Particularly for overseas visitors, Australia's most popular destination — with its iconic images of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge — has been Sydney. But among Australian residents, popularity has seesawed between Sydney and Melbourne, with Melbourne getting the upper hand in recent times.
Here are 10 of Melbourne's top city destinations:
1. Federation Square
There are several things going for Federation Square at the southern end of Melbourne's business and shopping districts. Not only does it have buildings of distinctive architecture housing art galleries and museums but it sits right beside Flinders Street Station and bus and tram stops, including those of the free City Circle tram, and is arguably the most acccessible of Melbourne attractions. Federation Square is right by the Yarra River and within walking distance to the entertainment and restaurant district of Southbank.
Federation Square is bounded on the north by Flinders St, west by Swanston St, east by the Birrarung Marr parkland and south by the Yarra River. A visitor centre is by Swanston St.
2. Queen Victoria Market
It's said to be the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere and, particularly on Sundays, offers a great variety of both distinctively Australian and imported goods as well as fresh produce in an area covering two city blocks. Sundays Queen St is closed and carnival rides and street entertainment take place. Queen Victoria Market is open on Tuesdays and from Thursday to Sunday except on Good Friday, Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.
Queen Victoria Market is bounded on the north by Victoria St, west by Peel St, east by Elizabeth St. Queen St separates the eastern and western sections, with Therry St running diagonally south of the eastern section and Franklin St south of the western section. The City Tourist Shuttle stops at the market along Peel St.
3. Crown Melbourne
Not only does Crown Melbourne house Australia's biggest casino, a definite come-on for those wishing to have a flutter on the gaming tables, but it is a place of several fine restaurants, bars and nightclubs, luxury hotel suites and rooms, and nightly entertainment featuring singers, bands and theatre. It is well located by the Yarra River in Melbourne's Southbank
Crown Melbourne, in Southbank's Kings Way area by the river, is easily reached on foot from Southbank Promenade. For those driving to the venue, reasonably priced parking is available at a multi-level carpark accessed from Clarke St, Haig St or Kings Way. Parking generally restricted to Crown Signature Club members is available at a basement carpark.
Cross Princes Bridge over the Yarra River south from Flinders Street Station and you're in Southbank, Melbourne's riverside arts and entertainment precinct with its galleries, theatres, restaurants and various other entertainment venues including, of course, Crown Melbourne. Stroll along the banks of the Yarra River, catch a sightseeing boat trip, walk to Polly Woodside Maritime Museum, have your pick of a number of riverside restaurants.
The arts-dining-entertainment precinct of Southbank is right on the banks of the Yarra River and is generally considered as the area between St Kilda Rd in the east and Kings Way in the west, with West Gate Freeway in the south.
5. Melbourne Zoo
A fascination with animals, particularly with Australian wildlife, makes Melbourne Zoo a top 10 Melbourne visitor destinaton. Just 4 kilometres north of central Melbourne, the zoo, officially known as the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens, houses more than 320 animal species from Australia and around the world. Its Australian Outback section features kangaroos, emus, wombats, koalas, echidnas, lace monitors and a variety of small bird aviaries.
Melbourne Zoo is on Elliott Ave, within Royal Park, north of Melbourne city centre. The zoo is accessible from Royal Park station if going by train, or on tram routes 55 and 19. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
6. Melbourne Aquarium
Located on the banks of the Yarra River in the King St Bridge area on Flinders St, Melbourne Aquarium is a relative newcomer to the Melbourne city scene, having opened only in 2000. Four aquatic worlds feature in the aquarium, from the cold environment of Antarctica with king and gentoo penguins to a tropical Coral Atoll with colorful fish, stars and various other exotic sea animals, to a Seahorse Pier with an amazing collection of seahorse and seadragon species to Sharks Alive with sharks, stingrays, turtles and other aquatic creatures. The aquarium is open daily from 9.30am to 6pm.
Melbourne Aquarium is at the corner of Flinders and King Sts on the north bank of the Yarra River. The free City Circle tram stops at the aquarium. For those taking the train, the aquarium is a short walk from either Flinders Street Station or Southern Cross Station on Spencer St. No public parking is available onsite.
What they're doing at Docklands, now on the route of the free City Circle tram and City Tourist Shuttle, is creating a waterside entertainment and dining precinct featuring a huge ferris wheel and, at one end, a stadium for Australian Rules football and other activities, including music concerts by visiting singers and bands. First set up in 2008, the ferris wheel named the Melbourne Eye has seen various dismantlings, repairs and reconstructions and is still to be operational. But no worries. Already Docklands is shaping up as one of Melbourne's must-visit places.
Docklands lies west of Spencer St and covers an area around Victoria Harbour with Melbourne Central City Studios, Waterfront City and New Quay to the north, Docklands Stadium along Harbour Esplanade and the Yarra River to its south.
8. National Gallery of Victoria
Close to the start of St Kilda Rd after crossing the Yarra River on Princes Bridge, the National Gallery of Victoria is home to a treasure trove of European, Asian, Oceanic and American art. With the move of its Australian collection to the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, the St Kilda Rd premises have become NGV International.
The free City Tourist Shuttle has an Arts Centre / NGV International stop on St Kilda Rd. Various other tram lines also pass through St Kilda Rd. If going on foot, head south on St Kilda Rd after crossing Princes Bridge from Flinders Street Station.
9. Melbourne Museum
From dinosaur skeletons to modern-day digital exhibitions, Melbourne Museum explores life in Victoria and provides insights into the natural sciences, indigenous cultures, Australian history and cultural heritage. Located in the area of the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, the museum features a number of exhibition areas with its own permanent collections or temporary visiting displays.
The free City Tourist shuttle stops at Melbourne Museum. If taking the free City Circle tram, you'd need to alight on Victoria Parade and walk the short distance along Nicholson St to the museum. For those choosing to drive, undercover parking is available.
10. Arts Centre Melbourne
For those with an interest in the arts, the Arts Centre Melbourne, formerly the Victorian Arts Centre, is a must-visit performance and visual arts complex. Hamer Hall, concert venue, is in a building by itself while the State Theatre, Playhouse and Fairfax Studio are in the Theatres Building, which also houses several galleries. A separate outdoor arena, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, is in nearby Kings Domain. The Arts Centre tower along St Kilda Rd is a distinctive Melbourne landmark.
The Arts Centre on St Kilda Rd is within walking distance south of Flinders Street Station. Alternatively catch the City Tourist Shuttle which stops at the Arts Centre precinct.