Melbourne holds a very special place in my heart. My husband is from this city and has introduced me to its magic. We visit when we can and were lucky enough to spend seven months there on an around the world honeymoon after we got married. This is a special city. Known for café culture, love of sport and four seasons in a day; Melbourne is a home to us both. Friends and family keep us posted on new places to see when we return for a visit and we relish time we can spend at our favorite haunts. Whatever you fancy, you can find it here. Beaches, cricket, diverse cuisine, arts, chocolate, festivals and coffee, are available and have a special feel, in Melbourne.
1.Food: Healthy food chains, ethnic cuisine, culinary masterpieces, or a quick stop at a night market stall-all are part of the food culture. My favourite veggie burger of all time is from Grill’d, an Australian healthy burger chain. Chocolatiers stun the senses with their outrageous triumphs (Lindt Cafe). Night markets, noodle markets, tapas bars, Chinatown, food trucks and pop up cafes enchant a plethora of taste buds in all parts of the city. There’s food from every region & desserts that leave you wanting more. From food courts to sushi rolls and Michelin stars to market stalls Melbourne’s culinary flair delights.
2.Laid back lifestyle: Pumba and Timon may have used Swahili to describe it, but the ‘no worries’ attitude is alive in Melbourne. Enjoying travel, long weekends and time off in the park with friends, the mindset of life is to be lived and enjoyed is present. The ‘work to live’ approach is palpable & the Aussie mantra of ‘she’ll be right’ is accepted and empowering. Melbournians work hard and play hard and know how to embrace life to its fullest.
3.Cafe culture: Every which way you look, there’s a café. Small, large, stationary or mobile, with and without views, in a laneway or shopping mall-you’ll find a café here. Ethnic flair, continental cuisine, vegetarian offerings and healthy fare are available with a quick stop at a café. Some pop up for a few hours a day while others stay open to serve a late night crowd. Whether on Brunswick or Degraves Street (my favourite), in Federation Square, Southbank or South Wharf you’ll find a café that’s just right for you.
4.Beach Life: Ride the 109 tram from the center of the city for fifteen minutes and you’re in Port Melbourne. Hop the 96 line instead and arrive in the heart of St. Kilda’s shores in twenty. Jump on a regional train and be at the famous beach boxes in Brighton in an hour. Travel by car to the Mornington Peninsula, Sorrento & Portsea or watch the little penguins pop out of the sea on the beaches of Philip Island within a few hours. Flip-flops (thongs) are ever-present, kite surfers rein supreme and vitamin D worshippers delight in the suns rays at the beaches. Sip a coffee, down a delicious smoothie from Boost or sample some traditional fish and chips by the sea; the no worries attitude is supreme on Victoria’s beaches.
5.Sport: Whether it’s cricket at the MCG, Aussie Rules at Etihad, Rugby at AAMI Park or huge international events like the Australian Open, it’s here. Most you meet will tell you of their favourite footy team (my husband’s is the Hawks) and barrack for their own hometown heroes in any national match. Look in any direction and you’ll find someone wearing some sort of sporting paraphernalia as it’s at this city’s heart. Every January Melbourne comes under the world’s watchful eye as it transforms into a tennis mecca with pop up live sites around the city for all to enjoy and every March there’s the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. Sport is the pulse of the city. Take in a footy match while you’re here-there’s nothing else like it.
6.Baristas & the coffee culture: Baristas are treasured in Melbourne. Whether you order a flat white or a long back, it will be made with individual care and to pristine perfection. Coffee making is an art form with fresh ground beans made to every order and hand crafted designs atop each cup. Asking for drip coffee would be a disaster compelling your coffee artist to create a fresh cup that will completely change your mind. My husband’s favourite: A long black ‘kick my arse style’ from Pie Face (now open Manhattan offering a coffee & a lamington when the need arises)
7.Festivals: Whether about music, the arts or the people; Melbourne’s festivals invite all to enjoy. Every March, MOOMBA (a festival for the people) comes to town and creates a weekend long event on the banks of the Yarra. Water sports, fireworks, food, & music provide annual family friendly fun for all. The Birdman Rally invites ‘ordinary people’ who create home-designed ‘flying contraptions’ to fling themselves off of a makeshift high-rise dock to see who can ‘fly’ the furthest. It is without question a sight to see. There’s at least one festival a month including: the Food and Wine Festival, the International Comedy Festival, the Royal Melbourne Show and of course celebrations for Melbourne Cup Day, ANZAC Day, & Australia Day.
8.Accessibility: Into, out of and around the city are made easy by a large public transport system. Love it or hate it, the MYKI system is now available on all trams and trains. Flinders Street and Southern Cross Station provide access to trains both local and regional and the Sky Bus takes you on a quick 20 minute journey from the city to the airport for under $20AUD. A day at the beach or an afternoon in the country are both made easy from the center of the city by public transport. An overnight ferry from Port Melbourne gets you to Tasmania and there’s a flight to Sydney that leaves every hour if you’re interested. International flights are many from Tullamarine Airport and those who want to venture to other cities on the continent will find many carriers waiting to take them on their journey. City, country, beach, or suburban life is all readily available and easily accessible here.
9.Laneways: If my friend Rachael didn’t show me the majestic hidden laneways/arcades of Melbourne I wouldn’t know which way to turn. Pop up shopping centers, narrow alleyways filled with colourful murals and wafting aromas and restaurants that appear and disappear like clockwork are here. It’s safe to say that what you thought might be an alley without a thruway is actually a laneway that comes alive on weekdays and some weekend afternoons. Filling with people from all walks of life looking at book shops, purchasing chocolates, sipping a latte or eating from any of the numerous food stalls, cafes or restaurants; Melbourne’s laneways delight the senses and invite a photographers’ lens.
10.Markets: “Come on people, one dollar banana” booms through the air on a heaving weekend morning at the Queen Victoria Market. Shopping trolleys, kids, and people weave through the aisles in search of the ripest avocado, the best souvenir they can find and the most affordable pair of Uggs. Filled with locals and travelers alike, this market is known for just about everything. The organic section, meat or fish-there’s something for everyone. Visit the deli and you’ll be tempted by the warm flaky boreks, the dips in every color and the aroma of fresh baked breads. On summer Wednesday evenings the venue turns into the night market filled with ethnic fair from all over the world. Korean twist potatoes, Columbian arepas, and Turkish gozleme are just some of the over fifty stalls that dole out delicious eats while music fills the air and visitors search the best hot sauce, ice cream and jewelry. This is just one of Melbourne’s fabulous markets. The Sunday Arts Market on Swanston Street, South Melbourne Market with giant paella pans filled with scrumptious flavourful rice & the St. Kilda Market backed by the view of the sea are others to check out in and around the city.
What’s your favourite part of Melbourne?