City guide: Melbourne

Australian seaside city offers a “livable” mix of business, culture and sports.

The coastal city of Melbourne has repeatedly been named one of the most “livable” places in the world, and for good reason. It’s both a cultural and sporting center for Australia. With vibrant art, famous restaurants, and fresh live music, you’re sure to find something to love about Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria.

Diverse commercial sectors drive the economy. Two of Australia’s largest banks, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, have headquarters in Melbourne. It’s also home to pharmaceutical, textile and paper manufacturers; information technology firms; transportation and tourism companies 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$12.95 using the exchange rate US$1 = AU$1.39). 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$39.67 and US$46.76).

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 stations and retailers displaying the Myki sign. Fares are calculated based on zones and time.

Operating within Melbourne’s central business district, the City Circle Tram is a free way to see the city. Trams run in both directions every 12 minutes and pass all the major tourist attractions. Use it as a hop on-hop off service or rest your feet for the 48-minute full loop. It’s the perfect way to hit all the main attractions on in a single day.

Bright yellow taxis are abundant and easy to spot. Find one 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:

Luxury:

  • InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, 495 Collins St.; Ph: 61-3-8627-1400

Upper Upscale:

  • Doubletree by Hilton Melbourne—Flinders Street, 270 Flinders St.; Ph: 61-3-9654-6888

Upscale:

  • Wyndham Hotel Melbourne, 199 William St.; Ph: 61-3-8692-8900

Midscale:

  • Clarion Suites Gateway, 1 William St.; Ph: 61-3-9296-8888

Economy:

  • Ibis Melbourne, 15-21 Therry St.; Ph: 61-3-9666-0000

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 of Melbourne and the surrounding area. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission to the viewing area is AU$21 (US$15.11) if purchased online. For AU$12 (US$8.63), you can upgrade to the Edge Experience. The Edge is a glass cube that extends 3 meters from the tower, suspended nearly 300 meters over the city. 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 a relaxing way to see 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$25 (US$17.99).

Adventurous visitors should make the most of Melbourne’s Yarra 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$79.14) 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 is a staple of Melbourne’s fine-dining scene. On the top floor of the iconic Rialto, it offers 360-degree views of the city, four- or 10-course meals and world-class customer service. Still not impressed? A team of sommeliers will select the perfect wine pairing for your meal. All these details combine for a dining experience that’s expensive but memorable. Find the restaurant at 55 Rialto Towers, 525 Collins St., Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-9691-3888.

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: 61-3-9650-8688.

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, among them crunchy onion rings and caramelized potato gratin. Rockpool is at Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman St., Southbank 3006; Ph: 61-3-8648-1900.

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.

If the constant line out the door is any indication, you won’t want to miss out on a meal at Chin Chin. This Southeast Asian eatery is known for being a social hub with good vibes and even better food. There’s a no-reservation policy for parties under eight, so put your name in early, and go enjoy a couple of drinks while you wait. One taste of the caramelized pork belly or kingfish sashimi, and you’ll quickly realize what makes Chin Chin one of Melbourne’s most popular restaurants. Head to 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000; Ph: +61-3-8663-2000 to experience it for yourself.

You’ll find other tasty options on Flinders Lane, a one-stop shop for some diners. Coda, a French-Vietnamese style restaurant, features minimalist décor that allows the food to speak for itself. The contagious energy and relaxed vibe make this the perfect restaurant to connect with colleagues. Find it at 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000; Ph: 61-3-9650-3155.

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