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Mike Yardley: Hot and happening in Melbourne

Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Sat, 30 Mar 2024, 10:02am
The Melbourne skyline at dawn. Photo / Supplied
The Melbourne skyline at dawn. Photo / Supplied

Mike Yardley: Hot and happening in Melbourne

Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Sat, 30 Mar 2024, 10:02am

From time-honoured tourist haunts to hidden treasures and trending head-turners, Melbourne impresses in all seasons. But if you’re planning an autumn city-break in the Victorian capital, here’s a round-up of some top recommendations to thread into your schedule. Craving a culture fix? Definitely gaze in wonder at the Edwardian splendour of the La Trobe Reading Room in the State Library of Victoria. Opened in 1913, the magnificent octagonal reading room is six storeys high and can house 32,000 books and 320 readers at its desks. When it was built, the enormous reinforced-concrete structure was the largest in the world. It’s an urban jewel. 

Go gallery-hopping around Melbourne, where you are spoilt for choice on exhibition offerings within the free tram zone of the city. There’s the National Gallery of Victoria, ACMI, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne Museum and The Lume, where permanent collections and seasonal exhibitions compete for your attention. The banner exhibition at The Lume is Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius. Take a journey back in time, and explore the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Step into the massive exhibition space and watch some of the world’s most famous artworks come to life, like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, powered by cutting-edge AI and VR technologies. There are original sketches from the master's notebooks, machine inventions brought to life from his folios, and a digital experience that brilliantly walks you through his life story.  

Leonardo at THE LUME. Photo / Visit Melbourne

History-hounds? Do not miss TITANIC: The Artefact Exhibition, serving up an unmatched intimate look into the catastrophic shipwreck. It’s the most extensive Titanic exhibition in the world. Melbourne Museum has rewound to 1912, where you can step inside full-scale recreations of the ship’s interiors – including the iconic Grand Staircase, a First Class Parlour Suite and Verandah Cafe. Decked out with over 200 artefacts, revealed from the depths of the ocean, the exhibition injects much pathos, with personal stories about those belongings and the ill-fated passengers who went down with them. 

Meanwhile, the BBC Earth Experience has been busy turning heads at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition centre. Travel across the world’s seven continents and immerse yourself in the naturescapes and wildlife, in a trippy 360 degree audio-visual spectacle, projected on a giant multi-angled screens. It’s all exquisitely narrated by Sir David Attenborough. It’s a masterpiece experience that enjoyed a wildly successful premiere in London last year, before arriving in Melbourne. 

Open Tuesday through Sunday, Queen Victoria Market is a Melbourne landmark in its own right with its buzzing food halls and market stalls. Be sure to stop by the seventy-year-old American Doughnut Kitchen Van which serves some of the best hot jam doughnuts going around. The market is a popular stop on one of the city’s old faithfuls, the free City Circle Tram, Route 35. The heritage tram runs a hop-on hop-off service that lasts roughly thirty minutes around Melbourne’s CBD. Speaking of transport, down by South Bank, take to the waters with GoBoat and sail your way along the Yarra River. It’s never been easier to rent a vessel and load up with a self-packed picnic, with your freshly purchased market produce! 

Queen Victoria Markets. Photo / Supplied

Still hungry? One of my all-time favourite Melbourne eateries is in South Yarra, which is home to Cucinetta. At just 29-square-metres, it’s probably Australia’s smallest Italian restaurant, but they pack quite a punch with their “29 cheese gnocchi.” Yes, you read that correctly. 29 different cheeses are incorporated into this stretchy, gooey dish, which is back for a limited season this April, by popular demand. 

The hottest musicals in Melbourne? Dive in Roxie Hart’s world of crime at the Her Majesty’s Theatre. The longest running American musical on Broadway and the West End has just kicked off their latest Australian tour in Melbourne, which is on-stage until June. WICKED has made the rounds across 16 countries and now, the hit Broadway musical about the untold stories of the Witches of Oz, is entertaining Melbourne. The production sensation has just begun its season at the Regent Theatre. 

Wicket the Musical. Photo / Visit Melbourne

A city-break in Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without a spot of shopping. As an aside, the most beautiful H&M in the world would have to be its Melbourne store, housed in the creamy pillared glory of the former General Post Office, in Bourke St Mall. What a marvel. If you find yourself in that mega-retail emporium of Melbourne Central, enjoy a whimsical diversion at Monopoly Dreams. Do pass go. You will feel like the boardgame has morphed into an escape room. This is Australia’s first Monopoly-themed attraction, where you can wander around Monopoly City and Mr. Monopoly’s Mansion. There’s all sorts of challenges to complete and a 4D cinema vividly brings the whole experience to a climax. 

And Melbourne wouldn’t Melbourne without its lattice-like network of inner-city laneways, plastered with street art and tucked-away bars. You could spend days staking out all the lanes, but here’s my perennial favourites. ACDC Lane, as the name suggests, is a riot of murals immortalising Australia’s rock’n’roll heroes. Degraves Street is a well-trafficked laneway, running between Flinders Station and the fashion district. It’s a happy hubbub of cafes, boutiques and eateries. Duckboard Place is one of my new faves. 

ACDC Lane. Photo / Visit Melbourne

It’s where American troops during WWII came to let off steam. Today, it teems with eye-catching murals and is a chic haunt for pint-sized wine bars. Hosier Lane is definitely worth a stroll for its explosion of art, with a dizzying array of colours and characters created by local and international artists. And don’t miss one of the city’s oldest lanes, Tattersalls Lane. Wearing its history on its sleeve, this beloved stretch of asphalt links Chinatown with Lonsdale Street and boasts a mix of old-school eateries, ever-changing street art and grungy dive bars. Grab a plate of dumplings from Shanghai Dumpling House. Mmm! 

I stayed at Hyatt Centric, which features 277 chic rooms, the upscale Langlands restaurant that serves up a magnificent buffet breakfast in addition to superb evening dining, an excellent fitness centre and an indoor pool. The 25th-floor bar is the place to go for celebrations with signature cocktails and stunning views across the Yarra River. The hotel’s effervescent concierge, Stevie Harris, leads complimentary walking tours every Saturday afternoon, which was a great way to delve into more laneway gems. Just minutes from Southern Cross Station, Hyatt Centric is the perfect launchpad for urban exploring. www.hyatt.com 

I flew to Melbourne with the low-fares leader, Jetstar. When you book on Jetstar.com, you're guaranteed the lowest fare. With their Price Beat Guarantee, if you find a better fare online, they’ll beat it by 10% - and that includes Jetstar flights you find on other websites. Jetstar ensures its base fares are the most affordable, by giving you complete choice and flexibility over whether to include checked luggage, an in-flight snack or assigned seat. For the best fares, head to www.jetstar.com 

Mike Yardley is our resident traveller on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings. 

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