A Cultural City! That’s Melbourne
Australia’s second largest city is an important stop on Australia itineraries.
Less well-known than Sydney, Melbourne (pronounced MEL-bin without the “r” by Australians), and situated on Port Phillip Bay, it deserves at least two to three days on any Australia itinerary.
Our journey began in New York City, flying through Los Angeles to Melbourne. Despite jet lag, our stay at the Hotel Windsor, 111 Spring St., proved to be an ideal location for taking in numerous sites. Even flying Business Class didn’t ease the jet lag, yet afternoon tea at the 1883 Windsor quickly improved our outlook.
July and August are winter in Australia, the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer so travelers can expect temperatures as low as the mid-40s and 50s Fahrenheit with a high of mid-60s. Be prepared. Since this is a walking city, make sure you are dressed for the weather. Staying at any of the hotels near the Parliament House will situate you within striking distance to major attractions, and by foot for many.
The Sights and Sounds
While exploring on foot, don’t miss Melbourne’s narrow streets and pedestrian paths that date mostly to the Victorian era (circa1837-1901) when the city became one of the world’s major Victorian-era cities. Known as laneways, they are a way to capture the rhythm of the city. Stop in a café or restaurant and admire the street art in the central business district.
To soak up the true Melbourne, start at Federation Square, a plaza near the Yarra River that runs through the city to Port Phillip Bay. Located at the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets, Fed Square, which opened in 2002, has become one of the most popular destinations for visitors and locals alike. It’s home to museums, festivals, restaurants, bars, acrobats, and musicians. A five-story digital LED screen shows films, art programs, and live sporting events. If you’re staying at the Windsor, for example, it’s a 12-minute walk to Federation Square. If you’re riding Public Transport Victoria, use the Swanston St/Flinders St #5 stop.
Browse Queen Victoria Market in the central business district on Queen Street any time of the year. A large open-air market, it has been operating since 1878. Each Wednesday from early June through August, from 5 pm to 10 pm, a Winter Night Market brings food trucks and stalls, local brewers and distillers, shopping, and live entertainment to Queen Victoria Market. As you stroll, look for open fires to warm up on a cool winter night. Admission is free.
Another landmark worth a visit is The Conservatory, built in classic Spanish mission style. First opened in 1930, it is home to stunning indoor floral displays that change five times each year. The schedule features tropical plants and poinsettias from April to July, cineraria and cyclamens from July to September, schizanthus and calceolaria from September to November, and Hydrangeas and fuchsias bloom from November to February, begonias and gloxinias from February to April. Located on Wellington Parade in Fitzroy Gardens, The Conservatory was renovated in 2020.
Color pops at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia – the National Gallery of Victoria, Fed Square – home of Australian art, which presents Indigenous and non-Indigenous art through the decades. Admission is free; hours are 10 am to 5 pm.
Until Aug. 20, 2023, view the exhibition Melbourne Now, which features local art and design including fashion and jewelry, painting, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, video, performance, printmaking and publishing. Inaugurated in 2013, Melbourne Now showcases the Design Wall, featuring the work of dozens of the city’s innovative design practitioners and the NGV Kids interactive projects.On the ground level is the NGV Café where food comes from local producers and Allpress Espresso coffee, a local roast, is available.
Nearby, at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, catch excitement of the female persuasion at the exhibit, Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion, through Oct. 1, 2023. The show celebrates the women who took control of their lives and fought a system that, at times, aimed to exploit them. Costumes, original sketches, and outfits of Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Geena Davis, and others are among the items featured. Visit the museum from 10 am to 5 pm daily with free admission. However, this event requires tickets ranging from $22 to $35 with children under 16 admitted free.
Those visiting Melbourne in July and August through Sept. 10, are in luck. An important exhibition, Rembrandt: True to Life, traces the 17th century Dutch artist from his birthplace, Leiden, to the end of his life in Amsterdam at the National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St. Kilda Road, across the Yarra River. In addition to 100 etchings, paintings and loans from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Louvre Museum are on view. Admission to the Rembrandt show is $25 with senior and student admission, $20; $10 for children, and children under 5, free.
Three other attractions to consider are: A chocolatiers tour in Melbourne.
Lightscape at the Royal Botanic Gardens June 16 through Aug. 6, 2023. Immerse yourself in light, sound and nature. www.lightscapemelbourne.com.au
Experience the excitement of Cirque du Soleil: Crystal from Aug. 17 through 27, 2023. www.cirquedusoleil.com/australia/melbourne/shows