Published October 2019
It’s not that other parts of the country don’t have great museums, exceptional restaurants, neighborhoods not featured in travel guides, or an interesting cultural scene… But Melbourne has all this and more! Find out how to take advantage of what the city has to offer with this basic guide:
The CBD is a mainstay of travel guides – it’s the acronym for Central Business District, which is on the outskirts of Federation Square. Opened in 1854, Flinders Street Station, the oldest train station in the city, is an architectural icon with its yellow structure and copper dome whose construction was completed in 1910. An old platform is home to part of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, dedicated to audiovisual materials and digital culture. Since Federation Square is important for the city’s railway network, it offers easy access to other tourist attractions – especially because it’s located in the zone where the famous (and efficient) tram network is free.
The laneways and arcades for pedestrians, which are very characteristic of Melbourne’s urban planning, provided fertile ground for urban art to flourish. Two of the most famous are a few feet from one another: Hosier Lane, where the panels change frequently, and AC/DC Lane, which pays homage to one of the most famous Australian bands.
It’s likely that your search for graffiti art will take you to Chinatown. The neighborhood also has laneways that hide treasures – one of them, Duckboard Place, is the address for the great dumplings at Lee Ho Fook, which offers Chinese food with a modern style. Places like the Chinese Museum tell the story of this community with over 1.2 million people while displaying the largest Chinese dragon in the world in one of its halls. But the neighborhood is also home to Filipinos, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indians. The last two are present in the perfumed curry dishes at Chin Chin, a restaurant that defines itself as “essentially Australian with an Asian touch.” Australia is, after all, an island of Western culture in the East.
Without leaving the city, it’s easy to go to St Kilda Beach to enjoy the sun. Just hop on a tram or bus to go to its palm tree-lined shore. But before, explore the place’s traditional pastry shops like Monarch Cakes, which has been in business for almost a century; or have some fun on the roller coaster or Ferris wheel at Luna Park. Another option is putting your feet on the sand and walking to the south, to Brighton Beach, where the scenery is comprised of charming colorful huts. In the background, you can see the skyscrapers in the city center.
There are many options for cultural activities in Melbourne: the aforementioned Australian Centre for the Moving Image (see item about the city center), where you can find films, electronic games, and digital culture; the Melbourne Museum, for natural history; the National Gallery of Victoria, with two galleries for Australian art, in the city center, and international art, in St Kilda; the State Library of Victoria, with thousands of publications that can be accessed by anyone; and the National Sports Museum, located inside the cricket stadium, where you can learn in practice about popular sports among Aussies, like football and rugby.
The city’s cultural effervescence can be experienced in the old blue-collar suburbs that have become hip neighborhoods, like Collingwood and Fitzroy. In the latter, look for items created by local designers and artists among organic producers and confectioners in the old junk yard that’s home to The Rose Street Artists’ Market. When the night falls, the city’s horizon lights up and can be seen from the terrace at the restaurant Naked for Satan. Drinks are served to the sounds of hip hop at the Laundry Bar.