It’s no wonder why Melbourne has been voted the “world’s most liveable city” for six years running in The Economist’s Intelligence Unit survey. Although their rankings are based upon the standard categories of Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Stability and Environment/Culture, let me tell you in my own words why I think Melbourne is worth getting excited about.
It’s a place built by people for other people to enjoy.
… Aren’t all cities like that?
Well, yes – of course – but I believe that Melbourne goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that Melburnians and tourists alike have a really great time.
Melbourne is designed for people to eat, drink and dance their way across the city, with bars, restaurants and celebrations of some sort on every street and corner. From the lively street performers dotted along the river at Southbank to the hidden bars tucked away down one of the city’s many laneways, you will always be rewarded with something new and exciting when you set foot out the door.
Read on to find out why I think Melbourne is so goddamn marvellous*.
* The city was dubbed “marvellous Melbourne” back in the 1800s following a huge boom in wealth following the gold rush, and I’m redeeming its title today (for different reasons, of course).
** And a special thanks to Phil’s grandpa Geoff for being a wonderful host and tour guide in Melbourne!
The food, the food, the food…
Spoilt for choice doesn’t even cover it – imagine what your ideal meal looks like and I can guarantee you’ll be able to find it in one of Melbourne’s edgy cafes, authentic street food stalls or high-end restaurants. Head down the city’s much-loved Flinders Lane for a delicious dinner if you’re in the mood for Thai, Mexican, Sri Lankan, Indian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Italian… you get the picture! If you’re on a budget but don’t want to be limited in choice, try one of the many food markets (see below) or head to Centre Place to enjoy the bustling atmosphere over a cup of coffee or a (gigantic) sandwich. Treat yourself to a little something sweet at the best gelateria in town at Pidapipo on Lygon Street (Little Italy). Be warned, there is usually a queue out the door (it’s that good, I promise) and don’t miss out on the hot Nutella topping – it will change your life (that’s also a promise).
If you’re anything like me, then you love nothing more than the atmosphere of a bustling marketplace – the sounds, smells and sights of Melbourne’s oldest and biggest market are enough to make any market-lover swoon. The Queen Victoria Market (closed Monday and Wednesday) has been running for over 120 years, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down just yet. It is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, and you really have to go there for yourself to appreciate its great size and behold the vast array of goods on display. While Queen Vic is certainly the Queen Bee of marketplaces, it’s well worth checking out the city’s more compact South Melbourne Market (open Weds, Fri, Sat & Sun) where you can sample some of the best dim sims around, or try the freshly shucked oysters if that’s more your scene. The picturesque Esplanade Market at St Kilda is a lovely outdoor market that runs every Sunday, showcasing lots of wonderful arts and crafts, as well as a few food stalls to keep you going.
Tip: Keep an eye out for some of the amazing deals at South Melbourne Market – 3 dips/cheeses/salamis of your choice all for $10!
Great Events for Budget Prices
Although you have to pay for a lot of the major exhibitions and big events going on in Melbourne, you can still be savvy while doing so. Check out NGV’s Friday Nights for after hours entry to the gallery’s major exhibitions (David Hockney/Viktor & Rolf were on when I visited) including free guided tours plus live music and a fantastic atmosphere – all for $24, so you actually save money rather than paying $30 to see both exhibitions during the day. We also managed to get ground passes ($45) for the Australian Open. If you keep track of who’s playing where, you might be lucky enough to see one of the big players in the small courts or the Hisense Arena, which are accessible via a grounds pass (we saw Andy Murray play!!) There’s always something big going on in Melbourne, so make sure you do your research before you arrive to keep up to date with any upcoming events.
Tip: Cinema Nova on Lygon Street offers cheap Monday tickets for all films showing that day – $7 before 4pm/$9 after 4pm.
