My Melbourne: must do highlights for visitors

Fromthebay Streetart Melbourne highlightsforvisitors

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I can’t tell you what a hurry I was in to leave Melbourne as a teenager. I was way too cool for the place and there was so much else to experience in the world. Granted it was the 90s and a much different city back then.

I came to my senses though, and realised my hometown is one of the best places to live and visit in the world.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne must do - take in the view from the Southbank

Quick Melbourne history check

Way before the British came to Australia, the land Melbourne now stands on was home to the indigenous Australian tribes – Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong.

The site was an important meeting place and source of food for these people. Melbourne was founded on the banks of the Yarra River in 1835 after a treaty between the local tribes and some ambitious graziers from Tasmania looking to expand their land holdings.

It wasn’t until the 1850s boom sparked by the gold rush in the mines near Bendigo and Ballarat that the town flourished. From humble beginnings its population exploded to 280,000 by 1880 and was just under half a million at the turn of the century.

These days Melbourne is a thriving and multicultural metropolis of over 4 million people with plenty to offer all types of visitors.

I’ve picked some of my favourite sights and things to do for both new and returning visitors to Melbourne

Melbourne parks, gardens and grand buildings

Melbourne must do - buildings and architecture

Simply wandering around Melbourne’s streets and laneways is the best way to experience its eclectic mix of architecture. From Victorian era heritage to modern skyscrapers and everything in between.

When you have had enough of the concrete jungle, surrounding the city are the glorious green spaces great for relaxing under a tree, a picnic or a spot of possum chasing if you like that kind of thing.

Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Don’t miss Melbourne’s favourite sites

1. Victorian masterpieces – Parliament House, the Treasury Building and of course the beautiful Block Arcade
2. Enjoy spectacular views over Port Phillip Bay and towards the Dandenongs from the Eureka Tower
3. For some peace and reflection visit the Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance
4. Centre Place is a busy laneway lined with cute cafes and funky stores
5. I love the Royal Exhibition Building and its elegant gardens

Outdoor fun in Melbourne

There’s no better place when the sun is shining.  Work up an appetite in the sunshine so you are ready for the inevitable feasting to come.

Give it a go.. Melbourne’s best outdoor activities

1. Go for a swim in the bay or at the sea baths  in St Kilda – also great for people watching
2. Hire a bike – 33 km of meandering bike track runs beside the Yarra River from the city to the suburbs. For more bike riding trails click here
3. Jog or walk “the Tan” – a 3.8km circuit of the Botanic Gardens
4. Visit Melbourne’s Zoo – a favourite with kids, Melbourne Zoo exhibits both Australian and international species
5. At a slower pace barefoot lawn bowls is a popular pastime, almost hipster

St Kilda pier at sunset - Melbourne must do

Eating & drinking in Melbourne

If you are unfortunate enough to have a truly awful meal in Melbourne please email me immediately. In my opinion Melbourne has one of the best quality, well priced and varied food scenes in the world.

Also obsessed with coffee, brunch and cocktails, the city is a foodie mecca. Enjoy!

I’ve chosen a few of my favourite places to eat and drink in the city for you. The following may be controversial picks but there really are so many good choices.

Melbourne must do coffee spots

1. Journal cafe – wonderful coffee in the inspiring surrounds of the City Library. Also serves delicious food
2. Brunetti – occupying a wonderful spot in the city square, Brunetti’s is also a great place for cakes and gelato
3. Hardware Société – coffee plus breakfast – game on! Soon to be opening in Paris too – wow!

Melbourne coffee. Melbourne - highlights for visitors

Favourite Melbourne restaurants

1. Lucy Liu – pan Asian menu meets cool laneway vibes. You must try the soft shell crab pancake roll
2. Maha – modern Middle Eastern cuisine. Always delicious and great value. Try the barramundi
3. Rosetta – classy Italian by celebrity chef Neil Perry located in the Crown Casino complex

If you’re looking to try a broad range of cuisine in Melbourne then why not try a Melbourne food tour? Celebrating Melbourne’s multicultural heritage, a food tour lets you try tastes from all around the world and you’ll finish with a list of places to try and hopefully a few secrets to share with your friends.

Cool Melbourne bars

1. Arbory – Great views on the banks of the Yarra next to Flinders Street station. Open from breakfast til late.
2. Madame Brussels – a garden party on a rooftop with Pimms of course. Why not?
3. Double Happiness – helllloooo espresso martini

Top tip: Don’t miss the wonderful fresh produce section
at the Queen Victoria Market

Melbourne’s art and culture

Some people think Australia is devoid of these things but really they should get educated. Our town is a non stop cultural experience. I think we’ve all lost count of the festivals and goings on but really you shouldn’t miss.

Street art - Melbourne highlights for visitors
1. The street art. Local artists are celebrated city wide and you can also find work by Keith Haring and Banksy

2. Festivals. Too many to mention. My favourites are Comedy Festival [March/April], Melbourne International Film Festival [July] and Melbourne Fringe (performing arts) [Sept/Oct]

3. Art. The National Gallery of Victoria showcases Australian and international artists with permanent and exciting temporary exhibitions by artists such as Ai Wei Wei and Andy Warhol

4. Catch a live band – the music scene is thriving in Melbourne. Check the listings at The Forum (amazing Italianate style theatre) or Corner Hotel (iconic live band venue)

5. Go to the theatre. I really love the Malthouse Theatre for contemporary Australian and international performances.

NGV - Andy Warhol Ai Weiwei - Street art - Melbourne - highlights for visitors

Melbourne: a sporting city

I may be one of the few Melburnians that is not that keen on sport but there is something for everyone throughout the year. Here are my top tips but you can also catch Formula One Grand Prix, cricket, soccer, rugby league and basketball.

1. Australian Rules Football – go to a game if you are there in season. It is a physically demanding and exciting sport and a fundamental part of our city

2. Horse Racing – very serious business in October and November from a racing and fashion perspective. The Melbourne Cup is one of the premier horse races in the world.

3. Tennis – the Australian Open kicks off the grand slam season in January every year true Aussie relaxed style

From the bay - Street art - Melbourne highlights for visitors

Interesting Melbourne facts

1. Batman Avenue is not named after the better half of the dynamic duo but by one of the founders of the city, John Batman.

2. Gangland culture was established in the city early on by the likes of the infamous Squizzy Taylor. [I just love that name and had to find a way to squeeze it into this post!]

3. Melbourne was Australia’s capital city from Federation in 1901 to 1923 while the new capital Canberra was being built. Should have stayed in Melbourne. There, I said it.

Have you visited Melbourne? I hope you had a great time and I’d love to hear your comments

Need more Melbourne information?

How about heading to our inner city beachside suburb St Kilda for cafes, strolling along the sea front and much more – read:  Enjoy St Kilda like a local

Need somewhere to stay? Check out my guide to the best boutique hotels in Melbourne

More posts about Australia
Secrets of the Great Ocean Road
Photo journal – trip to Hobart, Australia

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Melbourne highlights for visitors – street art, coffee, bars and more Melbourne highlights for visitors - architecture, coffee, gardens and more

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