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Holidays in Australia: A Guide to the Delights of Melbourne

Novak Djokovic may have left Melbourne with a grin, but the show continues in this great sports city as the Australian Open tennis championships take center stage.

And what a city it is.

Melbourne may not have a swanky opera house like the one in Sydney, but it’s home to a vibrant arts scene, a stunning cricket ground – and some of the best food in Australia. No wonder it so often tops the list of the world’s best places to live.

Melbourne has a vibrant arts scene, a stunning cricket ground - and some of the best food in Australia

Melbourne has a vibrant arts scene, a stunning cricket ground – and some of the best food in Australia

For most of the past decade, Australia’s second-largest city has ranked first or second in the Economist’s Global Liveability Index, ahead of cities like Tokyo, Toronto and, yes, Sydney.

Even well-traveled visitors often fall head over heels in love with the place. Sir Andy Murray is a good example.

The city is compact and public transport is excellent, so all activities are within easy reach. Few are expensive and many are free.

For most of the past decade, Melbourne has been ranked first or second in the Economist's Global Liveability Index

For most of the past decade, Melbourne has been ranked first or second in the Economist's Global Liveability Index

For most of the past decade, Melbourne has been ranked first or second in the Economist’s Global Liveability Index

When exploring Federation Square is a good place to start. It is a bustling open space for free concerts, screenings and events, opposite the center of Flinders Street Station (with its famous 13 bells) and right on the Yarra River.

Most of the city’s biggest attractions are within ten minutes’ walk, from the peaceful Botanic Gardens to the menacing concrete bowl of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It is the world’s largest cricket stadium and probably the most famous after Lord’s. A tour of over 160 years of history is a journey into the heart of the Australian sports psyche.

Melbourne is known for its ‘four seasons in one day’ weather, but it is still an active city. In the mornings and evenings, the parks and trails south of downtown are packed with joggers, cyclists, walkers, and yoga groups as rowing eights fill the river.

But you don’t have to join the Lycra-clad hordes that run The Tan – a former 3.5-mile horseback riding circuit. There are plenty of walking routes along the river, over bridges and loops in the abundant green spaces. Joining a half-day bike tour is a great way to quickly get your bearings and see a lot.

Australia is far from the UK.  But for those making the trip, a few days of Melbourne is essential

Australia is far from the UK.  But for those making the trip, a few days of Melbourne is essential

Australia is far from the UK. But for those making the trip, a few days of Melbourne is essential

TRAVEL FACTS

Emirates (emirates.com) London to Melbourne from £765 return. Doubles at Novotel (novotelmelbourne.com.au) from € 128. Read more on visitmelbourne.com.

When will Oz open its borders to Brits?

Vaccinated Australians and permanent residents can now travel in and out of Australia. Tourists are currently banned, but it is hoped that this will be lifted in the coming months. It is expected that travelers must be fully vaccinated and have evidence of a negative PCR test.

Much of what makes Melbourne special is its unbiased celebration of food and art. A champion of both great coffee and haute cuisine, it values ​​street murals as much as fine art. You’ll find the latter in the galleries around Federation Square – while the colorful graffiti is an intrinsic part of Melbourne’s laneway culture.

These narrow alleys between the main streets were once dingy garages. Now they are home to coffee shops, artisan jewelers and independent clothing stores.

The most famous, Degraves Street and Center Place, run north from Flinders Street station, but there are elegant arcades and boho sections throughout the city.

Some, like Hosier Lane, are sanctioned for street art. Funny, poignant and often political, the ever-changing images together resemble a satirical comic. And where else do you find a graffiti artist who gives a lesson in aerosol technique to a group of tourists?

Melburnians are equally open-minded about food. Over the past 60 years, there has been a huge influx of immigrants from Africa, Asia and Europe, and with residents from over 200 countries, it’s no surprise that the food, especially in Flinders Lane, is as diverse as anywhere else in the world.

Then there’s Footscray. The poorest immigrants settled in this neighbourhood, ten minutes by train from the center: Ethiopian or Vietnamese refugees who came with nothing. It’s not going to win awards for architecture – think the 1970s pedestrian street – but the food scene is great. And cheap.

Melbourne Cricket Ground (foreground) is the world's largest cricket stadium and probably the most famous after Lord's

Melbourne Cricket Ground (foreground) is the world's largest cricket stadium and probably the most famous after Lord's

Melbourne Cricket Ground (foreground) is the world’s largest cricket stadium and probably the most famous after Lord’s

Delis, bakeries and restaurants fill the streets. Locals line up for baguettes, donuts, Vietnamese pork buns, and freshly made Ethiopian coffee. The market sells dozens of peppers and five types of melon.

“They come from Sydney to taste my kitfo,” says Abdul Hussein at his restaurant Konjo. I can believe it.

Australia is far from the UK. But for those making the trip, a few days of Melbourne is essential. And all the better if you like sports.

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