By: Dacia Popescu
With your Australia Discovery Pass in hand, which allows for unlimited travel aboard NSW TrainLink Regional network, you can travel to more than 365 destinations in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria by train and coach. Some top rail stops to include on your itinerary are Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Broken hill and Melbourne.
Melbourne, Australia is considered by some to be the most livable city in the world and after having lived there for a few months, I would have to agree that it certainly is one of them. With so many diverse neighbourhoods, so much multiculturalism, a very vibrant nightlife, progressive culture, affordable public transportation, and the largest public tram system in the world, it is no wonder this magnificent metropolis is loved by so many.
Here is my list of the top 10 ways to explore Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD):
1. Take a stroll through colour in Hosier Lane
Covered from top to bottom in magnificent urban art and one of the many others around Melbourne, Hosier Lane is really worth seeing! In a matrix of color-sprayed murals, graffiti and stencils, this bold and expressive lane will make most people’s jaw drop.
I suggest grabbing a coffee and strolling through to get a sense of some of the social conscience and artistic core of Melbourne.
They also became a popular backdrop in wedding and modeling photos so don’t be surprised to find yourself as an unassuming extra in someone’s shot!
2. Grab a drink in some altitude at the Rooftop Bar
Rooftop bars are a big thing in Melbourne and one of the best ways to see the city from a bird’s eye view! You can revel in the panoramic scenes of the city and beyond, and they are especially helpful to take solace from the strong summer heat. The refreshing breezes in the altitude helps to keep the heat at bay along with lounging under parasols with icy-fruity cocktails… In the later hours, these rooftop views surround you with city lights and stars making the skyline seem to blend with the glittering night.
One of my favorites in the CBD so far is simply called Rooftop Bar. It is on the 7th floor of a building named Curtin House, on Swanston Street, that also has the Rooftop Cinema on another floor.
Walking in, I expected the drinks to be very expensive since the place looked a bit upscale, despite the relaxed atmosphere, but I was pleasantly surprised! The cocktails were decently priced compared to most of the other rooftop bars. I had and loved the Perfect Pimms which was very refreshing with lemonade, ginger ale and even topped with delicious fruit! I also suggest, for the more adventurous pallet, to try the Whiskey Business which has a blend of Bushmills Irish whiskey, cucumber, lime and elderflower.
3. Browse through the Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne is home to many diverse markets and one of the most popular and central market, and my favorite so far, is the Queen Victoria Market.
This amazing and beloved market is one of Melbourne’s landmarks and one of the largest open-air markets in the world (17 acres). It features day and night markets with a vast array of stalls ranging from designer and vintage clothing, Australian made wares and arts and crafts, to food or drink stands from local restaurants, bars and produce farmers. You can even get fresh farmers’ produce for wholesale prices! There are always very good deals here.
The vibrant night market is a seasonal event being held every Wednesday for a few weeks during the summer and winter months. It is packed with live music, food stalls, drink stalls, merchants and loads of people. The live music and fresh food are well worth experiencing and you can even sip on a local beer while browsing through the different stall vendors’ wares.
Part of the fun at the QVM is to try different types of foods from the wide selection of food stalls. I grabbed a juicy chicken kebab from Zahar’s souvlaki stall, some succulent and spicy wings from Chicken Wingman Wings stall, and topped it off with a mini S’mores cupcake from a dessert bakery called Bite Size Mini Food. I actually really loved them all! The only limit here is your appetite and wallet size since the quality and selection were almost limitless. That’s partly why people keep coming back for more!
4. Peak your senses at the Australian Center for Moving Image
ACMI (est. 2002) is located in Federation Square. It is a cutting edge facility that exhibits all forms and mediums of Australian and International moving image and has the bragging rights to the world’s largest screen gallery. Entry is free though there is an admission fee for cinema programs, some exhibitions and events.
The ACMI has 2 cinemas with advanced projection facilities for anything from contemporary Australian to imported and rare films. There is a permanent exhibition called Screen Worlds that showcases all forms of moving image from film and TV to the digital variety.
They even have altering educational exhibitions that show you anything from the ‘The Fantastical Imaginings of Tim Burton’ to ‘Hollywood Costumes’. (These get updated regularly so check online to find out which will be available when you visit).
I went to see an exhibit on one of the best directors of all time, the incredible Martin Scorsese who is known for his cinematic brilliance on films such as Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Wolf on Wall Street (to name only a very few), as well as on TV shows and documentaries.
At the beginning you are greeted by a recorded warm welcome from Scorsese himself which was very nice touch!
The exhibit pays tribute to Scorsese’s 6 decade-long career by sharing with us everything from his experimental beginnings all the way through his illustrious career until present.
Among the many features, it showcased a compilation of footage, original story boards and scripts, and documentaries; one of which was based on his life, inspirations, collaborations and creative thought processes. There were also many of his own personal items and memorabilia being shown including some of his movie posters, paintings from his walls and pictures.
