A Streetcar Named Melbourne
While we face our summers, Melbourne down under is braving a wet, cold spell. One of the few remaining cities in the world where you still can ride a streetcar (i.e. a tram), local authorities also run the city circle streetcars free for tourists.
In fact, the streetcar network here is the largest in the world, followed by St. Petersburg, Berlin, Moscow and Vienna.
When compared with the other large cities across the globe, Melbourne is one of the youngest; it was founded in 1835. While you walk about, you’ll spot many period buildings. But what stands out is almost-maverick, contemporary architecture.
Glancing around Federation Square, on one hand you will spot heritage buildings like Flinders Street Station and St Paul’s Cathedral, while on the other, you’ll see zany buildings like SBS Studios and Eureka Tower (tallest building in Australia).
Economist Group’s Intelligence Unit has adjudged Melbourne the most livable city in the world in 2011 and again in 2012. Considering the lifestyle and leisure it offers, it is no surprise.
If you are fond of classical arts and other assorted indoor entertainment, Melbourne offers the Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne Recital Centre, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Comedy Theatre, Athenaeum Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, and many more. It is also the home of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
For the sports lover, Melbourne will again prove to be delightful as it hosts the Australian Open (one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments), the Melbourne Cup (horse racing) and the Australian Grand Prix (Formula One). Additionally, Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is always on the cricket calendar, no matter which cricket-playing nation is touring Australia.
I love seafood. The docklands area (the port) boasts some of the most-exquisite seafood fine dining in that part of the world. In fact, chefs who routinely act as guest judges in the popular reality show – ‘Masterchef Australia’, run many of these restaurants. And the view from these restaurants is to die for.
For children and adults alike, a day’s excursion to Phillip Island is a must. Though an island, it has now been connected to the mainland by a bridge. Once there, the place offers myriad fun experiences – speed boat ride to seal island, penguin parade on the beach at dusk, learning how to use a boomerang, riding a sturdy stallion or an ostrich, koala and wallaby spotting, etc.
And for those who may not have a day, a half-day trip to the Melbourne Zoo will suffice to see the local favourites like the kangaroo or the koala.
If you are bargain-hunting types, do not miss Queen Victoria market. Fifty per cent of the market is overflowing with fresh produce, with bountiful offerings of fruit, vegetables, meat, chicken, seafood and delicatessen products each with its own precinct in the market. The other half of the market is dedicated to clothes, home ware, café’s and specialty goods.
The city is gracious to its artists. There are many streets here, which allow street art like stencils, paste-ups and murals. Most notable of these streets are Hosier and Rutledge Lane, near Federation Square.
While all this makes Melbourne charming, the cherry topping is the river that flows through the city – Yarra. Calming walks along its banks in well-laid out gardens will be a welcome change for anyone, even in the unhurried pace of Melbourne. This capital city of Victoria is certainly worth a relaxed visit for anyone with wanderlust.