Exploring Melbourne in 72 hours

Melbourne showcases many iconic spots and a kaleidoscopic mosaic of cultures and traditions. Photo: Lakshmi Sharath

Standing in front of the iconic Flinders Railway Station in Melbourne, a century-old neoclassical building, I was lost in its elegance. The green copper dome, the golden walls, the clock tower and more lend the oldest railway station in the city, which is also a popular meeting point, a regal ambience. Apparently, it was initially built to house a library, lecture hall, and ballroom on its upper level. The arched entrance leads you to a 708-meter-long platform, the fourth longest in the world.

For a first-time traveller, Melbourne showcases many such iconic spots and a kaleidoscopic mosaic of cultures and traditions. Founded as a charming settlement along the banks of the River Yarra in the 19th century by the British, Melbourne was also called Naarm by the traditional Indigenous Australians and became known as Marvellous Melbourne during the Gold Rush era.

The city tempts travellers to discover its quaint charm and eclectic atmosphere. Melbourne was the Victorian capital and the cultural heartbeat of Australia for a long and thus, a walk along its bustling streets lets you admire the blend of architectural styles, and lose yourself in verdant botanical parks, art museums, and the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The colourful lanes and arcades filled with street art are also home to some of the finest eateries, cafes and restaurants. There is even a vibrant China Town here. Melbourne is also the coffee capital of Australia with roasters and cafes beckoning you. Here is a travel guide to inspire you to plan your 72 hours in Melbourne.

Art and culture
Start your journey at the National Gallery of Victoria, which is Australia’s oldest museum with over 70,000 artworks. The thematic exhibitions held in winter between June and October need to be on every art enthusiast’s itinerary. Then head to Federation Square to explore Ian Potter Centre - NGV which is dedicated to Australian art. While you are here, don't miss the Australian Centre for the Moving Image as well.

There is also the Koorie Heritage Trust that celebrates the culture of the First Peoples of South-Eastern Australia. A little further away is the Melbourne Museum which delves into the history, arts, and culture of the city and pays tribute to the First People and also has a separate gallery for nature, environment, forests and flora and fauna and fossils.

Lanes and arcades
Melbourne’s heart however lies in the lanes and arcades that crisscross the CBD and some of the famous ones like Hosiery Lane treat you to a vibrant display of larger-than-life murals and graffiti that are spray painted blended with stencil art.

Some of the lanes are like urban art galleries and you should include AC/DC lane dedicated to Aussie rockstars, Hardware Lane, Duckboard Place, and Degraves Street among several others to your walking tour, Do not miss the Royal Arcade, one of the oldest in Australia, Block Arcade, Centre Place and Meyers Place as well.

Besides street art, these lanes are bustling with the food scene in Melbourne and you will find a delicious blend of Asian, Australian, Mexican and even South American cuisine including cafes, hole-in-the-wall soup shops, alfredo dining and fine dining restaurants.

Parks and gardens
Amidst the tall skyscrapers and the massive buildings with old-world charm, Melbourne is also a city of parks and gardens, where you can enjoy a picnic, go for a walk or even play golf. Almost every part of the city has a lung space and you can spend an enchanted evening in any of the parks such as Yarraville Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens, and Flagstaff Gardens among others.

But if you have time for just one park, then make sure you go to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Spread over 94 acres with over 50000 plants and 8500 species, the gardens take you into a different world.

You can lose yourself in the arms of nature, visit cacti and fern gardens, go punting to the lake, or even visit a volcano. There are also heritage tours that tell you the story of the Koolin nation. But on winter nights, the gardens become enchanting with lightscapes which is an ethereal experience.

Food and coffee
Melbourne is a gourmet paradise and it's one of the coffee capitals of Australia. Every lane and precinct has a speciality cafe with roasters who source beans from all over the world.

But it's the coffee culture here that sets the city apart. Most of the roasters here focus on ethically sourced, direct trade and the beans are usually hand roasted locally.

Besides coffee, the food scene here varies from Asian to Australian with an emphasis on locally sourced produce.

The lanes are filled with renowned restaurants and you can go for a culinary walking trail here. Melbourne is also the destination for fine dining restaurants here like Gimlet which is among the top 100 restaurants in the world.

Sports precinct

Whether you are a cricket fan or not, a tour of the iconic MCG or Melbourne Cricket Ground must be on your itinerary. There are tours every day that should not be missed. MCG is not just about cricket but has been the home of Australian football since the 19th century.

Melbourne sports precinct is spread around Melbourne Park and AAMI Park is where all the sporting events occur, be it rugby, cricket, tennis or football.

You can even watch the Australian Open at Rod Laver and Margaret Court arenas at Melbourne Park.

The precinct was also the venue for Olympics and Commonwealth Games earlier. Besides there are several sporting events like cycling, basketball among others

Markets of Melbourne
You can't leave Melbourne without visiting the legendary markets, starting with the oldest Queen Victoria Market which has over 700 stalls. The Grand Vic as it's called is the place to find anything from souvenirs to local artefacts, but it's mainly popular for local food produce from cheese to olives to anything and everything Victorian.

South Melbourne Market is one of the oldest which is open four days a week including weekends. For a taste of kitschy and artistic handmade products visit the Rosie Artist Market on weekends but there is nothing more enjoyable than a weekend by the beach at St Kilda’s at the Esplanade Markets.

Day trips
Melbourne offers travellers a variety of day trips from wine tasting to wildlife spotting. Go on a nostalgic train ride in the Puffing Billy Steam Train, see little fairy penguins in Phillip Island, taste local wine at Yarra Valley, dig for gold at Sovereign Hill, relax at the Alba Thermal Springs and Spa, visit farms at Mornington Peninsula or go on a long drive along the Great Ocean Road.

Deals by Singapore Airlines
Experience Australia with the award-winning Singapore Airlines which has some of the best connections from India to Australia. Besides Mumbai and Delhi, there are flights from Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kolkata to Singapore and beyond. If you are a member of Kris Flyer, you are eligible for several deals as well.

The business class seats in the Indian sector are almost flat beds and they come with a host of privileges. You can get WIFI on board, watch any of the latest shows, pre-book your favourite meal and even enjoy lounge access. You can even book any of the Australian experiences through Pelago, a travel experience platform created by Singapore Airlines.

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