There is so much to say about this wonderful exhibit but the only way to do it justice would be to see it for yourself. Hopefully it will be invited for a repeat performance in the years to come.
5. Explore Melbourne’s seedy past at the Old Melbourne Gaol
The Old Melbourne Gaol was a fully functioning prison with a dark and gruesome past. Built in the mid 1800’s, it was a dominating force of authority throughout the state. With the most dangerous criminals being locked up right next to the low ranking offenders and mentally ill inmates, there is no wonder why it had such a troubled history.
This prison is famous for 133 hangings and the execution of the well-known bushranger outlaw Ned Kelly, whose death mask is morbidly on display…
The prison closed its doors in 1929 and reopened as a museum in 1972. Now, for only $25, you can visit this macabre site and learn some history about the prisoners and Melbourne itself.
There are even night tours where you can experience the prison in the dark, or take a moonlit walk to the gallows and maybe even see a shackled ghost or two roaming the empty halls…
Desolate, creepy, eerie and very sad yet altogether fascinating, this place deserves a visit. The interactive guided tour of the prison is what I went for and I was blown away by the depth of which you explore the background of the prisoners of those times and the historical context of Melbourne in those times. Though one can never really come close to understanding how it felt to be locked up in such a place, you get as close a glimpse as possible of what these people went through in such inhumane conditions. You need a strong stomach to hear the detailed descriptions of the appalling conditions the prison and inmates were in, as well as the different forms of torture and psychological experiments that went on there. Though it is not a pleasant tour, it felt right to be informed about the incredibly dismal and horrific reality these inmates lived through. It certainly makes you appreciate ethical and moral limits as well as being a reminder of the price payed for lack of humanity.
6. Meet up at Flinders Street Station
It always feels nice to pay homage to a city’s foundation and past and take part in the culture’s traditions. In Melbourne, one of these time-honoured tradition is to set a meeting point under the clocks at the entrance of Flinders Street Station. And why not? It’s central and timeless!
This Victorian landmark is hard to miss since it is the main train station and hub in Melbourne’s CBD.
On the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets, this architectural marvel takes up 2 whole city blocks. It opened in 1854 as the first city train station in Australia. In 1910, the new Flinders Street Station was opened to the public and by the 1930’s, it became the busiest passenger station in the world!
However, when taking the NSW TrainLink train, you will be brought to Southern Cross Station, which is just a short metro train or tram ride away from Flinders Street Station.
7. Sip a coffee in an alley
Melbourne is renowned for having an amazing coffee culture, and for good reason! This is due to the city’s long history of Italian immigration which brought with it the tradition of quality coffee.
It is honestly delicious and practically everywhere you go. From the posh laneway cafés to the dusty roadhouses and petrol stations, coffee is at its highest standard.
Going to one of Melbourne’s many laneway cafés is great way to experience the city on a more intimate level. You can sip & sit outside on a narrow terrace and watch the people pass you by. Of course sitting inside the hole-in-the-wall café is usually an option too but half the fun is blending into the laneway’s wall and taking in some Melbourne character!
One of the cafés I liked the most is Eliana Lulu, located in the famous and bustling Center Place laneway. Here you can have some of the best coffees in Melbourne and also enjoy breakfast until noon and various lunch menu items that range from pizzas to Mediterranean dishes.
8. Grab some dimmis in Chinatown!
One of the traditions I followed when in Melbourne was to eat some Dim Sum (or Dimmis as my Aussie friends called them) in Chinatown. Melbourne’s Chinatown was established in the late 1850’s following the boom of Chinese immigration attracted by the gold rush. It’s mainly focused on Little Bourke Street and has become a staple in Melbourne’s culinary culture.
Dim sum is a Chinese cuisine style of serving bight-sized portions of food on a steam basket and is traditionally eaten as a brunch with tea. This practice is called yum cha.
I especially liked the dimmis from Secret Kitchen, along with all of their other Chinese food! YUM!
9. Catch a footy match!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Melbourne without having attended a footy match!
The AFL/ Australian Football League/ Australian Rules football – or just simply FOOTY is one of Australia’s National sports which actually originated in Melbourne in 1858.
The game has significant differences compared to its American counter-type but you can learn the rules in no time by watching it while sipping on a stubby, pot or schooner!
The contagious roar of the crowd is sure to bring out anyone’s inner Aussie! CHEERS!
10. Pull an all-nighter…
White Night Melbourne is an event held in February from dusk until dawn which brings the entire city to life afterhours. The event mystifies the local population with street performances, installations, lighting exhibitions, music, film and dance all throughout the streets, venues and parks of Melbourne.
It is an intriguing night to remember where fatigue will only hit you when you leave!
Don’t worry if you missed this February bash since Melbourne’s roaring nightlife and vibrant culture can make every night a night that lasts ‘till dawn…
Visit Melbourne, Victoria and New South Wales with a Discovery Pass.