Melbourne is unique, magical and intriguing – and it doesn’t take long to fall for its city charm.
Whether you are meandering along a laneway of striking street art, getting a coffee fix in a quirky cafe or dining in a slick restaurant, Melbourne is a city with style. It pays homage to Australia’s First Nations people with vibrant stories of urban Aboriginal culture knitted through its art gallery exhibitions and immersive experiences. Stride along riverside paths, or row a boat on the Yarra as it weaves its way through the city, and discover Melbourne’s charm.
Venture on an Aboriginal Heritage Walk at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens to discover the rich history and culture of the local Kulin Nation and their connections to the land. The tour, led by an Aboriginal guide, starts with a smoking ceremony and provides insight into how the Traditional Owners lived. You’ll learn about healing plants, food gathering and the fibres used for weaving. The tour also visits Fern Gully and the wetlands area and you’ll finish with a lemon myrtle tea.
Art lovers are in for a treat with a visit to the NGV’s new Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition series, French Impressionism (until 3 October). The blockbuster exhibition is a partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston which has a rich bounty of Impressionist paintings. Works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt and 79 works that have never before been exhibited in Australia will be showcased.
For a change of pace, the new energy-charged, fun and fabulous Moulin Rouge! The Musical opens at the rejuvenated Regent Theatre (from 13 August). Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster hits the stage with toe-tapping songs, lavish sets and polished performances sure to have you humming long after the curtains have come down. Expect loads of glitz and oodles of glamour as bohemians and aristocrats rub shoulders, the music roars and champagne flows.
For those who long for the water (even in the cooler months), Urbnsurf, Australia’s first world-class surf park, caters for all age groups and abilities, and it’s just 25 minutes’ drive north of the city. Boards, wetsuits and fins can be hired and you can learn surfing skills with the experts.
To keep you fuelled for the day, there’s seriously good food at onsite restaurant Three Blue Ducks. Drop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner (even if you’re not surfing) for sustainable, local fresh produce cooked in the pizza oven, rotisserie or charcoal pit.
Fresh from a two-year renovation, the new-look ACMI (formerly known as the Australian Centre for Moving Image) is a great place to learn about the our film history. The centre is one of the most visited museums of its kind in the world. Deep dive into the past, present and future in its collections of screen culture. The wonder and charm of Disney favourites feature in the new exhibition, Disney: The Magic of Animation (until 17 October).
Eat and drink
At the new Farmer’s Daughters, you will find chef Alejandro Saravia showcasing the best of Gippsland flavours. On the ground floor, The Deli offers casual dining. Up a level, Restaurant takes you on a farm-to-table culinary journey through regional Victoria, and then the Rooftop serves a great line-up of craft beer, wine and spirits.
Colourful decor wows at Lona Misa, a new diner at Ovolo South Yarra. It’s all about vegan and vegetarian dishes created by the chefs, Shannon Martinez and Ian Curley.
For a fun, food-filled family adventure, head to Grazeland in Spotswood. For a $2.50 entry fee, diners can choose treats from sweet and savoury stall vendors serving everything from Nashville fried chicken, Greek loukoumades, traditional Scottish cuisine and Sri Lankan street food. It’s open Friday to Sunday.
Where to stay
1. It is sensory overload in the lobby of the new W Melbourne where Rus Kitchin’s lenticular artwork, a magical mix of digital media plus street art, stars. The gritty graffiti of famed Hosier Lane inspired the playful and chic decor throughout the hotel. It spans 15 floors with a subterranean bar, Curious, and a restaurant, Lollo, which stars chef Adam D’Sylva. The inviting pool area, WET, is inspired by the Yarra’s curves with a gold-adorned roof.
2. Cocooned in the couture end of the city, the warm and inviting Next Hotel has a fashion sense all of its own. Sophisticated design with jewelled pops of colour feature in the 24-storey new build within the 80 Collins precinct. The rooms are understated and exude a warm residential feel – you are spoilt with Hunter Lab products and an in-room cocktail station. The Club offers members a retreat. The culinary duo of Hong Kong street-foodie Adrian Li and Sicilian-blooded Daniel Natoli star at La Madonna restaurant.