Tight for time? No matter: Melbourne in a day can be a delight
24 hours in Melbourne, Australia
Australia’s second-largest city is the one with the cultural energy. There always seems to be showy new developments at the fringes of the city centre, but the cafe-filled laneways stealing the best ideas from around the globe are what gives Melbourne its personality.
8am: On the right track
There are two great options for that morning jog – the first of which is the scenic 3.8-kilometre Tan Track circuit round the Royal Botanic Gardens, which gives prime views of trees and plants from all around Australia. The second should allow petrolheads to at least partially live the dream – Albert Park is home to the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. But for most of the year, the 5.3km circuit is a public thoroughfare. Running alongside it will take you past sailing clubs, cricket pitches and the lake that forms the track’s watery centrepiece.
10am: Australian introduction
The city has several interesting cultural attractions, but the best all-rounder is the Melbourne Museum. It flits about on topics, from natural history to Aboriginal belief systems, but the presentation is almost always inventive and engaging. So in one section, you might have time-lapse maps of how Melbourne has grown, while another has skeletons of giant marsupials that once roamed Australia, and a third has 3-D grids showing how the indigenous people in this part of the country are part of 11 separate language families. Entry costs 14 Australian dollars (Dh40).
12pm: Cool cuisine
Central Melbourne has a great selection of buzzy lunch spots, but Cumulus Inc perhaps best captures the spirit. For those in a hurry, there are posh takeout sandwiches, while you can stretch things out for an hour or two by delving into charcuterie plates or tapas-style small dishes. Or go the whole hog, and plump for the 75-dollar (Dh216) chef’s selection menu, which includes a whole roast lamb shoulder to share.
Seating to fit the mood is available, too – including bar seating for solo diners and a big communal circular table in the centre.
1.30pm: Meander through the murals
Melbourne has a strong claim to being the Southern Hemisphere’s street-art capital, and this is partially because of its laneways culture. Tiny alleys that would have once been used for storing bins and not much else are now full of small indie shops and cafes. And the would-be gloomy settings have been brightened up considerably by Melbourne’s squadrons of street artists.
And some of them are guides for Melbourne Street Art Tours, which runs three-hour walks through some of the more interesting laneways. They know which artist did what, but also have a good eye for spotting works that would otherwise be missed high up on walls or peering behind pipes. Scrap-metal figures and situation-specific alterations of signs are among the things that a novice might miss.
The tours finish with cheese and nibbles at the artists’ workshop/gallery space, and cost 69 dollars (Dh198).
4.30pm: Hit the credit card
On the way back, there is a good opportunity to nosy around the shops. Most of the more interesting options are around Collins and Little Collins streets – with the ever-so-Victorian Royal Arcadean architectural highlight. Jewellers and chocolatiers are among the specialists found inside.
6pm: Look down (or don’t)
The Eureka Tower is Melbourne’s tallest building, and the Skydeck observation platform gives predictably imperious views of the city, Port Phillip and the distant hills. Some parts are behind glass, but there’s an open-air section for anyone wanting to get a good photo.
It is possible to ramp up the vertigo factor considerably, however, with the “Edge” experience. This is essentially a glass box, with see-through walls and floor, that protrudes from the observation deck. It leaves you standing 297 metres above the city, and looking down is practically guaranteed to have you gulping.
Tickets including the Edge cost 32 dollars (Dh92) – and it is open until 10pm if you prefer a night view.
8pm: Lima of the laneways
Melbourne’s dining scene is fantastic, and a major reason for this is that it will happily purloin ideas from around the world. This often leads to great Asian fusion dishes, but a Latin-American influence is creeping in. The best example is Pastuso, a phenomenally atmospheric Peruvian joint buried down an otherwise unpromising laneway. There is a separate cevicheria to one side, while main dishes include alpaca ragouts, lemon-juice pepped snapper and tender beef and fish skewers. Mains – or small dish equivalents of mains – cost about 40 dollars (Dh115).
Midnight: Rest your head
The Lindrum shows that Melbourne can pull off heritage as well as modern cool. It is a former billiard hall and tea house, which is hinted at by the green-baize-esque runner carpets and massive selection of speciality teas behind reception. But the original wooden floorboards, a full-sized snooker table at the back of the restaurant and locally hand-stitched bed linen add to the feeling of careful curation. Studios cost from 295 dollars (Dh847).
For more information, visit www.visitvictoria.com