Melbourne is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. From all the people that I have spoken to, and the places I have been, there is no place quite like Melbourne. The biggest thing you will find is the politeness and willingness of people to help you out. Then, the fact that we are all bunch of coffee snobs, or we have our (in)famous hipsters, or truly love our sports. Whatever you’re looking for, you can be bound to find it here, in the gorgeous place of Melbourne.
However, there are some fundamentals you need to know before you begin.
Melbourne is a truly melting pot of the world. There are more cultures in the city than you can dare to poke a stick at. And these aren’t just the international visitors either. Within this wonderful land, therein lies a whole raft of colloquilism that will take you a little while to wrap your head around. Heck, it differs from state to state – ask someone to explain what “to piff” means (and you will get different responses – if not, you found a whole bunch of people from the same state) and sometimes even from suburb to suburb. Those are the best ones. When you see locals scratching their head, you know you’re in for a good conversation.
Australians in general, like shortening things. So, my name goes from Nigel, to Nige. Of course there are different and all kinds of items in between, but high school ribbing really can’t be included in this discussion. Matthew becomes Matty. Simon becomes Si…sometimes. More likely, Simmo. That’s the other thing. They add either an “a” or an “o” to the end of a name. Shane becomes Shaneo, Tim becomes Timbo, Sharon becomes Shazza. The further out you go into the country, you will find a very distinct almost nasally sounding pronunciation of names. And that’s country, country. Yeah, that’s another thing too. “Yeah, nah” means “no”. “Nah, yeah” is yes. When conversing, make sure the other person has finished. And if you don’t, and pause a little too long, that’s ok, we will ask you, “are you alright mate?”. Also, please. For all things holy. Do not try to mimic the accent. There are only a few people that can pull off saying the word “maaattteeee”. It’s best, you just ignored imitating it. And that, nasally thing? Don’t. You’re only becoming fodder for jokes. Just like drop bears. Now that you have some grasp of what’s going on verbally….
The first thing any Melbournian will mention, is the fascination with the arts. We have a multitude of buildings dedicated to showcasing the best that Melbourne has to offer and not just from local artists but international ones too. My favourite place to visit has to be the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Located along St. Kilda road, it’s only a short tram ride away from Flinders Street Station. And our trams is another thing to behold. Or you can stop by at the Federation Square and check out ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Images) to see how film and television developed. You can even check out Hamer Hall and catch a show! I would highly recommend seeing the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra when you are in town – because, they are worth their weight in gold. There is something to behold in listening to all those wonderous instruments come alive together in unison to play either a classic Beethoven piece or taking on the soundtrack to Star Wars. Or you can venture further out into St. Kilda and check out the Palais Theatre!
But that’s not really the reason why. The main reason is the street art and graffiti.
There are plenty of places in town that actually encourage artists to come display their work and re-use the space. So a piece that you liked from 3 months ago, may no longer exist. But to be honest, the best graffiti in my opinion, is the ones you see on the trains. Yes, some of them are tags. But the best ones. The best ones just leave you blown away. To get a better idea, you need to follow The Best of Melbourne Graffiti on Facebook to really appreciate the handiwork.
In Melbourne, there is always some festival on over the weekends. And the majority of them are free!
The ones I can highly recommend are:
St Kilda Festival Banner
9 days of unadulterated bliss, live music and delicious street food.
Celebrating all things Melbourne, you need to check out the birdman rally (people running off a man-made cliff in their home built flying machines, to see who can go the furthest to win personal fame and raise money for their charity) and the parade – that’s when you will truly appreciate the diversity of this wonderful city.
– Jazz –
During June, Melbourne opens up to celebrate the Jazz maestros of the world. You can get your rhythm and blues on and enjoy some crooning classics with a nice drop all around town.
– Chinese New Year –
If there is one thing that you must absolutely check out, it’s the lion dancing of the Chinese festival. My favourite memory to date, remains with the drummer ensuring that all the dancers kept in time, having to fend off a stray cabbage (part of the welcoming the new year/farewelling the previous year ritual) without skipping a beat or looking at his assailant. That to me, made me just lower my hands, and go slack jawed. Plus the firecrackers – ooh! I am a sucker for Fireworks.
