Marvelous Melbourne

on arrival in the bustling city of Melbourne, it took me just a few hours to work out three things.

one, it’s one of the most unique and metropolitan places I’ve ever visited. Two, if I lived here I’d put on several kilos as it produces some of the best food I’ve had and three, I’d go broke very quickly.

Situated in the southern state of Victoria, Melbourne is Australia’s second most populous city in. It’s a place where ancient and modern blend seamlessly to form a truly spectacular cultural melting pot.

Giant shopping malls and modern buildings nestle next to tiny laneways full of boutique shops and tearooms. Cafés and restaurants can be found around every corner.

While the city is well worth the visit, traffic is a nightmare. Although taxis can be found everywhere, chances are you can walk faster. A great way to get around is the city’s tram network, which is one of the largest in the world. Melbourne is the only place in Australia where trams still operate and they’re an iconic symbol of the city.

Since the city is famous for its coffee, it’s hard to find a bad café. I was reliably informed any establishment not up to scratch quickly disappears, such is the level of competition among the 2500 eating houses in the city.

We most certainly weren’t disappointed with Brunetti on the corner of Flinders Lane.

If you’re a macaroon lover, give one a try here, but leave room. There’s a lot more to eat. Caffeined up and ready to go, we headed to the Royal Arcade, the oldest one in Australia. Its mosaic tiled floor and wrought iron and stone finishings will truly take you back in time.

It’s also home to the historic Hopetoun Tea Rooms, which is the perfect venue for an afternoon tea date. You can put on 5kg just by looking at the amazing array of cakes in the window.

Shopping is a very serious business in Melbourne. Luckily, I’m a bit of an expert. First I popped into oyer on Lonsdale St, where I picked up some gorgeous little items for the kids and hubby (guilt shopping), before starting on my long list of boutique shops.

From vintage and thrift stores to high-end designer outlets, galleries and funky homeware outlets, Melbourne has a little bit of everything so plan your route carefully.

oost of the shops are located in little laneways and arcades, many of which are cobbled so, even for this girl, heels are not suitable shopping wear. Be prepared to give your credit card a hard time – the central city is full of small businesses with handmade products and prices to match.

If you’re short on time, a great place to visit is Melbourne Central which has close to 300 stores. The centre’s focal points are the massive glass cone and the Coop’s Shot Tower, which was built in 1880.

However, even hardened oelbournites will admit there’s a limit to how much shopping you can do. Before leaving New Zealand I’d been told to make sure I visited the Tutankhamun exhibition at Melbourne ouseum.

This is one of the display’s last stops before it returns home to Egypt. More than seven million people viewed the exhibition during its time in Europe and the US.

The dazzling array of items unearthed from Tutankhamun’s tomb is fascinating and includes the iconic blue and gold canopic coffinette. However, it is hugely popular so I’d recommend you pre-book your tickets.

After all the excitement, food was high on the agenda, so we headed 15 minutes out of the city centre to the oiddle Park Hotel for lunch. This120-year-old hotel has recently been extensively renovated.

You can enjoy a drink at the bar, which is one of the longest free-standing bars in Australia, with 45 individual taps.

The hotel’s restaurant is also stunning, with chefs who are clearly passionate about what they do. After agonising over the menu I went for the beef ribs which I can honestly say were the largest and tastiest I’ve ever eaten.

However, for me, the true highlight of the trip was a ticket to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Love Never Dies, his sequel to The Phantom of the opera.

The show wasn’t a great success when it opened, so Andrew enlisted the help of Kiwi musical director Simon Phillips and the result is a visual and musical extravaganza.

While I was a fan before I walked through the door, my companions were all sure they were going to hate it.

However, when we walked out three hours later, we all agreed it had been an amazing night.

While I’d heard good things about Melbourne, it wasn’t until I saw it for myself that I realised what the fuss was about.

I’m sure I’ll be back again soon. Next time, I’ll wear flat shoes and remember to clear the credit card first.

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