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Melbourne

Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, capital of Victoria, is the most European in style with trams rattling through streets past Victorian buildings, parks and outdoor cafes. The city centre is laid out in a simple grid pattern, the long, wide north-south streets gently sloping down to the Yarra River, crossed by a mix of narrow lanes, and the main shopping streets such as Bourke and Collins Streets. The CBD is easily navigable by foot, and if a rest is needed after a session of sightseeing or shopping there are numerous parks nearby, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens and Carlton Gardens. Alternatively, you can take one of Melbourne's signature attractions, a tram. The burgundy-coloured City Circle tram is free, and is a good way to get your bearings as well as explore the inner city, while for those wanting to go further afield the tram network extends about 10 miles (15km) into the Melbourne suburbs.

Melbourne's population of over three million is made up of a variety of cultures, including Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Greek, who have all added their touch to this thriving city. A fierce rivalry exists between the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, but local residents bask in the satisfying knowledge that Melbourne beats Sydney hands-down on the cultural front, noted for its wide variety of high standard performing arts, as well as its sport. The city plays host to world-renowned sporting events like the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open Tennis and Qantas Australia Grand Prix. Around the city, within an hour's drive, there are numerous places worth visiting, including the Macedon Ranges, which is Australia's spa capital with its world-renowned mineral springs, as well as the spectacular Great Ocean Road along the coast, which passes stunning rock formations such as the Twelve Apostles. One of the most popular self-drive routes for tourists to follow is the circular Great Southern Touring Route, which includes spectacular scenery and takes in some of Victoria's most beautiful, scenic and cultural attractions.

Information & Facts

Climate

Melbourne is best visited in the summer months (November to March) when temperatures are warmer (about 77°F/25°C). Winter can be fairly chilly with an average July temperature of 55°F (13°C). Some rain can be expected throughout the year.

Eating Out

One if Australia's more cosmopolitan cities, Melbourne has a diverse and exciting dining scene and eating out in this vibrant city can be anything you want it to be! With just about all types of cuisine on offer, the variety of cuisine in this city is astonishing and will see visitors coming back for more.

Although based on traditional British food, Australian cuisine has been strongly influenced by its Southeast Asian neighbours and elements of this can be seen in many Australian dishes. Travellers can enjoy sampling some of the most innovative and exciting fusion food in the world as Melbourne offers many of Australia's top-class restaurants. Korean, Japanese and Thai eateries abound here, while in the city centre, William Street is the place to go for authentic Indian fare.

Head to Chinatown in Little Bourke Street for some authentic Chinese food, while Brunswick Street in Fitzroy boasts an eclectic mix of eateries where visitors will have a hard time choosing where to start. Downtown Melbourne is where the more low-key restaurants can be found, and the chic St Kilda and Chapel Streets is where the city's trendoids can be found dining on the latest nouveau cuisine.

Getting Around

Melbourne's efficient public transport system, known as The Met, is an integrated service utilising trams, trains and buses, with standard fares. The best way to see the city and central suburbs is by tram, a fast, cheap and convenient system that is one of the largest and oldest in the world. City Circle trams, which provide a commentary, are a very convenient way to tour the city centre, providing a free round trip service that takes in many of the city's main attractions. The suburban train network is extensive and is the fastest way to reach outlying suburbs, and also has an underground city loop. Buses cover the areas that trams and trains don't reach, as well as those they do, but are little used by visitors; on weekends there is a limited night bus service. Taxis, highly visible in bright yellow, are numerous but expensive. Car hire companies are available throughout the city, but if driving in the city beware of the unusual hook turn where drivers must get into the far left hand lane in order to turn right and vice versa.

Kids Attractions

With miles of coastline, fascinating and unique attractions and fabulous weather, Melbourne is a children's playground - literally. With everything from exciting museums and gardens to beaches and trails, Melbourne has a lot to offer in culture and its outdoors.

