It may not have the instant name recognition of Vienna or Paris, but Melbourne is one of the world’s great coffee cities. Mass immigration from Southern Europe in the 1940s and 50s shook up a culture that had previously, like most of the British Empire, preferred “a nice cup of tea”. Combine Italian tastes with al-fresco-friendly weather and voila!
Whole communities revolve around the art of the Barista and the various blends are discussed with obsessiveness rarely witnessed outside of science fiction forums. But even if you are not a coffee fanatic, stopping for a relaxed brunch in Collingwood, Brunswick or Fitzroy is an essential part of the Melbourne experience.
You’ll find Time Out at newsagents across the city. It’s full of info about what’s happening in Melbourne and its sprawling suburbs.
Get the best views in town
Pick a clear day, pack your camera and head to the 88th floor observation deck on the Eureka Tower. Just before sunset is prime-time to enjoy the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere.
If you prefer to enjoy a spectacular view with a cocktail in your hand, check out Rooftop (Curtin House, 252 Swanston St), an unimaginatively-named bar with inspirational views of the city and daily movie screenings in the summer months.
But if you want the finest views of all…
Get out of town into the Dandenong Ranges
The mountains of the Dandenong Ranges are draped with lush rainforest, the valleys vibrant with flowers and wildlife. Explore valleys and creeks, waterfalls and peaks, all within easy reach of Melbourne. You don’t have to travel far from the city to be transported into another world.
The Dandenongs have been a protected national park for more than a century but there is plenty going on in the local villages, which are home to thriving creative communities. The historic Puffing Billy steam engine runs through the woods and offers a glimpse into another era.
And for an incredible view? Head to the top of Mount Dandenong and take it in. If the climb makes you hungry, you will be pleased to find an excellent restaurant at the end of your journey!
Life is sweet at the latitudes where grapes grow. Melbourne is surrounded by some of Australia’s finest wine regions including the Macedon Ranges and Yarra Valley. Booking a tour is an excellent way to explore the vineyards without having to worry about how you will get home.
To watch, read, listen
Ned Kelly (2003) Director: Gregor Jordan
Mad Max (1979) Director: George Miller
The Loved Ones (2009) Director: Sean Byrnes
The big blockbusters are best watched on a big screen with a big sound system and the Crown cinema on the Yarra Promenade has the biggest commercial screen in town. For arty films, Kino Cinemas (45 Collins Street) and the Sun Theatre Yarraville are consistently popular options, offering a cosy, old-fashioned cinema experience. Cinema Nova at 380 Lygon Street offers a mix of the blockbusters and classics. The honkytonk bars on Brunswick Street, High Street and Smith Street are becoming increasingly popular for less formal screenings.
Ghostlines by Nick Gadd
Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas
Stiff by Shane Maloney
Falling & Flying by 360
Let Love in by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy
Melbourne Music venues
If someone really huge comes to town (think Rolling Stones/U2 sized), the Melbourne Cricket Ground is where they play. Slightly newer but still world-famous artists are more likely to play at the Rod Laver Arena or Sidney Myer Music Bowl, where you can also catch free classical concerts in the summertime. But Melbourne’s music scene really emanates from dozens of smaller venues across the city. The Espy in St Kilda, Corner Hotel in Richmond, the Evelyn on Brunswick Street and the Cherry Bar on ACDC Lane are among the most consistently popular. Bennetts Lane Jazz Club is the city’s top jazz destination and has hosted everyone from Herbie Hancock to Justin Timberlake. Popular nightclubs include Cookie, the Croft Institute, Rats and Survivor. Melbourne is an excellent city for music.