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Melbourne Travel Guide

flights to Melbourne

This is a city of purpose, a city always on the move and always one move ahead of the game. This purpose has always been the essence of the city since its foundation in the 1850s when it was the largest, and certainly the most affluent settlement in Australia. Melbourne’s proximity to the vast goldfields of Ballarat, Bendigo, Maldon and many other smaller mining settlements in Victoria forged the regions prosperity well into the 1880’s, a period that heralded the decline of the gold rush and the subsequent depression of the 1890’s. The city still has many fine gracious homes and commercial buildings built in the Victorian style acting as lasting reminder of Melbourne’s pioneering days.

Although Melbourne experienced further depression in the 1930s its vitality and dynamism ensured a prompt return to prosperity after the Second World War when, as a result of Australia's active drive to attract migrants from Europe, large numbers of non-English speaking settlers, particularly Greek and Italians arrived. During the 1970’s and 80’s settlers from Pacific rim countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines arrived, today the city has a cultural diversity that has permeated just about every social structure of Melbourne resulting in one of the most vibrant, colourful and intriguing cities in the world.

First time visitors to the city centre could be forgiven for thinking they had been dropped off in Manhattan instead of Melbourne. Built in a grid system the city centre has many long, wide boulevards interspersed with myriad narrow streets and lanes flanked by a fascinating mix of towering skyscrapers and compact huddles of Victorian dwellings, shops and warehouses.

Exploring central Melbourne is relatively straightforward and easily done on foot, although a ride on one of the city’s trams is a great way of getting oriented at ground level. To get an aerial view of the city the Observation Deck on the 55th level of the Melbourne Rialto Tower (525 Collins St) is the place to go. From here the views of the city sprawl and the Yarra River are spectacular. Flinders Street Station is perhaps Melbourne’s most noted landmark and is the emotional heart of the city for many Melbournians. The city’s main railway station Flinders Street is along red and yellow stone building with jade coloured copper domes.

From Flinders Street it is a short walk to Collins Street, Melbourne’s equivalent of New York’s 5th Avenue or London’s Oxford Street. One block north of Collins Street is Bourke Street the city’s retail commerce centre. The Queen Victoria Market is both an historic landmark and a shopping institution which dating back to 1866. Part of the complex sits on Melbourne's first cemetery. Traditionally a wholesale fresh fruit, vegetable and seafood market, it now combines these with a vast range of shopping options in food, clothing, gifts and Australiana. It is situated on the northern side of the city, on Victoria the markets are open from 6.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Fridays, 6.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. on Saturdays and 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on Sundays.

But Melbourne’s real tourist heart is south of Flinders Street across the Yarra and Princes Bridge towards St. Kilda. The recently built Southgate Arts and Leisure Precinct and Crown Entertainment Complex straddles the south bank of the river providing not just a pleasant stroll but a whole host of waterside cafes, restaurants shops and cinemas, most lunchtimes and weekends the area is full of buskers and street performers.

The Victorian Arts Centre at 100 St Kilda Road (just a short walk across the bridge from Flinders Street Station) is notable for its mini-Eiffel Tower. Home to the Australian Ballet, the Australian Opera, the Victorian State Opera, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Theatre Company, The ‘Vic’ has a packed programme of cultural events year round.

For sporting enthusiasts the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) is a must visit venue, and the home of Australian international cricket since 1862. If there is not a match in progress the MCG is still worth a visit as it is home to the Australian Gallery of Sport and the Olympic Museum which documents Australia’s not insignificant sporting prowess over the last 150 years.

St Kilda, Melbourne’s most central suburb is well worth a visit and world away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby city centre. Perhaps the chicest of Melbourne’s renowned suburbs St Kilda is a pleasant mix of beachside strolls outdoor cafes and specialist shopping. Acland Street is particularly interesting with its huge concentration of internationally themed cafes, bars, restaurants and coffee shops.

For a further taste of the suburbs head off to Como, with its opulent gold rush era homes, and South Yarra one of Melbourne’s most expensive areas. Fitzroy, and in particular Brunswick Street, is perhaps the hippest and trendiest area of town. Home to everything alternative but with an odd streak of mainstream conservatism Fitzroy is characterised by eccentric clothing and record shops, “back to nature” cafes and restaurants, alternative theatre and arts venues punctuated here and there with ethnic food shops and restaurants.

Melbournians consider their city the culinary capital of Australia, if not the world! Grand statement or fact? Probably fact. It is not just the sheer number of restaurants in the city, or the variety, but the overall quality that really does put Melbourne close to the top of the worlds fine dining cities list. Downtown Melbourne has its fair share of top rank eateries, but it is the suburbs and outlying areas that have some of the best restaurants. Just about every type of cuisine is available from Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Chinese, French and everything in between. And you don’t necessarily have to sample these foods in a restaurant; the city is awash with a wonderful ethnic diversity of delis, grocery stores, bistros and brassieres. Serious gastronomes should pick up a copy of the Melbourne Age’s “Good Food Guide” or the “Age Cheap Eats In Melbourne”.

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