Melbourne getaway: top shops, dining, arts and sport

No trip to Melbourne is complete without a wander around the city’s much-loved laneways. Photo / Getty Images

Melbourne is back in action and perfect for weekend getaways or longer stays, writes Cassie Tannenburg

The Victorian capital endured the world’s longest Covid lockdown and is ready to expend that pent-up energy as visitors reconnect with local experiences. Whether it’s international flavours and arts and culture, boutique shopping, elegant laneways to linger in, plus a host of new events, there’s always something to see and do in this creative city.

Arts and cafe culture

Melbourne is often considered Australia’s cultural capital and its performance spaces and galleries are buzzing with a full slate of shows. The newly-opened Picasso Century exhibition at NGV International and global cultural juggernaut “Hamilton the Musical” are just two captivating local and overseas audiences.

Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, or NGV, is the oldest and largest art museum in Australia. Photo / Getty Images

The new, condensed version of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has also reopened as a single sitting – great news for those who initially baulked at the six-hour show.

If street art is more your style, take a selfie stroll through Hosier Lane in Melbourne CBD where the ever-changing graffiti, paste-ups and murals provide a colourful commentary and Insta-worthy backdrop that always attract a curious crowd.

Cafe culture is open for indoors imbibers again, and there’s no such thing as a bad coffee here. For a local brew, sample Proud Mary Coffee – visit Proud Mary Cafe in Collingwood for breakfast or brunch, Aunty Peg’s coffee roastery location for tasting flights, or grab some beans and a short black at the Melbourne Airport outlet.

Dining out

Second to coffee and cultural pursuits is Melbourne’s dining scene. The city’s eateries are always innovative and intriguing, spanning a variety of global cuisines that make up Melbourne’s multicultural mix.

Venture to Chinatown for a rolling banquet or chow down on plump dumplings made with impeccable precision at Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan and world-renowned Din Tai Fung. Melbourne’s laneways are also thronging with people spilling out of cosy cafes laden with Italian fare, or lining up for a sumptuous high tea at the historic Hopetoun Tea Rooms.

Just out of the CBD, take a tram to St Kilda for your fill of European pastries from the cake shops along Acland St, or make the pilgrimage to the Lune Croissanterie in Fitzroy or Collins St for the famed French crescent.

Melbourne is also very vegan-friendly – the award-winning, plant-based fare at Matcha Mylk Bar in St Kilda, infused with Japanese green tea, and Collingwood’s Smith & Daughters and Smith & Deli are highly recommended.

Sports and events

The great thing about Melbourne is there is always something going on, no matter when you visit, with a major event calendar worth the trip alone.

The Australian Grand Prix revved into town in April and saw full hotels for the much-anticipated and rescheduled Formula 1 motor race. Footy fans are also out in force after the AFL season kick-off – you’ll know it’s game day by the crush of club colours around the CBD.

The buoyant vibe continues around town with the new Always Live programme, shining the spotlight on the city as a live music mecca all year round.

A vibrant city that’s brimming with personality, there’s always something going on in Melbourne. Photo / Getty Images

Attractions

When the sun is out, Southbank is the place to be. Take a punt down the Yarra River on a self-skippered GoBoat electric picnic boat (no boating licence required), or moor yourself on Ponyfish Island and Arbory Afloat. These floating cocktail bars offer a beach club setting that attracts a fun-loving weekend crowd to soak up the waterside ambience on the Yarra.

St Kilda is another atmospheric waterfront locale full of stylish bars and classic pubs by the sea. Catch a live gig at the Espy (Hotel Esplanade) with sweeping views from the balcony, or drink in the sunset from Pontoon St Kilda Beach, both just a short walk from the grinning entrance of the iconic Luna Park Melbourne theme park.

Stylish St Kilda is the place to go for safe swimming beaches and strolls along the pier. Photo / Getty Images

Shopping

Retail therapy in Melbourne always unearths hidden gems you can’t buy anywhere else. Shop international labels and high-street staples in and around Bourke St Mall, Emporium Melbourne, St. Collins Lane and 80 Collins shopping centres in the CBD, plus there are plenty of eclectic retailers and independent stores for that one-of-a-kind find.

While there are some bricks-and-mortar casualties from the pandemic, Melbourne’s shopping scene is still trading robustly and is a hive of activity. Peruse the eye-catching luxury brand windows at the “Paris End” of Collins St and the flagship Myer and David Jones department stores, and pop into the laneways for vintage, books, records and jewellery. Leave space to pack some stylish souvenirs and new Melbourne memories for the trip home.

For more Melbourne travel ideas, see visitmelbourne.com

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