G'day everyone! My name is Cheryl, and I am a student who loves to travel! In this two-part blog post series, I'll be sharing my recent trip to Melbourne and hope you will enjoy it and find the information useful!
My friend and I visited Melbourne for the first time ever this year, and had the most fun soaking up the vibes of the city! We stayed in Melbourne for one week during the last week of May 2019, which was late Autumn. It was during our Summer break back in our universities and we found a great flight deal!
While our decision was spontaneous, we had some time to research on Melbourne and marked out the places we had to go. Melbourne is a morning city, which means that most shops close at 4pm - 6pm. However, some malls do open till a little later and have specific days when operating hours last till 8pm or 9pm (hooray!) so be sure to do your homework on which malls to visit on certain days for a longer shopping experience!
As we landed at the down-under in the early morning, we were greeted by the amazing 19 degree weather and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy what the city offered us.
The Beautiful Victoria Habour at Sunset
A little background of Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria, a state in Australia. It was briefly known as Batmania, named after one of the founders bought the piece of land from the indigenous Australians. He was a Tasmanian businessman named John Batman (1801-1839) who made the purchase from the Dutigalla clan. It was named Melbourne later by Queen Victoria, after whom the State of Victoria is named. She named it after her 2nd Viscount, Melbourne, British Prime Minister and the political mentor to the young Queen. Today, it is one of the most popular cities for tourists, and is the most populated city in the country, at 453 people per squared kilometers.
Enough about facts, let me share the 5 reasons why Melbourne should be one of the places you must visit!
The Flag of Melbourne!
(Image Credit: www.flags-and-anthems.com)
1. No language barrier!
One does not fully appreciate how important it is for a host country to be able to communicate with the tourist until you become the tourist stuck in Thailand, trying to direct your Uber driver to exactly where you are while your driver insists that he has arrived though his car is nowhere to be seen. No problem of that sort in marvelous Melbourne! While Australia is an English-speaking country, they often throw in some slang into the mix, and this is what they mean:
(Image credit: komconsultants.com)
2. Amazing people and service
I felt really welcomed in Melbourne. Perhaps it is due to the composition of foreigners that make up the population, where Singaporeans chope-ed 20% of the foreigner composition pie chart! I could see and hear fellow Singaporeans everywhere we went, which was exciting. Servers and cashiers were really friendly, they would smile as they served us, or would even go beyond to slip in some talk or share the passion of their craft (amazing baristas). As long as I had any questions, they were more than happy to help and share more with us!
Refunds for items (bad idea to buy 6 books on Day 3 of our trip) are easy, there simply needed to be a reason and the items have to be clean. Besides great service staff, there is no mandatory tipping for a tourist to fret over! Just keep sipping on that coffee, friend, and focus on having a good time!
3. Low Transport Cost!
This is a very important factor for tourists, since exploration may be detrimental to the wallet. Not in Melbourne! The tram system (think LRT on the roads) are quick and efficient and are most importantly, free around the city area! The map here will give you the details of where the Free Tram Zone starts and ends. Of course, anywhere outside of the city will be chargeable. The buses also require the same transport card (Myki card) to board it but hey! You would have saved a lot of Aussie dollars by then!
The Myki card is equivalent to our EZ-link card!
(Photo credits and for more information: https://www.ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki)
Trams are really convenient, they take you everywhere you need to go!
Buses and Trains are also available in Melbourne!
(Image credit: https://www.linkedin.com/company/yarratrams/life)
4. Amazing Scenery!
Melbourne has a lot more to offer than just their retail stores (by the way, H&M, Cotton On and Pandora are some of the stores that are much cheaper in Australia so do drop by these stores)! The azure blue skies and waters, along with lines of fluffy white clouds is something we don't see very often in Singapore so while you are at Melbourne, look up and admire the skies! None of these photographs are filtered, and that says a lot about the natural beauty of Melbourne!