Oh, you have come to the best part. Seriously. The weight that you can gain from all the delicious food you will encounter. Make sure you have done your annual check ups BEFORE you read this section. (Insert image of cat doing heavy breathing…I don’t even have to insert it and you know EXACTLY what I mean)
Alright, so here’s what I recommend from a festivals perspective:
Queen Victoria Market (QVM) is a marketplace that unfortunately had to encroach on a the nearby cemetery as Melbourne grew – and is one of the oldest markets in Melbourne. You can always find great fresh food at wholesale prices to tantalise your taste buds… and you haven’t even read the main bit about the place. During summer, QVM hosts a night market every Wednesday with worldwide and award winning cuisine to delight your senses. When you read about the time I went there, you will know how to strategically get around the entire market and ensure you capitalise on all the space you have in your stomach. Or just maybe, you need to prepare for this section of the entry with eating training like in the Man Vs Food series (if you haven’t seen it, check it out, maybe on an empty stomach).
Mulled Wine From Queen Victoria Night Market
What? You think it’s only a summer thing? HELL NO! You can enjoy a warm meal around the cozy fireplace and watch as the silent disco happens around you. MUST TASTE ITEM: Mulled Wine. P.S. Don’t drive here, or ensure you drink responsibly/have a designated driver to get you home/perhaps get an uber/or catch public transport home.
– Food Truck Park – Food trucks. In a Park. Need I say more? Every weekend is another delightful event. From sweets and ice creams to every cuisine you can imagine. In all honesty, just start a good exercise and training regime when you come to this part of Melbourne. Trust me, your waistline (and doctor) will thank me.
Is it really a festival if there is only one participant? HELL YES. It’s chocolate people. Need I say more?! Go.
For food in general? Check out the “Food and Drink” tag on my blog.
For something uniquely Melbourne, you need to check out the Melbourne Tram Car restaurant.
Colonial Tram Car
It’s a little pricey, but the food, service, alcohol and views are worth the entry price. For a better explanation check out my review when I went there.
Why would this warrant it’s own section? I swear. If you come to Melbourne then ask me to point out where the nearest Starbucks or Maccas is for coffee and the free wifi, with the free wifi being more acceptable to me than the coffee, so help me, I will never speak to you again. The heresy! HOW DARE YOU. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.
Now that we have got THAT out of the way.
NO. NO STARBUCKS.
You can sample, in my opinion, the best beans there are – Seven Seeds. They are served up by a whole bunch of roasters around the city, but my favourite one? Patricia’s.
Hell, when I took my fellow foodie Lou to experience this, even he was in awe of how I successfully backed up my claim of these guys being the best coffee in town. Hell, whenever I am in the city, you are almost guaranteed to see me at this place to the exclusion of all others.
Though, if you don’t want to do that, then you need to go to Piccolocinos! They were my first ever coffee shop that I ever went to when I started working in the city and the owners have been a long standing members of the community. They are great, vibrant and super friendly!
BUT – the city, isn’t always the only place to get a good drop. You aim…
Then head over to Coffee Interchange
for a coffee experience that needs to be tasted to believe. To date, I have not come across any roaster, ANY purveyor of the liquid gold, that has introduced me to coffee that changes flavour as it cools. I don’t know how they do it and honestly, don’t want to know – because I want to believe in the magic. Make sure you get the Papayan Colombo as a long black. Dear Lawd. Yes.
Wild Timor Coffee
– located in Coburg, these are four guys who went on a peace-keeping mission in Timor and were so grateful to the locals that helped them out with their liquid gold, that the lads joined together to bring that taste to Melbourne whilst also helping them to improve their standard of living.
Australia is still a relatively young country and in many ways, Melbourne’s history is not as varied as Europe. Having said that, our rich tapestry is so readily mixed into our current lifestyle, that you cannot help but get lost in time, by taking one step down into a different alleyway. To really get the most of the place, you need to check out the Melbourne Open House.
It’s one weekend a year (usually in July) that gives you behind the scenes access to some of the most amazing buildings in Melbourne. As the website is always open, one thing I would recommend is checking out the buildings and going for their free tours beforehand or during non-peak periods.
For more information, please search for “Melbourne Open House” on my blog.
Melbourne’s nightlife is insane. Especially if you know where you are going. Here are some of my favourites:
– 1806 –
I got introduced to this cocktail bar back in 2010. It was the first time I had a dirty martini. Or was it a dry collins? It was way too long ago to remember it, but it was delicious. The second time, I had the tikki glass drink. So good. Their bartenders are usually contenders in the world bartending championships so watching them create is a delight in itself. Plus, if you aren’t sure of what you’d like, ask them – they are so knowledgeable that you are always given a drink that makes you go, “HELL YES!”
