Melbourne Travel Information

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Melbourne - Yarra River
 
Melbourne is a city of neighbourhoods. Whether it be Italian or Chinese, groovy or chic, bohemian or beachside, Melbourne has them all. Melbourne is these neighbourhoods. Each has its own wonderful place in Melbourne life, and its own character instilled by the type of people who live and work there: emigres from all over the world who brought their customs, beliefs, businesses, food, art and style to Melbourne. Today, these neigbourhoods make Melbourne what it is. And it is only through exploring them that visitors will get a feel for the underlying beauty of this truly vibrant multicultural city.

The central business district 'CBD'
Laid out on a grid system, Melbourne's CBD is easy to navigate. The modern skyline of the financial district is complemented by well-preserved Victorian architecture, and the alleyways and arcades that snake through the city give it a character that would otherwise be missing. Swanston Street, a half-hearted pedestrian mall which is generally considered to be the city's main drag, runs from the ornate 19th century domes of Flinders Street Station to the gleaming, billion dollar Melbourne Central Shopping Complex. It is intersected by Collins Street, a more highbrow shopping strip. The stretch from Swanston to Spring Streets is known as "the Paris end" and home to many of the city's luxury boutiques, prestige offices and hotels. Running parallel is Bourke Street, the city's oldest and most successful pedestrian precinct and home to the main department stores, David Jones and the Melbourne landmark, Myer. Little Bourke Street, one block up, is marked by a garish Chinese-style arch, the entrance to Melbourne's Chinatown. Spilling into the surrounding alleyways, it is one of the oldest in the world outside Asia, and is home to a fascinating variety of Chinese restaurants and grocery stores. The area between Swanston and Spencer Streets is nine-to-five territory, Australia's corporate heartland and home to many of its largest corporations. Ambitious plans are afoot to further extend this area by redeveloping the derelict warehouses of the adjacent docklands, with the Colonial Stadium the first project to be unveiled. If the developers have their way, the world's tallest building could soon follow. To the south and east of the CBD lies a vast and beautifully maintained belt of parkland, containing the Fitzroy Gardens, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with the Royal Botanical Gardens lying just across the Yarra River.

Southbank
On the southern bank of the muddy and surprisingly narrow Yarra, lies the landmark Victorian Arts Centre, with its Eiffelesque spire, and the chic Southgate shopping and dining complex. Further up is the glitzy Crown Entertainment Complex, a 24 hour entertainment precinct of luxury stores, nightclubs, eateries and, of course, one of the world's largest gaming facilities. Hugely controversial, it is one of Melbourne's most popular, and popularly detested, sites. Whether the locals like it or not, it is also Melbourne's most popular visitor attraction. Directly opposite is the city's spanking new and state-of-the-art aquarium, the Convention Centre and Exhibition Centre.

Prahran and South Yarra
A short tram ride from the CBD are Prahran and South Yarra, two names often used interchangeably for roughly the same area. Home to Chapel Street, lined with pretentious boutiques and nightclubs, this is Melbourne's favourite playgound, packed every weekend with young people out for only one thing - fun! Saturday nights see the permanently congested street grind to an absolute halt and transform into a traffic-jam-disco, blaring top volume techno music, while the gay strip along Commercial Road also buzzes. The funkier, more relaxed Greville Street is home of vintage fashion stores, a weekend market and the venerable Continental Cafe. South of Prahran is Toorak, synonymous with discreet wealth, and home to many top executives.

St Kilda
The next suburb down from Prahran is St Kilda, originally developed from a shabby red light district to a bayside resort, and now a popular place for backpackers and Melburnians on a sunny weekend. The attraction is not so much the mediocre beach as the lively streetlife along Acland and Fitzroy streets. Parts of the area still have a mildly seedy feel - that's definitely part of its attraction - but it also boasts an ornate and historic funfair along the waterfront, Luna Park, a lovely pier, a weekend craft market, and the Esplanade and Prince of Wales hotels, doyens of Melbourne's live music scene. East St Kilda and the adjoining suburbs are the heartland of Melbourne's Jewish community, known as the 'Bagel Belt', and also home to many Eastern European emigres.

Carlton
Just north of the CBD is Carlton. The quaint Victorian terrace houses have been largely converted into student accommodation for the nearby university, and the district's cafes and bookstores buzz with life. The brand new Melbourne Museum is located here, in the beautiful Carlton Gardens, Lygon Street, arguably the city's premier dining strip, is home to a large Italian immigrant community, as well as restaurants serving the cuisines of Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and even Jamaica!

Fitzroy
A short walk away is Fitzroy and the even more cosmopolitan Brunswick Street. Originally a working-class immigrant neighbourhood, this has emerged as the heartland of Melbourne's bohemian cafe culture, humming night and day with its colourful bars and nightclubs, restaurants of every description, as well as funky and unconventional clothing, CD and book stores. This is one of Melbourne's liveliest and most distinctive streets. Running parallel a few blocks down, Smith Street retains a grittier edge, with long-time local residents, refugees and the down-and-out mixing with the patrons of its cafes and music venues.

Williamstown
A little further out, but easily accessible by ferry or train, lies the old port town of Williamstown - once a major hub in Melbourne's sea trading. Located on the Western side of the bay, almost opposite St Kilda, this quiet residential suburb has recently regained favour with Melburnians after many years in decline following its abandonment as the city's major shipping partner. Its picturesque and historic streetscapes, views over the sea and admirable pride in its bygone days attracts hundreds of day trippers every Sunday. A visitor's centre has been established to provide information about the many things to do and see in the town.

...and still there are more neighbourhoods. Richmond, the Greek centre of Melbourne and more recently known as 'Little Saigon' with its growing Vietnemese community opening more and more restaurants and shops along Victoria Street. Richmond's Bridge Road and Swan Street are also famed by those in the know for factory outlet stores selling bargain buys.

And then there's South Melbourne, with its tree-lined streets and beautiful town houses, market and growing breakfast cafe scene; Port Melbourne, which is being transformed from derelict docks to inner-city dwellings; Albert Park, home to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and a popular spot for joggers and dog walkers around its two-and-a-half-kilometre artificial lake; and Elwood, a popular residential area with its very own 'village' feel.