Exploring Australia’s culture capital – Melbourne

For what Melbourne lacks in beautiful beaches, it makes up in culture and food. Melbourne is a true city destination where you can dress up glam for a night in the town and follow it up with a tasty brunch and the perfectly brewed flat white. A multicultural city, the mix of cultures can be seen in its Chinatown, Lygon Street (also known as Little Italy) and world-renowned restaurants. It may rain in Melbourne and it sometimes gets cold, but all of this can be forgiven with the endless nooks and crannies throughout the city to explore.

As an Australian myself, I have delighted in coming to Melbourne for weekend breaks over the years.

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Eureka Skydeck 88

7 Riverside Quay, Southbank VIC 3006, Australia

The Eureka Sky Deck is housed in Eureka Tower, a skyscraper that is close to 300m tall. Its claim to fame is that it’s the highest sky deck in the Southern Hemisphere, and it gives spectacular views over the Yarra River and the city. You can visit both in the day and at night, standing in a glass platform that slides out over the city. The effect leaves you feeling as though you’re standing on air, hundreds of metres in the air, with Melbourne spread out below you. It costs AUS$20 to visit.

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Shrine of Remembrance

Birdwood Ave, Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia

One of Australia’s best war memorials, the Shrine of Remembrance is a moving museum dedicated to those lost in all the conflicts Australia has fought in since its foundation. Melbourne’s iconic landmark, located next to the Botanical Gardens, the Shrine of Remembrance wouldn’t look out of place in the centre of London with its classical architecture. Free to visit, a highlight of the museum is the last post which is played every day at 5pm to remember the dead.

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Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

When I was younger, my dad would take me skiing in Falls Creek every Australian winter. During our stopover in Melbourne, we would stay in a hotel adjacent to Queen Victoria Market and this was my highlight for my stay in the city. I would hunt down bargains with my pocket money, getting a cheap pair of jeans or a new handbag at a discounted price. The Queen Victoria Market is an icon in Melbourne, selling not just the latest fashions at discounted prices, but delicious coffee, fresh food and imported gourmet goods too.

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Great Ocean Road

1 Great Ocean Rd, Lavers Hill VIC 3238, Australia

If you want to escape Melbourne for a day or two, the drive up the Great Ocean Road from the city’s centre cannot be beaten. You will witness sweeping cliffs and breathtaking views over the sparkling blue ocean that looks like it stretches across the horizon forever. At certain points you can stop off on the journey and spot koala bears up in the trees. It’s a rare feat to see these animals in the wild, and the Great Ocean Road is a beautiful place to do it. Another highlight is the Twelve Apostles – giant rocks that jut out of the ocean creating an unforgettable landscape.

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Hosier Lane

Hosier Ln, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

When you think of a place being a ‘culture capital’ you might think along the lines of fine art, but that’s not necessarily the case for Melbourne. Some of the city’s best art actually can be found up and down the laneways of Melbourne’s CBD in the form of street art. Some of the best alleyways to take in this creative art scene is on Hosier Lane, Union Lane, Yarra Place, ACDC Lane and Duckboard Place. Make sure you bring your camera!

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Royal Botanic Gardens

Birdwood Ave, South Yarra VIC 3141, Australia

Some visitors criticise Melbourne for its bad weather, and it’s true that the city doesn’t turn on the sunshine as much as its northern rival Sydney. But when the weather does put on a good show, one of the best places to be is the Botanical Garden. Situated right next to the heart of the city, across the bridge next to Melbourne’s Flinder’s Street Train Station, you can spend hours exploring the natural beauty of these gardens, which are free to enter.

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Rod Laver Arena

Olympic Blvd, Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia

Not only a cultural city, Melbourne is also known as a sporting giant of Australia. Whether cricket, football or tennis, a match of some kind can be found being played out in one of the many sporting facilities around Melbourne each day. Rod Laver Arena is one of the famous ones, and we visited during the Australian Open, when the crowd was electric and everyone was vying for the chance to see the world’s top tennis stars in action

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Melbourne Cricket Ground

Brunton Avenue, Melbourne, VIC 3002 Australia

Home to Australian Rules Football, it is the ultimate sporting venue in Australia. But the MCG doesn’t host AFL matches, it also hosts cricket, rugby and soccer games too. If you’re in Melbourne, you should venture to this iconic venue and take in the atmosphere of a game. Housed in Melbourne’s sporting precinct, close to the Rod Laver Arena and other large sporting venues, the MCG is easy to access via rail and tram. The site also features the National Sports Museum.

