Although Sydney wins in size, Melbourne's artistic, European charm makes it every bit as riveting as its sister city. There, a walk down a quiet alley can reveal an avant-garde restaurant or a 170-year old building. Its elegant architecture, lush parks and gardens, and the majestic Yarra River make it one of Australia's most beautiful cities.
History buffs will delight in Melbourne's rich culture and well-preserved sites. Founded in 1836, it was once the second-largest British city (after London) and Australia's capital. Original clock towers, cobblestone streets, jails, train stations and gold rush sites (where visitors can still pan) reflect the most important moments in Australian history.
While noteworthy for its past, Melbourne is better known for its modern offerings - trend-setting shopping, art, food and wine. Boasting over 3000 restaurants, cafes and bars, Melbourne's worldly cuisine reflects a multi-cultural population - the most diverse in all of Australia. Also proficient in wine, its famed Rieslings and Sirahs come from the nearby Yarra Valley.
No trip to Melbourne is complete without a stop at one of its sporting arenas. The Melbourne Cricket Grounds is home to the country's most important events, from cricket matches to Australian Rules Football games. The spring racing carnival, highlighted by the Melbourne Cup, is known as "the race that stops a nation." Elaborately dressed crowds, often numbering over 100,000, flock to Flemington Racecourse for a week of festivities.
When to Go
Melbourne is one of few cities in Australia with true seasons, although they are mild. Summers (November-January) are warm and pleasant - the perfect time to enjoy one of the region's beaches. Winter (June-August) temperatures are cool and breezy, but they never dip below freezing. Flights tend to be inexpensive during these months, making it an excellent time to travel on a budget.
How to Get There
Flights into Melbourne International Airport are available from every major U.S. city. At the airport, travelers can take a cab or shuttle bus for the 14-mile ride to the city center.
Flinder's Street Station, a working railroad station that almost 100 years old, is one of the city's most famous landmarks. Nearby Federation Square is an architecturally striking collection of museums, galleries, restaurants and theatres. Also not to be missed: the luxurious Crowne Casino; bustling nightlife on Chapel Street; the Docklands, a new waterfront shopping district, and the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.
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