melbourne, outlying farming communities, and the quaint fishing village of San Remo.
10. Sovereign Hill | Ballarat
Step back in time and experience the Australian gold Rush era. Explore the wonders of Ballarat as well as Sovereign Hill, a replica of an old gold-mining town, where you can tour the underground mines, ride a stagecoach and pan for gold! An optional addition to your tour is a visit to the Ballarat Wildlife Park where you can get up close and personal with the creatures of the Australian bush, and, if you dare, a crocodile at feeding time! Take a chance on striking gold.