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Discover Melbourne. Australia's Paris of the South

Aug 17, 2007
You've settled into your accommodation and now it's time to look around and enjoy Australia's second largest city. Melbourne is often referred to as Australia's most European city. The city has a sophistication and vibrant cultural scene similar to many of the major cities of Europe.

Here are some helpful hints to assist you with your stay.

TRANSPORT.

Melbourne has a very efficient transport system and the city is divided into an easy to understand grid pattern, so you shouldn't get lost. My suggestion is to purchase a "metcard", allowing a full day's travel on trains, buses and trams. The metcard costs $6A for adults and $3A for children and seniors. It can be purchased at newsagents or at one of the 2 main railway stations, Flinders St or Southern Cross. Flinders St is the main station for suburban trains and is a good central starting point for your exploration of the city.

FREE TRANSPORT.

An excellent way for you to get to know Melbourne is by using the 2 free forms of transport. They take you past most of the main attractions and you can hop on and off as you choose. The first is the Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle. It takes you on a tour of the outer rim of the city and has 3 stops in both William St and Exhibition St. The second is the City Circle Tram and as its name suggests this red and gold tram covers mainly the inner city streets. A convenient stopping place is in Flinders St directly opposite the station. Brochures for both are available from the Visitor Centre at Federation Square.

MELBOURNE VISITOR CENTRE.

Now that you have the feel of Melbourne, you may like to visit the Melbourne Visitor Centre, situated at Federation Square, just opposite Flinders St Station. Go down the stairs to receive all the information you need for shopping, dining, art galleries, theatres, sport and tours. Here is a brief outline of some of the unique attractions of this city.

SHOPPING.

Stroll down tree lined Collins St and you could be walking through the trendy shopping precincts of Paris. All the big name shops are here and they share this street with a number of small local boutiques. The two major shopping chains are Myer and David Jones, situated on the Bourke St Mall.

If you are looking for bargains, why not visit a few factory outlets. Try DFO or Direct Factory Outlet on level 2 above the busport at Southern Cross station in Spencer St. In the suburbs close to the CBD, you will find Chapel St in South Yarra or Bridge Road in Richmond. Both are easily accessible by public transport.

The most popular day market is the Queen Victoria Market, offering a huge range of goods from clothing to fresh produce. Use the free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle and alight at stop number 5. The current low value of the Australian dollar makes Melbourne a shopper's paradise for overseas visitors.

SPORT.

Australians love their sport and the holy grail of sport is Melbourne. Where else in the world would a city have a public holiday for a horse race? It happens in Melbourne on the first Tuesday in November, when the famous Melbourne Cup is run. In fact, practically the whole of Australia is in shut down mode during the race.

Cricket is another great love for Australians. Captaining the national cricket team is said to be the second most important job behind that of prime minister. The Australian cricket team recently played a "test" match against their traditional rivals, England and almost 90 000 fanatical supporters crowded into the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the first day of the five day test.

And then there's the "biggie" of them all. Australian Rules Football. {no not soccer, even though it is very popular, particularly with the large Greek and Italian community}. To the people of Melbourne, "Aussie Rules" is like a religion and the main place of worship is the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG. It is said to have the same importance as the Eiffel Tower to Paris or the Statue of Liberty to New York.

How can you become involved in this unique Australian culture? If you are visiting Melbourne between April and September, enquire about visiting the MCG to watch a football match. To become really involved you should eat the traditional meat pie {with tomato sauce} washed down by "a nice cold beer". In the summer season, you may have the opportunity to watch a cricket match. Daily tours of the MCG are run every hour, starting from gate 3. Well worth a visit.

DINING.

Melbourne abounds in places to dine. Four main areas are important. For Italian and Greek food, visit Lygon St in the inner suburb of Carlton. Easily accessible by public transport and within walking distance of the city. Closer to the city centre in Little Bourke St is Chinatown with it variety of Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai food.

On the banks of the Yarra river in an area called "Southbank", you will discover a variety of quality restaurants, all with superb views of the city. It is worthwhile taking a stroll along this promenade, just to enjoy the city views. The popular Crown Casino is in this area. The final major dining area is Docklands, where you have a choice of quality restaurants, all with spectacular city and harbor views.

Throughout the city, in little side streets and arcades you will discover many other places to dine. There is even a floating restaurant that meanders along the Yarra river, allowing you to eat as well as enjoy the scenery. A converted tram also provides a unique restaurant experience as it cruises the streets of Melbourne.

ART GALLERIES AND THEATRES.

The National Gallery of Victoria's collection contains more than 70 000 items housed in two homes within easy walking distance of each other. The first is situated alongside the Arts Centre in St Kilda Rd just a few minute's walk from Flinders St station. Famous works of art and crafts from Europe and Asia are displayed. The second gallery, featuring mainly Australian art, is in Federation Square, the controversial looking building in Flinders St, close to the tourist office. The Arts Centre Theatre is the venue for major live shows. Check with the visitor centre for performances while you are in Melbourne.
About the Author
Graeme Lanham is a senior travel writer and author of "Your Life Fitness", a new book covering all aspects of travel health. It is considered a "must read" for all health conscious travelers.
Visit http://www.yourlifefitness.com and receive 2 special FREE bonuses.
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