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Melbourne is a maze of hidden laneways, opulent bars, exclusive restaurants and off-the-beaten-track boutiques. Here you can soak up culture, hit the sporting grounds, taste the dynamic food and wine scene, dance til dawn or wander the parks and leafy boulevards. Visit Federation Square, the city's landmark cultural space, and enjoy a sunset beer on the St Kilda promenade. Shop till you drop on funky Brunswick Street or upmarket Chapel Street. Wander Southbank's cafes, bistros and bars and get a world tour of cuisines in Carlton, Richmond and Fitzroy. Take an Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and cheer with a capacity crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Five Must-Have Melbourne Experiences:
1. Shop till you drop
Bag a bargain at the Rose Street Artist's Market and browse the funky boutiques on Brunswick Street. Buy designer labels such as Akira Isogawa and Zimmerman on Chapel Street in Prahran or in the historic Melbourne General Post Office, which covers an entire city block. For everything from fashion to furnishings at fantastic value, visit Bridge Road in Richmond. Melbourne is a shopper's haven, offering eclectic boutiques, high-end fashion, funky homeware stores and European style piazzas in the city's arcades and hidden laneways.
2. Bar hop and dance till dawn
Sip a cocktail in a converted sea container in Chinatown, enjoy a sunset beer in a St Kilda pub or listen to cabaret in lush retro surroundings in jazz bars in the city. Linger over exquisite tapas and exotic wine in a Little Collins Street bar and mingle in a pink parlour with fake grass in Bourke Street. You can party from dusk in the bars of Brunswick Street. Or dance till dawn in bars in the city's lantern-lit laneways, secret apart from the spill of coloured light under heavy brass doors.
3. Get into the gourmet goodness
Let the aroma of good coffee waft over you in Melbourne's gothic European laneways. The city is famous for its coffee and old-world café culture but there's so much more to explore. Once you've downed a 'short black' or taken an afternoon aperitif, try tea in a nineteenth-century hotel or salivate over your silver spoon in acclaimed restaurants like Nobu, Botanical and Becco. Pick up fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood at the Queen Victoria Market on a Saturday, known for its bustling crowds and buskers. Try out the restaurants, cafes, bistros and bars in Southbank or Federation Square. Make your way around Melbourne's multicultural cosmos of cuisines: Carlton for Italian classics, Richmond for budget-friendly Vietnamese and Fitzroy for Spanish tapas.
4. Fill up on culture
See a performance by the Australian Ballet, which is based here in Australia's cultural capital. Or enjoy a dazzling musical at the Princess Theatre. Browse the Southern Hemisphere's best collection of international art at the National Gallery of Victoria. Or visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square, a landmark cultural 'space' for Melbournians. Challenge yourself with the creative collections in the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Southbank. To learn more about Melbourne's Aboriginal cultural heritage, see contemporary and dreamtime art or take an Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens.
5. Go sports mad
Cheer for an Australian Rules Football game with a capacity crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground over winter. Go cricket mad in summer, when the city hosts the Ashes and one day internationals. Or join the huge crowds watching the Australian Tennis Open at Melbourne Park. Rev heads head to Melbourne in March for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Albert Park. And whether you are a racing fan or just a casual punter, you won't want to miss the Melbourne Cup - the world's richest horse race on the first Tuesday in November.