Melbourne is amazing — there’s a reason that it seems to be many people’s favorite Australian city (sorry, Sydney). Exploring all of the museums, gardens, markets, and fun and funky little neighborhoods could take weeks, but here’s what we managed to cover in the first of three packed days.
Queen Victoria Market
We started our day with breakfast at this iconic market, which has been around in some form or another since 1857. The gözleme (stuffed Turkish flatbreads) were absolutely amazing. But this market isn’t just for breakfast! You can buy everything: fruit and veg, coffee and spices, used books and wooden spoons — what a delightful mish-mash (it can be chilly in Melbourne, so we grabbed an extra pair of socks). If you want a delicious lunch en plein air, grab the makings for a picnic here.
Flinders Street Station
We took the free city centre tram to Flinders Street Station, an iconic Edwardian gem. Walking down its entire two-block length will give you a sense of just how massive this building is. While you’re in the neighborhood, wander the tiny streets just north of the station and take in the every-changing street art.
The Nicholas Building
The Nicholas Building doesn’t make it onto many tourist maps, but this heritage building — now home to a wide range of creative outlets — is a great example of 1920s Chicago Style architecture. It’s well worth wandering down the Cathedral Arcade and checking out the stained glass.
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
This free art museum at the northeastern corner of Federation Square is home the National Gallery of Victoria’s Australia collection. Organized more or less chronologically, the works here feature everything from the observations of early European settlers to contemporary Aboriginal pieces.
The Ian Potter Centre isn’t huge; we covered it in under two hours, which felt just about perfect. And I appreciated having a graphical and historical introduction to how various people have interpreted and understood art within the Australian context.
Also situated in the Federation Square complex — and also free — the ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) is a fun place to while away an hour before lunch. This museum first traces the history of moving images; then, once it hits the twentieth century, the curators have laid out the exhibits into specific categories (sound, storyboarding, costumes) related to film, television, and video games. There are lots of interactive opportunities here, and if you time your visit correctly, you might also be able to catch a movie or two.
Yarra River Trail
We barely had any energy left, but we wanted to take a few minutes to walk along the Yarra River, which sits just behind Federation Square. This river played a major role in Melbourne’s economic and industrial development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and you can now walk, run, or cycle along 35 kilometers of its banks on the Yarra River Trail.
At this point, I would recommend taking a well-deserved break for lunch!
This Victorian garden, laid out in the 1880s, is notable for its tree-lined walkways and wide, grassy expanses. It is also home to the Royal Exhibition Building, a grand mosaic of Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic, and Italian Renaissance architectural styles.
I was desperate to see the Great Hall of the Exhibition Building from the inside, but it was closed for the annual Melbourne flower and garden show. So I contented myself with a walk through the gardens and a peek into the windows of the Melbourne Museum, which also lies within the park’s boundaries.
I found myself wishing I had time to go inside — this modern cultural and natural history museum is supposed to be wonderful.
While you’re in the neighborhood, I would suggest wandering just beyond the borders of the garden to take a look at some of Melbourne’s iconic terrace houses, typified by filigree balconies and all sorts of ornamental detailing (according to Wikipedia, Melbourne has more decorative cast iron than any other city in the world).
Melbourne is a city of neighborhoods, and the more time you can spend taking in the cafes, shops, and interesting architecture, the better. If you head over to the eclectic Fitzroy neighborhood, I recommend stopping for a late afternoon cocktail at the Black Cat. I am also a huge fan of street art, and it’s everywhere here! Just pick a side street or an alley and start wandering.
Between jet lag and thousands of steps, we were exhausted after this outing, so we opted for a quiet dinner near our hotel. Melbourne is a foodie’s delight, which means you’re likely to be spoiled for eating choices wherever you are.
I love the street art
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