Melbourne prides itself on being Australia's arts, cultural and architecture capital - and is undeniably the country's most sports-mad city. There's certainly a relentless program of crowd-pleasing events to cater to anyone arriving from flights to Melbourne, from the Australian Tennis Open and famous Melbourne Cup horse race to flower shows and comedy festivals.
Australia's second-largest city is also its most cosmopolitan, with an urbane European character and savoir vivre. Its vibrant ethnic communities have given the city a rich multicultural flavour epitomised in its superb restaurants.
Melbourne's creative urban culture is reflected in its diverse inner city neighbourhoods. Trams rattle east down the tracks to Chapel Street's über-chic boutiques, north to bohemian Brunswick Street and south across the Yarra River to St Kilda's lively beach promenade and live music pubs. Opposite historic Flinders Street Station beats the bold new heart of the CBD - the love-it-or-hate it modernist Federation Square, a stark contrast to the city's stately Victorian streetscapes and sleek skyscrapers. You can catch a show at one of the city's opulent historic theatres or get a culture fix at the Southbank arts precinct. But much of Melbourne's charm lies in the life that goes on in hidden corners of the city. Tucked in historic city arcades and grungy street art-covered laneways, you'll find some of the hippest bars, cafes, galleries and restaurants.
With a vibrant underground arts scene, thriving theatre scene, world-class dining and endless entertainment possibilities, Melbourne is a city waiting to be discovered.
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Melbourne is renowned for its changeable and unpredictable weather, particularly in spring and summer when it's often a matter of potluck; you could have glorious beach weather or be reaching for a jacket and boots - all in one day. Winters are damp and cold, though not as wet as they used to be, with average temperatures ranging from seven to 12 degrees.
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A busy cultural and sporting calendar makes Melbourne busy year-round. Many tourists booking flights to Melbourne come for the sport. The Australian Open Tennis is held during last two weeks of January, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix takes place in early March. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs from the end of March through April, while the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the country's flagship cultural event, is held in October. The Melbourne Cup is run on the first Tuesday in November. The AFL season kicks off from March to September, with the cricket season running October to March.
The spring and autumn shoulder seasons are excellent times to book flights to Melbourne. In spring, the city's parks and gardens are in full bloom and in autumn the streets and parks have glorious foliage. Given the city's busy events schedule, always check what's on before seeking a deal.
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A network of trams, trains and buses gets you around most of Melbourne. The city's iconic trams are good for getting around the inner city with a free city circle tourist tram looping around the CBD.
Downtown Melbourne is best explored on foot, weaving through its funky lanes. Cabs can be thin on the ground during peak times, particularly late Friday and Saturday nights.
Although the CBD is easy to navigate, driving is not always the best option given the special rules for trams, traffic bottlenecks and often-aggressive drivers.
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- A pleasant 20-minute tram ride from the city takes you to beachside St Kilda, one of Melbourne liveliest precincts and home to the landmark Luna Park. While the beachfront promenade is packed with people riding, walking, swimming and hanging out in the cafes, the action takes place in the busy cafes, restaurants and live music pubs around Fitzroy and Acland Streets.
- Historic Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, covering seven hectares. The market has been going for more than 125 years and in summer hosts a night market with an array of international food as well as local crafts and stalls.
- The Skydeck on the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower is the Southern Hemisphere's highest viewing platform. Test your vertigo in The Edge, a unique glass cube that actually projects three metres out of the building for the ultimate city views.
- The original family home of English explorer Captain James Cook, who first chartered the eastern Australian coast, can be found in the Fitzroy Gardens. The tiny cottage, which was shipped in 253 packing cases from Yorkshire in 1933 and meticulously reconstructed, is the only 18th century building in Victoria.
- The historic 1862 Melbourne Zoo was the first zoo in Australia. It has more than 350 species of animals, including native Australian wildlife, and the award-winning Trail of the Elephants and Orang-utan Sanctuary. The fabulous butterfly house has more than 800 butterflies, including 12 species of Australian butterflies.
- Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens are the finest in Australia and one of the most impressive in the world. In summer, the gardens host Moonlight Cinema and theatrical performances.
- Birrarung Marr, a massive park along the Yarra River leading to the main sports stadiums, is the latest addition to Melbourne's impressive green belt, which runs almost continuously around the city and includes the Carlton Gardens and the 1880 Royal Exhibition Building.
- Phillip Island's beach penguin parade draws millions of visitors each year. The spectacle occurs every evening at dusk when the penguins return to their nests on the island nature reserve after a day's fishing. A Phillip Island Nature Parks three-park pass allows entry to the Penguin parade, the Koala Conservation Centre and the Churchill Island heritage farm. Entry to the Nobbies Centre and spectacular scenic boardwalk at Seal Rocks is free.
- The Immigration Museum is dedicated to all the people who have migrated to Victoria since the 1800s.
Yarra Valley winery tours are a great day out. There are several self-drive food and wine trails as well as organised tours around the region, which has some fine restaurants and some of the best wineries in the state.
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The main airport for travellers taking flights to Melbourne is:
) The airport is located 25km north of Melbourne.
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