Melbourne, the State capital of Victoria, is located in Australia’s Southeast. An entry point to great southern touring, including the world famous Great Ocean Road, Melbourne is a cosmopolitan, suburban, cultivated, conservative and an avant-garde haven. Visitors come for its shopping, restaurants, nightlife and international sporting calendar which features tennis, golf, formula-one motor racing, horse racing, cricket and other events. Each Autumn and winter, weekends are dedicated to watching Australian Rules football, which most "Melbourne-ites" do with great passion. The city has a high Greek population, and prides itself on hosting great events and embracing all things stylish.
Melbourne is dubbed marvellous for a reason. Healthy hedonism masquerades as high art: Melburnians are equally passionate about football and ballet, fashion and restaurants. They are ravenous for music and hot for theatre. It's a smorgasbord of a city that you'll want to sink your teeth into.
Melbourne's climate has an unfortunate reputation: wet, windy, unpredictable and liable to extremes - very hot or very cold and often both on the same day! On the plus side, Melbourne's multitude of parks makes it a beautiful place to witness the changing seasons. It is rarely unbearably chilly - in winter the average temperature ranges between 6°C (43°F) and 13°C (55°F), the mercury rises above 35°C (95°F) only a few times each year and Melbourne's soggy reputation outstrips the reality - it receives only half the average rainfall of Sydney or Brisbane.
With the northern states taking the brunt of tourism down under, Melbourne is a best-kept secret year round. The shoulder seasons are the gems. While Melbourne's spring is a sight to behold, with multitudes of gardens in bloom and the festive Spring Racing Carnival heralding summer, any local will tell you that mid-autumn sees Melbourne at its most resplendent. A sturdy coat never goes astray at this time, but a little cold is worth bearing for the strolls through the amber and ochre parks.
Travellers with disabilities will find Melbourne fairly amenable. Most of the tourist attractions are accessible for wheelchairs, and trains and newer trams have low steps to accommodate wheelchairs and people with limited mobility. If you need a taxi, phone ahead for one with wheelchair access. There are also many car parking spaces throughout the city allocated for disabled drivers
Many new buildings incorporate architectural features helpful to the vision impaired, such as textured floor details at the top and bottom of stairs. Melbourne's pedestrian crossings feature sound cues.
The excellent Mobility Map of Melbourne is available from the Melbourne Visitor Information Centre in Federation Square and from the information booth in the Bourke St Mall. You can also view it online at the Access Melbourne website (www.accessmelbourne.vic.gov.au).
Melbourne's easy-going pace is perfect for enjoying its gracious Victorian architecture, its green wealth of parks and gardens, and its many cultural highlights. Most of the city's main sights are just a short walk or tram-hop apart, with plenty of latte pick-me-up opportunities on the way.
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Tel: (03) 9654 6422 (info)
The ACCA is housed in a remarkable cathedral-like rust-coloured building, articulating the contemporary aesthetic. The interior is composed of vast spaces with the capacity to display a variety of works: from enormous installation pieces (a la video, sculpture and hybrids thereof) to traditional framed works (photography, painting and prints). Though dedicated to showing contemporary works that generally challenge traditional artistic frameworks, ACCA isn't an alienating place: you won't be wondering if the exit sign is part of the exhibition here.
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Tel: (03) 9663 2583 (info)
This ambitious centre is dedicated to the display, interpretation and analysis of the dominant language of the day: the moving image, in all its forms. The four-storey complex houses a screen gallery and two hi-tech cinemas. It programmes regular workshops and forums to promote education and production, and hosts film screenings and festivals. Popcorn Taxi (www.popcorntaxi.com.au) is a regular film event providing a forum for enthusiasts to watch films of all types and discuss the film-making process.
Australian Racing Museum
Tel: (03) 1300 139 407 (info)
Not November? Never mind; equine buffs can sample some of the Spring Racing fervour at this museum dedicated to thoroughbred horses, jockeys and trainers. Exhibits cover the history of racing (2003 was the first year a female jockey raced in the Melbourne Cup), and reverently trumpet the social and cultural importance of racing in Australia.
Carlton & United Breweries
Tel: (03) 9420 6800 (info)
Kind of like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for adults, the Foster's beer-brewing empire runs two-hour tours of its Abbotsford operations. Enormous vats of beer, 30m wide, make the mind boggle. The super-fast bottling operation may make you dizzy - and that's before the few free sample drinks included in the tour price. Bookings are advised. Tours run at 10:00 and 14:00 Monday to Friday and leave from the Carlton Brewhouse.
Centre For Contemporary Photograph
Tel: (03) 9417 1549 (info)
Photo-based arts are on show in the CCP's four gallery spaces. Exhibitions change regularly and include works that both challenge and celebrate the medium. Images may have been recorded with or without a camera (direct transfer or by scanner) and the output may be large, small, coloured or not. If you're here out of hours, the projection window (viewable from the street) throws up images from 21:00 to 02:00 . This not-for-profit centre also sells a range of Lomo cameras and a small selection of books.
Tel: (03) 9387 2609 (info)
Ceres (Centre for Education & Research in Environmental Strategies) is a 20-year-old community environment project, with an objective to educate in environmental sustainability. Stroll through the Permaculture and Bushfood Nursery or the Origin EcoHouse before refuelling with an organic coffee and cake at the cafe. Or, better, come for the community market where you can buy locally produced organic and handmade goodies, and have your tarot read while the kids marvel at the chooks and Helmut the black sheep.
