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Melbourne: Culture Capital, Foodie’s Paradise and Shopper’s Mecca

Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city, is the country’s multifaceted culture capital. Indeed, culture extends far beyond museums and galleries. It is visible in the streets, on people’s backs and through restaurant windows. If something’s cool, international or alterative, you’ll find it in Melbourne, but maybe you’ll have to dig a bit first. The only way to discover the best bars, cafes and boutiques in Melbourne is to walk around the city’s laneways for hours- the most happening venue could be hidden away in an alley lined by dumpsters. Perhaps Melbourne’s laidback yet sophisticated approach to life is what makes it the most liveable city in the world. To best enjoy life as a Melburnian, you can rent a high rise apartment in the city centre, a beachside studio or even a converted warehouse.

Food and Drink in Melbourne

No matter the type of cuisine you crave, you’ll be able to find it in Melbourne. Walk along Swanston and Elizabeth Streets in the city centre for affordable Asian food, Brunswick Street in Fitzroy for allergy-friendly options and Lygon Street for your pick of Italian restaurants.

Complement the food scene, Melbourne is also known for its coffee. Standards are so high that you can almost be sure of getting a quality, single origin beans wherever you go. Don’t be shy to ferret around small laneways and arcades in the city centre or suburbs like St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra; you’re likely to stumble upon favourite local cafes.

With the Yarra Valley next door, Melbourne is, unsurprisingly, a hotspot for wine connoisseurs. Places to enjoy a good glass of Pinot Noir or Shiraz include rooftop terraces sprawled across the city centre and Fitzroy, Southbank’s waterfront restaurants (some of which are run by celebrity chefs) and wine bars in the city’s Paris End- the ritzy side of Collins Street next to Parliament.

Where to Shop in Melbourne

If you’re looking for heavy duty high street shopping, you can easily spend the day at Chadstone, the largest mall in the southern hemisphere. A free Fashion Shuttle, departing Federation Square daily, takes visitors directly to Chadstone.

Right at the heart of the city, you’ll find Emporium, Melbourne’s newest shopping complex, which houses mainly high end international retailers. Sky bridges connect Emporium with neighbouring department stores David Jones and Myer.

Meanwhile, shoppers looking for a bargain can go to Bridge Street in Richmond, where many brands have their outlets. Finally, if you are looking for some unique pieces, local designers markets might be more up your alley. The South Melbourne Market has a dedicated space for emerging designers, with events for fashion lovers throughout the year.

Melbourne’s Music and Museum Scene

Melbourne features an Arts Precinct, where the Arts Centre (a performing arts venue) stands next to the National Gallery of Victoria. The NGV hosts international exhibits every year and offers numerous themed talks. Then there’s the MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra), which plays at various venues around the city and even gives free concerts for special occasions. Beyond the city centre, community orchestras perform quarterly concerts in almost every suburb. If you’re more interested in history, visit the Melbourne Museum in Carlton, where you can learn about Australia and Victoria of yesteryear, as well as see some dinosaur skeletons.

Melbourne Sports and Recreation

You might think that with all that culture, there’s no room for sport, but Melbourne is a prime destination for fans of tennis, cricket, football and racing. The Australian Open takes place in Melbourne every January, Formula 1 in March and cricket and football in their respective seasons.

The Melbourne Cup is a grand affair for horse racing fanatics and the wider community. Cup Day, the first Tuesday in November, has been a public holiday in Victoria since 1877, so residents can go to Flemington Racecourse in their best dress or suit and cheer on their favourite horse.

When they aren’t watching their game of choice, Melburnians like to spend time in the water. St Kilda is the most accessible and closest beach to the CBD, leading the way to a series of bayside beaches. Right on St Kilda Beach, you can participate in a sailing lesson, go paragliding or try windsurfing.

Visiting Melbourne

Melbourne’s variety of indoor and outdoor activities ensures visitors will have somewhere to go no matter the weather. It is said that Melbourne sees four seasons in one day, so be sure to keep both umbrellas and sunglasses handy when you head out. Melbourne winters are quite cold by Australian standards but summers can be hot. As a major international destination, the city centre is well connected to the airport by public transportation and a network of buses, trams and trains connect the CBD to Melbourne’ suburbs.

For more travel information on Melbourne, read our guide on the Top 10 Things to do in Melbourne.