Just a weekend away in Melbourne was enough time for me to feel acquainted with Australia’s cosmopolitan city. From the hip cafes of St Kilda to the scenic vineyards in Yarra Valley, this city has a variety of experiences to offer even the most seasoned traveller. Enjoy the eclectic mix of goods at the Queen Victoria Markets or peek down the laneways to find the latest trend. Melbourne is a delightful city to explore, even if you only have a couple of days to spare. Here are five places to experience Melbourne’s best.
Queen Victoria Markets
Open five days a week, the Queen Victoria Markets have been a prized local icon since 1878. Inside the giant shed, you will find an assortment of popular stalls, all lined neatly in rows. From clothing, jewellery and shoes to fresh produce, snacks and goodies, vendors offer their loot at very reasonable prices. Across the laneway was my favourite part, the Deli Hall and the Meat Hall. Grab a cheese sample and browse the delectable gourmet goods but save room for the freshly made donuts from the American Doughnut Kitchen van sitting out front.
A beautiful waterfront suburb in Melbourne, St Kilda is the perfect place to roam on a sunny day. Perhaps its two most famous drawcards are Luna Park and St Kilda Beach. We wandered down Acland Street which is home to a variety of funky restaurants, trendy cafes and tempting cake shops. After a leisurely breakfast, we strolled along the St Kilda Esplanade, enjoying the views and watching the many locals take to the water. The St Kilda Pier has a cafe perched right at the end which makes for a lovely pit stop after burning a few calories on your walk.
Long hailed the Little Italy of Melbourne, Lygon Street is where you will find many lively Italian restaurants. If you have a craving for garlic bread, pizza and pasta, this is the place to go. In the evenings, the streets come alive as patrons descend on their favourite venue. A caution to first timers - many of the restaurants will have staff outside their doors ushering you in with promises of free garlic bread or free drinks. Some find the eagerness of the staff confronting, but I find it adds to the experience. Take your time, read the menu and choose a restaurant that takes your fancy.
Sitting alongside the pretty Yarra River is the lively Southbank promenade. On Friday and Saturday night, the area is filled with many street performers and musicians dotted along the river’s edge. While many choose to dine at one of Southbank’s upscale restaurants, we simply strolled along the water’s edge, enjoying the sights and sounds. Every hour outside the Casino, crowds gather to watch giant fire displays erupt from the tall concrete pillars, which are surprisingly entertaining. Grab a cup of delicious gelato and find a spot on the grass to enjoy the buzzing atmosphere.
A friend’s wedding meant I had an excuse to visit the Yarra Valley, but I highly recommend taking the time to get out of the city and explore Melbourne’s beautiful countryside. Famed for its picturesque vineyards and rolling hills, this region is a breath of fresh air, literally. Indulge in sumptuous food and wine or if you have the little ones in tow, check out the Healesville Sanctuary. There are also a number of day spas in the area if you need a little pampering.