Australia’s cultural capital has a lot going on, be it food, fashion, art or sports. Sophisticated yet edgy, this is a city that will quickly grow on you.

Culture Trail

Mark Chew - Architecture shoot - 2009

Crowds of people in Federation Square


Begin your day at Federation Square, a mixed-use cultural space bang in the middle of the city. There’s always something going on at this modern piazza, be it events and festivals, markets and workshops, not to mention its array of bars, restaurants and specialty shops. Admire the Victorian architecture of Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s busiest station and a favourite meeting place of the locals. Walk over to the National Gallery of

Don Bradman display at the National Sports Museum at the MCG

Don Bradman display at the National Sports Museum at the MCG


Victoria, Australia’s oldest and largest art museum, to see the country’s heritage on display — there’s everything from aboriginal art to modern and contemporary art. The natural and cultural history Melbourne Museum, located in the lush Carlton Gardens, is also worth a visit, as is the National Sports Museum, located within the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground. Spend an afternoon at Birrarung Marr on the Yarra riverside, to see art installations of all kinds, including some interesting aboriginal carvings.

Street Smart

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Street Art in Melbourne laneway


In sharp contrast to the city’s orderly streets, walking down Melbourne’s labyrinthine alleys is like falling down the rabbit hole; with their bustling cafes, assorted shops and vibrant street art, they’re an attraction in themselves. Centre Place is probably one of the most photographed locations in Melbourne. This narrow, cobble-stoned lane is lined by hole-in-the-wall cafes (serving some excellent coffees), restaurants, vintage shops, and street art. Try a wholesome juice and bagel breakfast at Jungle Juice, or the dumplings for lunch at ShanDong MaMa Mini, or dine on hearty soups at The Soup Place (with its big, bubbling cauldrons on the counter). AC/DC Lane, dedicated to the legendary Aussie rock band, has some edgy street art, as well as live music venues; swing by at Cherry for a rocking night out. Hosier Lane, with its blue-cobbled street, is like an open-air art gallery, where you will see all manner of street art — from scribbled graffiti to elaborate murals.

Coffee Central

Melbourne Editorial - Paul Philipson

Market Lane Cafe


The city is choc-a-bloc with cafés serving some serious coffee — from the usual lattes and cappuccinos to the hipster pour-over and the very Australian flat white, usually made from artisanal coffee roasted in-house. St. Ali is one of the pioneers of the ‘third wave of coffee’ movement in Melbourne and is known for serving some of the finest coffee in the city. Another local favourite is Brother Baba Budan, named after the 16th-century Sufi who is said to have smuggled seven coffee seeds out of the Middle East and brought them to India. Market Lane Coffee near Queen Victoria Market is a small, bright café where you can have your coffee Italian style — at the bar. Another standing room-only place is the black-and-white, minimalistic coffee bar Patricia, which serves some of the best roasts in Melbourne.

Eat Local

Exterior of MoVida Next Door, Hosier Lane

 MoVida Next Door, Hosier Lane


It’s unlikely you will have a bad meal anywhere in Melbourne, but there are some restaurants you should definitely try. Whether you’re a fan of MasterChef Australia or not, a trip to one of George Calombaris’s restaurants is a must; we recommend the buzzy and fun Gazi, a contemporary Greek restaurant that serves a delectable soft shell crab souvlaki. Check out Cumulus Inc for a seasonal, modern Australian menu. For Spanish tapas, head to MoVida Next Door. If you’re looking for Asian fusion, Rice Paper Scissors is the place to go. With two restaurants in CBD and Fitzroy, this is where you will find some of the best Vietnamese food; we recommend the char-grilled wagyu, served with a citrus dipping sauce. Chinatown’s dumpling restaurants serve cheap but delicious fare; try a satisfying bowl of noodle soup with dumplings at Shanghai Dumpling House. In a city where you can find a good bar at every corner, The Melbourne Supper Club is a class apart, with one of the best bar menus in the city.

