6 Ways to Experience Melbourne

Melbourne takes the trophy as Australia's food and culture hub. It's home to more theatres, galleries and art spaces than anywherne else in Australia.

Photo © Getty Images/jamesphillips

Melbourne also hosts the Australian Open tennis grand slam, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), and some of the country's most avid AFL players. Here are a number of ways you can experience the capital city of Victoria like a local.

Food & Drink in Melbourne

Melbourne's bar, restaurant and café scene can be overwhelming. During summer, locals flock to rooftop bars to watch the sun go down. Take your pick of expensive cocktails and beer during happy hour in the afternoon, but save your appetite for a meal in the evening.

If a game of bocce and a few craft beers sound good to you, head to The Local Taphouse where there is an extensive, ever-changing craft beer menu to be enjoyed with live music by local artists.

Melbourne's outdoor café culture is deeply rooted in its Greek and Italian heritage; Australia's first espresso machine was brought to Melbourne by an Italian family. For many years, the epicenter of this culture was Lygon St in Carlton, just north of the CBD. However, in recent years it has become, at best, a pastiche of its heritage, and in its worst parts a downright tourist trap.

Head to the nearby suburb of Fitzroy for an eclectic collection of restaurants, all with a modern authentic feel. St Kilda's Fitzroy Street and Acland Street are also popular places to eat, or stroll around Southbank, immediately across the river from the CBD, for more choice. 

Ride the Tram

There's a free tram which circles the city, making getting around simple. The historic W-class trams are maroon, green and gold, and incredibly slow, but make for an entertaining way to get around the CBD's sights and shopping centers.

Check out the National Gallery of Victoria

See modern and contemporary art displays at the National Gallery of Victoria. Check online to see if there are any events happening while you're there, but book early – tickets sell fast! Entry is free, and the gallery is open from 10am–5pm daily.

Have a Garden Picnic

Fitzroy Gardens is leafy and secluded, right in the center of the city. Find a spot to lay down under the trees and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you're an avid gardener or have a green thumb, Carlton Gardens holds a flower show each year in March. Edinburgh Gardens, where the hipsters hang out, is a great place to go people watching. The Royal Botanic Gardens have a walking path for runners or slow strollers, called The Tan.

Go to the Beach

Most locals get their swimming fix at Port Phillip Bay, but the most easily accessible beach is St Kilda. Here, you'll see the locals cycling, rollerblading, exercising, and suntanning on weekends. There's a long boardwalk across the top of the beach, which makes for an enjoyable lazy stroll.

If you're looking for something a little less crowded, head to the Mornington Peninsula, a 90-minute drive away, and walk some of the 60mi (100km) Mornington Peninsula Walk. The walk goes along the beach, through forests, grasslands, and a few wineries. If you're looking for a challenge, try the 62mi (100km) long option.

Watch a Football Match

No trip to Melbourne is complete without experiencing an AFL match. The season starts in late March with the Grand Final in early October. Like the English Premier League, it is something that the locals are fiercely passionate about. Even at a local game, 60,000+ people will attend the match. 

Make sure you pack a light raincoat because Melbourne's weather is likely to go from sunny to torrential rain in a matter of hours. AFL fans around you will be chanting, singing, screaming, and if their team loses, crying. Join in the fun with a beer and a pie from the takeaway – without these, you'll really stand out in the crowd.

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