After travelling up and down the east coast, Melbourne quickly became my favourite Australian city and my home away from home. Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria, one of Australia’s six states. It’s located in south-east Australia and is a short plane ride away from both Australia’s most popular and touristic city, Sydney, and the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane.
Australia may be known for it’s natural wonders and impressive landscapes, but it’s also notorious for its laid back attitude and casual approach to life which was evident in the relaxed pace of its major cities.
The Cultural Capital
As Australia’s cultural capital, Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia after Sydney. It’s also the most diverse city, a melting pot of cultures, with almost half of the population either born outside of Australia or have parents from another country. Coming from London where I grew up with people from all over the world, it felt like home to be in such a multicultural environment.
Melbourne has been repeatedly voted as one of the world’s most liveable cities, credited by its residents for the quality of life. After living there, I’m not surprised. Melbourne may be famed for its coffee culture, but there’s more to do than caffeinate. Throughout you’ll find museums, urban art, fantastic restaurants a plenty, seaside beaches, shopping with access to both global brands and local designers and entertainment, such as outdoor cinema and food festivals. The Yarra River flows right through the city and whilst you can catch a water taxi, you gain greater access with Melbourne’s famed trams. Trams, trains and buses help you get from A to B in and around the city with ease.
Read on to find out Melbourne’s hotspots, landmarks and top attractions…
CBD & Central Melbourne
CBD stands for Melbourne’s Central Business District. CBD is Melbourne’s major financial centre for Australia and the Asia-pacific region. There you’ll find skyscrapers housing the headquarters of some of the biggest banks and corporate companies. The area is bounded by La Trobe Street and Flinders Street (which I’ll get to later). You can get lost in the numerous laneways, which are paved with bars, restaurants, cafes and most probably decorated with street art!
Federation Square sits right on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD. It was purpose-built to house arts facilities, such as the National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre which represents Australian art, and act as a public space. As a top venue for arts, culture and events there is always something going on. Just across the street you’ll find the historical Flinders Street station, one of Melbourne’s many heritage buildings, which gives you direct access into the city.
Flinders street is located within Melbourne’s central business district (CBD). It’s one of the main tourist attractions, known for its “Soho” style. You’ll find a complimentary blend of historic buildings, loft apartments, local fashion designers, chic hotels, great restaurants, cool cafes and trendy bars.
Neighbouring Flinders Street is another of Melbourne city’s major streets, Collins street. Laced with gothic style heritage buildings, Collins is home to high-end everything – classy cafes, five-star hotels, shopping boutiques and designer stores. Its “Paris end” boasts flagship stores for Chanel, Giorgio Armani and Louis Vuitton. Whilst the opposite end is hip, adorned with elegant Art Deco architecture. It’s the best of both worlds for the avid shopper, a mix of global brands and fashion from local designers.
While you’ll see street art all over the city, throughout the city’s laneways and in the surrounding suburbs, Hosier Lane is probably the most famous graffiti spot in Melbourne. Hosier Lane falls between Flinders Street and Collins Street, located right around the corner from Flinders Street Station. A staple of Melbourne’s urban art scene, the cobbled lane way is decorated from head to toe in colourful artwork. And it constantly changes, with layers upon layers of paint applied on a regular basis. For the art lover, it’s a landmark not to be missed.
Queen Victoria Market – Summer Night Market
Slightly north of the city is where you’ll find one of Melbourne’s most legendary attractions, Queen Victoria Market. In the summertime, they have a Night Market which brings together over 60 global street food stalls, 100 plus shopping stalls, bars and music entertainment. The smell of food is thick in the air, so much so that it won’t only lead you to the market, it will also leave with you in your clothes! There is so much choice and the food is so delicious. I advise that you arrive with plenty of room in your stomach and not have a burger beforehand like I did!
On the other end of Victoria Street, you’ll find yourself heading east towards Melbourne Museum. A great place to learn about Melbourne’s existence, the museum shares Australia’s social history, indigenous cultures, science and the environment. Basically, everything from dinosaurs to the icons who shaped Melbourne from the 1800s.
Moving south of the river Yarra…
Southbank located just 1km south of CBD on the other side of the Yarra river. Southank is always full of energy with so much to do thanks to its line-up of cultural venues including the Malthouse theartre, bars and clubs, food court and fine dining, the renowned Crown and the National Gallery of Victoria. Not to mention the phenomenal city views you get from across the river!
The mecca that is Crown is one of the largest casino complexes in the world. Casinos aren’t typically my kind of thing, but the Crown was something to see because it’s not just a glorified casino. There’s a cinema, spa, bowling, arcade games, concerts, night clubs, bars and restaurants. But that’s not all, you can shop at the Crown too from high street favourites through to luxury clothing stores such as Hugo Boss and Burberry. There’s literally something for everyone. We stayed there overnight and took full advantage of the Crown’s spa facilities.
Royal Botanic Gardens – Shrine of Remembrance
Also south of River Yarra and east of Southbank is the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. As soon as you’re inside the grounds, the city noise simply evaporates into thin air. It’s almost like an oasis, a peaceful getaway where you can relax surrounded by lush greenery. Pretty perfect for the nature lovers out there.
Right next door is the Shrine of Remembrance – a Victorian state memorial to Australians who served in global conflicts. It is one of Melbourne’s most important and meaningful landmarks, designed and built by veterans of the first world war. The Shrine of Remembrance sits in an elevated position, a center-piece with panoramic views of Melbourne’s skyline. There’s also the Eternal Flame on the Forecourt which is really something to see.
If shopping is your kind of therapy, then read on. There are several shopping malls in Melbourne where you can buy the latest fashion trends, my favourite being Chadstone, Melbourne’s fashion capital. Other favoured spots are HighPoint in Maribyrnong and Emporium which offer so much choice, you will most certainly find whatever it is that you’re looking for.
There are some fantastic Australian shops which I highly recommend:
Kookai for quality, stylish clothes for any occasion you can wear from day to night.
Lorna Jane my new favourite sportwear brand which offers beautiful prints as well as flattering, functional, feminine cuts.
Bailey Nelson for the coolest and most comfortable sunglasses I’ve ever worn.
General Pants Co which stores the best jeans around.
Mecca where you’ll find all all things beauty with brands from all over the world.
Cotton On the casual go-to store for comfortable wear which also look good on!
Chapel Street is a pretty cool spot to shop in, but I’d say it’s rather limited. It runs through Prahran and South Yarra and has some great sports stores like Rebel. According to locals, isn’t what it used to be, but what it has over the major shopping centres is local designers and vintage treasures you won’t find elsewhere. And if vintage is what you’re into then you have to visit Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and get yourself a pair of cut off denim shorts from the American Vintage store.
So there you have it, my take on Melbourne’s attractions and tips on getting around the city.
And that’s not everything! Still to come…
- Melbourne food! All you need to know about brunch, burgers, dinner and dessert.
- Day trips! Stunning beaches, the Great Ocean Road and the ultimate spa experience at Hot Springs.