I’ve never met anyone who has been to Melbourne and hates the city.
But, how could I blame the person? Melbourne – which is the second largest city in Australia after Sydney, as well as the capital of the state of Victoria – is creative, vibrant, and welcoming. It has made regular appearances as one of most liveable cities on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Indexes, and in 2022, it even managed to earn the perfect score for education (100/100) and infrastructure (100/100). The city also scored highly for Culture and Environment (98.6/100) that year.
As a travel destination, the city sparks wanderlust thanks to its dynamic melting pot, bubbling creative scene, Michelin-calibre gastronomy, and its insistence in sprucing up every corner with art. Seriously, the city is obsessed with street art (and I love it for that). Moreover, the coffee served in the city never disappoints. You could grab good cups of coffee anywhere in the city, wander around for a week, and still not see them all.
So to help travellers draw up itinerary to explore Melbourne, the following are some of the experiences that you should try:
1. Believe in magic again at the Harry Potter & The Cursed Child play
A theatrical hub in its own class, Melbourne hosts plenty of exciting shows from small, independent plays to big-budget productions like Aladdin – The Musical, Hamilton The Musical, and Les Misérables, all within the famed East End theatre district.
For Potterheads living in Southeast Asia, the city is also the closest place* for them to watch the globally awarded Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, currently showing at the majestic Princess Theatre until July 2023.
This time the story follows the children of Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione, as they navigate the growing pressure due to their parents’ reputation while being the students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
*The non-English language version of the play is also currently playing in Tokyo, Japan.
Expect a spectacular performance filled with tricks, optical illusions and fiery explosions – they are incredibly magical that you can’t help but be ‘apparated’ into the world, perhaps fantasising along the way on owning a wand of your own. Expelliarmus!
2. Seek out inspiration at the LUME Melbourne
Melbourne breathes on art, and one digital art gallery in particular, invites art lovers to appreciate it in the most exciting way.
THE LUME Melbourne recreates popular works by heavy hitters and transforms them into a multitude of cool displays and immersive installations across its massive 3,000-metre squared space. Imagine admiring high-definition digital paintings projected around and below you, all the while being accompanied by vivacious music from the Classical and Romantic eras. Purists may have doubts, but you have to admit that the experience in its entirety is unforgettable.
The theme changes every season, and currently the gallery is running the Monet and Friends Alive, an exhibition focusing on the French impressionist movement with works by the likes of Cezanne, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley and of course, Monet. Spending a couple of hours here is certainly not out of the question.
3. Taste the fresh produce at the South Melbourne Market
The South Melbourne Market is 156 years old, making it the longest-running market in the city. It is the ideal place for travellers to have a look at the city’s heritage along with its day-to-day life. Many Melburnians still come here for their daily essentials, while visitors can get their greedy paws on everything that ranges from clothes by rising local designers and local produce to homewares and secondhand books as souvenirs to bring home.
There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes on site to feed the hungry masses, including the popular chain Dim Sims that has been operating here for over 50 years. Don’t forget to also spare some time to visit the oyster bar where you can devour the freshest catch right there and then!
The Market is open every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8am.
4. Understand the city’s sense of place via laneways and arcades tour
Ahh yes, we’ve reached to the part where we discover Melbourne’s street art. The city is world-famous for its kaleidoscopic laneways, gathering momentum since the 1980s and giving birth to many prolific street artists along the way. You can just walk anywhere in the city and find your favourite mural; otherwise, you can level up and join an insightful tour.
You are sure to soak it all up when you join the award-winning Melbourne Walks, whose personalised tour comes with really eye-opening and mind-blowing insider info that further extends visitors’ knowledge way beyond where to find the best coffee and cheap eats. Melbourne Walks’ tour guide of the day, Courtney, shares about the controversial 1875 oil painting by Parisian Jules Joseph Lefebvre gracing the wall of Chloe’s Brasserie, one of the oldest pubs in the city, situated within the Young and Jackson building. The full-frontal nude painting of a female water nymph ruffled the feathers of the society of that time, and said to be so popular that some soldiers even wrote love letters to her from the front line during World War I.
The tour also brings travellers around the city’s famous arcades such as the Block Arcade, the Royal Arcade, and The Strands where you can find a collection of specialty shops and vintage stores. My personal favourite is the 1932’s Manchester Unity Arcade that is housed within an Art Deco Gothic building built during the Great Depression, kitted with Melbourne’s first escalator and incredibly beautiful Art Deco lifts.
5. Thrill your tastebuds and do café-hopping
Melbourne takes its culinary culture seriously. This is why the Victoria’s capital is recognised as one of the most exciting foodie destination in the country, thanks in no small part to the impressive talents running the kitchens and the ever innovative ways of honouring the fresh native ingredients.
Expect to see every neighbourhood brims to the edge with specialty restaurants, charming cafes, secret bars, and the occasional secret party! The best ones are always located in unassuming locations, so keep your eyes open, and let your tastebuds lead the way!