Red archways across either end of Little Bourke St's Chinatown are your gateways to clattering woks, glowing neons, exotic aromas and shops with floor-to-ceiling chambers of medicinal herbs and tinctures. Melbourne's Chinatown has been thriving since the 1850s when Chinese prospectors joined the rush to find gold. The single-storey brick buildings were built in the 19th century, a time when brothels, opium dens and boarding houses were the main tenants. Today the area is chock-a-block with discount shops and authentic Chinese restaurants. It's the best place for dim sum, and to sate that craving for sea slug in Sichuan sauce.
City Museum At Old Treasury
Tel: (03) 9651 2233 (info)
Built in 1862 at the height of the heady gold rush, the Old Treasury is fittingly elegant and opulent. The huge basement vaults were designed to house much of the estimated A$200 million worth of gold that came from the Victorian goldfields. Remarkably, the designer, JJ Clark, was a 19-year-old government draftsman who also designed the City Baths. The Old Treasury building has regularly changing exhibitions and houses the Gold Treasury Museum, which has three permanent exhibitions: Built on Gold, Making Melbourne, and Growing Up in the Old Treasury.
Crown Casino & Entertainment Complex
Tel: (03) 9292 8888 (info)
The Crown Entertainment Complex could be labelled with many an adjective, but 'subtle' most certainly wouldn't be one of them. The complex sprawls across two city blocks and includes the enormous luxury Crown Towers and Crown Casino, with over 300 tables and 2500 gaming machines open round the clock. Time is apparently irrelevant at the casino, which has no clocks and no natural light. There are waterfalls, fireballs, a giant cinema complex, a bowling alley, a variety of nightclubs and a 900-seat showroom. The complex also contains designer-wear and exclusive speciality shops plus a multitude of international-style bars, cafes and restaurants.
Tel: (03) 1300 663 008 (info)
Docklands' synthesised, soulless environment is comprised of residential apartment towers, shopping complexes, a number of dining options and public spaces. It's the latest of Melbourne's simulacrum cities within the city, designed with precincts for certain types of activity. Among them are film and TV studios, a technology-based company hub and residential, retail and entertainment precincts. Development continues in stages, due for completion in the next decade.
The new-in-2006 Eureka Tower epitomises Melbourne's push to live in apartments by becoming the world's tallest apartment building. It's enough to make anyone who's read JG Ballard's Highrise wide-eyed and nervous. But, the tower is good news for visitors who can scoot to the 88th-storey observation tower (compared to the Rialto's 55th) for wild views of the city and its surrounds.
Tel: (03) 9655 1900 (info)
A 21st-century civic hub, this vast, architecturally confronting sandstone, glass and steel box of tricks arouses a love-it-or-hate-it reaction from Melburnians and visitors alike. Stocked with a plethora of cafes, restaurants and retail outlets, Federation Square flexes more than a little cultural muscle.
Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces
Tel: (03) 9419 3406 (info)
Watch this space. Or rather, three spaces showing quality local and international work. There's a buzz about Gertrude's - its shows invariably provoke critical debate. Along with the exhibition spaces, the gallery's cultural exchange programme and 16 studios promote emerging contemporary artists. This is one of the city's most exciting gallery spaces.
Jewish Museum Of Australia
Tel: (03) 9534 0083 (info)
This dynamic and fascinating museum has interactive displays relating to Jewish history and culture since the beginning of European settlement in Australia. Permanent exhibitions celebrate the annual cycle of festivals and holy days that are integral to Jewish life, and explore the origins of Judaism. The museum also hosts regular temporary exhibitions of well-known artists' work - who also happen to be Jewish.
Koorie Heritage Trust
Tel: (03) 8622 2600 (info)
This cultural centre is uniquely devoted to southeastern Aboriginal culture. It preserves and popularises Koorie artefacts and art through a retail outlet and three gallery spaces. One space houses a permanent collection of significant objects, such as possum-fur cloaks, eel traps and baby carriers. Two gallery spaces temporarily exhibit Aboriginal artists' works.
Tel: (03) 9525 5033 (info)
There's still a hint of the sideshow, carny atmosphere at this historic amusement park. Luna Park opened in 1912, sporting the impressive façade of Mr Moon flanked by oriental-style towers. Mr Moon's gaping mouth is still the park entrance - and it's arguably creepier than the ghost-train's quaint cobwebs and glow-in-the-dark skeletons.
Melbourne & Olympic Parks
Tel: (03) 9286 1600 (info)
Melbourne Park is comprised of the Vodafone Arena, the multipurpose venue with a retractable roof, and Rod Laver Arena, home to the Australian Open in January. Daily tours of the Rod Laver Arena (adult/child/family around A$13 /around A$6 /27) take you to the dressing rooms, VIP areas and Superboxes, but only when they're unoccupied, so there's no chance of snaffling a signature from a rock god or guzzling free champagne with the Very Important People. The Olympic Park includes the Olympic Stadium, hosting athletics, rugby and soccer, and the Glasshouse, home to the Collingwood Football Club and Victorian Institute of Sport.