Pack a picnic and head to the Royal Botanic Gardens or enjoy a leisurely stroll with the kids if they need to be tired out! Older kids will love walking the Bay Trail from St Kilda to the seaside town of Brighton which encompasses all kinds of scenery past parks, cafes, yachts in the bay and marinas. A trip to the Children's Animal Farm is a must for little ones where a picnic can be enjoyed while the children pet the animals, while the Melbourne Aquarium showcases animals of a different nature. Children looking for a bit of excitement should visit Luna Park to enjoy exhilarating rides and games.

The Fox Classic Car Collection Museum makes a great outing for dads and their sons, as does the Geelong Naval and Maritime Museum, while a trip aboard the Puffing Billy Steam Train through the Dandenong Ranges makes an ideal excursion for the day and a great way to see Melbourne's surrounding areas.

Language

English is the official language of Australia.

Money

The Australian Dollar (AUD) is divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change exchange most foreign currencies. Travellers cheques are also welcome everywhere, but banks take a small commission and it is better to take cheques in major currencies (e.g. US dollars or Euros) to avoid additional charges. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are freely available throughout the country. Banking hours are generally 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Friday, but some banks offer extended hours and some are open on Saturday mornings.

Night Life

Melbourne has a vibrant nightlife encompassing cocktail lounges, pubs, underground dance clubs and international theatre productions. There is no distinct party area, with various venues and attractions dispersed throughout the city.

The Young & Jackson pub is famous for its central location and renowned nude portrait of Chloe, while Portland Hotel brews its own selection of beers. In the west-end, Mitre Tavern is one of the oldest pubs in the city. Meyers Place bar is unsigned but very popular, as is the Kitten Club, a favoured Melbourne cocktail lounge. Gin Palace offers celebrated Martini tasting to patrons.

Ffour combines club, cocktail bar and multi-media gallery, and the Melbourne Supper Club is also a trendy spot. Other popular venues include the Croft Institute, Misty Place and Double O. Shows like We Will Rock Youand Phantom of the Operacan be enjoyed at places such as the Princess and Regent theatres. The Art Centre hosts orchestral music, the EQ Café bar and the Alfred Brash Sound House, while the Looney Bin has a bar and comedy cabaret.

Shopping

Shopping in Melbourne is great as the city is home to many different shops, from department stores to small side street boutiques. From various shopping precincts, malls and markets, there are purchases available to suit all tastes, budgets and needs. Most stores are open all week from 10am; many stay open till 9pm on Fridays.

The main shopping strip is on Bourke Street with Bourke Street Mall at its heart, while the east end of the street has mainly fashion boutiques and bookshops. There are bargains galore to be found at Queen Victoria Market, while Melbourne Central is the place to find leading Australian and international labels. There are laneways and arcades throughout the city offering everything from magic spells and antique books to eclectic fashions and household goods.

Chinatown, encompassing Little Bourke Street and the neighbouring lanes, has Asian grocery stores, Chinese medicine, music and jewellery. The Sunday's Market at the Art Centre is good for unique jewellery, ceramics and glassware. A goods and services tax refund is available to tourists.

Sightseeing

The second largest city in Australia, Melbourne is brimming with a wide variety of attractions to enthral just about every kind of traveller. Whatever your taste or interest, there is bound to be something in Melbourne for you.

Art lovers will enjoy the National Gallery of Victoria, history buffs will enjoy touring through the Old Melbourne Gaol and culture vultures will go love exploring the Chinese and Melbourne Museums. Those with a fear of heights should steer clear of the Eureka Tower, Melbourne's tallest building offering panoramic views of the city from the 88th floor - a sight to behold!

Children of all ages will love the Melbourne Zoo which boasts over 350 different species of animals and a day in the Royal Botanical Gardens is not to be missed.

Visitors keen on sightseeing will do well to purchase a Melbourne and Beyond Smartvisit card, which enables the bearer to gain free admission to over 60 of Melbourne's top attractions as well as a full-colour travel guide. Free public transport is also available and is valid for the duration of the pass. The pass is available in 1, 2, 3 and 7 day durations starting at A$69 for adults and A$49 for children.

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