Here are some of my top picks to try in Melbourne:
- Big Esso: The restaurant takes pride in offering seasonal menus that incorporate incredible native Australian ingredients.
- D’Penyetz & D’Cendol: This restaurant serves Halal, affordable and delicious Indonesian delicacies, perfect for those who miss that Nusantara kick.
- Pastuso: A culinary gem for those in the know, highlighting beautiful and unique Peruvian flavours. Halal meat is available here.
- Chin Chin: A crowd favourite serving mouthwatering Mod-Thai dishes. The line might be long, but it is totally worth the wait. Halal meat is available here.
- Claypots Evening Star: Located at the busy South Melbourne Market, this eatery boasts some of the best seafood offerings in town.
- Kōri Ice Cream: The brand is co-founded by Melbourne’s Young Chef of the Year 2022 finalist, Joane Yeoh, who is a Malaysian-born dessert whiz. They serve handcrafted ice creams with bold and innovative flavours.
6. Strike a pose at the Brighton Bathing Boxes
These seaside gems are quite possibly one of the most recognised icons of Victoria, and understandably so. The vibrant colours are visually rewarding, and they amplify the already splendid beauty of Dendy Street Beach.
But more importantly, these boxes are also a fragment of the past, originally built during the Victorian era for ladies so that they could change into their swimwear in private. The ladies then would get into the bathing machines drawn by horses to the water’s edge where they could enjoy the sea away from prying eyes.
Of course, as the world progresses, the use of bathing machines are no longer deemed necessary while bathing boxes gradually become more of a lifestyle asset, a convenient shelter to admire the shoreline during the warmer months. These boxes are usually passed on within the owning families from one generation to the next, so if it were to come to the market, don’t be surprised to see the whopping price tags — some could even reach as high as A$200,000 each!
Today, there are over 80 bathing boxes that line the beach, each sporting a distinctive design while retaining its original Victorian architectural features. So go on, choose your favourite(s) and take as many pictures as you like! This is also a great spot for a swim, a walk by the waves, or just lounging on the sand.
Getting here: The easiest way to reach the suburb is by hopping on the Sandringham train line from the Flinders Street Station to the Brighton Beach Railway Station. The journey takes around 30 minutes, and once you’ve alighted the train, walk north for about 500 metres through a park to the beach. Alternatively, you can also catch the 600, 922 and 923 buses, serving Southland and St Kilda, from the CBD.
ARRIVING IN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA
The Victoria region, or Australia in general, welcomes all kinds of travellers, be they solos, couples or groups. Below are some notes on how travellers can better prepare for their visit to Australia:
- Malaysians are among the selected passport holders eligible for Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) application to enter Australia, which can be accessed using the Australian ETA mobile app (downloadable from the App Store and Google Play Store).
- The process is rather simple as long as the applicants ensure that all necessary documents are ready before submission. The estimated processing time for an ETA is one to three business days. However, I highly recommend travellers to plan ahead and lodge the application at least four weeks in advance.
- To avoid unnecessary disappointment, I advise travellers to confirm their online bookings only after receiving their visa approval, or to book tickets that allow date flexibility.
- Please have all the necessary documents at hand upon arrival at the airport.
- Travellers are encouraged to make a clear plan of what they want to do and visit in Australia, so that they can answer confidently when asked by the immigration officer.+
- Australia has a strict biosecurity procedure at the international borders. Do note that certain food items brought into the country, even in small amounts, need to be declared.
- There are four airports in Victoria, with Melbourne International Airport or also known as the Tullamarine Airport being the primary gateway into the state. At the time of writing, it receives around 30 international flights including AirAsia X, which offers non-stop flights from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, three times a week.
- The trip from the Melbourne International Airport to the central business district (CBD) takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes. Travellers can choose from various services namely the SkyBus (fares start from AUD$22 each way), taxi, or e-hailing* (fares are between AUD$50 and AUD$70).
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! The weather may be pleasant, but the Australian sun is known for being stronger compared to other places around the world.
- Melburnians often joke about the city having four seasons in one day, and it is true! So always pack a versatile waterproof jacket or a lightweight raincoat that you can pull out on the go if necessary.
*While the rideshare app Grab is not yet available in Melbourne, travellers may opt for these alternatives instead: Uber, Ola, DiDi and Shebah.
The best way to get around in the city is by tram that glides along the network of rails through various equally charming neighbourhoods.
If you are based in the CBD, take advantage of the City Circle Tram or the trams operating within the Free Tram Zone to reduce travel costs. The tram’s routes take travellers to popular sights and attractions like the Federation Square, the Queen Victoria Market, the State Library of Victoria, and the SEA Life Melbourne Aquarium.
However, if your journey begins or ends outside the CBD zone, you must have a valid myki to board the tram. This card can also be used for bus and train services in Melbourne. I suggest that you download the Public Transport Victoria (PTV) app for easier navigation across the city and the suburbs.
Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Visit Victoria and AirAsia X for making our trip to the Victoria state a smooth journey.
Filed in: Arcades / australia / Cafes / Melbourne / Street Arts