Melbourne is unique for its layered offering. Makers and indie bookshops shimmy up to live-music venues, and cutting-edge galleries nestle neatly into residential neighbourhoods. And that's before you mention the abundance of mouth-watering brunch, lunch and dinner menus, faultless all-Australian wine lists and welcoming hospitality found across the city. While this outward-facing state capital expands in leaps and bounds, the resident Melburnians hold fast to their laid-back lifestyle. It's little wonder that creative talent and entrepreneurs drop anchor here.
The unmistakable energy of Melbourne's food and drink scene makes it one of the world's most rewarding cities for culinary exploration. From strong coffee and buttery croissants through to the sharpest end of fine dining, there's an inspired creativity and attention to detail at play here, elevating even the simplest ideas to extraordinary new heights.
Auction Rooms, North Melbourne. An early adopter of the city's speciality-coffee wave, this impressively remodelled former auctioneers' quarters is serious about its beans. Founded by the team behind nearby Small Batch roastery, it's since been acquired by another of Melbourne's coffee supergroups and is a haven for coffee fans looking to try more than espresso. Alongside filter coffee that uses single-origin beans from Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia, there are exemplary flat whites made with Small Batch's Candyman espresso blend - plus iced sparkling filter coffees come summer and excellent food year-round.
Melbourne's informal moniker of "Australia's cultural capital" may have been born out of a long-standing rivalry with Sydney but the reality is that decades have been spent nurturing cultural output to earn the title. And while much of Melbourne's reputation rests on excellent food, coffee and wine, its artistic pedigree commands just as much attention.
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen In the outer suburb of Bulleen is a grassy plot that was bought by John and Sunday Reed in 1934. Right up until their deaths (10 days apart) in 1981, they worked to enrich Australia's cultural offering, housing artists such as Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester and Albert Tucker. The couple at one point sold the property and contents to the Victorian government so that it could be used as a public art museum. The top-notch collection makes it well worth tackling the tricky transport to get here.
Thanks to a flush of cash courtesy of the 19th-century gold rush, Melbourne’s urban core is dotted with picturesque brick terraces, grand public buildings and more iron lacework than any other city on Earth. However, beyond this lies a selection of brutalist and modernist structures that are the real quiet achievers.
RMIT Design Hub, Carlton. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) occupies prime real estate on centrally located Swanston Street and this collection of glass discs sits at the north end of the university’s land grab. Melbourne architect (and former professional Australian-rules football player) Sean Godsell designed the multi-use academic space, which opened in 2012, to house students of architecture, fashion, landscape, industrial design and gaming all under one roof. Inside, large warehouse-style spaces are paired with smaller teaching studios and computer labs. The underground public galleries, which are 50 metres long and nine metres high, host up to nine shows a year. And the upwards of 16,000 sandblasted glass discs cloaking the building? They rotate, both to let in and reflect the sunlight.