While Sydney was described to me many times as “the LA of Australia,” and Melbourne the New York, I left sunny Sydney ready for the hustle the bustle. Dropping my bags at Southern Cross Station and wandering down the gridded streets to Federation Square, it didn’t take me long to start seeing what everyone meant.
While Sydney has the views, the sun, and the landmarks, Melbourne is speckled with street markets, shopping arcades, free trams, and a different corner of cuisine at every turn.
Heading first to Southbank to catch the National Gallery’s ‘Van Gogh and the Seasons’ exhibition, I stumbled upon a half dozen Sunday markets and grabbed a quick street crêpe before losing myself in the largest collection of Van Gogh artwork in Australia to date.
Heading north towards Town Hall to explore Melbourne’s legendary alleyways, I spent hours weaving in and out of the Block Arcade and Hardware Lane alleys, finding myself completely turned around just within a block of where I started.
Finally hopping on a tram after a full day in centre, I headed east to explore the beautiful beaches and mecca of restaurants in St Kilda. With a quaint vibe and breathtaking views, there isn’t much more you could ask for.
Except for maybe penguins!
Along St. Kilda’s Pier, a colony of penguins entertains locals and tourists alike. Hiding among the rocks of the coast, it may take a minute to spot them but once you do, there are dozens.
Meeting up with my long lost Kiwi & overwhelmed with all that Melbourne had to offer, day two began with a walking tour through central Melbourne. Starting at the State Library we strolled through the Carlton Gardens and on to the Melbourne Museum, learning about Melbourne’s history as one of the richest centers for gold and business.
Passing Parliament and Princess Theatre before rounding the corner to find Melbourne’s Chinatown, we soon realized that Melbourne was just as much as much of a ‘foodie’ city as New York. With cultural hotspots including Chinatown, Little Italy, the Greek Precinct, and Little Saigon, a journey to an entirely different cuisine was just a (free) tram ride away.
Escaping the rain for one of Melbourne’s eccentric bars, we stopped for a beer just outside of Chinatown at a little pub called Berlin Bar. With an East and West side, Hefeweizens, and outdoor swings, the only thing that could make Berlin Bar more realistic would be an actual piece of the Wall.
Finishing our rainy walk with a stroll down Bourke St Mall and Melbourne’s graffiti alleyway, day two in Melbourne finished with fish and chips at the Riverland Restaurant just a stairway below Federation Square.
The next week was spent strolling through Prahan Market, brunching at Tusk restaurant for pumpkin ravioli, & even catching the All Blacks v Lions rugby game at Bridie O’Reilley’s.
Finishing the week with an all American Fourth of July celebration at Merrywell Melbourne with free burgers & fries (with a flash of our American passports), Melbourne soon began to rival Sydney as my favorite city down under.