Tel: (03) 9620 0999 (info)
City-slicker sea life, a long way from home, lives very publicly at the Melbourne Aquarium. Rays, gropers and sharks cruise around their 2.2-million-litre tank, watched closely by visitors in the see-through tunnel that traverses the aquarium floor. You can also scuba dive, so occasionally you'll see a troupe of brave souls walking by on the other side of the glass.
Melbourne River Cruises
Tel: (03) 9614 1215 (info)
Cruise the Yarra River upstream in this sleek boat, which passes the Royal Botanic Gardens , Herring Island and the city's sporting precinct. Or you can head downriver to the port and docks. Tours depart every half-hour from Federation Wharf (on the north bank of the river, east of Princes Bridge) and from Berths 5 and 6 at Southgate.
Melbourne Sport Tours
Tel: (03) 8802 4547 (info)
Footy fiends get to touch the turf at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and smell the liniment in the change rooms on the half-day Sports Lovers Tour. Check out the track at Flemington Racecourse too, or cruise by the Commonwealth Games Village and the Albert Park's Grand Prix circuit - in a bus.
Museum Victoria's flagship site is truly a world-class museum. The modern exhibition space eschews glass cases of dusty, taxidermic objects in favour of vibrant thematic displays that take visitors on a journey through natural and cultural history. Museum Victoria operates 4 museums, namely the Immigration Museum, Melbourne Museum, Melbourne Planetarium and Scienceworks, and is also custodian for the Royal Exhibition Building.
National Design Centre
Tel: (03) 9654 6335 (info)
The NDC brings the public together with local and international designers through its retail shop and its nifty ShowBox exhibition space, which displays and interprets designer wares. The centre also hosts workshops and events, including the annual Melbourne Design Festival, held in July.
Tel: (03) 8662 1553 (info)
The mottled, skew-whiff building that houses the National Gallery of Victoria's Australian holdings was a choking bone of contention while under construction, but these days everyone seems to have fallen for its sleek, user-friendly displays. The collection is marvellous, ranging from Streeton to Nolan to Whiteley; there is an entire floor of indigenous art.
Old Melbourne Gaol
Tel: (03) 9663 7228 (info)
This sinister old prison and penal museum was built of bluestone in 1841 and used until 1929. The tiny cells display plaster casts of some of the 130-plus people who were hanged here. A science of the day, known as phrenology, studied the shape of the head to try to understand the criminal mind. Other displays explain 19th-century Melbourne's dire social conditions and give insight into the desperation that may have motivated the criminals. Night tours of the jail ham up the facts, with the ghost of a jailer talking and walking you through the space and its stories. The tours are not recommended for children under 12.
The Prahran Market has been an institution for over a century and is one of the finest produce markets in the city. Established in 1881, it provided an outlet for the area's small farms and market gardens. Now there are numerous stalls stocking fresh seafood, deli items, meats, fruits and vegetables. The market is also home to the Essential Ingredient Cooking School (www.theessentialingredient.com.au), with workshops run by Melbourne's most lauded chefs and restaurateurs.
Tel: (03) 9629 8222 (info)
The Rialto was once the highest building in the southern hemisphere and, until recently, the city's highest building - pipped in 2006 by the Eureka Tower. The Rialto's most distinctive feature is its semireflective glass exterior, which changes colour as the day advances. The observation deck is on the 55th floor; to get there you could climb the 1254 steps or take the 25km/h lifts. The lookout platform provides a spectacular 360-degree view of Melbourne's surrounds - a great way to get your bearings. The admission fee includes a 20-minute video screening about Melbourne city.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Tel: (03) 9252 2300 (info)
Certainly the finest botanic gardens in Australia, and among the finest in the world, this is one of Melbourne's most glorious attractions. Sprawling beside the Yarra River, the beautifully designed gardens feature plants from Australia and around the world. Mini-ecosystems, such as the cacti and succulents area, herb garden and Australian rainforest are set amid the vast lawns. Take a book, picnic or Frisbee; most importantly, take your time.
Royal Melbourne Zoo
Tel: (03) 9285 9300 (info)
Melbourne's zoo is one of the city's most popular attractions, and deservedly so. Established in 1861, this is the oldest zoo in Australia and the third oldest in the world. Set in spacious, attractively landscaped gardens with broad strolling paths, the zoo's enclosures aim to simulate the animals' natural habitats. There's also a large collection of native animals in natural bush settings, a platypus aquarium, fur seals, lions and tigers, plenty of reptiles, and a handsome elephant enclosure. Allow at least half a day for your visit. In summer, the zoo hosts a twilight music programme, with performances ranging from jazz to Abba covers. Roar 'n' Snore allows you to camp at the zoo and join the keepers on their morning rounds of the animal enclosures.
Shrine Of Remembrance
Tel: (03) 9654 8415 (info)
Beside St Kilda Rd stands the massive Shrine of Remembrance, built as a memorial to Victorians killed in WWI. Its distinctive design is partly based on the Temple of Halicarnassus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, and it was built between 1927 and 1934. Visible from the other end of town, planning regulations continue to restrict any building that would obstruct the view of the Shrine from along Swanston St (as far back as Lonsdale St).
