Living it up down under

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Mallika Bajaj spends one day exploring Australia’s cultural and sporting capital

I had heard a lot about Melbourne: it’s stylish, dynamic and is Australia’s sporting and cultural capital. But my first impression of the city was that it smells delectable – of freshly baked churros, oud, pomegranate and coffee. And also that it looks perfect. Whatever your favourite Instagram filter may be, this city looks like it’s already filtered to your standard  of perfection!

Just one day in marvellous Melbourne, the most livable city in the world for seven years in a row (according to an international daily), may not quite be enough; but it promises to be memorable! The city is blessed with mild weather all year round, so it’s always the best time to visit.

>>  I start my day late, Melbourne style, with a brunch. There is nothing quite as fierce as a brunch queue, as anyone who’s tried to get his or her fix of single origin coffee and free-range sourced eggs, knows. Book yourself a spot, if you have the time, at Cumulus Inc, located at the city’s popular art and fashion precinct, Flinders Lane. Neither a restaurant, nor a café, it is chef Andrew McConnell’s “eating house”, as he likes to call it.

However, if you do not have time to make a reservation, head to Brunetti’s Carlton at Lygon St. This cosy Italian café offers a good meal any time of the day, with a menu that includes wood-fired pizzas, cannolis (my favourite being the nutella-ricotta), a wide range of savouries and desserts (the chocolate éclair is a must-have), and coffee, tea or other beverages. You can even order a take-away cappuccino before beginning your tour.

From here, walk towards the Gothic architectural feat, the University of Melbourne parking area. This stunning underground space has been featured on TV shows and movies such as Mad Max. The university, Australia’s foremost, is a blend of Victorian Gothic stone buildings and post-modern architecture. Pick up a ‘Sculpture on Campus’ map from the Ian Potter Museum of Art, located at a stone’s throw from here.

Another landmark, just a quaint tram ride away, is the Flinders Street Station. A city icon, this beautiful neoclassical building topped with a stunning octagonal dome, stands grandly along the Yarra river. Built in 1854, it is Melbourne’s first railway station and the most common rendezvous point for locals. Be sure to visit this during your city tour.

>> From Flinders Street Station, cross over to St Kilda road, then onto Federation Square. There is nothing moderate about the square. You will either love the abstract, somewhat edgy, modern buildings with a cobbled forecourt, or you won’t. I walk across the square, bypassing the city’s major cultural hotspots: the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Koorie Heritage Trust. I come by a few locals too, basking in the sun on the forecourt and at the several restaurants and eateries here. My next stop is my favourite in the city – the Yarra river. Spend some time by the riverfront. Then, head down to the retro-chic Ponyfish Island via a set of stairs. Enjoy the view of the river and the hip crowd. Head up the street to Hosier Lane and its nearby bylanes, which showcase the best of Melbourne’s street art. I go camera-happy clicking the edgy graffiti, colourful stencils and art installations that adorn the walls here.

>>  As you walk around the quirky streets and soak in the experience, get yourself a coffee at Degraves Street, or a signature “emoji” pie from Pie Face. A small outlet opening on to a street, I assure you the meat pies here won’t let you keep a straight face!

There’s a lot to see and experience in Melbourne. While I like to keep my day light, you can hop over to the grand Parliament House and take a guided tour. Or visit the Royal Exhibition Building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Victorian structure was the first building to hoist the Australian flag and also hosted Australia’s first parliament in 1901.

>>  There are endless dining options in Melbourne. You can opt to stay in the Southbank area. If you love Japanese, do not miss out on a meal at Chocolate Buddha, located at Federation Square. A casual eatery that is very popular with local residents, it serves dishes mainly from Japan, but with influences from Korea  and China.

After dinner, it’s time to let your hair down and have some fun. And Melbourne sure likes to party. If being on a packed dance floor is what you want, you can head over to one of the few popular clubs in the city such as Glamorama, Ms Collins and Carlton Club. With a 5 am liquor license on weekends (3 am on weekdays), some of these clubs promise an eclectic wine list, bartenders who can shake (or stir) up that perfect drink and DJs who know just what your heart desires.

The author is an avid traveller and the views expressed in this article are her own

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