Often overshadowed by the more picturesque Sydney and replaced as the country’s capital by the man-made Canberra, Melbourne has since emerged as Australia’s cultural capital. A highly cosmopolitan melting pot of several different diverse cultures, the city is a hidden gem with a unique, singular cultural identity and flanked by serene natural beauty.
Royal Botanic Gardens
One of the city’s most prominent landmarks located near the city’s Central Business District (CBD), the Royal Botanic Gardens are an 89 acre stretch of greenery encompassing over 8000 different species of plants. One of the world’s most impressive and serene Botanic Gardens, these are an important recreational hub for the city, which come alive in the summer months as locals lap up the sunshine.
National Gallery of Victoria
The country’s most significant art museum as the oldest, most visited and largest, the NGV was founded in 1861 and is home to one of the country’s most vast and versatile collections of art. In addition, it is home to the world’s largest stained-glass ceiling. One of Australia’s most important museums, the NGV is a must-see in Melbourne.
An important staple of the Melbourne cityscape is the plethora of laneways. A legacy of the Victorian era, the laneways of the city’s CBD quickly became pedestrianised and utilised for commercial purposes, housing bars, cafes and stores. The most famous of these laneways is ACDC Lane, named after the eponymous Australian band. The laneways are also well-known for their pervasive street art. Despite rampant gentrification, the laneways of Melbourne remain a critical part of the city’s cultural identity.
Another important cultural symbol of Melbourne and its Victorian legacy are its many arcades. These are old shopping structures often featuring opulent retailers such as chocolatiers and tea rooms. The most famous of these is arguably the Block Arcade, built in 1893. This arcade is known for its immensely popular Hopetoun Tea Room, which often has a line spilling out of the Arcade. Similar to the Laneways, the Arcades are a hugely important cultural symbol of the city.
Royal Exhibition Building
Built in 1880 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition of the following year, the Royal Exhibition Building is one of the city’s most iconic and enduring landmarks. The initial home to the Parliament of Australia when Melbourne functioned as the country’s capital, the building’s role has repeatedly shifted over the decades. Located within the beautiful Carlton Gardens, the Building today is closely tied to the Melbourne Museum. As the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country, the Building’s significance is more cultural than functional but remains an important cultural legacy in the city.
Great Ocean Road
One of the continent’s most breathtaking natural sites, the Great Ocean Road is an extensive stretch of coastline along Victoria. The Road was constructed by surviving soldiers of the First World War in tribute to their fallen comrades. Some of the country’s most spectacular scenery is along this road, and if driving into Melbourne, there are few better routes to travel through.
Old Melbourne Gaol
One of the city’s most unique and morbid museums, the Old Melbourne Gaol, built in 1839-42 is a former prison, which housed a number of Australia’s most notorious criminals. The most notable of these is the iconic Ned Kelley, the divisive bushranger and folk hero. 135 prisoners were executed by hanging at the museum including Kelley himself. In 1925, the building ceased to function as a prison and was converted into a museum featuring crime paraphernalia including death masks.
Yarra Bend Park
A vast 642 acre park in the city’s Kew neighbourhood along the eponymous river, Yarra Bend Park is one of the city’s most serene spots. Known as the largest area of natural bushland in the city, the park is an important tourist destination drawing millions of visitors a year. With a number of hiking and cycling trails in addition to plentiful recreation grounds, the Park is one of the most
Heide Museum of Modern Art
One of the city’s more low-key museums, the Heide Museum is located in the suburb of Bulleen on the site of a former dairy farm. While the museum houses an extensive collection of works from esteemed Australian artists such as Sidney Nolan, the museum is better known for its innovative design. One of the buildings, Heide II is considered to be one of Australia’s most notable modernist buildings. Furthermore, the Museum boasts a spectacular sculpture garden-one of the finest in the country. Firmly outside the bustle of the city, it is certainly a detour worth taking.
Melbourne Cricket Ground
The largest stadium in Australia and one of the largest in the world, the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG plays host to a plethora of sporting and cultural events. Its sheer scale is immense. The MCG is best known as the home of Australian football or AFL, a culturally singular sporting practice. A quintessentially Melbournian sport, AFL is embedded in the city’s culture and there is no better place to watch a game than at the MCG.