Melbourne is a city that buzzes and pulsates from dawn to dusk and is Australia’s food and sporting capital. It possesses a multicultural flair unlike any other Australian city and offers its own unique culture worthy of exploration.
There’s a reason why Melbourne is among the world’s most liveable cities. No matter what time of year, there are always plenty of activities, attractions and things to do and see. The café culture is strong, and a plate of beautifully curated food is never far away. The art scene is in constant flux, producing new and exciting exhibitions, and music festivals abound.
Melbourne is also the best city to navigate, with its renowned trams frequently servicing the city and surrounding neighbourhoods. Budget-conscious travellers should make use of the free tram zone for inner-city attractions, arcade window shopping and laneway art viewing (don’t forget to invest in a Myki when travelling around the city outside of this free zone).
So, what will make it on the to-do list? Skip the tourist itineraries and follow a local’s guide to a true Melburnian experience. Alex Zielke, coffee connoisseur and co-owner of Bonnie Coffee, is a true Melburnian having grown up in some of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods, Collingwood and Fitzroy. Now, fully involved in Melbourne’s coffee culture and inner-city scene, he’s an expert on what makes Melbourne so inimitable.
Drink, eat and be merry…
Coffee in Melbourne is an art form, a passion – it’s very hard to find a place that serves up a bad brew. The city’s coffee culture is more like a religion, so head to one of the city’s top baristas and order a Melbourne Magic – steamed milk poured over a double ristretto and served in a smaller cup (apparently offering the ideal coffee-to-milk ratio). Zielke may be biased, but Bonnie Coffee on Collins Street has been voted for having some of Melbourne’s best coffee many times and often has a line snaking out the door. Established in 2014, it has since expanded to Sydney.
On a hot date? Zielke recommends the trendy French restaurant Bar Margaux near Chinatown. With red-leather booths, black-and-white tiled floors and marble countertops, it’s like stepping into 1920s Paris. “It serves beautiful French food and classics, like steak tartare,” says Zielke. “And the vibe is excellent as well.” If splashing out for the night, go for the Beggar’s Banquet, which includes a bottle of champagne, oysters, steak tartare and frites.
“While the city has some fantastic bars, I love heading to Heartbreaker,” says Zielke. Inspired by the classic dive bars of Los Angeles in the 1980s, this rock ‘n’ roll joint can turn pretty wild on the weekends with live DJs. Zielke suggests a mid-week drink, however, for a chance to select some tunes on the jukebox, shoot some pool and “if peckish, order a cheap slice served up by Connie’s Pizza, which is ready in a matter of minutes.”
The city from the sky
Melbourne is Australia’s skyscraper capital, making it a striking city to behold, especially at the start and end of each day as the sun catches the millions of glinting windows of the inner-city hub. It’s also one of the few places in the world in which visitors can take a hot air balloon ride over the city. This is an exhilarating way to take in the major sights of the metropolis, with various companies offering to soar over the meandering Yarra River, famous sporting grounds and city highlights. Shop around to find a good deal as most flights cost upwards of 400 Australian dollars (£211).
The South Melbourne Market is where the world’s first-ever dim sim came into existence. Dim sim is bigger than a traditional Chinese dumpling and has a thicker skin. This delicious little morsel has become a Melbourne tradition, with many restaurants and chippies selling their takes on the classic. Created in the 1940s by chef William Chen Wing Young, dim sim was later adapted by the late chef Ken Cheng, whose legacy still lives on at South Melbourne’s Dim Sims shop, so stop by and try one (or many).
Get lost in…
If the weather is glorious, there is nothing better than taking in the sights and sounds of buzzing St Kilda, a beachside suburb located a few tram stops out of the city. This neighbourhood is known as the place in which to have a good time, bar-hop and find something delectable to eat. Thrillseekers can indulge in Luna Park’s rides, and for those with a more laid-back approach to life, dipping a toe in the sea at St Kilda Beach is a must. If staying for the sunset, catch a glimpse of some of the local penguin colonies returning to their nests near the pier.
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