South Melbourne Market
Tel: (03) 9209 6295 (info)
This neighbourhood institution (operating on this site since 1864) sells everything from carpets to bok choy (Chinese greens). A teeny window on Cecil St doles out the city's best dim sims (be prepared to queue). The market's labyrinthine interior is packed to overflowing with an eccentric collection of stalls. The produce is excellent, the pace is leisurely and the surrounding streets are conveniently dotted with decent cafés.
St Patrick's Cathedral
Tel: (03) 9662 2233 (info)
One of the world's largest and finest examples of Gothic revival architecture, St Patrick's Cathedral was designed by William Wardell. The imposing bluestone exterior and grounds are but a preview to its contents: inside are several tonnes of bells, an organ with 4500 pipes, ornate stained-glass windows and the remains of former archbishops.
St Paul's Cathedral
Tel: (03) 9653 4333 (info)
Opposite Federation Square stands St Paul's Cathedral, the Anglican equivalent of St Patrick's. Built between 1880 and 1891 it is the work of distinguished ecclesiastical architect William Butterfield, who designed the cathedral from England, refusing to visit Melbourne. It features ornate stained-glass windows (made between 1887 and 1890) and holds regular music programmes and services. In summer it's open to 18:00 daily.
State Library Of Victoria
Tel: (03) 8664 7000 (info)
When the library opened in 1856, people entering were required to sign the visitors book, be over 14 years old and have clean hands. The only requirements today are that you check your bag at the door and maintain a bit of shush. The library's collection includes hundreds of thousands of historical pictures, maps and manuscripts, and almost two million books, newspapers and serials. Various fascinating objects of historical interest are periodically displayed, and chessboards and pieces are provided for protracted playoffs.
Williamstown Railway Museum
Tel: (03) 9397 7412 (info)
Train spotters among us will appreciate the collection of old steam locomotives, wagons, carriages and old photos here. Kids will appreciate the mini-steam-train rides. Operated by the Australian Railway Historical Society, it's part of the Newport Rail Workshops in North Williamstown.
Melburnians' love of shopping is as great as their passion for food - and that's saying something. Whether you want to buy a look, a lifestyle or a kitsch souvenir, you've come to shopping paradise. While there are lots of malls both downtown and in the 'burbs, try the street strips for fun.
Tel: (03) 9650 4300 (info)
Karen Rieschieck and Caroline Price's Alice Euphemia dresses the hippest Melbourne girls. Art-school cheek abounds in local labels Claude Maus, Mad Cortes and Sydney's Michelle Robinson. The cabinets in this intriguing girlie space shelter Lost in the Wood's collectable kidult pins, glam savage jewels by Alexander McQueen, anointed William Llewellyn Griffiths, and Wolfgang and Vincent's heart-unfastening silver keys. Check also for exhibitions by artists/designers/illustrators.
Tel: (03) 9650 3474 (info)
Even if you're not looking for a text about houses built on cliffs, this shop is dang swanky. Architext covers the gamut of design and architecture-related titles, including environmental architecture, urban design, photography, theory, journals and magazines. It also stocks the best range of Melbourne-specific books: look for titles by author Philip Goad or photographer John Gollings.
Tel: (03) 9654 1110 (info)
Apart from being music specialists, supplying an exemplary range of CD titles across all genres, Basement Discs has regular in-store performances by big-name touring and local acts. Descend the long narrow staircase to the basement for a browse; you never know whom you might find playing.
Tel: (03) 9827 2111 (info)
Looking for a special-occasion frock? Look no further. New Zealand-born, Australian-claimed and internationally renowned Collette Dinnigan dresses celebrities every other day for premieres and parties. Signature delicate lace gowns and underwear, as well as shimmering satin pieces, celebrate the feminine form.
Tel: (03) 9650 7775 (info)
The retail arm of Craft Victoria , Counter has a range of handcrafted, locally made jewellery, ceramics, textiles, wood and glass. We're not talking ashtrays and frilly tissue-box covers either - this is classy stuff. What better Melbourne memento than an original crafty art piece? Add a notch to your karma belt, too, for supporting local artists.
Tel: (03) 9417 5338 (info)
Crumpler had humble beginnings, making bags specifically for Melbourne's bike couriers. Its products impressed everyone, so it made more. The bags are durable, practical and have unique designs, and they're now sold all over the world. An extensive range includes bags for cameras, computers and digital things.
Tel: (03) 9663 4334 (info)
With a collection of pieces from over 80 antipodean designers, this unique retail space at 185 Little Collins St holds many little treasures. It's a place where fishing wire and metal piping are precious metals, and where aesthetics and meaning are given equal consideration, with symbolic pieces preferred over the purely contrived. A second branch in Flinders Lane (basement, 167 Flinders Lane) exhibits gold and gem jewellery, as well as larger conceptual/exhibition work.
Tel: (03) 9510 2311 (info)
The clothing in Fat stores may not make the international fashion catwalks, but that's the point. And it's not because Fat's thinking-person's offerings are for larger sizes. Local designers and Fat's own line fill the space between high fashion and antifashion. Pieces are conscious, irreverent and playful. Individual bags and accessories complete the offerings.
Foreign Language Bookshop
Tel: (03) 9654 2883 (info)
Read Paulo Coelho in Spanish, pick up a Scrabble board in French, or perhaps some tapes in Russian for those long car journeys. The Foreign Language Bookshop has more than texts to help you learn German grammar or Japanese kanji; it's a den of surprises, and stocks a range of travel-related titles, international magazines and educational aids for kids.