Melbourne is known for the 12 Apostles, which is quite a long drive from the city. However, the drive is very well worth it! We booked a more intimate tour which was conducted in a minibus with 8 other people. Our tour guide for the Great Ocean Road made the entire tour enjoyable with his hospitality. He shared his knowledge about wild kangaroos and koalas (which we also saw!) and even helped us take photos despite his bad leg. He took great care of everyone and made sure we hopped off the bus to get some breakfast and lunch, and even stopped excitedly when he saw dolphins far into the ocean, which he beckoned for us to all take a look (he said it was a bonus, as dolphins are not easy to spot all the time). We had a nice time relaxing in a minibus and munching on breakfast donuts and sipping on ethically-sourced coffee as part of the 3-hour ride there. During the tour, we got to these views:
The 12 Apostles, down the Great Ocean Road, a must-visit!
Managed to Capture this on the way to the 12 Apostles!
I highly recommend a visit to this gem of a view stowed away from the city. The guide shared that the 12 Apostles look different in every season, so guess who is coming back again next time?
If you are planning to visit Melbourne this September, don't miss the annual Tulip Festival! The tulip field only blossoms in the Spring. Take the opportunity to pack a nice picnic and enjoy the beautiful, colourful blooms we rarely get to see in Singapore. A Tulip Festival comes with the blooms as well so I highly recommend you to soak up the good vibes and take lots of pictures while you're there!
Walk along a field of flowers that Spring gifts to Melbourne!
(Image Credit: Tesselaar Flower Farm, Address: 357-359 Monbulk Road, Silvan)
Australia is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and blue waters, so you will not be disappointed when you sink your feet into the soft beige sand while watching dogs play by the shore. You can also ride the Ferris wheel at St Kilda Beach ($5 for 5 minutes, we rode it at sunset and it was beautiful). Enjoy the feeling of cold, soft sand beneath your feet, it's a whole new feeling that is surprisingly really nice!
St Kilda Beach
Did I mention that the St Kilda beach was a walking distance (5-10 minutes) away from Australia's family amusement park, Luna Park? Luna Park at St Kilda is the oldest amusement park in Australia and is known for its roller coaster (the world's oldest continually operating) and ornate carousel. Since its opening in 1912, it has been able to keep up to the times and still receive love and support from long-time fans! Do note the operating days and hours for the park to avoid disappointment!
5. Good food, drinks and activities~
Don't get me started on how good the food in Melbourne is! They definitely have mastered their cuisines which are delicious when paired with the freshness of their ingredients! I can talk for days about how amazingly creamy and huge the Aussie avocados are, or sing praises about the freshness and sweetness of oysters even at Woolworths but I won't. Instead, I want to introduce some must-try food and beverage places that are worth your time and money!
Melbourne, a foodie's paradise!
(Image Credit www.timeout.com)
- South Melbourne Market
The South Melbourne Market is a must-visit as they have amazing seafood, pastries, cheeses, and Australian-made goodies! Some of the cheeses I got to try were truffle-infused cheese, various types of goat's cheese, all of which had plenty of samples that proved the high quality of the products. As we stayed a walking distance away from the South Melbourne market, we went there every other day, whenever it was open. They do not sell much mains, though there are only a few restaurants lining the market. You can find pastries, bread, cheese, seafood, and meats there. They also have a mini grocery store and a small Asian grocery stall which sells the ingredients not found in most supermarkets. They have shops selling Australian-made products such as bags and clothes and produce like goat's milk. To us, the South Melbourne Market is a place for our morning coffee, a little gawking at all the boiled lobsters and freshly shucked oysters, and for browsing through the selection of Australia-made garments and ornaments.
The South Melbourne Market, which only opens certain days and at certain hours, search up the dates and timings before you go to avoid disappointment!
- Agathé Pâtisserie
You need to try the croissants at Agathé Pâtisserie, a highly-raved pastry kitchen that serves many other pastries that make your mouth water!
The widest variety of pastries provided at the South Melbourne Market!
(Image Credit: http://www.onyamagazine.com)
While it was a complete hit the first time we got it (a large croissant, pillow-like softness on the inside, just enough with the help of icing sugar lightly decorated over it), it was a miss when we bought it on our last day though. The fresh seafood section was amazing-- A congregation of many seafood types, raw and boiled alike. All in all, the South Melbourne Market reminds me of home, probably because it was a walking distance away and we go almost every day, and that it is filled with so much goodness and goodies! Do take note that the market opens only on certain days, so be sure to check online before you set off to a disappointing fate!
