Melbourne City Culture

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Melbourne City Culture
"Livable" is the adjective most commonly used to describe Melbourne, and it's not hard to see why. Melbourne is an arts city, food city, and sports city, with something for everyone. Plus, it's easy to get around—whether by foot, bike, or tram.
Photo courtesy of Peter Dunphy/Tourism Victoria
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    The Melbourne Cricket Ground
    The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is the hub of local sports culture. A massive complex adjacent to the city center, "The G," as locals call it, is home to a range of events, though Aussie Rules Football ("footy") and cricket are the two mainstays. Regardless of whether you take in a cricket test or a footy match, you'll get swept up in the crowd's excitement so just pick a team and cheer it on. Seeing a game here is a great chance to meet locals and have fun.
    Photo courtesy of Peter Dunphy/Tourism Victoria
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    The Festival Circuit
    If you want a challenge, try finding a week in Melbourne that doesn't feature a festival. Music, comedy, art, food, fashion—the calendar is loaded with things to do and the city buzzes with people doing them. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, running from late March to mid-April, is a magnet for homegrown acts and visiting comedians alike. Melbourne Music Week, in November, is so big that it's held at the MCG; 240 acts performed in 2015. The Melbourne International Film Festival in the first half of August and the Melbourne Writers Festival at the end of the same month are two more big draws. Whether your tastes are mainstream or avant-garde, you can bet the city has a festival to suit.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    Where to Shop
    Launch your shopping tour of Melbourne at Queen Victoria Market. The historic building takes up two city blocks and is filled with fruit and vegetable sellers, fishmongers, and artisanal deli stalls, along with clothes and craft goods. Nowhere else can you shop for an hour and leave with fresh-baked bread, a hand-knit sweater, locally cured salami, and a box of donuts straight from the fryer. Fashion mavens should head to Bourke Street Mall. Despite its name, it's not a mall, but a pedestrian lane whose line of shops seems endless. Some of the city's most creative buskers keep you entertained along the way. For secondhand stylings, try Chapel Street, and for upscale exclusivity, head to Collins Street.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    The Art Scene
    Art is an important part of life in Melbourne, with once-gray walls adorned with vibrant murals, otherwise-unmemorable lanes enlivened by street art, and public sculptures popping up when least expected. Walking along the William Barak Bridge, you'll even hear art: The sonic installation, Proximities, features songs of the local Wurundjeri Aboriginal people mixing with those of immigrants from across the Commonwealth, an auditory homage to the city's diversity and creative spirit. Art aficionados will also be keen to visit more formal venues, including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the biennial Melbourne Art Festival. February's White Night, a stunning all-night light installation, also attracts global acclaim.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    Parks and Public Spaces
    You can't spend five minutes in Melbourne, especially on a sunny day, without noticing that people are out and about. The city truly feels "lived in" in all the best ways, and considering its size, Melbourne has done a great job of protecting its open spaces. The Yarra Promenade on the south bank of the Yarra River is a shady little lane that takes you past shops and cafés, ending at the door of the Crown entertainment venue. Fitzroy Gardens, near MCG, is an idyllic spot for a picnic; ride a bike or walk along tree-lined avenues, being sure to stop at the Fairies Tree, so-named for the fairies carved into the trunk during the 1930s. Alternatively, take a free guided tour of the stunning grounds of The Royal Botanic Gardens.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Melbourne's Hip Districts
    Each of Melbourne's neighborhoods has a unique identity. In bohemian Fitzroy, you can shop for vintage goods or handmade artwork at Rose St. Artists' Market. Brunswick's multicultural vibe has made it one of the city's best neighborhoods for eating (try Gurkhas for Nepalese), and in Carlton, you'll see Melbourne's Italian influence on full display. South of the Yarra, shops are flashier and lights are brighter; check out Ksubi, an Aussie denim and fashion brand gaining international attention. Clifton Hill, near Fitzroy, has a Victorian/Edwardian feel and is ideal for wandering around with a coffee. Just a little way out of town, St. Kilda is Melbourne's favored beach retreat, with enough nightlife to keep you busy once the sun sets.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    Federation Square
    Federation Square is one of those dynamic open spaces that every great city seems to have. It's Melbourne's centerpiece—a feat of geodesic architecture and public space, complete with a cultural calendar. Late afternoon is the time to people-watch and check what's on for the evening. From al fresco movies—played on the colossal outdoor screen—to free concerts, there's always something happening. Feeling peckish? Fed Square's a sweet food destination; it even has its own cookbook! Stop at the food trucks in the square, or try one of a half-dozen fast-casual, sit-down options, including a dumpling bar. If the weather isn't favorable, the interactive tour of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, also on the square, is worth your time.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    The Crown Jewel
    Eight enormous bursts of flame explode into the night sky and the crowd erupts in applause. These are the famous Gas Brigades at the Crown Melbourne Entertainment Complex, held on the hour, every hour, seven nights a week. Like the spectacular fireballs that draw people to the venue, the Crown itself is impossible to ignore. Its centerpiece is one of the largest casinos in the southern hemisphere, but there's also a bowling alley, movie theater, arcade, spa, and a plethora of nightclubs. There are shows on every evening and some great restaurants to choose from; try the Atlantic, a well-regarded seafood eatery. Whether you're shopping at Louis Vuitton, taking a spa day, dancing, or hitting the tables, Crown probably has something for you.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Theaters and Shows
    It's hard to think of a better performing arts city in the southern hemisphere than Melbourne. Dramatically staged musicals, emotionally explosive dramas, and off-the-wall comedy acts play to eager audiences. Add nightclubs like Voltaire and Butterfly Club, which stage ticketed burlesque performances, and you have a lot to choose from. The Melbourne Theatre Company stages revivals of classic plays as well as new work, while venues like Regent Theatre specialize in musicals. The Athenaeum Theatre, built in 1839, is an attraction in its own right and an excellent place to see stand-up comedy. For something more intimate, spend an evening at the historic La Mama, the acting venue where Cate Blanchett got her start.
    Photo courtesy of Mark Chew/Tourism Victoria
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    Late Night Life
    Thumping bass, stroboscopic lights, rooftop views—Melbourne's nights don't slow down a bit. If you like dancing, there's no shortage of clubs and festivals. Electronic dance music hotspots like Sorry Grandma keep things moving until the wee hours—if you have the energy, they'll keep dropping the beats. For live music, the Tote Hotel in Collingwood has tons of personality and a well-earned reputation as a venue where bands love to play. If the bar scene is more your style, rooftop bars like Aer Bar and breweries like 2 Brothers Brewery can be found on both sides of the Yarra.
    Photo courtesy of Paul Philipson/Tourism Victoria