Sydney may be famous for its natural harbor and world-class Opera House, but Melbourne is Australia’s hot ticket city. It is trendy, it is hip and it is buzzing with life. I’d often heard people rave about Melbourne during my travels. “You’re gonna love it there,” they’d say. And yet, though everybody seemed to love Melbourne, few could articulate exactly what it was that made Australia’s second largest city so special.
Thus, even before setting foot on Australian soil, I knew I’d enjoy Melbourne. I just wasn’t really sure why.
We spent two full days exploring Melbourne’s resplendent parks, its artsy laneways and its sprawling beaches.
Melbourne may not be known for one thing in particular, but its funky vibe, its mouthwatering dining, its offbeat neighborhoods and its inclination toward the arts have attracted tourists, expats and young millennials in droves. The city’s architecture is modern, cutting edge and, sometimes, downright wacky. Bold colors, asymmetry and crooked lines are the name of the game here, and they blend together like a giant Tetris puzzle.
We booked a private room at the Urban Central Hostel and enjoyed the accommodation’s clean rooms, affordable prices and proximity to downtown. With a place to stay so close to Melbourne’s CBD, we were able to maximize our time in the city–exploring its quirky neighborhoods on foot, from morning till night.
During our first day in Melbourne, we walked along the downtown riverfront, took the free circle tram around the CBD and meandered through the city’s graffiti-covered laneways.
Downtown Melbourne is famous for being chock-full of narrow alleyways that are covered in colorful street art. These maze-like streets are filled with coffeeshops, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and eccentric boutiques.
Particular laneways to visit are Centre Place, Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane.
Melbourne has a bohemian and progressive subculture. The city is gritty, yet sleek. Trendy, yet classy. It is a city that isn’t afraid to take risks. It isn’t afraid to juxtapose old with new, traditional with modern. And nowhere is that more apparent than at Federation Square, at the heart of the city.
Melbourne seamlessly integrates modern architecture into its historical past–creating a tapestry of Victorian buildings and glass skyscrapers that join together with elegance and grace. Nestled between flashy glass towers, are historic gems that have been beautifully preserved. Among them, the State Library of Victoria, the Flinders Street Station and the Queen Victoria Market–the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere.
In addition to boasting a thriving arts scene, Melbourne is regarded as one of the world’s best cities for sports-lovers. It is home to Formula One races, the Australian rules football championships, cricket matches and the yearly Australian Open tournament.
On our second day in the city, we visited the Rod Laver Arena–the tennis complex that is home to the Australian Open. Though we didn’t take an official tour inside the arena, we enjoyed walking in the footsteps of some of tennis’ greatest stars.
True to Melbourne fashion, the architecture of the tennis complex is a sight in itself.
From the Rod Laver Arena, we continued toward the beach–past the Shrine of Remembrance and along Lake Albert’s shores–to St Kilda’s bustling beachside promenade.
St Kilda is to Melbourne what Bondi Beach is to Sydney–a popular spot to lounge in the sand, soak up the sun and surf the waves. St Kilda is teeming with kite surfers and sunbathers. It is a popular place to escape the chaos of the city and revel in some of Melbourne’s best skyline views.
Prior to visiting Australia, I really didn’t understand what there was to see and do in Melbourne.
However, after wandering the streets, eating at hole-in-the wall restaurants and strolling through the city’s abundant green spaces I, too, was wooed by Melbourne’s culture, its cuisine and its irresistible lust for life. The city’s lure is powerful and its energy, infectious.
It didn’t take me long to understand what all the fuss was about.