Precinct Watch

While Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) doesn’t lack in attractions, it’s worthwhile making your way to the neighbouring areas of St Kilda and Fitzroy. Suburban St Kilda is Melbourne’s favourite beachside spot. There’s much to do here — go cycling, sailing or windsurfing, take a dip in the historic St Kilda Sea Baths, go penguin watching at St Kilda Breakwater, or just sun-bathe. On Sundays, the St Kilda Esplanade Arts and Crafts Market is perfect for buying handmade artwork and souvenirs. If you come in February, don’t miss the St Kilda Festival’s revelry, music and comedy performances. There are plenty of dining options here; we recommend Donovans, for sweeping ocean views and comfort food, or Circa for Modern Australian cuisine. Hip and happening Fitzroy is another eclectic suburb of Melbourne. The bohemian vibe of Gertrude Street and Brunswick Street will draw you in, and the many bookshops, retro boutiques and vintage clothes shops will keep you busy. There are art studios to pop into, galleries to check out and street art and commissioned murals to gape at.

Retail Therapy

Shopping at Alphaville in Flinders Lane

Shopping at Alphaville in Flinders Lane


Begin with Chadstone Complex (Australia’s biggest mall) on the outskirts of Melbourne, where you will find a mix of high-end boutiques and department stores. Bourke Street Mall in the heart of the city is another great place to stop by. For specialty stores and fashionable boutiques, check out Block Arcade, a 19th century Victorian building that was modelled on Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. If you’re looking for chic menswear, Alphaville in Flinders Lane is your best bet. Shop for bow ties and men’s jewellery at Lord Coconut on Lonsdale Street.

For some trendy fashion and unique specialty stores, head over to Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street and Gertrude Street. Queen Victoria Market is perfect for gourmet shopping, where you will find all sorts of international offerings. For quirky arts and crafts, Rose Street Artists Market in Fitzroy can’t be beaten. If you’re looking to add to your collection of vinyls, the old-school Polyester Records in Fitzroy is a treasure trove.

Where To Stay

Ovolo Hotels Penthouse Lounge;

Ovolo Hotels Penthouse Lounge


Ovolo Laneways is a fantastic boutique hotel. Located on Little Bourke Street, it’s a block away from Chinatown, and at a walking distance from the famed Laneways, Block Arcade, Federation Square and many other attractions. There are convenient tram connections to Fitzroy and St. Kilda. The hotel’s cool and arty vibe gels perfectly with the city. The rooms are spacious, especially the Terrace Suites and the Penthouse Suite. There are many freebies on offer — highspeed Wi-Fi, in-room welcome snacks, mini-bar, happy hours every evening in the Lo Lounge, self laundry service, and of course, free breakfast. Our pick would be the Terrace Suite, with its outdoor terrace and views of the Melbourne skyline, its candy buffet, the brightly done up lounge area and Apple TV.

If You’re Staying Longer

Yarra Valley provides stunning views of rolling hills and green landscapes as you fly over them during sunrise


Yarra Valley

For wine lovers, a day trip to Yarra Valley is an absolute must-do. The Australian Wine Tour Company organises convenient day trips from Melbourne, which includes lunch and multiple wine tastings at select wineries. Book at www.austwinetourco.com.au.

Phillip Island

For nature enthusiasts, there’s no place like Phillip Island, which is famous for its wildlife, especially the adorable fairy penguins and cuddly koalas. Bunyip Tours organises small group tours from Melbourne, which include wildlife viewing and an authentic Aussie BBQ lunch. Book at www.bunyiptours.com.

Great Ocean Road

Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, this is a road trip like no other, punctuated by surf beaches, sheer cliffs and quaint towns. Rent a car (Australia drives on the left, just like India) and drive all the way down to Port Campbell National Park to see Australia’s famed collection of limestone rocks, The Twelve Apostles.