Or Explore for Free
Why not join the crowd at Federation Square to watch the tennis on the big screen for a great atmosphere without the price tag. If it’s a nice day, take a stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens to enjoy the wide array of unique flowers and plants, many of which are native to Australia. Or, if you like to stay up to date with politics, join one of the free guided tours at Parliament House – you can find the tour times here. And of course, in Australia, you always have the option of visiting one of the country’s many beautiful beaches – check out Brighton Beach to see the iconic, colourful, and rather expensive beach huts. Plus, the city circle tram (line 35) offers free transport around the main CBD area, so there’s no excuse!
Tip: Don’t forget to top up your myki card to hop on trams, buses and trains for getting around the rest of the city without any hassle.
Rooftop and Laneway Bars
There’s no denying that checking out the bars and pubs is one of our favourite things to do when visiting a new city, and Melbourne definitely has its fair share of drinking establishments – from fancy cocktail bars to grungy basement joints, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Even better, I would argue, is that Melbourne uses its hidden laneways and old industrial buildings to its advantage, creating new and interesting spaces for people to meet in and share a drink or two together. Check out Naked in the Sky (take the escalator to the rooftop after entering through the original downstairs bar, Naked for Satan) for one of the best cocktails in the city with views to match. Cherry Bar on AC/DC Lane has been home to the rock and roll scene in Melbourne for years, and has become something of an iconic landmark for Melburnians who like to sing, dance and drink late into the night, any day of the week. Or, for a more laid-back vibe, Baxter’s Lot in Fitzroy is the perfect place to enjoy some live music and a cheeky little happy hour treat.
You’re Never Far from Paradise
Not only is Melbourne one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world, it is also a stones throw away from some truly idyllic spots. Depending on your time frame and whether or not you have access to a car, its only a 2 hour drive to Phillip Island or 4 hours to Wilson’s Prom (check out my blog for more details, here). Mornington Peninsula offers beautiful beaches and walks, making it one of Melbourne’s favourite backyard playgrounds at just over an hour’s drive away (also accessible by train/bus). Or stay close by with a visit to Yarra Valley & Dandedong Ranges where you can stop in at one of the excellent wineries or just sit back and enjoy the stunning views. Be sure to check out the TarraWarra Museum of Art with its every-changing exhibitions to see some of Australia’s finest art work in a stunning vineyard setting.
Find Your Creative Side
It isn’t hard to find art in Melbourne – in fact, it’s impossible to avoid. Melbourne embraces all things creative and collaborative, with its iconic street art splashed across the city’s walls and its constant encouragement for people to get involved in the latest exhibitions and galleries. Take a stroll down the tourist-filled Hosier Lane, one of Melbourne’s most famous street art lanes, or go further afield to explore the world of street art in depth. There are so many galleries, exhibitions and artistic events going on in Melbourne that there is bound to be at least one that tickles your fancy. Check out this website to see what’s on during your visit to Melbourne – it’s always changing.
Public Spaces Built for Some Down Time
When the rush and commotion of city life gets too much, just head to one of Melbourne’s beautiful parks or beaches to chill out and get some space. As I mentioned earlier, the Royal Botanic Gardens are open to the public every day from morning to night, and there really couldn’t be a prettier setting to sit and read your book. Edinburgh Gardens (love the name) in North Fitzroy is only a beer bottle’s throw away from the lively bars and restaurants on busy Brunswick Street. Or, head to the lovely St Kilda beach for a swim and sunbathing session, situated in one of the city’s trendiest areas. If you’re hoping to stretch your legs a bit more, join one of the many people who dawn their finest activewear to run, jog, cycle or power walk their way along the foreshore every morning.
I hope that gives you a few good reasons to jump in your car (or on a plane, depending on where you’re reading this from) and throw yourself into everything that Melbourne has to offer. Something tells me that I’ve barely scratched the surface, as this city just keeps on giving. Until next time, marvellous Melbourne.
Melbourne is a welcoming, diverse and wonderful place that was shocked by the Bourke Street incident.This blog is dedicated to all those affected by this tragedy, which happened during our visit. Our thoughts are always with you.