Tel: (03) 9650 6366 (info)
Stocking funky Japanesey clothing for men, women and little rascals, Genki is a haven for all things cute, pink and quirky. Check out Genki's signature range of T-shirts with slogans such as 'I Love Kissing' and 'I Love Frisbee', as well as accessories and next-big-thing labels from London and New York.
Tel: (03) 9593 8168 (info)
Hunter Gatherer takes the work out of trawling through numerous racks of mothball-scented clothes. Run by the welfare organisation Brotherhood of St Laurence, Hunter Gatherer filters through its 26-odd op shops to bring you the hippest secondhand gear. It also stocks its own vintage-inspired label. All profits go to programmes to assist low-income families, the elderly and unemployed.
Tel: (03) 9663 0655 (info)
At 176 Collins St, this jewel-box version of the mini-empire's larger concerns in Albert Park and Toorak highlights the building's original Victorian ecclesia but evokes Persia and Paris. The curatorial range here is also eclectic - the unifying factor is luscious fabrics and a loving attention to detail. An early champion of the boho-luxe look, beloved of Melbourne's intelligentsia, it's the place to find Vixen, Easton Pearson and Gorman. There's also a small selection of own-brand teas and home wares.
Tel: (03) 9654 7641 (info)
Behind the classic and enigmatic façade at 74 Collins St, women are measured up for the likes of Westwood, Givenchy, Stella McCartney and Galliano. Society lady Lillian Wightman founded this treasure in 1935; it's now run by her daughter, Georgina Weir.
Tel: (03) 9419 7123 (info)
Part art gallery, part retail outlet, this little store at 71 Gertrude St is an aesthete's heaven. Wearable art, such as bags woven from seat belts, knitted corsages and button bracelets, shares space here with pieces for your wall or shelf. Everything is locally made and extremely well priced.
This shopping centre complex (with 300 stores, a cinema complex, bars and eateries) subsumed a number of Melbourne's arcades and alleyways when it was built, as well as a lead shot tower dating from 1889. The old brick chimney props incongruously beneath a great glass pyramid, a staid structure in a fast-moving retail environment.
Tel: (03) 9827 0259 (info)
Melbourne-based accessories label Mimco has made adjuncts like jewellery, hats and bags a main event. Oversized, soft, feminine and functional, Mimco's seasonal bag designs make a sassy statement. Hair clips and jewellery acknowledge that it's often the little things that count.
Queen Victoria Market
Tel: (03) 9320 5822 (info)
The Queen Victoria Market is a thriving community of over 600 traders, all bellowing special prices from behind colourful produce stalls. It's the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere and attracts thousands of shoppers. You can buy everything the most fickle palate could desire here. On Sunday the produce stalls are replaced with clothing and knick-knack stalls. This is definitely the place to find those souvenir sheepskin moccasins.
Taking up a whole city block, this development is on the site of the old Queen Victoria Women's Hospital. It's a medley of apartments, commercial and retail space designed by three different architects to give the impression that the block was built up over time. It's like a parody of the city, with artificial laneways and arcades. The complex's retail residents include supermarkets and food stores (including Max Brenner, for those with a serious chocolate addiction), hairdressers and some of the city's finest boutique stores.
Tel: (03) 9639 5669 (info)
Nestled in Cathedral Arcade, Route 66 has been a vintage clothing stalwart for years. Menswear leans towards bowling shirts and sharp pants; womenswear is decidedly '50s va-va-voom: pencil skirts, cardigans with embroidered skulls and seamed stockings. Jewellery is heavy on the dice motif. Route 66 can also sort you out for a tiki mug, a book on hot rods or an eight ball for your gearstick.
Tel: (03) 9417 0230 (info)
Vegan Wares makes shoes from microfibre rather than leather so they're perfect for people who eschew animal products but still want something durable, comfortable and fashionable on their feet. The funky footwear comes in a broad range of styles for men, women and unisex, and can be made to order. Belts and wallets are also available.
Tel: (03) 9348 0048 (info)
Wunderkammer is the sort of place where mad scientists might come to shop - it sells taxidermied animals, bugs in jars, antique scientific and surgical tools and carnivorous plants, among other things. Spend some time looking though the Cabinet of Wonders in the corner; each drawer contains a new surprise.
Tel: (03) 9416 2236 (info)
Zetta Florence specialises in long-term preservation for photographers and artists, as well as Australia's national archives. Its impressive showroom has been artistically arranged to display practical products, such as binders, folios and designer archive boxes, alongside exquisitely bound notebooks, quality papers and cards.
Melbourne has a thriving nightlife, a lively cultural scene and some great bars and clubs. You can laugh till it hurts at some stand-up comedy, check out the next big thing on the live music scene, sip cocktails at a low-lit bar, immerse yourself in experimental theatre or flaunt your jewels at the opera.
Tel: (03) 9510 1414 (info)
This classic screens all the classics in absolutely stunning Art Deco surrounds. The Astor is a bit of magic: the candy-bar staff appear to have stepped out of a noir set, and the Astor cat makes celebrity appearances now and then. This cinema is well known for a superb line-up of films that have attained classic or cult status. Its double features screen most nights and it has some of the city's best choc-top ice creams.
