In recent years it has consistently topped the charts of the most liveable cities in the world, delivering an eclectic and consistently innovative mix of cosmopolitan goodness that feels almost European at times. The coffee is exquisite here, almost artisanal and with its own distinct vocabulary. Sports is part of the city’s DNA, all year long. Food is inclusive, global in scope. And, from the live music of Collingwood to the trendy offerings of Fitzroy and the boutiques of Brunswick, there are endless memorable experiences to be enjoyed throughout.
From its characteristic laneways like ACDC Lane and arcades like Block Arcade – each replete with their own unique mix of cafes, delis, street art and personality – to globally renowned art exhibitions like 2017’s Van Gogh and the Seasons, and an always busy calendar of live music, Melbourne’s renown as the epicentre of culture in Australia is unmistakable.
Arguably the home of culture in the state of Victoria, let alone within its capital city, Melbourne Arts Precinct is your go-to destination for art, theatre, music and, simply put, everything under the “cultural sun”. Check out the unmissable Arts Centre Melbourne – a spired complex that includes Hamer Hall, State Theatre and Fairfax studio – and make time for Southbank Theatre and the landmark National Gallery of Victoria.
Located in the lush surrounds of Carlton Gardens, and within Melbourne Museum itself, Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre is a space dedicated to documenting and celebrating the indigenous people of Melbourne, past and present. Particular highlights to check out include First Peoples, a permanent exhibition that tells the fascinating story of the Koori people and Wurreka, a major art installation that features aboriginal imagery etched onto zinc wall panels.
If you like your music, then you’ll absolutely love Melbourne. The city is literally the “live music capital of the world”, with recent census data revealing it to have more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. While the MCG and Docklands Stadium tick off the big-budget checklist, for a more authentic and intimate experience make a beeline for smaller joints like the legendary Corner Hotel, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club and the Cherry Bar. Time your visit for mid-November, which is when Melbourne Music Week gets underway.
Such is Melbourne’s culinary excellence that it’s entirely reasonable to visit the city to exclusively sample its lively, creative and international-facing dining scene. Shaped by its diverse, multicultural population – it has, for example, one of the largest Greek communities outside of Greece – as well ingredients native to the country, such as bush tomatoes, wattle seeds and lemon myrtle, Melbourne consistently deliver a mix of flavoursome dishes, from street food classics to fine dining masterpieces.
Take a short stroll from Melbourne Museum – as if you’re heading towards the Docklands – and you’ll find yourself at the Queen Victoria Melbourne Market, an expansive open-air market known for its dynamic food and drink offering. You can either sign up the market’s popular foodie tour or explore the many stalls at your own leisure. Pop by Vic Market Organics for Australian-grown organic produce, Drums Café for South Asian curries and Q75 for its famed porchetta.
For a gastronomical experience that is quintessentially Italian, head to Lygon Street in Carlton, a bustling stretch made up of appetizing restaurants and cafes that wouldn’t be out of place in Europe. Whether you’re enjoying an ice-cream from Gelatissimo Carlton, handmade pasta from the family-owned Donnini's Pasta or pizza from Toto’s Pizza House – Melbourne’s first pizzeria – you can’t help but be charmed by the unique ambiance of Little Italy.
In recent years, Melbourne’s already thriving coffee scene, dominated by independent coffee shops and shaped by creative and knowledgeable roastery pros, has started to attract the attention of an international audience. In short, the city is setting a new standard of excellence. For seasonal brews, stop by Seven Seeds in Carlton. For a quick, standing-only coffee fix, Little Bourke Street’s Patricia is recommended. And, for consistently good coffee across the board, try any one of Axil Coffee Roasters cafes.
With an almost unknowing sense of confidence and a cool nonchalance, Melbourne has quietly transformed itself into one of the most stylish cities in Australia – if not the world. So, if you’re keen to shake up your wardrobe, add a statement piece of furniture to your living room or pick up something “decidedly Australian”, schedule in a visit to some of the trendiest and fashionable parts of the city.
