One week in multi-cultural Melbourne and I was in love.
When comparing Australia’s two biggest and best cities Melbourne and Sydney, most people say they prefer one or the other. Not me- I absolutely LOVED both; they both reminded me of my favourite cities at home; Sydney of London with its incredible landmarks and big city vibe and then Melbourne of Brighton, closer to home, with its quirky cafes and cool bars and laneways. Which is where I went first!
The flight from Perth to Melbourne was three and a half hours- it’s so easy to forget how big this country is! Incredibly, there is even a two or three hour time difference between the West and East Coast of Australia- this is season dependent because on the East Coast they use Daylight Saving Time but in WA they voted not to (fun fact). On leaving the airport, I jumped on a local bus and then train into the city centre, to Flinders Street Station. As first impressions of a city go, I was already in love- the station itself is the most impressive, yellow-coloured, iconic historic building, complete with its infamous row of clocks hanging over the front entrance showing the next train due for each line.
Melbourne was bustling, busy and exciting from the word go. After throwing myself into my first proper night of solo travel- by spending all night in the hostel bar playing drinking games to win free stuff- I woke up feeling slightly worse for wear but ready to explore. By now I was very well aware my money would not go very far whilst travelling this country- it’s no SE Asia trip! Fortunately I found myself on a free walking tour, where an infectiously enthusiastic tour guide not only showed us all of the historical and parliamentary buildings in Melbourne (I didn’t realise there was so much history here!) but also recommended us all his favourite places for food and drinks. Melbourne is known for its number of quirky little cafes and restaurants down little laneways so it was nice to have somewhere to start!
I met up with a friend for more exploring and we covered most of the tourist hotspots of Melbourne CBD in two days- starting in Hosier Lane, a famous lane covered in impressive graffiti. The art there can change everyday and some of it is really incredible. We walked to the Victoria markets for lunch which were HUGE and in the afternoon we walked around the sports stadiums- the Rod Laver arena and the big arena for netball. I really like how much netball is promoted here. We then walked along Southbank, and then paid to go up Eureka Tower, the tallest building in Melbourne at 88 floors, with a fab view of the whole city- it definitely put into perspective how far we had walked that day!
Melbourne & Sport
One big thing on my list of things to do in Australia was go to an AFL Game and I was told Melbourne would be the best place, being the birthplace of the sport. I had originally wanted to see a game at the MCG, Melbourne’s biggest and oldest stadium, but the dates didn’t work out so instead I went to an evening game at the Etihad Stadium, an equally impressive stadium, to watch Sydney Swans vs Western Bulldogs. One of the first games of the season, it was a rematch of the final that had taken place in the previous October. The atmosphere was electric- it was an exciting game and the aussies love their sport! Because the Western Bulldogs are a Melbourne team we joined the masses in supporting them- and they won the game.
On a different day I went to MCG Sports Museum, paying about $24 to enter I think. It was worth every penny and was genuinely one of the best museums I’ve ever been to, ever. If you like sport, you NEED to go. It is divided into sections, one large part about the history of the MCG and its role in Australia’s sporting history, and another about the history of the Olympics Games and the Aussies’ involvement in it. Then there were big sections on each of the Aussies most favoured sports; mainly Aussie Rules Football, Rugby and cricket amongst others. I think Melbourne’s obsession with sport could be my favourite thing about the place, and that’s saying something!
Melbourne & Culture
Another thing I really liked about Melbourne was its proud attitude to its multicultural ethos; it even had a bridge dedicated to it, the ‘Immigration Bridge’ listing all the countries of the world that people have emigrated from. Because Melbourne is such a multi-cultural city, the variety of the food is amazing- we were recommended the best places to try Chinese dumplings, Greek souvlaki, Polish sausages, Korean fried chicken etc. We also sampled the vibey Melbourne nightlife by visiting some speakeasies- bars completely hidden by secret doors and you don’t know they are there (unless you know.) We visited a selection of weird and wonderful bars; one down a hidden alleyway that was creepily hospital themed where you drank cocktails out of syringes; another that was essentially a shipping container with a DJ and a couple of a rooftop bar, with views across the city.
One day I got a train an hour outside the city to where my friend lives and she drove us up to the Dandedong Mountains. We had a walk in the gorgeously peaceful rainforest and then drove to the Yarra Valley, known for its wineries and tried some of its liquid produce! They were sooo good- all I could think about is how nice it would have been to live nearby, to try a few wines in their beautiful vineyard setting and then drive home with a bottle for the evening. I also visited St Kilda, Melbourne’s beach town. It feels worlds away from the Melbourne CBD but is only a short tram ride away! I found it looked run down and old-fashioned but full of character and the beach was nice. I spent the day walking to the end of pier and spotted some fairy penguins!
Melbourne & Me!
Overall, as is probably obvious, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I loved Melbourne! I loved how it was the home of sport in Australia, its history, how much culture there was, the fun and quirky bars and cafes, the variety of incredible food from across the world. Its easy to see why its voted ‘Most Liveable City’ in the world! It has such a cool hippy atmosphere. My only issue was that because I was there at the beginning of April, it was getting to be pretty cold there down in the South East corner of Australia, so I would absolutely love to go back in the summer.