Discover why Australia’s cultural capital deserves the title.
Surprisingly edgy, exciting and evolving into one of the world’s most livable cities, Melbourne struts as a melting pot simmering more than 140 nationalities. While early British immigrants made for a fairly conservative bastion, that demeanor shattered after World War II, when an influx of southern Europeans spiced up the Victoria state municipal with a flurry of diverse ethnic lifestyles. As a result, Australia’s cultural capital merits that moniker via architecture, art, music, cuisine and festivals fusing multi-layered fabrics of everyday life.
WORTH CHECKING-IN TO:
A short stroll to Melbourne’s vibrant Southbank precinct, Crown Metropol Melbourne (crownhotels.com) transports you from the mega Crown Entertainment Complex into a luxurious urban hideaway, defining city chic. Studio-style Bay Luxe King rooms wow with Port Phillip Bay vistas. Enhanced by a floor-to-ceiling glass façade, its pinnacle 28 Skybar Lounge reveals a jaw-dropping city skyline view sweeping to the Dandenong Ranges. ISIKA Spa further unplugs from the neighborhood’s cool chaos with its holistic wellness approaches.
Melbourne’s boutique Art Series Hotels create beautiful spaces inspired by some of the country’s most illustrious contemporary artists. Set trendy in South Yarra, The Olsen (artserieshotels.com) infuses 229 sophisticated suites with lyrical works of revered Australian landscape master, Dr. John Olsen. After plunging into the glass-bottomed pool, dive into Chapel Street’s tony eateries and ritzy boutiques flaunting highfalutin labels.
Within a 1920-era heritage landmark on famous St. Kilda Road, The Royce (roycehotels.com) is lauded among Melbourne’s finest five-star boutique hotels. Bask within beautifully appointed retreats decked out by designer furnishings and Italian marble bathrooms. Upscale Dish has catapulted into stellar dining status with contemporary Australian cuisine, while Amberoom adds classy sanity to the weekday happy hour ritual. The cosmopolitan beach-front suburb plugs into art deco digs at 40-room The Prince (theprince.com).
Or twist to natural highs by overnighting on Phillip Island in the Cowes/ San Remo region that homes globally lauded Penguin Parade and Koala Conservation Centre. Ninety minutes from the city, 17-acre Silverwater Resort (silverwaterresort.com) elevates econirvana with 170 accommodations featuring sleek “home chef ” kitchens and private balconies/terraces.
With such a vibrant tapestry, it just makes sense that Melbourne is also coveted as Australia’s premier foodie destination. Home to preferred cellar doors and farm gates, the regional culinary scene exemplifies paddock-to-plate dining for a top table experience.
Within Th e Flinders Hotel, Terminus (flindershotel.com.au/terminus) merges Modern Australian with Mediterranean fare in a season-evolving menu. Inspired by his Italian upbringing, head chef Giuseppe Pisciotta’s signatures satiate through seafood from the rocks served with almond puree or basil gnocchi with confit tomatoes and stracciatella cheese–all complemented with wines handpicked for perfect pairings. Savor nosh in the fireplace-warmed formal dining room or outdoor terrace on balmy summer evenings.
Distinguished as No. 32 among S. Pellegrino’s 2015 “World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” Attica (attica.com.au) has fast-tracked into an Aussie dining darling under the innovative stewardship of head chef-owner, Ben Shewry. Paving the path for a new national cuisine, Shewry glorifies once-shunned native ingredients in dishes like wallaby blood pikelet, delicate King George whiting wrapped in paper bark and cured red kangaroo with purple carrots. Varietals showcase conscientious grape-growers from local turf and across the globe.
Within 84 acres on Mornington Peninsula, Ten Minutes by Tractor (tenminutesbytractor.com.au) is the food-centric brainchild of three families owning adjacent vineyards producing heralded Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Chef Stuart Bell’s seasonal menu balances Asian and European influences with heirloom vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. An extensive wine list harmonizes with some 400 selections, including a comprehensive by-the-glass range.
