Melbourne: Coffee & Cultural Capital

JULY 2011…

Over the years, my appetite and taste for holiday destinations changed. When I was in my 20s, I was more adventurous and willing to go along with some crazy things my travel companions suggested. Now that I’m in my 30s, I look forward to a more relaxing vacation, somewhere that is closer to home and easier to plan.

And so, Australia appeared at the top of my shortlist. It is a 6 to 8-hour flight from home, safe and easy for the solo traveller to navigate, and language isn’t a problem. Perfect. I picked Melbourne instead of Sydney for my first stop as I wanted to head out to the Great Ocean Road to get my dose of nature.

Street art in Melbourne, Australia.

Street art on the walls of the many Melbourne laneways.

A chillax vibe throughout the city
Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia; public art can be found all over the city. In fact, one of the main attractions of Melbourne is the street art on the walls of the many laneways that run through the city.

The Travellers artwork on the Sandridge Bridge, Melbourne.

“The Travellers” artwork on the Sandridge Bridge.

Coffee is an obsession in Melbourne and the smell of coffee hit me at every corner I turned. There is a chill vibe in the air and just strolling down the streets was a joy. Unexpected gems also turn up, like the moving steel sculptures I found on the Sandridge Bridge. Titled “The Travellers”, it is a piece of art that depicts the various immigrants who arrived in Melbourne by train.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s main railway station.

Elsewhere, you shouldn’t miss a visit to Flinders Street Station, the city’s main railway station. It is one of Melbourne’s most recognisable landmarks with its striking dome and clock face.

Federation Square, Melbourne.

The striking facade of Federation Square.

Even more striking in appearance is the cutting-edge Federation Square, a public square where major cultural attractions and world-class events are held.

Parliament House, Melbourne.

Historic Parliament House, home to Australia’s first federal parliament.

For something more old-school, head over to Parliament House, a historic building where Australia’s first federal parliament sat from 1901 to 1927 before moving to Canberra. Today, its resplendent grand steps are a favourite backdrop for wedding shots.

St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church building in Australia.

Finally, take a walk in the grounds of St Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church building in Australia. Admire its Gothic Revival architecture from both outside and within.

My trip is never complete without sussing out the green lungs of the city. As Australia’s garden city, Melbourne has plenty of them. These are the amazing pictures taken in Fitzroy Gardens, a 26-hectare healing space for tired souls in the city centre.

Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne.
Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne.

The healing greens of Fitzroy Gardens.

Skip the mall, head for the market
Shopping-wise, instead of heading to the large departmental stores or brand name shops, I made a trip to Queen Victoria Market. It is one of Melbourne’s great 19th-century markets and the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere today. There’s a mind-boggling variety of food and fresh produce on offer, as well as clothes, jewellery and handmade crafts.

I also recommend visiting the Royal Arcade, a charming 19th-century shopping arcade housing boutique shops and cafés. While you’re there, head to Koko Black, a Melbourne-based chocolatier renowned for their handmade chocolate and gourmet desserts. Order a cup of mocha; you won’t regret it.

No plan is a good plan sometimes
Though Melbourne was a rather last-minute trip with no specific itinerary in mind, it ended up as one of my favourite trips. I guess it was because it gave me the flexibility to roam around at my own pace. There were hardly long queues anywhere, and I did not feel like I had to rush from one place to the next as other busy cities tend to make me feel. Definitely worth a return trip.

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