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Set on Port Philip Bay, the city of Melbourne was founded in 1835 and is now the second-largest conurbation in Australia. The downtown district clusters around the River Yarra estuary and the rest of the city spreads out southwards along the bay and into the rural hinterland. In 1847, Melbourne was formally declared a city by Queen Victoria and saw its glory days during the mid-19th century gold rush.

Melbourne nowadays is known for its culture and the glorious parks which earned it the nickname of ‘Garden City’. Its traditional and contemporary music, dance and art, as well as its laid-back lifestyle resulted in the award of ‘world’s most liveable city’ in both 2011 and 2012 by the Economist Group’s Intelligence Unit. The Victorian architecture, galleries and museums appeal to history buffs, and the four million Melburnians in residence are multicultural and sports-mad.

The city’s wide variety of landmarks and activities attract a large number of UK tourists, and it’s a great base for touring Victoria’s Grampian National Park, viewing the penguin colonies on Philip Island or driving the scenic Great Ocean Road. A Melbourne-based tour around the locations used for the popular TV series Neighbours is an added attraction for many.

The Bohemian quarter of Inner East boasts a plethora of character pubs and quirky boutiques and, to see and be seen at night, upscale Stonnington is the place. Historic Clarendon in South Melbourne is the hub of the city, and the central business district holds the glamorous Docklands complex.

Transportation in the city is top-notch via taxis, trains, buses and trams, and most of the sights and the best hotels are within the central area. The tram network is the world’s largest, radiating out from the centre and offering a free, vintage tram, the City Circle service, for tourists. Easy sightseeing is also provided by bus, with the free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle stopping at favourite attractions and running every 15 minutes.

Melbourne arts and culture

Melbourne’s arts and culture are as diverse as its over four million multicultural residents, with the city considered Australia’s cultural hub. From its 14 museums displaying everything from the city’s nearly 200-year history to the region’s fascinating aboriginal culture through opera, all forms of dance, theatre and comedy performances to its lively fundraisers and festivals, there’s always something going on in this city.

A trail around Melbourne arts and culture begins at the world-class Melbourne Museum itself, with its stunning exhibits of everything from ancient world empires to the indigenous aboriginal culture and lifestyle. The Immigration Museum explores the when, how and why of the creation of the city, and the tales of the migrants who arrived from every corner of the world for a new life. The Chinese Museum is a cornerstone of Melbourne’s Chinatown and the Moorabbin Air Museum traces the history of Australian aviation and the Flying Doctor service.

Theatre in Melbourne is very much alive in all its forms, from the Australian Ballet Company, the Victoria Opera, the Opera Australia and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, and the internationally-known Melbourne Symphony Orchestra all regular performers at the Victorian Arts Centre and the National Theatre. The Melbourne Theatre Company and many smaller professional performance groups all give regular shows at the city’s many arts venues.

Contemporary music and dance thrive here, especially in the entertainment district of St Kilda, and there are regular gigs featuring international as well as local bands, concerts and jazz festivals. Afro-Cuban and Latin American music and dance are favourites, and events such as Melbourne Music Week and the two-week long Dance Massif draw many thousands of visitors, as do the Melbourne Fringe Festival, the Melbourne Jazz Festival and the huge Big Day Out featuring headlining acts from across the world.

Melbourne’s café and restaurant scene

Lovers of international foods from all over the world will be in heaven here, as the foodie scene represents the cuisine of the dozens of nationalities making up the multicultural city’s population. In general, restaurants in Melbourne are high-quality and affordable, and are scattered around the inner city as well as in some suburbs. Almost every world cuisine is represented, with specific districts known for specific gastronomic groups.

Southbank and Carlton are known for their Italian restaurants and, although both districts are somewhat touristy, the eateries in them serve authentic and well-priced dishes. For visitors keen on Southeast Asian cuisine, there’s plenty of choice in Victoria Street, Docklands, Prahran and South Yarra, and the Vietnamese food is particularly tasty.

Brunswick’s Sydney Road is home to a plethora of Greek, Turkish, Lebanese and Middle Eastern restaurants, reflecting the high number of migrants from those shores, and St Kilda, a hub for Melbourne’s café and restaurant scene, offers a choice of high-end and middle range eateries, with the best found on Ackland and Fitzroy streets. For a taste of home, UK visitors should head to the bayside suburbs for their typically British fish and chip shops.

For an unusual culinary experience, a good number of informal African cafés line Racecourse Road and Nicholson Street in Flemington. Abyssinian, Ethiopian and other African specialities are found here, and the food is eaten with fingers from a large pancake set in the middle of the table. Australian cuisine, mostly found in high-end eateries, is hard to define, but commonly uses bush meats such as kangaroo and emu.

Café society on the Melbourne café and restaurant scene is alive and thriving, serving deli-style meals and snacks, as well as great coffee and desserts. Coffee is almost a religion in Melbourne and its preparation is taken very seriously in the many cafés. Chinatown is home to examples of all the diverse regional cuisines of China, although Cantonese dishes and dim sum are the most popular. Indonesian, Indian, kosher, vegetarian and the cuisines of Europe, as well as the rest of Asia, make for culinary tourism at its most spectacular.

Melbourne shopping

Part of the fun of any holiday is shopping for souvenirs of your trip. As the capital of Victoria, Melbourne offers shoppers a wide range of opportunities for all tastes and pockets, from exclusive famous-name boutiques through massive malls to backpacker and vintage streets and a huge choice of discount and warehouse outlets. In addition, Victoria Market is the place for typically Australian souvenirs at bargain prices.

Melbourne is Australia’s fashion hub, with high-end Little Collins Street crammed with world-famous names and exquisite designer goodies. The street’s historic Block Arcade is a must-see for window-shoppers or visitors looking for that special treat. Fashionistas into rave, alternative, vintage and retro gear should head for Chapel Street in Windsor, and bargain-hunters will be in shopaholic heaven at South Wharf’s DFO Outlets Centre.

Elizabeth Street boasts a string of Aussie-flavoured backpacker stores and the northern end of Chapel Street holds high-street chain stores. Suburban Richmond is home to Bridge Road with its warehouse direct outlets, and many of the outer suburbs have huge shopping malls containing over 500 individual stores. Young, lesser-known designers are found in South Yarra’s Greville Street and Smith Street, selling ultra-cool, individual gear at reasonable prices.

Shopping in Melbourne isn’t just about fashion, with Victoria Market a hub for delicious, locally grown or homemade gourmet delights such as cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables. Another must-visit is the Prahan Produce Market for its fresh pasta, organic meats, rows of delis and food court. For innovative artworks and totally individual jewellery, the Eg Etal galleries will amaze and delight with their unique take on the uses of utilitarian materials.

Aboriginal art is the quintessential souvenir of an Australian holiday, and there’s good choice in Melbourne’s specialist shops and art galleries. Although works by famous tribal artists are fiendishly expensive, affordable, unique artefacts and paintings by up-and-coming talents can be found. Downtown Collins Street, Bourke Street and Spring Street are good places to start your search.

Activities and Experiences at Melbourne

  • Sightseeing
  • Walking
  • Accommodation
  • Cinema/Theatre
  • Public Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Supermarket
  • Takeaway Food
  • Visitor Centres
  • The Arts
  • Cultural
  • Food and Wine
  • Historic/Heritage
  • Indulgence/Luxury
  • Pub Stay
  • Shopping

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