Tel: (03) 1300 369 741 (info)
Based in Melbourne and now more than 40 years old, the Australian Ballet performs traditional and new works at the Victorian Arts Centre. Visit the website for an extensive history as well as pending performances.
Tel: (03) 9529 7899 (info)
Chapel St is known for its front. So Back Bar makes a refreshing retreat from the all-out-there street. Tucked behind the street frontage of Tusk Café on Chapel St, Back Bar is a cosy evening parlour with lavish décor. Take a spell on a settee and repudiate any knowledge of the outside world till late.
Tel: (03) 9415 9601 (info)
Come to Bar Open with an open mind and you could discover the joys of experimental jazz improv, be moved by poetry readings or by a swinging big band; they, and many more, all perform in a not-so-big space upstairs. Downstairs, pull up a beer keg or slouch on a grubby couch and peer through the dimness to check out regularly changing exhibits. Bar Open is mostly free, always entertaining and usually open later than most.
Tel: (03) 9663 2856 (info)
Bennetts Lane has been a quintessential part of the Melbourne music scene for years. Attracting the cream of local talent, as well as regular international acts, this is the perfect pad if you love a good toe-tap to contemporary jazz.
Blue Bar 330
Tel: (03) 9529 6499 (info)
A narrow and dimly lit sanctum away from the bustle of Chapel St, Blue Bar is a tunnel designed for total liquid salvation. Its linear architecture and street-smart clientele contrast with the sprawl of couches and microwave pizzas further within.
Tel: (03) 9690 2000 (info)
This eccentric little place remains largely undiscovered; it's where acts that aren't really theatre, aren't quite straight comedy but contain a bit of music take shelter. The teeny rooms display an almost eerie collection of kitsch, which adds to the anticipation of never knowing what this place will serve up.
Tel: (03) 9348 9488 (info)
There is stand-up every night of the week here. Monday night features 12 local comedians and is recorded by community TV (Channel 31). Tuesday is kind of an open-mic night, where aspiring comics have their eight minutes of fame (or shame).
Tel: (03) 9427 9198 (info)
Apart from being one of the city's favourite live-music venues, the Corner has a friendly front bar and stellar rooftop, with views across town. Even if you're not in the band room, the strains of Martha Wainwright or Interpol leak into the front bar - making quite a serenade to a game of pool or meal of basic pub grub.
Tel: (03) 9380 8383 (info)
The Cornish Arms is a big, friendly venue hosting performances by local talents you're unlikely to have heard of, but who may have had some success in the Australian music scene (usually some time ago). There's some form of entertainment nightly (free to around A$20), be it music, comedy or cabaret. Sunday-afternoon sessions are popular with young families.
Tel: (03) 9662 1020 (info)
This rock-and-roll bar also stages touring and local bands. Lounge and ambient artists need not apply. With a sister venue in New York, the Ding Dongs are keeping it real, hosting performers such as the Kills and Scout Niblett.
Ding Dong Lounge
Tel: (03) 9662 1020 (info)
This rock-and-roll bar also stages touring and local bands. Lounge and ambient artists need not apply. With a sister venue in New York, the Ding Dongs are keeping it real, hosting performers such as the Kills and Scout Niblett.
Tel: (03) 9489 8605 (info)
The Empress continues to grace the Melbourne music scene with its presence. This quintessential Fitzroy pub was one of the first to book Silverchair. It stages a variety of genres from folk to unplugged rock every night of the week. Monday to Wednesday and Sunday are free, admission Thursday through Saturday costs under around A$10. The Empress also serves decent counter meals.
Tel: (03) 9419 5500 (info)
Playing mostly local acts, the Evelyn also pulls some biggish-name international performers. The Ev doesn't discriminate by genre; as long as it's quality music it gets a look-in here. Both one-off gigs and band residencies feature from Tuesday to Sunday at this long-running, well-respected venue.
Tel: (03) 9650 4494 (info)
This stark all-nighter is also popular earlier in the evening with Friday after-work drinkers, when entry is free and drinks specials drown out the week that was. It's your basic garden-variety club; each night brings a different crowd-pleasing flavour, from R&B through to commercial house. Join gangs of girlfriends and student types on their big night out.
Tel: (03) 9381 4443 (info)
AFlor Wine Bar is one of those great places you wonder if you should even tell your friends about - maybe it'd be better to keep it to yourself. It's small, with one cosy corner, a few tables, a courtyard for summer, and a really big wine rack. If wine's not your thing, you can get stuck into one of many fine single malts, or try a whisky flight - 15mL serves of five different whiskies.
George Public Bar
Tel: (03) 9534 8822 (info)
The imposing George Hotel is a monumental establishment. Behind the crumbling paint and Edwardian windows there's an award-winning restaurant (Melbourne Wine Room) and several bars designed to attract the beautiful people. But in the bowels is the George Public Bar, or Snakepit. Descending into the basement has been likened to walking into the bar scene in Star Wars. Here all types are welcome to nurse a pot, play some pool or eat a counter meal
Tel: (03) 9650 9420 (info)
If you're after cheap tickets, visit the Half-Tix counter, which sells half-price tickets to shows and concerts on the day of the performance. Half-Tix accepts cash payments only.
