National Gallery of Victoria: International
There's much to discover behind the wonderful water wall. The
NGVI space pays close consideration to its permanently displayed artworks, regarded
as Australia's best international collection. Key works, such as Rembrandt's
self-portrait, feature in the open spaces, promoting a sense of discovery. You might
also bump into Monet and Modigliani, or Bacon and Rubens.
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Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria Australia
This houses the NGV's extensive collection of Australian paintings, decorative arts, photography, prints, drawings, sculpture, fashion, textiles and jewellery.The gallery's Indigenous collection dominates the ground floor and seeks to challenge ideas of the 'authentic'. Upstairs there are permanent displays of colonial paintings and drawings by 19th-century Aboriginal artists. There's also the work of Heidelberg School impressionists and an extensive collection of the work of the modernist 'Angry Penguins', including Sir Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Joy Hester and Albert Tucker.
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Queen Victoria Market
With over 600 traders, it’s the largest open-air market in the southern
hemisphere and attracts thousands of shoppers. The market has been on the site for
more than 130 years, prior to which it was a burial ground. Melburnians love to shop
at the ‘Vic’. Fresh produce includes organics and Asian specialties, plus there are
deli, meat and fish halls. Saturday mornings are particularly buzzing, with
marketgoers breakfasting to the sounds and shows of buskers. Clothing and
knick-knack stalls dominate on Sundays; while big on variety, don’t come looking for
style. If you’re in the market for sheepskin moccasins you’ll be in luck. In summer
the market is open on Wednesday evenings from 5.30pm to 10pm, when it features
hawker-style food stalls, and music and dance performances. It also runs a variety
of tours and cooking classes. Phone for details or visit the website.
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This confident postmodern exhibition space mixes old-style object displays with themed interactive display areas. The museum's reach is almost too broad to be cohesive, but it provides a grand sweep of Victoria's natural and cultural histories. Walk through the reconstructed laneway lives of the 1800s or become immersed in the legend of champion racehorse Phar Lap. Bunjilaka, on the ground floor, presents Indigenous stories and history told through objects and Aboriginal voices. There's also an open-air forest atrium featuring Victorian plants and animals and an Imax cinema next door.
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Royal Botanic Gardens
The RBG is one of Melbourne's most glorious attractions. Sprawling beside the Yarra River, the beautifully designed gardens feature a global selection of plantings as well as specific Australian gardens. Along with the abundance of plant species, there's a surprising amount of wildlife, including waterfowl, ducks, swans and child-scaring eels in and around the ornamental lake, as well as cockatoos and possums. There's also the excellent, nature-based Ian Potter Children's Garden.The gardens are encircled by the Tan, a 4km-long former horse-exercising track, now used to exercise joggers. During the summer months, the gardens play host to the Moonlight Cinema and theatre performances.
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Royal Melbourne Zoo
Melbourne's zoo is one of the city's most popular attractions. Walkways pass through some enclosures; you can stroll through the bird aviary, cross a bridge over the lions' park or enter a tropical hothouse full of colourful butterflies. There's also a large collection of native animals in natural bush settings, a platypus aquarium, fur seals, lions and tigers, plenty of reptiles, and an 'am I in Asia?' elephant enclosure. In summer, the zoo hosts Twilight Concerts. Roar 'n' Snore allows you to camp at the zoo and join the keepers on their morning feeding rounds.
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Once an unloved dumping ground for silt, Herring Island is now a prelapsarian
garden that seeks to preserve the original trees, shrubs and grasses of the Yarra
and provide a home for indigenous animals such as parrots, possums and lizards.
Hidden within is an impressive collection of environmental sculpture including work
by Brit Andy Goldsworthy and locals Julie Collins, Robert Jacks, Robert Bridgewater
and architectural photographer John Gollings. Designated picnic areas, with
barbecues, make for a rare retreat just 3km from the city centre. The island is
theoretically open to visitors all year round but can only be reached by boat. A
Parks Victoria punt operates from Como
Landing on Alexandra Ave in South Yarra.
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St Kilda Foreshore
There are palm-fringed promenades, a parkland strand and a long stretch of sand. Still, don't expect Bondi or Noosa. St Kilda's seaside appeal is more Brighton, England than Baywatch, despite 20-odd years of glitzy development. And that's the way Melburnians like it; a certain depth of character and an all-weather charm, with wild days on the bay providing for spectacular cloudscapes and terse little waves, as well as the more predictable sparkling blue of summer.
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National Gallery of Victoria International
Beyond the water wall you'll find international art that runs from the ancient to the contemporary. Completed in 1967, the original NGV building – Roy Grounds' 'cranky icon' – was one of Australia's most controversial but ultimately respected Modernist masterpieces. Interior remodelling was undertaken from 1996 to 2003, overseen by Mario Bellini. Don't miss a gaze up at the Great Hall's stained-glass ceiling.
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Striking Federation Square, despite never-ending debate of its architectural
merits, has become the place to celebrate, protest or party. Squatting by the Yarra
and occupying a prominent city block, the ‘square’ is far from square. Its
undulating forecourt of inscribed Kimberley stone echoes the town squares of Europe.
The surrounding buildings sport a reptilian skin that takes its cue from the
endlessly dissecting lines of the city’s grid; within are cultural heavyweights like
the National Gallery of Victoria Australia (NGVA) and the Australian Centre for the
Moving Image (ACMI). There’s also restaurants, the thrumming
Transport pub, and a few select retail
outlets. At the square’s edge is the subterranean Melbourne
Visitor Information Centre, a
jam-packed resource for travellers.
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Queen Victoria Market
This site has been the market for more than 130 years, prior to which it was a burial ground. This is where Melburnians shop for fresh produce including organics and Asian specialities. There's a deli, meat and fish hall as well as a fast food and restaurant zone. On Wednesday evenings from mid-November to the end of February, a night market with hawker-style food stalls, bars and music takes over.
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A short drive or concerted foreshore walk will take you to this swimming beach. It tends to be less windswept, though often no less crowded, than St Kilda and is surrounded by leafy Elwood Park and Point Ormond Reserve. There are playgrounds and kiosks.
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