– Madame Brussels –
The pure and simple reason to go here is for the Japanese slipper jugs. Or Margerita jugs. Ok… any jugs. You know why? Because they are the best value for money in town, hands down. The alcohol to glasses ratio is perfect. Plus, you could even run into celebrities – yes, I ran into the Australian champion and ex-Olympian Michael Klim here, but as he was having a good chat with friends, I didn’t want to be the idiot to force my way for photographs as a lot of people already had and I could see it in his eyes that he was tired from the continual requests. So come on up, to the best rooftop bar with some awesome views of Bourke Street. Just make sure you have transport pre-arranged.
– Ferdyduke –
This hole in the wall, (hard to find location for me) was a real turning point for me. They serve the best mulled wine in Melbourne (when the QVC festivals aren’t running). The people that come here are the young professionals and creative crowd and the vibe and music are good – 90s, RnB and some pop. You can sample their other creations, but this is a venue to come chill, have a good drop of mulled wine and move on.
– Cookie –
This multi-level club has a nice dress code and for a reason. Depending on your energy levels, you can go to the middle levels and enjoy sampling some of the new Tequila from around the world. Did I mention Tequila rocks? Or if you are feeling up to the party vibe then head to the top floor to mingle with all the beautiful people. From time-to-time this place also plays host to open air cinemas – which, when combined with their food and drink, is a great way to top off your Melbourne adventure.
Culture and Learning
Melbourne always has something going on and here are the top items I recommend you visit!
– Library At The Dock
This is a brand new place and I love going there during my lunch breaks. So much so, that I often forget to take a photo of the place. I shall rectify this soon.
One of the big things I have noticed on Public Transport (PT), is that there is a difference between the various crowds. When you go in during peak hour, you get, what I like to call, the ‘suits’. These people do not talk, have their headphones in and are usually plugging away on their laptop. If they are on their phones, they’re usually scolding someone or begging forgiveness. Throw in the mix all the school children who just aren’t quite sure whether to go in and stand in the aisles or to stand near to doors for the exit – I am not even kidding, the PT operators had to create TV ads and marketing campaigns to teach people how to be better commuters. However, when I had to work and finish early, you encounter the tradies, the blue collar workers and the biggest difference is that, some of them talk to each other. All will acknowledge people and they always sit in the same spot. If someone isn’t there for one session (or more), when the person does return, they are presented with the cursory look, “are you ok mate?” and they either get a response or a nod and all goes back to normal. Just as I mentioned earlier, we will always ask you if you’re ok. If there are any school kids at this time, they are usually still half asleep or either typing away on their laptops to get their assignments done. (Oh those were the days….)
My Honest Opinion
Melbourne is a great place to live, but like with all things, there are cons that you also need to be aware of.
Subtle racism is present, and this probably stems from the old ways of laid back culture clashing with the PC nature of the world today. People did call others by nicknames based on their ethnicity – Chinks for Chinese, Wogs for Greeks, Lebbo for Lebanese and FOBs (fresh of the boat) for Indians/Asians. They are derogatory, but if you own it, like most ethnicities do, then you do not have anything to worry about. Take the sting out of things before it even becomes an issue.
The cost of living is high. But that doesn’t mean you cannot survive on basics for a while. If there is one thing I can agree to, is that this country does have a wealth of opportunity and it’s all up to you if you want to seize it. You could either wallow and have self pity or you can go about doing something about it. The choice is completely up to you. Hell, even if you are looking to buy property in Melbourne, all you need to do is save up enough, learn about investing and then create the capital required to fund your dreams.
Public transport doesn’t work in extreme cases – natural or man-made. During the Melbourne weather of extreme heat or tropical downpours, Melbourne’s rail network tends to shut down. And the back up plans are always haphazard at best. However, when it is a planned upgrade, then it’s a whole different scenario – after day 1 when all the teething issues are resolved, that’s when you can see how well the system all hangs together.
Melbourne is a lovely place. The people are friendly and always respond to a smile when you offer it. Everyone has a story behind their eyes. The food is scrumptious and the events are amazing. All you need is the hunger for exploration and the will to succeed and Melbourne can and will shine for you. I have been to many places, but there is no where that I feel most at home, than when I am in Melbourne. I hope you will call it home too.
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