Melbourne is one of the world's great cities.
Victoria's capital offers a vibrant year-round calendar of culture, sport, entertainment and history.
It's a city with a buzzing central district, vibrant neighbourhoods and host to major sporting events.
There's fantastic shopping, cafe society, astounding restaurants, intimate bars, friendly pubs and an eclectic nightlife. And it's all underscored by a style and sophistication that is very Melbourne.
One of the great things about Melbourne is the ability to have a great time without leaving the confines of the central city.
Read on to find out more about why Melbourne must be on your must-do city getaway list.
Great cities have great shopping, and Melbourne is Australia's best. And at the centre of the shopping experience is Bourke Street Mall.
Australian department store icons David Jones and Myer are there, as are a wide array of local and international shopping brands including Akira, Zara, Gorman, Leona Edmiston, Lisa Ho, Mimco, Zimmerman, Ben Sherman, Georg Jensen, Wayne Cooper, Camper, Sass & Bide and many more.
Many are located in the historic general post office building, Melbourne GPO, recently renovated into an exciting shopping mecca or in the also historic Royal or Strand Arcades.
Head over to Collins Street for high-end fashion. The centre of Melbourne's financial district also features high-end retailers such as Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. There's also a great selection of home-grown Melbourne designers.
Looking a different shopping experience? The laneway renaissance experienced by Melbourne is not just about hip bars and even hipper restaurants. The narrow walkways also feature boutiques and specialty shops including local designers and vintage fashion. Flinders Lane for one is as well known for commercial galleries as bars and restaurants!
Like all great cities, Melbourne has an eclectic, exciting and varied nightlife. Band venues, clubs, intimate bars, friendly pubs and water view cocktail establishments are all part of the mix.
A key part of that mix is the rise of Melbourne laneways as a haven for small bars. There's a wide variety of establishments from grungy back-to-basics joints to sumptuous surroundings and everything in between. And with names like The Fashion Lounge, The Yak, the Lustre Lounge and the rock 'n roll bar Cherry on ACDC Lane how can you not be enticed to enter.
Collins and Little Collins have a wide range of new bars such as the Little Red Pocket sake bar and the Saint & Rogue. There's also established venues like Hairy Canary and the Pony, a live music venue open until 7am on the weekends.
If you'd like to be by the water there's many bars located on the river at Southbank. It's a location that is great for views of the city and also in close proximity to loads of restaurants and the Casino.
Chinatown offers a mix of great food - with more than just Chinese - as well as small quirky bars. At lunchtime yum cha is number one on many diner's agendas, with locals heading to Chinatown eating institutions including Dragon Boat Palace, Shark Finn Inn and the Supper Inn Restaurant.
There are also fine dining options such as the Cantonese cuisine serving Flower Drum - a two hat restaurant according to the Melbourne food bible, The Age Good Food Guide.
After dinner you can simply slip down a side street, up a flight of stairs and into one of the local bars to keep the conversation going over cocktails. The setting is intimate and exclusive, welcoming and friendly.
If you want to attempt to recreate your Chinese dining experience at home, Chinatown's merchants can help you with those hard to find ingredients. History buffs can visit the Chinese Museum and find out about the Chinese history of the area.
Another option is to head over to the Docklands area. There's loads of new bars and restaurants, plus it's right next to Etihad Stadium, perfect for before or after a game.
The fact that Melbourne is home to a large population of Australians with Greek background means great Greek food all over the city. In central Melbourne the area around Swanston, Russell and Lonsdale Street has a wide array of Greek restaurants and, if you have a taste for the sweeter things, try one of the Greek cake shops.
The Crown Entertainment Centre, just across the Yarra river from Melbourne CBD in the Southbank precinct, might be home to Melbourne's Crown Casino, but it's also the location for a number of Melbourne's fine dining establishments. Nobu Melbourne, the Australian location of the world recognised Japanese Nobu restaurant brand is here as well as renowned Australian restaurants Bistro Guillaume, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and and more than 20 other fine dining restaurants and bistro-style.
Just next door to the Crown Casino there are more riverside restaurants in the Southgate complex. Spend lunch or a warm evening at one of the many restaurants with outdoor seating overlooking the Yarra River.
Parks, gardens, galleries and museums
Melbourne is a city of culture that extends well beyond the epicurean delights of fine dining.
Federation Square is home to the Melbourne Visitor Centre, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia and a range of restaurants and bars.