2. South Melbourne Seafoods and Oyster Bar
The amount of boiled seafood available, ranging from prawns to crabs to even boston lobsters make us somehow visit it every day, though we never managed to try them. At the side of the rounded glass display lies trays of freshly shucked oysters, $1 for a piece, sold in trays of 12! Oyster lovers, rejoice from the wide range of oysters available. Plus, there is a standing table filled with many fresh oyster-eating condiments, such as Tabasco sauce and fresh lemon slices!
Boiled seafood, sold alongside fresh seafood!
Do not miss this place when you are at the South Melbourne Market!
3. Padre Coffee
The South Melbourne market offers some amazing coffees! My favourite coffee shop was Padre Coffee, which serves freshly roasted coffee along with some pastries. It is the only coffee shop that had an interior for sit-down customers (don't worry though, as the market has a free-seating area with plenty of tables and chairs for anyone to gather and have their meals at). As it was my first time ordering from a wide range of espressos, I was lost. My barista asked me for the blend that I would like and as I was no coffee connoisseur, I could only describe the flavours I would like in hopes that one of their available blends could cater to that request. I asked for something sweet and creamy and I was pleased when my barista introduced me to their new blend: Lucky Boy!
This is the bag I brought home with me for $15. You can request for your grind type depending on your brewing method at home (mine is the frenchpress)!
Boy was I lucky because the flat white of that blend was so full of strong nutty flavours and indeed has some notes of caramel to me (he actually explained that the blend had the profiles of vanilla, milk chocolate, and hazelnut praline) and was deliciously creamy in any milk-based drink! It was only slightly acidic, which was immediately replaced by the subtle sweetness of the thick white, milky foam. It was so smooth it almost felt like I was drinking a cup of frothed milk! My description would not justify he taste but I got myself a bag (freshly ground by the same friendly barista) of Lucky Boy espresso granules before I left Melbourne!
The cafe is filled with everything coffee, from ready blends to coffee-making tools to merchandise! (Image credit: https://www.broadsheet.com.au)
- Walker's Doughnuts and American Doughnut Kitchen
Doughnuts, the best snack to go with coffee! We stumbled across the two doughnut places and fell in love with the fluffy dough-balls coated with sugar, filled with oozing strawberry jam!
We discovered Walker's Doughnuts one cold night, when we saw the neon sign "Open 24 Hours" blinking invitingly at us. We had to go, didn't we? Our first hot jam doughnut experience was nothing less than amazing! We were not used to having warm jam-filled doughnuts that were fluffy and soft in Singapore as the ones back home are not made continuously throughout the day like this 24 hour place. The humble-looking shop was surprisingly full of a grand variety of doughnuts but the 6 for $6 hot jam doughnuts were the best choice for our wallets!
A small and humble shop at a street corner filled with the best surprise!
A great variety of doughnuts ranging from filled to glazed in every flavour possible!
They were still warm and soft and doughy when we got back to enjoy the rest, perfect comfort food for a cold Autumn night!
- Viva Kebabs
Along the same street where Walker's Doughnuts operates is Viva Kebabs, decorated with blinking LED signs, obviously well-armed to cater to patrons looking for a filling late dinner or supper! The shop barely had standing space inside, as it was meant for takeaways. Nonetheless, the staff were really friendly and tried to guide us through the ordering process. The famous food item we had to try was the Halal Snack Pack, or what locals call the HSP. It included a choice of either lamb, chicken or beef (or all of them mixed, which was what we chose) which was mixed with A LOT of fries and topped with a generous amount of sauce!
The famous Halal Snack Pack (HSP)!
(Image Credit: www.mangoplate.com)
The kebab also had the same meat choices and sauce, though we could add some vegetables this time. Like the HSP, the kebab was full of ingredients that tasted similar to the HSP. By the time our stomachs gave in to the generosity of Viva Kebabs, we were full and happy!
(Image Credit: FourSquare user M.A)
- American Doughnut Kitchen
We went to the Queen Victoria Market a few days later and a unique-looking truck pulled up and immediately caught our attention.
Hot jam doughnuts at 9 in the morning? Yes please!
A doughnut truck! We stood in awe, watching the bakers knead the dough, fry the doughnut balls and coat them in sugar in a big metal wok. We had to try some, they were freshly made!
Affordable, soft, and evenly coated!
