The only thing we knew prior to visiting Melbourne was that in 2017 it was named the most liveable city in the world for the seventh consecutive year. You’d think this would prime us with high expectations but, a lot had transpired in the time between reading that fact and arriving at Tullamarine Airport, leaving us totally unprepared for the youthful metropolis waiting beyond the runway. With a skyline to rival that of Manhattan, well planned infrastructure, including free tram services within the central business district (CBD), and a diverse population it’s easy to see why Melburnians are so fond of their very multicultural home.
We spent most of our time hanging out with Tara’s cousins, Sayuni and Anjula, who live in Melbourne with their dad. They very generously hosted us for the week making our visit much more affordable. With no shortage of things to do we quickly slipped back into big city life, going to the cinema, eating out, shopping (electronics are cheaper in Australia than the UK especially if you reclaim the GST at the airport) and coffee… so much coffee! A personal highlight came when the four of us tried our hand at a forensic escape room, even if we did fail miserably. You’d think Sayu, who’s studying criminology at university, would know better than to run into a crime scene and destroy all the evidence.
On our first day in the inner city, Sayu dropped us off at Flinders Street Station, right in the heart of things. We spent the day exploring on foot, starting with brunch in the Parisian styled lane-way, Degraves Street. The architecture of Melbourne is varied and intriguing giving the city a sense of history that belies its true age of just 183 years (although the indigenous tribes, Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong occupied the region for at least 30000 years). We found the opulent Victoria State Library particularly impressive.
Fortunately, for anyone on a budget, this city offers endless free entertainment. Cross the road from Flinders Street Station you’ll find Federation Square, home to the Koorie Heritage Trust which hosts a free aboriginal exhibition. Opposite this you can also find the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) which could honestly keep you entertained for days. The lower level houses a labyrinth of free, interactive installations, including console and PC games. Check out our bullet time clip here (yes, Tara face-plants after the video cuts off – apparently “go” isn’t a clear enough signal to jump).
Whilst searching for things to do, we came across the portentous claim that Melbourne houses the best croissants in the world. After lunch on the Saturday of our visit, we couldn’t resist the call of these buttery pastries and thus embarked on a quest from the CBD to Lune Croissanterie. The 40 minute walk perfectly encapsulated the spirit of this vibrant city. We began with an amble through the bustling red lanes of China Town, eyeing up endless window displays of steamed dumplings, waving cats and assorted herbal medicines. Within five minutes we found ourselves at the sidelines of a political rally, formed of countless people from all walks of life, marching to the drums of justice.
Once the last of the protesters had passed, we continued to the big green space of Carlton Gardens surrounding the Melbourne Museum. If you’re after a good spot to while away the hours, this museum has everything. We highly recommend the Bunjilaka Aboriginal section where you can learn of the inspirational lifestyle of these ancient peoples. ‘Bugs Alive’ is another must-see for those wanting to get up close (behind a nice thick pane of glass obviously) to the infamous Australian creepy crawlies.
Still desperate for our sugar fix, we proceeded another twenty minutes up the road which led us away from the shiny high rises of the city centre, along quaint residential roads, before turning a corner into the super artsy Fitzroy neighbourhood. Here, you’ll find every inch of wall covered in street art, an abundance of quirky cafes, men with beards, craft markets, saxophonist buskers, puppies and of course, Melbourne’s croissant Mecca, Lune.
We arrived at our destination by 3pm to find the most ostentatious bakery ever. Housed inside a large concrete shell, the minimalist space makes theatre out of the baking process by enclosing the kitchen within an austere glass cube. Styled like a sterile lab, the central chamber provides the climate-controlled environment that is essential in maintaining the precision and consistency of the bakes – plus it just looks cool! While some might find this a little over wrought, we loved it, along with Fitzroy in general. The croissants were damn good but the batch brew stole the show for us, hands down, the best coffee we’ve ever tasted!
To finish off this prodigious day in Melbourne we met up with Tara’s high school friend Maarten, in his home district, Brunswick. Maarten, one of the nicest chaps you’ll ever meet, heads a team of landscape gardeners by day and is DJ Maars by night. Having morphed into a true Melburnian (Aussie accent and all), he took us on a epic night out, acquainting us with his friends and the city’s renowned nightlife. We bounced from the cosy Charles Weston pub to Grumpy’s, then a local house party before finishing the night immersed in the beats of the city’s world famous techno scene at My Aeon.
We left Melbourne two days later feeling like we had enjoyed a true glimpse of life in the most liveable city in the world. Although sad to part with family, we were eager to see how Sydney would compare.