THE CULTURE THAT IS MELBOURNE

There’s always been a “friendly” rivalry between Sydneyites and Melburnians as to which is the better city.  In my opinion, Sydney is more beautiful, but Melbourne is the cultural centre and it has a real vibe about it.  UNESCO has designated Melbourne as a City of Literature.

Melbourne only recently lost its crown for being the most liveable city in the world for 7 years running when it lost to Vienna in 2018. As good as it is, the city has a seedy side and certain areas should be avoided, in particular King Street (in the CBD) at night.

John Batman was the founder of Melbourne.  He negotiated a treaty with Aboriginal people in 1835 and it’s still a matter of controversy today.  In exchange for thousands of hectares of land which stretched from Melbourne to Geelong, he traded tools, blankets and food.  The New South Wales colonial government didn’t acknowledge the treaty though.  It was exploitative however his treaty is the only one which was an attempt by a European to engage the Aboriginal people.  Everyone else just took the land.

Weatherwise, Melbourne can experience four seasons in one day.  One minute the sun’s shining and the next there’s a blustering gale and you need to take out the brolly and maybe even a jacket. Temperatures can drop from 35C down to 18C.  But don’t let that dampen your spirits.  There’s plenty to keep you occupied when the weather turns.

Melbourne excels where fine dining options are concerned and is full of chic eateries, rooftop bars and clubs.  You’ll find dozens of funky venues tucked away in the laneways of the CBD.  Just a short tram ride from the CBD, is the dining and entertainment precinct of famous Chapel Street.   Here you’ll find not only gastronomic delights, but also fashion and more fashion by local and international designers.  Melbourne is considered to be the fashion capital of Australia.

And in Melbourne it’s all about the coffee.  The roasters and baristas are some of the most accomplished on this planet.  My husband, Max, and I were hanging out for a good coffee in Kuala Lumpur, which we knew we wouldn’t find, and settled on a Viennese style café in the Petronas Towers.  While we waited for our coffees, I mentioned to Max that this is probably as good as it’s going to get in KL and I suddenly heard a laugh at the table nearby.  It was a young Malaysian girl and she had overhead me.  She said she knew exactly what I was talking about as she lived in Melbourne for 2 years as a student and got so used to drinking great coffee, it was impossible to find anywhere to compare.  For a list of some of the best coffee in Melbourne, checkout this link -https://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/guides/best-coffee

Melbourne has numerous attractions and below are just a few to get you started. 

Melbourne Trams have been operating in Melbourne continuously since 1885 and the network covers 250 km.  It’s the second most used form of public transport.  Hop on a tram and enjoy the sights of Melbourne.  The Circle City tram is free and is a great way to see the major attractions of the CBD.

Federation Square is the venue for arts, culture and public events.  It’s a marriage of old and new.  Here you’ll find the beautiful historical Flinders Street Station on the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets and the Neo-Gothic St Paul’s Cathedral.  And close by is the ultra modern Atrium which is a galleria-like structure of glass and steel and houses cafes, specialty stores and some of Melbourne’s major galleries.  There’s also the Ian Potter Centre which showcases more than 70,000 pieces of historic indigenous art, contemporary pieces and artefacts, and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).

Street Art – Melbourne is known as one of the top cities in the world for street art.  Two of the most popular graffiti laneways are Hosier Lane and DeGraves Street.  Here’s a list of others:

  • AC/DC Lane
  • Rutledge Lane
  • Caledonian Lane
  • Flinders Court
  • Centre Place
  • Croft Alley
  • Drewery and Sniders lanes
  • Duckboard Place
  • Stevenson and Tattersalls lanes
  • Corner 361 Little Bourke Street and Rankins Lane
  • Finlay Lane
  • Blender Lane
  • Union Lane

They offer a riot of colour and designs.  Graffiti is illegal by law as it’s considered vandalism however it’s gaining recognition as a legitimate form of art and is encouraged in selected areas. 