Kage Physical Theatre
Tel: (03) 9328 2474 (info)
This modern dance company explores the nexus between theatre and dance. Narrative is played out without dialogue, using music, design and movement to tell the story. This is witty and innovative stuff, well worth a look. Check the website for performance details.
Tel: (03) 9347 6948 (info)
La Mama is historically significant to Melbourne's theatre scene. This tiny, intimate forum produces new Australian works and experimental theatre, and has a reputation for developing emerging playwrights.
Tel: (03) 9663 7226 (info)
What do sushi, moose heads and cocktails have in common? They're all at Long Room. The decadent space runs the length of a city block, and is bedecked with said heads, clusters of low-lying tables, a sushi bar and private tatami rooms. The after-work crowd recognise the top-40 type tunes and loiter till late.
Tel: (03) 9685 5111 (info)
This is probably the most exciting local theatre you'll see in Melbourne. Dedicated to promoting Australian works, the Malthouse is instrumental in touring works, taking innovative Australian theatre to a wider audience. Housed in the atmospheric Malthouse Theatre since 1990, it includes a number of theatre spaces of varying sizes and includes the Tower Theatre - bringing the better acts from the city's fringe to a broader audience.
Tel: (03) 9663 0630 (info)
Manchester Lane doubles as a semiformal restaurant and has a classy-theatre-restaurant feel about it. While it hosts jazz musicians, an odd assortment of performers have played here, including Russell Crowe and his band the Ordinary Fear of God, and the vaudevillian Soubrettes & Friends Variety a GoGo. Enter from Manchester Lane.
Mountain Goat Brewery
Tel: (03) 9428 1180 (info)
This local microbrewery's four varieties of bottled beer are available in lots of bars about town, but there's no better place than from the makers themselves to really get your Goat. Open days are Wednesday and Friday, when Cam and Dave answer questions about brewing (and make idle chitchat), cook pizzas and put on a tasting.
Tel: (03) 9536 1166 (info)
The Prince Bandroom (upstairs) at the Prince of Wales and Mink has been part of the live-music scene for over 20 years. The giant blackboard out the front tells you who's playing on any given night. You might luck on the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings or Damian Marley.
Tel: (03) 9533 8083 (info)
This is an independent company of actors staging new international works that are often premieres in Australia. The tiny black-box theatre, opposite the Astor - down the end of the driveway - is a cosy, intimate space.
Tel: (03) 9521 5985 (info)
Upstairs at Revolver is like an enormous lounge room, although it can get rowdy. With 54 hours of nonstop music from Friday to Sunday, it's like a revolving door of DJs, keeping the shag-pile rugs downtrodden. The front room is also used for a variety of film screenings and to host heaps of bands. Out the back there's even a Thai restaurant.
Tel: (03) 9620 3646 (info)
If you ever got caught up in Japanese manga mania or you just feel like a sushi handroll washed down with a crisp Asahi or chased by a sake, check out Robot. It has an all-welcome door policy, and attracts groovy kids with great haircuts. Animated movies screen free every Tuesday night.
Located in a laneway you say? Yawn. How about: in a laneway, in a car park, and made from shipping containers? Like the city's street art, which is in part so arresting because it appears in unexpected places, Section 8 at Tattersalls Lane is a fabulous surprise. It has makeshift seating made from packing crates, funky music and lantern lighting.
Tel: (03) 9362 0999 (info)
Gloriously restored to its art deco heyday, the Sun Theatre offers the most joyous cinema experience in town. The films are a judicious blend of arthouse and mainstream; seats are roomy and padded with pale green suede; sound is superb; and you're encouraged to fill your personal coffee table with tia maria choctops, nougat and champagne.
Tel: (03) 9534 3399 (info)
Theatreworks is a community theatre dedicated to supporting a range of arts practitioners. It's been around for 25-odd years and provides affordable theatre space to innovative and emerging artists.
Tony Starr's Kitten Club
Tel: (03) 9650 2448 (info)
Ascend the lime-green stairs to the split-level world of Tony Starr. First stop, the Galaxy Lounge with its '50s-inspired cocktail-hour décor, open kitchen and weekend live cabaret. Or, company depending, climb the stairs again and stretch out and purr in the padded plushness of the Love Lounge.
Tel: (03) 9658 8808 (info)
A people-watcher's paradise from any angle, this ultramodern pub is located at the city's transport hub, with views of the Yarra River, Flinders Street Station and Federation Square. It's big, brassy and busy, serving every drink imaginable, utilitarian pub food and entertainment: DJs, bands and beer-tasting nights (from the 150 varieties available).
Tel: (03) 9415 6101 (info)
Polite, subtle and neat, Ume Nomiya is the kind of bar you'd feel comfortable taking your mum - not that anyone does. Clean, healthy Japanese food comes from the kitchen upstairs. Locals make use of the Bottle Keep service, buying a whole bottle of their favourite whisky, sake or shochu (distilled alcohol, usually made from barley) brought out from behind the bar each time they visit. DJs make some lovely background noise.
Tel: (03) 9534 4456 (info)
It's big, it's brassy, and it's got a balcony. Over two levels, Veludo's relatively late closing means that most St Kilda-ites have ducked in here after everything else has closed. A dark and sultry way to lose a few hours, especially during the cooler months, when you can couch it next to a roaring open fire. Humdrum food runs till late.
