Melbourne, Australia is about as down under as you can get. It’s one of the largest cities in Australia, so it might be good to hit the Visitor Center downtown at Swanston and Flinders Streets in Federation Square. St. Paul’s Cathedral is right across the street.
1. Federation Square
After a stop at the Visitor Center, take a look at shiny, ultramodern Federation Square, the divisive factor of the city. People seem to love it or hate it, and it is an interesting piece of architecture. It is not remotely Victorian, which most of the city’s architecture is, established in 1835. The gold rush in 1850 made many people wealthy and added more Victorian residential and commercial buildings.
“Fed Square” is also the hip, entertainment area of downtown with clubs and shops and free Wifi. The big-name concert list goes on forever. Once people get here, they want to see everything before making that long trip back home. The Ian Potter Centre, featuring Aboriginal art, of the National Gallery of Victoria (the area) is also on the square, so this might take awhile. The outdoor plaza has a big screen that plays sporting events; think of the beer profit. Shiny, glass buildings called “shards” circle the square laid with 470,000 pieces of local sandstone. The ochre-coloured stone forms Nearamnew, an artwork by Paul Carter. Eucalyptus trees border the square and add some greenery.
The Princess Bridge, built about a generation after Blackfriars Bridge in London, looks very much like its predecessor and goes to the busy railway station on the northern end. Under the bridge is an open-air beer garden, open all year with heaters for winter. The “watering holes” under the bridge have views of the Yarra River. Birrarung Marr Park is on the river beside Fed Square and has an ArtPlay playground for the kids and paved bike paths.
2. Block Arcade
Since everything is downtown, staying for a short stint at Melbourne short stay apartments helps to prepare you for exploration. Shop in the Block Arcade, from 1892, about two blocks north of the Visitor Center. It’s on the Golden Mile Heritage Walk, and it’s an architectural gem. Stained glass, mosaic floor designs, tiled floors, skylights and arches make it a destination as much as the shopping. Non-shoppers and everyone else can bask in the aroma of The Hopetoun Tea Rooms, named for Lady Hopetoun. The confections are tasty and pretty.
The Royal Botanic Gardens on the Yarra River, a few blocks south of – wait for it – Fed Square, are worth a visit.
Holiday homes anywhere in and around Fed Square would be in walking distance of just about everything. A few blocks west of you-know-what is the Melbourne Aquarium on the river. China town lies north of the river, and seafood restaurants cluster along the oceanfront, several being in St. Kilda. This mild climate city of just over four million is a tourist haven.