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Chadstone Shopping Centre

1341 Dandenong Road, Chadstone VIC 3148, Australia

Chadstone Shopping Centre is in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and is the biggest shopping centre in Australia. The commercial hub opened in the ‘60s and has everything for sale that a shopaholic could possibly desire. You can easily spend a day shopping here and still not cover all the stores. When the sales are on you can grab some great bargains, but be wary that it will be crowded! The centre is easily accessible from Melbourne’s city centre, taking 25 minutes, by a free shuttle that services the route.

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This area of Melbourne is sometimes overlooked by those visiting the city, but it shouldn’t be. The suburb is trendy in its own right and has its own gardens, vintage stores and cafes that are fun to explore. St Kilda also has its own beach lined with restaurants where you can grab a meal with your toes in the sand. You can rent a bike and ride here, or catch a tram to the area. The botanical garden is also worth a look.

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Two Row

351 Smith St, Fitzroy VIC 3065, Australia

If you want to experience boutique beers, or cult beer as this establishment likes to call them, then Tow Row is the place to come. With an array of delicious ales on tap, you can order a pint and then retreat to the relaxed setting upstairs, or chill out on one of the outside tables. The décor is simple with wooden floors and leather couches, but it’s a comfortable place to share a drink with friends. A pint will set you back between AUS$9 and AUS$12.

Crown Towers

8 Whiteman St | Southbank, Melbourne, Victoria 3006, Australia

If you want a chance to put on your little black dress or suit, this is the place to visit. The Crown Casino in Melbourne isn’t just a casino but a complete entertainment complex with restaurants, bars, boutiques and a fancy hotel. Every night there is a fire show along the boardwalk between the hotel and the Yarra River, called Fireballs, which happens every hour in the evening until midnight.
Inside the foyer of the casino, every 15 minutes there is also a colour and light display at its main water feature.

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Luna Park

18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda VIC 3182, Australia

A historic amusement park that opened in 1912 in St Kilda, this is a great place to take the kids for a fun day out. Unlike other theme parks, you can enter Luna Park for free and then just pay individually for each ride you choose to go on. The entrance of the theme park is through a clown’s mouth, and this image is iconic in its own right. The ornate carousel and wooden rollercoaster are other highlights.

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Chin Chin

125 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

One of Melbourne’s most popular restaurants, you have to arrive at around 5:30 or 6pm to secure a table. The hassle is worth it though – for AUS$69 per person, you can enjoy a selection of the restaurants best dishes. You might think this is expensive, but you certainly won’t regret it. The cuisine is modern south-east Asian and there is also a downstairs bar to enjoy a beverage before or after your meal… or perhaps while you’re waiting for a table to become available.

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Hakata Gensuke Ramen

168 Russell St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

Located on Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD, this is the restaurant to come to for delicious ramen noodles. (There is also a sister restaurant in Hawthorn). The restaurants specialise in pork bone noodle soup and dipping noodle, known as Tonkotsu Ramen and Tsukemen in Japanese. A tasty bowl of ramen will warm you up on a cold Melbourne day, and you might want to end up sampling both restaurants as some dishes are only available in certain places.

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Chinatown, Melbourne

Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

The original Chinese population came to Victoria in the mid-1800s chasing the promise of riches during Australia’s gold rush era. Today, a large population of Chinese remain in Melbourne and the city has arguably one of the best Chinatowns in the country. During the year, there are many traditional festivals and activities in this part of town, making it a vibrant place to explore. And with the restaurants in the area serving up delicious food, this is a location not to be missed.

Footscray is a suburb 5km west of Melbourne. A rough and tumble, yet up and coming area, it could be considered the Brooklyn of Melbourne. There are more than 130 restaurants in Footscray, dining establishments that reflect on the immigration population of the area, who come from Vietnam and East Africa predominantly. One of these restaurants is Lentil as Anything where you can pay as you please, with all the profits going towards helping support a range of services for immigrants, the unemployed and refugees. There is also a large market selling Asian produce, called Little Saigon.

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State Library of Victoria

328 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC, Australia

The famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, led a criminal gang through Victoria, terrorising and robbing people during his lifetime before being captured and hanged. You can see his armour displayed at the library, with bullet holes from his shootouts visible. The library itself is a beautiful building to visit, with its glass dome as the centrepiece of the space. The library always has other exhibitions on, displaying art and historical artefacts. There’s also a gift shop selling a whole range of books and journals. The library and its exhibitions are free to visit.

Chapel Street

Melbourne, VIC 3141, Australia

If you like to shop on your travels, then you can’t miss Chapel Street when you’re in Melbourne. Located in South Yarra, you can catch the number 8 tram from the centre of town to get to this shopping precinct. Here you can find vintage stores, retro shops, and Australian designer outlets like Collette Dinnigan and Alannah Hill. If you’re not too exhausted after a day of shopping, then at night you can dance your high heeled shoes off at one of the many music and bar venues in this precinct.

