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October 5, 2013 / oneworld82

Falling in love with Melbourne

And then there was Melbourne. Once the undisputed center of the Commonwealth – the city where people longed to live in search of wealth and success – Melbourne is a surprisingly attractive, interesting city. Shaped as much by its history as by its immigrants, Melbourne is defined by its neighborhoods, its historic buildings, and – in my opinion – its food. From Richmond to Fitzroy, from Chinatown to Carlton, the variety experiences you can get in the city is first class.

The ubiquitous streetcar

The ubiquitous streetcar

Melbourne, VIC

Carlton

Carlton

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Melbourne is – first a foremost – a city rich in history. The Parliament of Victoria (just to cite an example) is a beautiful, neo-classic building that towers over Spring St in the political heart of the city. Steps from it, the beautiful, neo-Gothic St. Patrick’s cathedral provides the perfect contrast between sacred and secular power.

Melbourne, VIC

Hotel Windsor

Melbourne, VIC Melbourne, VIC

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Entering Melbourne

Melbourne CBD

Melbourne CBD

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From there, it’s easy to walk to Bourke St, which quickly leads into the Central Business District. Collins St, Federation Square, the Yarra River, Chinatown… all these wonderful areas rich in skyscrapers, ancient buildings, shopping arcades, and tourists are within steps from each other. The southern bank of the Yarra river provides a beautiful view over Melbourne’s skyline.

View from the South Bank

View from the South Bank

South Bank

South Bank

Coolest coffee truck. Ever?

Coolest coffee truck. Ever?

Federation Square

Federation Square

Chinatown, I was saying. As everywhere else in the World, this neighborhood in Melbourne is as colorful and as lively as ever. Dim sum eateries are everywhere, but the place that (deservedly) stands out is HuTong Dumpling Bar – a real institution down here. The Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings – a Shanghainese specialty) prepared here are simply divine and surprisingly affordable (this is, after all, Australia: a country where the minimum wage is AUD22 a hour).

Chinatown

Chinatown

Melbourne, VIC

HuTong Dumpling Bar

HuTong Dumpling Bar

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Not far from downtown lies Richmond, and here you will find a strong and lively Vietnamese community along Victoria St – the main artery of this part of town. At Pho Hung Vuong 2 – an unassuming eatery – I had what was by far the best pho I had ever had outside of North Vietnam – not surprisingly, given the high quality of Australian beef!

Best pho outside of Vietnam...?

Best pho outside of Vietnam…?

Melbourne, VIC

Bit of course it’s not only Asian food in Melbourne! Go to Carlton, near the University of Melbourne, and you’ll land in Southern Italy! I promise you, I heard people speaking in Neapolitan about football – meaning the real deal, the one invented in England. As everywhere else in Australia, cafes are ubiquitous and always stylish. I met a business school friend at the European – near the Parliament building – and the flat white was as good as it can possibly get.

And what about the Royal Exhibition Hall – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the stunning architecture of the adjacent Melbourne Museum? Australians really know how to cut it right!

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Royal Exhibition Hall

Royal Exhibition Hall

One of the most attractive features of Melbourne is its efficient public transportation system. Buses, metros, trolleys ply the four corners of the city in a seamless way, We used the public transportation system to go from our wonderful hotel – the Park Hyatt – to St. Kilda, the pulsing beach heart of Melbourne.

Streetcar

Streetcar

I loved St. Kilda! The bay is so beautiful… the famed luna park so… fitting, in what’s an alternative yet classy, casual yet sophisticated part of Greater Melbourne. Come for the Sunday market, stay for brunch or coffee or lunch or – probably even better – dinner at one of its many stylish restaurants; take your kids to the theme park. Whatever the reason, if you are in Melbourne just COME to St. Kilda! The vibe of the place is just right.

The beach of St. Kilda

The beach of St. Kilda

Luna Park

Luna Park

Spectacular kitsch art

Spectacular kitsch art

St. Kilda

We saw at least 3 pastry shops with windows like this one. Amazing!

We saw at least 3 pastry shops with windows like this one. Amazing!

Beautiful St. Kilda

Beautiful St. Kilda

And at night, after a good dinner, hit the bars and pubs of Fitzroy, just north of Victoria Parade. Once a shady neighborhood populated by prostitutes and drug dealers, now Fitzroy is a rather upscale part of town where nightlife is top notch. New Yorkers, think West Village Australian way! Recipe for success, don’t you think so? We particularly enjoyed the Union Club Hotel – a rowdy, crowded pub with a warm fireplace and serving homemade warm hard cider. In summertime, try the rooftop terrace.

Union Club Hotel

Union Club Hotel

Carlton Draught & Fat Yak

Carlton Draught & Fat Yak

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Melbourne… what an amazing city. Two and half days haven’t been enough indeed. This is not only a city to see. It’s a city to experience, to live – in fact, I wouldn’t mind living here myself. The possibilities – culinary, artistic, naturalistic – are endless in and around the city. For instance, Phillip Island is just a short drive away – and that’s definitely a place I would like to visit on my next trip to Australia.

Also, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Hotel – which I am going to review next; it was an amazing experience which simply added to the charm of the city.

Seriously, if you happen to be in Australia, do not miss this city: you will be appropriately rewarded.

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