Night and day go hand in hand in this southern Australian city. Come to Melbourne and you will be enticed by the magic and charm of its beautiful architecture, museums, culinary delights and interesting atmosphere.
Drinking a coffee at Rococo’s in Acland Street and walking along the Esplanade’s Sunday market is a true visual delight. Clothes and jewelery are displayed by talkative locals, and often street performers accompany market-goers with unusual tunes, such as the young South American we encountered, who played a huge metal ‘gong’ which looked like a futuristic drum.
I strongly recommend walking down Acland street if you feel hungry; even if your stomach is rumbling, you will find it difficult to choose where to dine! On days when the sun shines, which compared to Sydney, is rare in the winter season, going to the beach or buying a Gelato from one of the many available Italian ice-cream shops (also in Acland street), is pure bliss.
At the end of Acland street is a small traditional hair-dresser called the “Barber Shop”. All male visitors coming to St. Kilda should give it a try; not only do they cut very well, but the interior design is really vintage cool. Additionally, for every haircut you receive a free beer. Even at 9am in the morning, they asked my father if he wanted one! (which he declined with a laugh).
When going into Melbourne city itself, make sure you don’t miss Chinatown! Melbourne’s Chinatown is a lot bigger than that in Sydney and also a lot more interesting. Try eating in an underground restaurant, visit the Chinese museum and walk along the streets at night, illuminated by Chinese lights and flashy signs written in Mandarin. Near Chinatown is the casino. Walking through the huge lobby and past the beautiful indoor fountain is impressive, even the cinemas that are located in the casino seem luxurious.
After watching a movie, walk along the Yarra river; it is most beautiful at night. Thousands of little lights illuminate the riverbank trees and in winter there are high iron poles which spout flames to warm the passersby. Every time a flame erupts you feel a warm glow upon your face and you forget the icy wind. There are also many street musicians, each with their own distinct style of music, so that many people meander around at night, enjoying the different sounds.
Keep a day free to stroll through the small, but beautiful botanical gardens and if you have time visit the nearby art museum, which has an impressive array of famous paintings from all over the world. The most important thing not to miss are the South Melbourne Markets. The smell of grilled seafood, paella, Turkish Gozlems and and freshly ground coffee emanating from within the big hall, seduce pedestrians to enter. But don’t worry if you don’t want to eat, instead, let your eyes feast! There is a great array of colourful clothes, jewelry and souvenirs. It is also interesting to see all the different soaps displayed, each with their own distinct odour. There was even a soap with the smell of tar! If you are French like me, then you will understand my delight at seeing the multitude of cheeses displayed. I definitely also recommend buying something at one of the Delicatessen stands, as they sell products from all over the world.
The best lunch in Melbourne is at the Coconut House, a Malaysian restaurant famous for its quality and cheapness. This is the place that brings both backpackers and luxury travelers together; their dishes are too good to resist. After lunch, do not miss going to the Melbourne gaol; it is very interesting going into each prison cell and reading about different criminals, including Ned Kelly.
For shopping, go to Melbourne Shopping Centre, a unique building built around a tower in which there are other shops and a small museum.
If you do want to go outside of Melbourne, you can visit Phillip Island, the southern tip of Victoria, where you can go penguin watching and admire the rocky landscape surrounded by wild waves.
Dining in Acland street, St. Kilda:
Dining in Melbourne:
Where to stay:
The Novotel Melbourne is located directly at the seaside in St. Kilda. You can reach Melbourne city and 6mins and still enjoy the tranquil beach culture of St. Kilda. However, this hotel is not for those on a travel budget.
For those of you on a travel budget, St. Kilda and Melbourne city itself has a variety of nice backpacker hostels.
Photos by Charlie Espalotta