Stroll along St Kilda Road, across the Yarra River from Federation Square, and you'll find the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), the iconic Arts Centre and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. And not far away are the Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre which all have performances year-round.
Stroll a little further to see Melbourne's Victoria Barracks. The earliest buildings were constructed during the 1850s, the barracks were originally accommodation for troops, but after Australian Federation they housed the Department of Defence until its move to Canberra in the late 1950s. During World War II the War Cabinet was located in the building. Even with its historical and architectural importance to Australia, Victoria Barracks remains a working building serving in Australia's defence.
Across St Kilda Road from the Barracks is Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens, which also is home to the Shrine of Remembrance. The 36 hectares of gardens are an oasis of nature alongside the Yarra River and are open from 7:30am to sunset every day. There are garden walks and tours all year-round, as well as regular special events.
The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria's largest war memorial and was built in 1928 in remembrance of Victorian.s who served during the Great War from 1914 to 1918. Since construction additional memorials have been added to mark service in conflicts including the Second World War. The Shrine is open 10am to 5pm daily (closed Christmas Day and Good Friday) and has regular events.
The Old Treasury Building is a fine example of 19th century Australian architecture. Located on Spring Street at the top end of Collins Street the Old Treasury was built in 1858 as government offices and to house the gold being uncovered by the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s. Tours of the building are available and regular exhibitions on topics of Melbournian and Victorian history are ongoing.
Go to a major sporting event. It can be one of the major events such as the AFL Grand Final, the Melbourne Cup, Australian Grand Prix, the Australian Open or the Boxing Day test. If your visit doesn't line up with those events, that's OK. Just get to an AFL game and get to live an afternoon as a sports-mad Melburnian.
Dress the part. Get something black, something bold and something fun! With local designers trading there wares all over town, it's an opportunity to pick up a signature piece or an entire outfit.
Fine dining! Melbourne is Australia.s restaurant capital so get dressed up and head out to a fine dining establishment. Even if you.re on a tight budget, it.s worth cutting some corners in other areas to try some of the best food on the planet.
Compact cocktails. The centre of Melbourne is alive with small bars. Looking for a bar with the feel of a Hong Kong opium den, check. Prefer a 1920s speakeasy, check. Laboratory, cabana, lounge, gin palace, French - check, check, check, check and check.
Get some culture. Visit the theatre, the opera, an exhibition or attend a concert. All do all four.
Hit the pool. Take a swim at the historic Melbourne City Baths, opened in 1860.
Catch a tram. Plan your Melbourne adventure around the city's trams. The historic City Circle tram is free, and includes information on tourist stops.
Visit a neighbourhood. Venture out of the city centre into Melbourne's neighbourhoods. St Kilda, Carlton, Footscray, Fitzroy, Prahan and more. Or better still choose to stay in one of these vibrant centres as an alternative to downtown.
Great for kids and families is Melbourne Zoo that has a new Wild Sea development where you can see seals and penguins, and the elephants are always a big hit. Melbourne Aquarium also features among it's tenants penguins, and for a fee visitors can take a 45 minute on ice tour, up close and personal with the Gentoo penguins (booking required and numbers are limited). ScienceWorks is another great option with free general admission for kid 3 to 16, although the Planetarium, Lightning Room and some exhibitions are an additional low charge.
There's a wide array of cultural and sporting festivals across the year in Melbourne.
AFL Grand Final (October): The Aussie Rules Grand Final sees AFL fever grip Melbourne.
Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix (March): All the hoopla of the Formula 1 world comes to Melbourne in March. The course is just seconds from the city in Albert Park.
Australian Open (January): One of the tennis grand slams, the best players on earth congregate in Melbourne at the beginning of January to take home this coveted title.
Boxing Day Test (December): The Melbourne Cricket Ground is the venue for this annual cricket test that starts on boxing day. 2011's Boxing Day Test sees England battle Australia.
Festival of Sails (January): Australia.s largest keel boat regatta first held in 1844.
Greek Antipodes Festival (March): Melbourne's annual festival of Greek culture.
Melbourne Cup (November): This Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation. The racing carnival runs over 4 days: see the fashion, attend the parties, and soak up the atmosphere. Oh, and watch the race!
Moomba Festival (March): Performances, entertainment, cultural workshops and more.
Royal Melbourne Show (September/October): Where the country meets the city fun is to be had for young and old. Livestock, produce, competition, and carnival rides are all at this iconic annual event.