A dynamic duo rubbing shoulders within the same city block, Saint Crispin (saint-crispin.com.au) and Th e Noble Experiment 9 (thenobleexperiment.com.au) each bombard Collingwood’s Smith Street with distinctive approaches to regional bounty. Th e former’s dining room bar concocts equally mulled over cocktails, wines, ales and champagnes, while the latter’s libations are inspired by the 1920s prohibition era. Noble’s plates of fresh, seasonal produce are complemented with cunning cocktails assembled with local or imported gins and other barrel-aged spirits.
Or hop aboard the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant (tramrestaurant.com.au), an elegant 1927 vintage eatery on wheels with an evolving backdrop for savoring duck terrine, smoked Tasmanian salmon and Victorian farmed filet of beef.
A ROUND OF DRINKS
Enhancing Melbourne’s hip libation scene are vibes trending from high profile establishments to low-key haunts hiding behind unassuming doors.
The new Marion (marionwine.com. au) in Fitzroy overwhelms with five levels of food and spirits, including a rooftop bar and hawker-style food. A 14-page wine list of snob-worthy labels runs amok from classic small-producer Chablis to embellished vintages accessible from the cellar at next-door neighbor Cutler & Co.
Complementing boutique Australian spirits, Bad Frankie’s (badfrankie.com) iconic Jaffles (toasted sandwiches) drench taste buds with The Shroom, Corned Beef, Bangers & Mash, and Chunky House Tartar & Fish Finger. Creative alcohol-laden beverages play out through the gin-based Bread & Flannel, Cornflake Old Fashioned with aged corn rye moonshine and Golden Flop with 666 Butter Vodka.
On Chinatown’s Corrs Lane, Berlin Bar (berlinbar.com.au) presents two distinctive themes–the opulence of West Berlin and East Berlin’s army bunker chic. Imbibe with Tiki Berliner or Brandenburg Gate that slides into euphoria by merging passion fruit and rhubarb with sweet bourbon and bright citrus fruit. Perched above and overlooking Parliament, Siglo cigar bar with sister bar Supper Club appease wine buffs with vino and bites.
MORE SIGHTS TO SEE
Aussies bleed a raucous passion for sports and specifically for their tennis—as well they should, since the country hosts the first of four annual Grand Slam tennis tournaments. Th e Australian Open pits pros at Melbourne Park (formerly Flinders Park), where Rod Laver Arena salutes the country’s king of the courts. Th e urban tennis stage merged with Olympic Park in 1995, resulting in a mega hot venue catering to concerts, ice skating, motorsports, cycling and swimming events.
For culturally enriching ventures, Melbourne’s unoffi cial museum corridor extends from Southbank through Carlton Gardens. Peruse the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (accaonline.org.au) and National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) International. Cross the Yarra River to Federation Square (fedsquare.com), home to Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and Th e Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Th en continue to Melbourne Museum and Royal Exhibition Building.
With a slightest hint of a sunny day, St. Kilda’s seaside playground on Port Phillip Bay is a magnet for sun and fun seekers gravitating to the safe sandy beach with boardwalk. On Fitzroy Street, voguish bars and swanky restaurants lead to Esplanade Market that garnishes Sundays with 150 unique stalls and “Foodie Zone.” Chill out after intense retail session in St. Kilda Sea Baths’ (stkildaseabaths.com.au) healing waters and aromatherapy steam room.
Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and King Valley woo as three of the area’s more prolific wine regions. Smaller, family-owned wineries in Macedon, Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula appease oenophiles with distinctive swirling and sipping experiences as well. Or book a Queenie’s Food Tours (queeniesfood-tours.com) edible excursion that takes wanderlust palates from breakfast to Tram-To-Market ecstasy.
Regardless of your path “Down Under,” Melbourne welcomes as cosmopolitan, dynamic destination where sophistication is beautifully tamed by a relaxed Aussie attitude.