I moved to Europe five years ago and was the person to spend hours visiting the must see places of the different cities. But being an Australian native for over 20 years entails that the tourist attractions of Australia are for just that, the tourists. Recently travelling back to Australia with my partner whom has never seen the country, allowed me to borrow the “tourist visitor card” and explore the city that I grew up in, Melbourne.
Melbourne is home. It always was and still remains a city for everyone: from its bustling CBD (Central Business District) with its “American style” skyscrapers to its endless laneways with boutique cafes and coffee houses. From the pokey but authentic Asian food places with their plastic table covering to the finest of fine dining. The Southbank promenade, world-renowned sporting complexes and art precinct with spacious galleries and numerous international theatres and performing spaces. This is Melbourne. It is voted the most liveable city of the world for the past seven years (The Economist magazine) and it is not hard to see why!
Melbourne in a day…
We stayed at The Blackman hotel, part of the Art Series Hotels, in St Kilda. Our Executive suite had a balcony looking over Albert Park, home of the Melbourne Formula 1, and we could see Port Phillip Bay. There was a living room and a separate bedroom with a bed that was “Art Series Signature” and dreamy, both rooms had a private balcony with a sensational view day or night. If you didn’t want to eat out there were two wonderful restaurants within the hotel Fleur Depot de Pain (French cuisine) and Classico (Italian cuisine) and a gym to work off any cheat meal extras.
Heading out of the hotel there was an option to hire either a Lekker bicycles or one of The Blackmans smart cars. As it is a stone throw to the CBD, we decided to get on a tram. Straight down St Kilda road from the tram you can take in sights of the Shrine of Remembrance and ANZAC memorial, the Navel Academy and finally the art precinct on the cusp of the CBD. Our first stop the NGV (National gallery of Victoria) and the Triennial exhibition, a wonderful display of over 100 artists from 32 different countries. It was a beautiful variation of sculptures, canvas, couture gowns and virtual reality pieces. Richard Mosse’s Incoming was a heart-wrenching look into the reality that is the Syrian Civil War. Using military grade thermal imaging cameras he was able to catch the flood of refugees from the war torn cities from up to 50km away. The cameras take away distinctive features such as pupils from the subjects and give them an alien like glow; this then captures the desperation and pure defeat in a tension of alienation and intimacy.
Leaving the gallery make sure you walk from the NGV to the NGV-Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square. It’s a beautifully short walk but you have some of the most picturesque views. On your right you have Alexandra Gardens a wonderful spot to enjoy the sun and what the rowing clubs of Melbourne have to offer. On the left you have the Melbourne Arts Centre and the Southbank promenade with the short walk towards Crown casino (if you’re feeling lucky). Over the Princess Bridge with the Yarra River flowing underneath and onto Federation Square, a purpose built space for arts, culture, food and of course, to watch live sporting events on the big screen. The Winter Olympics were playing with some spectators watching on from the provided beanbags. I will always remember when I was watching the Socceroos (Australian Soccer Team) in the world cup and when they finally scored the entire crowd going crazy, such a wonderful ambience.
After exploring the square and Ian Potter Centre, we were starving! My mother suggested for us to go to Shanghai Dumpling House, now I have been to China and if you learn anything there it is don’t judge a place by the outside… and this is that sort of place. Through China town, down a pokey laneway you find a restaurant that’s cash only and has plastic on its tables. A cheap eats and a nothing fancy experience, but the dumplings are wonderful.
For something a little more special, on your way back to the hotel, St Ali South Melbourne is a wonderful place for breakfast, brunch, early lunch, late lunch and/or coffee, actually anytime. https://stali.com.au/pages/st-ali-south-melbourne
After a quick nap and a refresh, we headed to the Arts Centre and into Fatto Bar and Cantina for their pre-show menu, a lovely mix of Italian shared plates with a stunning view of the city. Then off to see the wonderfully delightful Riot! (www.artscentremelbourne.com.au) A party/variety show with a love letter of hope to the future with Panti Bliss and a wonderful cast filled with circus, dance, poet and song.
Post show we walked along the Southbank promenade for gelato and to see the Fire Brigades of Crown Casino, eight towers along the Yarra River that throw the worlds largest fireballs into the sky. It happens every hour, the best view of the entire show is from the Melbourne Aquarium side of the river but I love to be close to one of the towers to feel the heat of the fire.
Before the nights end, I wanted a nightcap and Eau De Vie is the perfect spot. Step back in the prohibition times of America with a cocktail list that with set you off your feet. My favourite is the secret whisky bar behind the bookcase or one of their private booths for your late night conversations.
After a long day in a city that I grew up in and visited regularly for events or just a good drinking spot, there were still hidden treasures to be found. I have travelled to many different countries and thoroughly visited their cities, but nothing quite beats Melbourne.
Tips from an (ex)local:
Fly: We flew Qatar from Brussels, as they fly the A380 aircraft from Doha to Melbourne (14hours flight) everyday. The A380 boasts a world-class first class and award winning business class with lounge on the plane. (You can enjoy all that the A380 can offer on both legs of your journey if you fly in/out of Paris or London.)
Stay: Any of The Art Series hotels. All are inspired by and dedicated to Australian contemporary artists. All are centrally located in the art precinct or cultural hubs of the cities. All have personalised service and facilities to the utmost quality. http://www.artserieshotels.com.au/
See: NGV (National gallery of Victoria) in the art precinct, the NGV holds exhibitions from all over the world and the NGV Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square exhibits Australian art. Don’t miss the Triennial open until 15th April 2018.
– At No.35 Restaurant the 35th floor at the Sofitel hotel on Collins Street. A cocktail with a view and make sure to use the bathrooms!
– Ponyfish Island; a bar under the bridge on the Yarra River, wonderful for a quick beer in the sun to take in the city sights and rest those feet.
– Rockpool Bar and Grill serves modern Australian dishes offered in a designer establishment with high ceilings and moody lighting.
– At the Queen Victoria summer night markets wonderful ambiance and beautiful market fresh foods.
– Take the walk from Birramung Marr to the sports precinct and explore the world class sporting venues including the Rod Laver Arena. I suggest taking the MGC (Melbourne Cricket Ground) tour and after see the sporting museum. A wonderful tour done by one of the MCC member volunteers throughout the 100,024 capacity multi-purpose venue. http://www.mcg.org.au/things-to-do/mcg-tour
– The Crown Casino is a “world of entertainment”
– The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant eat a four course meal, while you dine you see many of the city sights on one of the traditional tramcars of Melbourne.