(Image Credit: www.weekendnotes.com)
Of course, many have already swarmed to the truck to get these freshly made hot jam doughnuts! Although they were slightly bigger than Walker's, I felt that the jam was insufficient (there was jam every few bites, but not oozing like Walker's). Nevertheless, it was still a great experience munching on freshly-made doughnuts while walking around the Queen Victoria Market!
Speaking of the Queen Victoria Market, I recommend visiting it at night instead, as there would be food trucks and an all-round nicer atmosphere, the morning trip was quite disappointing for us as many of the stalls were souvenir items and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Meet and Wine Co.
For those who enjoy steaks in particular, you need to try out Meet and Wine Co., an elegant restaurant serving good meat cuts, together with an assortment of alcohol choices (after all, it's in the name). We settled for the wagyu rump (MB 6+) cooked medium-rare. We added an extra $7 for the red wine jus (absolutely no regrets) at the side to add more of an umph! to the flavour. Thankfully, we had decided to share as we were served a huge slab of meat, along with some hand-cut fries, and a small but sufficient side of red wine jus, reduced to concentration.
The beautiful Wagyu Rump (MB 6+), a huge 500g portion, perfect for sharing!
Let's just say it was the best meal we had, though you need to make a reservation as the place fills out really quickly. Waiting time would be 30 minutes to 2 hours even, which would be a long wait for a nice dinner.
- Humble Rays Cafe
One of the most highly recommended breakfast/brunch restaurants we were told we had to try out was Humble Rays, located in a quiet neighbourhood. This quaint, insta-worthy cafe is really easy to spot since there is always a long queue. We reached there an hour after opening and even then we had to wait for a table. After 20 to 30 minutes, we finally got ushered into the warm and cafe and had a nice brunch there.
I got the Eggs Benny (top) while my friend got the Panna Cotta Granola (bottom)
Now that I have recommended some food and drink places, let me share some of the places you should visit in Melbourne!
- National Gallery of Victoria
To feed my artistic desires, we visited the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia's oldest and most distinguished public art museum. Entry to the museum is free, though special exhibitions require a paid ticket. We opted for the free exhibition and thoroughly enjoyed the extravagant display of high-end fashion masterpieces manifested into a beautiful exhibition hall which included a big room with suede walls covered with paintings surrounding famous designer brands including Dior and Chanel. The NGV is a highly recommended place to absorb art that we are not usually exposed to back in our local museums!
An elegant, yet playful way of displaying Chinese ornaments in the middle of the main entrance level
Fashion Exhibition featuring designer brands
- Melbourne Arts Centre
The Melbourne Arts Centre sits conveniently beside the National Gallery. On the day we visited, there was a line of independent sellers displaying handmade products on the tables. While our intention was to just visit the museum, we soon found ourselves browsing through the products these local businesses were offering, which led us up to the Arts Centre. Being the theatre-enthusiast, and having checked out some of the productions available, I was immediately interested in Cosi Fan Tutte (All Women are the Same), as the play was made with Mozart pieces. We were so grateful when the staff told us about a Melbourne Arts Centre initiative called "Tix at Six". For $30, we could get tickets for any show that was available, which usually has the best seats (more information for how "Tix at Six" works can be found here).
Cosi Fan Tutte! (All Women are the Same!)
(Image credit: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au)
We managed to spend $30 each on Cosi Fan Tutte and snagged seats that were $287 each, as our seats were at the twelfth row from the stage! It was truly an unforgettable night since this ticket price could only be found at the Melbourne Arts Centre.
- Chadstone Shopping Centre
A local recommended we visit the largest shopping center here so we added that to the list on a day we had nothing much planned. There was a complimentary bus there and back, and tourist discounts were also available. We thoroughly enjoyed the hour-long drive as the driver was really cheerful and knowledgeable. We got to know more about Melbourne on the way to the mall as he disseminates information like the places we should visit and the "hidden gems of the city", to quote him.
Chadstone Mall, Known as Australia's Largest Shopping Mall
(Image Credit: Tripadvisor user ShahidAgha)
This big big world is full of amazing things... Travel more and explore the world. You'll regret the places you never got to see, the food you never got to try and the people you'll never meet. I cannot wait to pack my bags again and fly off to somewhere distant and unforgettable, you should too!
Have a ho (good) day ahead! 😊