City guide: Melbourne

The city sits atop lists of the most “livable” cities on the planet.

Melbourne sits atop lists of the most “livable” cities on the planet. With a highly diversified economy, exciting cultural offerings, outdoor activities and a reputation for having the best bars in Australia, there’s plenty to keep locals happy and travelers coming back again and again.

A range of sectors—including finance, information technology, transportation and tourism—drive commerce. Two of Australia’s largest banks, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, have their headquarters in Melbourne. It’s also home to pharmaceutical, textile and paper manufacturers and food processers.

Getting to and from the airport

Melbourne Airport is 14 miles from the city center, adjacent to the suburb of Tullamarine. SkyBus runs a 20-minute express service between the airport and downtown—24 hours a day, seven days a week. Buses run every 10 minutes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and every 30 minutes during non-peak periods. Buy tickets online or at a SkyBus booth. A one-way trip is AU$18 (US$12.65 using the exchange rate US$1 = AU$1.42). Taxis are available at designated ranks outside Terminal 1 and between terminals 2 and 3. A taxi trip to the city center costs between AU$55 and AU$65 (US$39 and US$46).

Getting around Melbourne

Many of Melbourne’s attractions are in the downtown core. Its grid layout makes navigation simple, on foot or bicycle. An extensive network of trains, trams and buses will get you to the rest of the city efficiently. All modes use an integrated ticketing system called Myki. The reusable Myki card can be purchased at premium stations and any retailer displaying the Myki sign. Fares are calculated based on zones and time.

Bright yellow taxis are abundant and easy to spot. Find a taxi waiting at stands near major hotels, train stations and within the central business district. Any taxi with its rooftop light illuminated is available for hire and can be hailed on the street. Fares are metered.

Where to stay

For luxury accommodation, try the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins (25 Collins St., Melbourne 3000, Ph: 61-3-96530000), Stamford Plaza Melbourne (111 Little Collins St., Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-96591000), The Westin Melbourne (205 Collins St., Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-963522220), Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens Melbourne (380 William St., Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-93228000), Rydges Melbourne (186 Exhibition St., Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-96620511).

For a midscale option, consider Mercure North Melbourne (corner of Flemington Road & Harker St., Melbourne 3051; Ph: 61-3-93291788). And for an economy hotel, try Ibis Melbourne (15-21 Therry St., Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-96660000).

Things to see and do

Take in the whole city at once from the Eureka Skydeck. The observation deck is on the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and provides 360-degree views across Melbourne and the surrounding area. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission to the Skydeck viewing area is AU$19.50 (US$13.70). For AU$12 (US$8.43), you can upgrade to the Edge Experience. The Edge extends 3 meters out from the tower and suspends you nearly 300 meters over the city in a glass cube. Those with a fear of heights need not give it a try.

Within the heart of the city is the Royal Botanic Gardens, an oasis of tranquil lakes, majestic trees and lush vegetation. The gardens occupy over 36 hectares and contain a diverse collection of more than 50,000 plant varieties. The Garden Explorer hop-on, hop-off transport offers a guide’s live commentary and relaxing way to see the gardens’ many stunning views. The Royal Botanic is open from 7:30 a.m. to sunset, and admission is free.

The collection at the National Gallery of Victoria includes ancient Egyptian treasures, Renaissance paintings and modern sculptures. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. The National Sports Museum on the Melbourne Cricket Grounds celebrates Australia’s sporting history. It features memorabilia from notable athletes and favorite teams and also pays tribute to sporting moments that have defined Australia. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is AU$22 (US$15.46).

Adventurous visitors should make the most of Melbourne’s Yerra River with a sight-seeing kayaking trip. Melbourne Adventure Hub offers a 2.5-hour tour past many of the city’s landmarks, including Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and Bolte Bridge. The tour costs AU$110 (US$77.32) with all equipment included.

Stop by Queen Victoria Market to pick up a souvenir and absorb a vibrant mix of cultures and ethnicities. Crowded stalls sell knick-knacks, crafts and textiles from all corners of the world. It’s also a great place to grab a quick breakfast or lunch. The food court has a wide range of cuisines (Middle Eastern, Italian, Chinese and more) at prices that can’t be beat. The market is open Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where to eat

Vue de Monde’s impressive gastronomic experience includes a staggering view from the 55th floor of the Rialto Hotel and four-course or 10-course menus. Each dish is brought to the table by the chef. Plus, every diner brings home a goodie bag of brioche and tea for breakfast the next day. Find the restaurant at 55 Rialto Towers, 525 Collins St., Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-96913888.

The menu at Supernormal expertly weaves international culinary influences. Slow-cooked lamb ribs melt off the bone; pan-fried Chinese dumplings are delectable; and the New England lobster rolls are a consistent favorite. The décor is modern and airy. Long, communal tables allow diners a view of chefs in action in the open kitchen. It’s at 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-96508688.

Carnivores will be delighted by Rockpool Bar and Grill. It’s all in the details at this steakhouse—think fine table linens, moody lighting, plush leather chairs—and then there’s the Waygu beef. It’s expertly sourced, dry-aged and cooked to perfection over a wood-fired grill. Choose one of 17 side dishes, including crunchy onion rings and caramelized potato gratin, as an ideal accompaniment. Rockpool is at Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman St., Southbank 3006; Ph: 61-3-86481900.

Come hungry to MoVida, where you’ll want to sample as many tapas as you possibly can. Options include smoked mackerel with pine nut gazpacho, braised beef cheek in cauliflower puree and spring bay mussels in almond and mayonnaise sauce. If you’re daring, let the kitchen order for you; they’ll send out a cross-section of signature favorites and seasonal specialties. Find it at 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-9663-3038.

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