Home to as many people as the whole of New Zealand, Melbourne gives Sydney strong competition as the greatest city in Australia. I’ve visited five times, in 2010, 2011, 2013 (twice with work), and 2014. It is a very liveable city, if too flat for my liking, and has plenty to explore as a visitor, plus some wonderful places nearby including Bendigo, Ballarat, Mount Macedon and Hanging Rock.

To start with one of my favourite places, the 225 hectare Albert Park, which is a great place to run around. It is also home to an aquatic centre, lakeside stadium, golf course, many sports ovals, and the Australian F1 GP each year. Having attended the GP I have to say that it is a sport best enjoyed on TV if you want to follow a race, but visiting did give me a better appreciation of the speeds and noise involved.

Close by is the Shrine of Remembrance war memorial dating from 1934. Australia has been involved in far more wars than their relatively isolated location would suggest, and the services of their armed forces are well recognised with memorials throughout the country. The most impressive is the Australian War Memorial in Canberra but I think the Shrine may be the second best.

From the top are views of the skyline, with the Eureka Tower prominent. At nearly 300m high it is the third tallest building in Australia. The three highest towers in Australia are all residential, quite different to most high rise cities where commercial buildings often dominate.

Next to the Shrine is the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria – Melbourne, 38 hectares home to 8,500 different species. It’s a very pleasant place to wander around, if not particularly spectacular.

Heading toward the CBD, the National Gallery of Victoria is Australia’s oldest, largest and most visited art museum. It was founded in 1861 and now occupies two huge sites (NGV International and Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia) home to over 73,000 works of art, that pre-Covid attracted over 3 million visitors annually, making it one of the 15 most visited art galleries in the world.

The Great Hall’s Stained Glass Ceiling is the world’s largest suspended piece of stained glass, measuring 61m x 15m, with 224 tiles of glass.

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia is in the funky Federation Square, developed in the early 2000s.

Across from the square is the colourful Flinders Street Station, dating from 1909. It is possibly the busiest train station in Australia, the internet is in disagreement whether Sydney Central beats it to that title.

The Yarra River is the heart of the city, and another great place for running, passing surprisingly quickly from modern hi-rises along the waterfront to quiet greenery.

State Victoria Library is home to more than just books, including art exhibitions and an interesting collection of Victorian (the state rather than the period) history, including Ned Kelly’s famous suit of armour.

You can visit where Ned Kelly was imprisoned in Melbourne Gaol, a pretty standard if still impressive Victorian era jail.

Across from State Victoria Library is Melbourne Central, one of the most impressive shopping malls I’ve been to, thanks to the huge dome built over an old tower built for a shotgun powder factory. It is also home to a good food court, which has a busy, energetic atmosphere at any time of day.

There is more history nearby at Carlton Gardens, a World Heritage Site home to the huge Royal Exhibition Building built in 1879-1880. It was the first building in Australia to be recognised as a World Heritage Site as one of the last remaining Victorian era exhibition buildings.

The gardens are also home to Melbourne Museum, apparently the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, which for some reason I didn’t visit properly on any of my trips…

North west from here is Royal Park, the largest of Melbourne’s many inner city parks.

St Patrick’s Cathedral is the main Catholic place of worship. The largest church in Australia, it took over 70 years to build, being finally completed in 1939.

The Victoria State Parliament has never been officially completed, despite work starting on it in 1855 during the Victorian gold rush, which didn’t last long enough to fund finishing the building.

There plenty of wonderful heritage buildings throughout the city, between the many, usually significantly larger modern ones.

To finish with a colourful sunset from the beach at St. Kilda, a vibrant place filled with people, cafes, and the world’s second oldest continually operating roller coaster, dating from 1912.

Author: jontycrane

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