Free walking tours – as I mentioned in a previous blog, Max and I did a free walking tour one cold Sunday morning – it was invigorating and kept us warm.  The tour was so informative that we decided we’ll definitely be doing another when we next visit Melbourne.  The guides will take you on a tour of their favourite sights and ours was centred around historical buildings as well as the graffiti lanes of the CBD.  You can give a donation at the end of the tour if you wish.  The tours take between 1.5 and 3 hours.   You don’t need to book and here’s a link which will provide directions – https://www.imfree.com.au/melbourne/  Click on the tour to find out what you’ll see.

Riverfront – Take a stroll along the riverfront promenade in Southbank and on a lazy day, dine at the many cafes and restaurants along the way. 

Old Melbourne Gaol was built in the mid 1800s and closed in 1929.  You can tour the old gaol and get a sense of what incarceration might have been like.  Not for me thanks!   Our most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, was hung here.  This link will let you know a bit about the history as well as opening times – https://www.oldmelbournegaol.com.au//

Wunderkammer is the place to go for weird and unusual gifts.  Or just go there to browse and be amazed at the rare, odd and fantastic array of items on display.  Here you’ll find bits of meteorites and tektites, corals and shells, insects and butterflies, taxidermy, scientific instruments, medical and surgical equipment, globes and maps and a whole lot more.  Wunderkammer means Cabinet of Curiosities in German and it’s certainly that.  You’ll find them at 439 Lonsdale Street in the CBD.

Queen Victoria Markets – is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere and was established in the late 1860s.   Spend a good half day or even full day here eating, looking and buying.   You could start with breakfast, do some shopping and then finish with a leisurely lunch. The market offers foodie tours and has hundreds of speciality shops selling souvenirs, clothing, technology, flowers, toys and more.  You’ll also find fresh produce, delis, seafood, specialty grocers, bakeries, organics, alcohol and butchers.  This link will provide an insight – https://qvm.com.auu

The State Library of Victoria was built in 1854 and is one of the first free libraries in the world.  It takes up a full city block with galleries, reading rooms and display spaces.  If you decide to check it out, make sure you visit the most impressive La Trobe Reading Room. 

Immigration Museum, located in the historic Old Customs House, provides an insight into the cultural diversity that has contributed to shaping modern Australia.  It provides a thoroughly interesting display of Australia’s immigration history.

Cook’s Cottage was built in 1755 and is Australia’s oldest building.  It sits in Fitzroy Gardens and was relocated from Yorkshire in England to Melbourne in 1934 by Sir Russell Grimwade.  Take a look inside.  Captain James Cook’s father built it however the captain never lived in it as he was busy travelling the world.

St Kilda Beach and Pier is a Melbourne landmark and a must do destination for visitors.   If you’re not into crowds, then it’s probably better to avoid it on a Sunday when you’ll find every man and his dog here (Australian for everyone).  Melburnians tend to flock here for some weekend respite as it’s their closest beach.  But then it’s all about the atmosphere. During summer the foreshore is a hive of activity.  Whether you’re a walker, jogger, cyclist or roller-blader, there’s plenty of room for all on the wide esplanade.  There are a number of dining options including the Little Blue kiosk on the iconic pier where you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Melbourne skyline.  You might also see little penguins on the breakwater.   If you’re into watersports, it’s a favourite destination for swimmers, windsurfers and kite-surfers.

National Sports Museum – Australia is a nation of sporting fanatics – but mostly of the armchair kind.  I don’t think there’s a sport that we don’t do – or should I say watch.  For such a small country (with a population of only 25 million), we don’t do too badly in the Olympic Games against all the big guns.  The museum includes the Australian Football Hall of Fame, interactive zones, displays and memorabilia of some of the country’s biggest sporting heroes and 3D holograms.  You can find the museum at Gate 3 of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Yarra Park where you can purchase all kinds of sporting merchandise and memorabilia in the one-stop shop, whether it’s cricket or AFL you’re interested in.

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Image Reference – Unsplash.com

  • Image 1 – Denise Jans
  • Image 2 – Mae Mu
  • Image 3 – Nathan Dunlao
  • Image 4 – Aditya Josh
  • Image 5 – Matt Zhang
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  • Image 7 – Vaun0815
  • Image 8 – Jase Ess
  • Image 9 – Annie Spratt
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  • Image 11 – James Garman
  • Image 12 – Tim McCartney
  • Image 15 – Nate Watson

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