Whether you’re into designer brands and timeless looks or prefer hip boutiques and more creative outfits – or like to float between the two – head to Little Collins Street in the Central Business District of Melbourne. Chic shops like the sustainably-driven Elk and the colourful Tanzie Adler are scattered throughout, while at the “Paris End” of the street you’ll find the likes of Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
What Melbourne Arts Precinct is to culture, Chapel Street is to style and entertainment – a sprawling destination that extends from Windsor to South Yarra. Notable places of interest include The Jam Factory and the hip Chapel Street Bazaar. When you’re in the Prahran stretch of Chapel Street, pop by The boho-esque Greville Street where you’ll find a cluster of trendy outlets like Greville Records, Mag Nation and Brick and Mortar Supply.
If you’re after artisanal bread, local art and vintage garb, or unique jewellery, flavoursome street food and second-hand books, travel to one of Melbourne’s many markets for a late morning, early afternoon extravaganza. Fitzroy’s Rose Street Market – founded in 2003, “it’s the new kid on the block” – is a mecca for art and design lovers, while Camberwell Sunday Market turns a car park into a pulsating hub for all sorts of cool bric-a-brac.
From the first light of dawn until the darkest hour of night, Monday through to Sunday, and the start of January to the end of December, Melbourne lives and breathes sport. Here is a city where you’ll find global events like the Australian Grand Prix, the Australian Open and international cricket interspersed with more national and local favourites, from Aussie Rules to rugby, hockey and netball. Along with coffee and music, Melburnians have plenty of time for all things sporty, especially the following.
If you’re heading to Melbourne during its winter season – June, July and August – you’ll be able to enjoy the midseason excitement of a sport native to the continent – Australian Rules football (often referred to as Aussie Rules). Moreover, the city is also the spiritual home of the popular game, with matches being held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Docklands Stadium.
In the summer – December, January and February – there’s one sport that really dominates the calendar, and that’s cricket. Yes, the Australian Open does offer two weeks of entertaining hard court tennis in January, but with Melbourne playing host to one day internationals, test matches and a plethora of T20 games, it’s fair to say cricket overshadows everything else. For domestic games, check out the Melbourne Stars who play in the Big Bash League.
Given Melbourne’s stature as a preeminent destination, it might seem against your best interests to go beyond the city’s borders – however, you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t. Melbourne is, after all, in close proximity to many other Australian gems, experiences that are a must if you’re in this specific part of the southern hemisphere. Along with the wineries of the Yarra Valley and the sunshine beauty of Mornington Peninsula, here are three of the best things to do outside of Victoria’s capital.
Approximately 90 minutes into your journey out of Melbourne you’ll come across the seaside town of Torquay, marking the start of a beguiling, picturesque 249 mile road trip along the Great Ocean Road to Allansford, a town on the western coast of Australia. The drive is an adventure, a holiday in itself. Be sure to stick Kennett River (koala bears), the 12 Apostles (limestone towers) and the Great Otway National Park (waterfalls) on your itinerary.
Less than an hour from the bright lights and energy of cosmopolitan Melbourne, to the east of the city, you’ll find yourself transported to an altogether different world. The Dandenong Ranges connects you to the great outdoors, with grand gardens, atmospheric forests and epic mountains to explore. Top attractions here include Skyhigh Mount Dandenong, offering you remarkable views of Melbourne, and the William Ricketts Sanctuary, a beautifully contemplative space with amazing sculptures.
A visit to Phillip Island offers an escape within an escape. The south-eastern island, which is a two-hour drive from Melbourne, exudes a seaside vibe with lots of outdoorsy things to see and do. Surf at Cape Woolamai, travel back in time at the Churchill Island Heritage Farm, and, best of all perhaps, watch the delightful nightly penguin parade.
If you’re travelling to Melbourne from London, flying with THAI is a seamless experience. Pick one of two direct flights to Bangkok, which will get you to Thai’s capital in around 11.5 hours.
From our main hub in Bangkok, which makes for a wonderful stopover destination there are plenty of convenient flights to Victoria’s capital to choose from. THAI operates twice daily flights on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and single flights on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with passengers getting to experience its state-of-the-art A350 on this route.
From Melbourne, the best flight to catch back to London is the 15.25 (TG466), which connects to the TG910 at 00.50 in Bangkok.