DestinationsWhat’s not to love in a city filled with culture, cafes and Picasso?

The marvellous Melbourne's many offerings

Down by the Melbourne riverside at Ponyfish Island.
Down by the Melbourne riverside at Ponyfish Island. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/zetter

Sydney may have the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, but Melbourne isn’t shy of declaring that it holds most of the cards when it comes to attracting tourists with its cultural, dining and sporting attractions.

In Melbourne, visitors can start by exploring the inner-city oasis that is the Royal Botanical Gardens and enjoy The Gardens House High Tea, then hop across the road to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) where upcoming exhibitions include The Picasso Century (opens 10 June) and fashion designer Alexander McQueen – Mind, Mythos and Muse (opens 11 December)

Melbourne considers itself the capital of caffeine and a good soy latte is never far away. The original Pellegrini Espresso Bar in Fitzroy, now with a CBD outlet, opened in the 1950s to help the spread of coffee culture in the city.

Melbourne’s coffee culture has been hugely influenced by Italian immigrants.
Melbourne’s coffee culture has been hugely influenced by Italian immigrants. Photo Credit: Unsplash/shawnanggg

Another recommendation for Melbourne is its tram system which can ferry you all over the city, from Queen Victoria Markets to the Crown Casino on Southbank, from vibrant St Kilda to Albert Park, home of the Australian F1 Motor Grand Prix.

Beyond Melbourne, the Yarra Valley’s wines are outstanding – notably the pinot noir – and for gin lovers, Four Pillars distillery at Healesville offers lunch and gin tasting.

The Great Ocean Road twists and turns along Victoria’s southern coastline and rewards visitors with stunning views, forest trails – where you might just spot a koala in the trees – beach resorts and interludes in great little towns.

Melbourne loves its river and one of the best ways to explore is by small boat – you can hire one on Southbank – or by bike. Hire a bike at Batman Park, on the opposite side of the river to the casino – and cycle the 29.6km Yarra Trail, stopping at Abbotsford Convent for refreshment.

Who needs Uber? It’s easy to get around Melbourne on the city’s trams.
Who needs Uber? It’s easy to get around Melbourne on the city’s trams. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/f11photo

For front row riverside seats, and a pre-dinner cocktail, check out the Arbory Bar and Kitchen, or Ponyfish Island that floats on the Yarra.

And speaking of dinner, make a beeline to Thai favourite Longrain in Little Bourke Street, Chin Chin in Flinders Lane and Aru in Little Collins Street. Each has itself own interpretation of South-east Asian food.

Time for bed? Visitors are spoiled for choice with established and new hotels popping up all over town. More than 2,100 hotel rooms will open this year in newly built hotels, including Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard by Marriott, Voco, AC Hotel by Marriott, Veriu Queen Victoria Market, Meriton Suites, Ritz-Carlton and Le Meridien.

Add in hotels that opened in the city during the pandemic, including the W Hotel, Movenpick, Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street and Next Hotel – along with Sofitel’s A$15 million (US$10.6 million) refurbishment – and it’s likely that hotel rates will never be as competitive as they are in 2020.

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