Winter sees the city consumed by Aussie Rules football. In summer, cricket and tennis come to the fore. Cycling is popular and the Main Yarra Trail, following the Yarra River eastwards from the CBD, is a pleasant ride. The beachside path from Port Melbourne to St Kilda is popular with rollerbladers.
For the ultimate football experience choose a blockbuster game at the MCG on a Saturday afternoon - or park your car along the boundary line of a suburban game to watch a bunch of middle-aged wannabes dish it out in the mud.
Rent a canoe or kayak at Kew Boathouse for a leisurely paddle along the Yarra.
The Main Yarra Trail, east of the city, is a favourite way to escape the city buzz.
Be one of the beautiful people giving their pot-bellies the slip as they run around the Tan - a running track surrounding Melbourne's Botanical Gardens.
Rollerblading is a tradition along the Esplanade in Port Melbourne, Middle Park, St Kilda and Elwood.
Try kitesurfing in the waters off St Kilda Beach.
Eating in Melbourne is a joy, and you'll be pleasantly surprised when you get the bill at the end. A culinary mix of European, Mediterranean and Asian flavours and a stable of imaginative chefs have resulted in a modern Australian style with a flair all its own.
In Melbourne, sleeping around is a good thing. Staying among the city's thrum is undeniably a treat, but spending a night in a surrounding suburb allows you to tap in to the nuances of the neighbourhoods. Like peering backstage, a stay in an inner-city suburb provides an insight into the inner workings of the city: to the people and props behind the scenes.
Most international tourists will arrive via Melbourne's Tullamarine airport which is 22km (14mi) northwest of the city centre. There are a few ways of getting into the city from the airport but a taxi or the 24-hour Skybus are the most convenient modes. A second airport, Avalon Airport is southwest of the city; the Sunbus service meets all flights that arrive there.
Bus travel within Australia is fairly cheap but Australia is a big country and what you save in dollars you pay for in boredom, as journeys can be agonisingly long. Trains are more comfortable but the network is less extensive and they are more expensive. Of course, there's always the option of hiring a car and taking to the wide open road by hitting the (largely excellent) highways between cities.
The city's airport, Tullamarine, is 22km (14mi) northwest of the city centre. A second airport, Avalon Airport, is southwest of the city. Melbourne's airport services both domestic and international flights. While plenty of international airlines have direct flights into Melbourne, many flights still stop off in Sydney. Domestic flights run between Melbourne and all Australian capital cities, as well as to many regional centres and a few towns in Victoria.
Bus travel is the cheapest way to get around, but distances are large and it can be slow and tedious. Buses tend to travel the major highways, which can make the trip even more boring. Buses arrive in Melbourne from other Australian capitals, Victorian towns and tourist favourites like Alice Springs and Cairns. Small bus companies travel slower, more scenic routes such as the Great Ocean Road, through the Victorian High Country, along the east coast and through central Australia.
If you're driving yourself, the main highways into Melbourne are the Hume (inland) or the Princes (coastal) from Sydney, and the Western (inland) or Princes (coastal) from Adelaide. Driving is on the left.
Two ferries run the long (11hr) and choppy route between Melbourne and Devonport, in northern Tasmania.
The country's train system is less extensive than the bus network and train travel is more expensive, but it's often quicker and almost always more pleasant than slogging it out on a bus. Interstate rail services really only operate between capital cities. Major centres in Victoria are serviced by trains, and the areas that don't have train lines can be reached by V/Line (the train company) bus. The interstate train station (Southern Cross Station) and the main metropolitan station (Flinders St) are both in the city centre.
Melbourne's an easy city to navigate unless you need to be in the suburbs, which can get confusing. It's designed in the classic mould: the thoroughfares fan out like the spokes of a wheel from the central business district. Public transport consists of trams, trains and buses and tends to be efficient and useful - as long as your trip is along one of the spokes of the wheel. Public transport across suburbs can be a problem.
Melbourne's generally flat terrain makes cycling a popular option for getting around, and there are good bike tracks, but watch out for those tram tracks and make sure your wheels don't get caught in them.
Buses are clean and efficient and include the 'Nightrider' bus service, which runs from the city to the outlying suburbs from midnight to dawn and is aimed at getting revellers home safely.
You can hire a car from the usual car-rental places or the rent-a-bomb variety. Be aware that driving in Melbourne can be confusing, particularly with the unique hook turns necessary in the city centre; traffic turning right must often do so from the left lane to avoid blocking tram tracks. If you are driving alongside a tram, you must stop when trams pull up to a tram stop, leaving the tram doorways clear for passengers to disembark safely. If you are using Melbourne's tollway road, CityLink, in the east (South-Eastern Fwy) and west (Tullamarine Fwy), ensure you have a daypass or an electronic pass ('e-Tag'), or you may be fined.
Melbourne has a plethora of cabs, which can be hailed on the street or booked by phone. There is a designated taxi rank at Flinders Street Station.
Melbourne's trams are a source of city pride and run on a fairly efficient and broad network within the city and the inner city suburbs. Coin-only ticket machines are installed on trams. Remember to validate your ticket when you board a tram.
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