Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Memories of Melbourne: Impressions of a Grown Up City

After hearing many people rave about Melbourne, we finally took a short break across the ditch. We had no plans in particular, other than to wander around the city, meet friends, and eat lots. But now we understand why people love the place!

A Vibrant Cityscape

Melbourne is a city with character. They've turned nasty alleys into bustling laneways.

Busker in a laneway.

In some places, they have footpaths wide enough for fruit stalls and passers-by to be there at the same time.

Fruit seller on the footpath.

They've embraced their heritage buildings, with amazing works of architecture used for retail as well as public buildings. Their library and train stations are well worth seeing!

H&M retail store.

There is street art everywhere, whether painted onto buildings...

Artwork brings a side street to life.

... or displayed on a pedestal by the waterfront.

Sculpture (and bikes for hire) on the waterfront.

Amazing Malls

Shopping is not everyone's cup of tea, but in Melbourne, some of the malls are destinations in themselves. I love the ornate arcades from centuries past, which unlike the ones in Auckland, actually seem to attract people.

Queue for the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in thev Block Arcade.

Then there are the modern shopping malls in the centre of the city. Melbourne Central was designed around a historic shot tower made of brick.

Looking up at the shot tower at Melboune Central.
Looking down to the foot of the tower sitting inside the mall.

Not far away, the spacious Emporium Melbourne (which cost $1.6 billion to build!) reminded us of the vertical shopping malls in Asia, complete with interesting eateries which are a far cry from the KFCs and Magic Woks you find here in Auckland.

Emporium has been carefully designed to make shopping enjoyable.
Eatery at a mall which actually looks attractive.

Multiple Forms of Transport

It was great to see that Melbourne is striving to give people transport choices, rather than focussing solely on the needs of cars. Case in point: tram rides became free at the beginning of this year, making it painless to get from one end of town to the other.

Horse drawn carriage on the street.

Sometimes, it's not simply about getting from A to B, but rather enjoying the journey. We were surprised to come across the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant while walking to our hotel on our first night in the city, but hey, what a novel idea!

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

Other interesting things to know about Melbourne transport:
  1. They have hook turns, where cars turn right from the left lane
  2. Public transport routing is not available in Google Maps, though apparently that is coming soon

Colourful Markets

No visit to Melbourne is complete without visiting the historic Queen Victoria Markets. Officially opened on 20 March 1878, the massive complex is divided into different precincts, with fruit and veges in one section, meat and fish in another, deli goods in the historic Deli Hall, and general merchandise in yet another area (there were probably a few other parts to the market as well). They've also just started running the Winter Night Markets.

Quinces, courgettes and other vegetables at a produce stall at the Vic Market.

A deli stall with an amazing array of goods.

Shopping in the Vic Market Deli Hall.

Even a random little market we wandered into (held at the Fitzroy Primary School) was more interesting than the ones I am used to. There was live music, handmade craft items (such as Lovely Lady Lamps), vintage clothing, and freshly cooked food, including pierogies and meatballs.

Meatball stall at the Fitzroy Primary School Market.

Diverse Eats

In terms of eateries in Melbourne, the first thing I noticed were the international chain stores that are not in New Zealand (yet): places like Taco Bell and Krispy Kreme; and Hungry Jack's is what they call Burger King over there. (A similar situation applies with supermarkets too, with Coles and Aldi not in New Zealand, and the Woolworths brand used in place of our Countdown.)

For cheap eats, I would generally much prefer to visit little Asian restaurants. There are plenty of these in Melbourne, but they feel different from the ones here in Auckland. They seem more modern and accessible to English-only speakers, for one. There are way more Korean and Vietnamese eateries, and they provide a more complete experience too. For instance, the Korean fried chicken place we stumbled into in a back alley on our first night (we later discovered there were other branches) gave us a complimentary plate of pickled radish cubes, and a Vietnamese meal we ate came with a pile of herbs (not to mention there were gizzards, liver, tendons, and various other bits in the pho). We were surprised to walk past a Burmese restaurant too.

Modern-looking Vietnamese bakery in a hole in the wall.

Herbs and organs in a pho.

There are of course plenty of European options as well. You can taste Eastern European cuisines which we don't see much of here, like Czech and Slovak food, or eat at a high end Armenian restaurant. We came across a couple of Greek eateries, including one where people were dancing. There was a lot more variety in terms of the more familiar cafes and burger joints too.

Bars with a View

A large part of the experience when you are going out is not only what you put into your mouth, but also the people you are with, and of course the surroundings. I enjoyed the rooftop bars which give you a view with your nibbles and drinks...

Naked for Satan has a rooftop area with a great view of Fitzroy.

... as well as the place located at the foot of a pedestrian bridge in the middle of the river. What's not to love about getting fresh air while surrounded by water, at least when the weather is good?

Ponyfish bar and eatery is under a pedestrian bridge in the middle of the Yarra River.


Auckland has already improved greatly in recent years. Hopefully we can incorporate more of the great things about Melbourne into our city too!


  1. Auckland certainly has a lot to catch up on! It's really nice to see what's overseas and to be able to learn from them.

    1. I think we are moving in the right direction, but yes, there is so much room for improvement!


Panda loves to hear from people. Thanks for leaving a comment! If you are logged in using your Google account, don't forget to click the "Notify me" checkbox (below the comment box on the right hand side), so you know when I write back.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...