National Gallery of Victoria

180 Saint Kilda Road, Melbourne, VIC 3006 Australia

The National Gallery of Victoria is the pinnacle of Melbourne’s culture scene. There are more than 65,000 artworks on display here, featuring both Australian art and international displays. When I visited, there was a wonderful exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier, which was the first of its kind. The show has now moved to Paris, but there’s bound to be another brilliant show on when you visit. The entrance to the regular gallery (not including one-off exhibitions) is free.

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ACMI Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Housed in Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square, The Australian Centre for the Moving Image showcases the best of Australian film, television and internet over the years. It’s a free museum to visit, although you have to pay extra for its special exhibitions like the David Bowie one that is coming up. The free section, titled Screen Worlds: The Story of Film, Television and Digital Culture will keep you entertained for an hour or two, and the display includes costumes from famous Australian actors like Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman.

Lygon St

Princes Hill VIC 3054, Australia

Australia prides itself on its coffee, and Lygon Street is where Melbourne’s café culture was born. Also known as Little Italy, Lygon Street is the place to come if you want a tasty espresso, or to dine on top Italian fare. Throughout the day and night, Lygon Street is heaving with people, and Brunetti’s Carlton is the place to come to finish off your evening. The restaurant serves drool-worthy pizza, although the highlight has to be its hundreds of cakes and ice creams that will tempt you from behind the display glass. Come hungry!

8bit

8 Droop Street, Footscray, Maribyrnong, Victoria 3011, Australia

For under AUS$10 you can get a tasty burger at 8bit. A favourite for meat lovers is the Altered Beast, with beef, bacon, cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, 8BIT sauce and BBQ sauce for AUS$9.50. Located at 8 Droop Street in Footscray, 8bit also serves up hamburgers, milkshakes, fries and hotdogs. The restaurant space is kitted out like an American diner, with a counter-service bar top and retro video game-themed decor. Not the healthiest place to eat out, but a one that’s most delicious.

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Heide Museum of Modern Art

7 Templestowe Road, Melbourne, VIC 3105 Australia

This gallery is an art space, dining area and garden.There are fifteen acres to explore, and the grounds are a mix of art and architecture. It used to be a neglected dairy farm, before it was bought by John and Sunday Reed in 1934. They turned it into the space it is now, planting many trees and establishing places such as the Osage Orange grove and violet tunnel. Cafe Vue Heide uses seasonal produce at their restaurant.

The Little Library

k250/211 La Trobe Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

In a country where books are ridiculously overpriced, this place is a welcome relief for book loves. People can swap and share books they've read, and thousands have already done just this. The free book exchange is appealing to many and this place has been popular since its opening a couple of years ago. If you don't have a book to swap you can 'borrow' one and return it when you're done.

Pellegrini's Espresso Bar

66 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

There's a reason this place doesn't have a website - it doesn't need one. The first ever espresso machine to be delivered to Australia from Italy was to this cafe, and it's the original coffee shop that first created the cafe culture that is so engrained in Australia today. In many ways the place hasn't changed since it's opening in 1954 - it still has red vinyl stools and a checker board floor

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Block Arcade

Shop 23, Block Arcade 282 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

This arcade is a little laneway of shops that runs between Collins St and Little Collins St. It is pretty old for Melbourne - being built between 1891 and 1893 and designed by architect David C. Askew. The brief for the constructions was to create something that was like the Galleria Vittoria in Milan. It is quite a swanky place, think mosaic tiled flooring, glass canopy, wrought iron and carved stone finishings.

Ian Potter Centre

Federation Square, Flinders St & Russell Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

This centre has over 20 galleries showing off the history of Australian art, spanning from original Aboriginal art from decades ago, right through to the contemporary period. There are galleries dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, which is great if you're looking for a taste of culture while you're in the middle of the city.

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Fitzroy Gardens

Wellington Parade, East Melbourne VIC 3002, Australia

A beautiful and tranquil place to come to relax with a picnic hamper on a sunny Melbourne day. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and explore the trails throughout the park. All of it is free to visit aside from Cook's cottage. The gardens are more than 150 years old and are still going strong with over 2 million visitors each year.

Lolo and Wren

484 Albion St | West Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

A delicious place to come for either breakfast or lunch. If there's one thing Australia does well, it's brunch, and Lolo and Wren is the perfect spot to find a good and tasty brunch. I love the caramelised pear, almond and walnut pancakes. I mean, who wouldn't?! It comes with vanilla Marscapone, rhubarb and blueberry compote too. Drool.

Last updated at Aug 09, 2015