Australia

Uncover the Quirky, Creative and Arty Side of Melbourne

September is the perfect time to explore Melbourne’s raw and quirky art scene. The sunny Spring days are ideal for exploring laneways filled with street art and checking out locally produced items at one of the city’s many markets. The annual Melbourne Fringe Festival also comes to the city in September, lining the streets and filling theatres, galleries and bars with musicians, dancers, actors, comedians, artists and much more. There’s plenty of fun to be had in this vibrant city in September.

From Street Art to Live Art

To help you get reacquainted with central Melbourne, I’m going to send you on a walking tour today taking in some of coolest street art the city has to offer. Later you’ll experience some unique live art as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and you’ll also have the chance to indulge at restaurants and bars along the way.

If you arrive before lunch, let the team at the Marriot Hotel look after your luggage then head north on Exhibition Street to Miss Chu for some cheap and authentic Vietnamese street food. Just two minutes’ walk from your hotel, this quirky little tuckshop-style restaurant serves cheap, fast and filling meals, so it’s the perfect place to fuel up. (The steamed dumplings and bowls of wild rice and greens with your choice of meat, fish or veggies are incredible!).

Once you’re done, it’s time to learn why Melbourne is one of the world’s great street art capitals. If the timings and dates suit, join one of the many street art walking tours which cover Melbourne’s much-loved laneways. Prices range from about $30 to $70 and times and days vary. Try Melbourne Street Art Tours (which was designed by street artists to give the best representation of the Melbourne underground street art scene), Melbourne Walks or Urban Scrawl.

Alternatively, follow this self-guided tour which starts on Lonsdale Street, just a few minutes’ walk from your hotel. Allow about one hour for the walk – don’t forget your camera!

After all of that walking you’ll probably need a caffeine fix. Head to Manchester Press on Rankin Lane (off Little Bourke Street) where coffee is art, literally. From faces and hearts to leaves and ferns, the baristas create some of Melbourne’s best-looking and best-tasting coffee.

In the evening it’s time to check out the 32nd annual Melbourne Fringe Festival (17 September – 5 October). The 2014 program boast more than 400 shows and 5,000 performers at more than 150 venues across the city – more than enough to keep you busy!

To get a real taste for the festival, head to Elizabeth Street and catch tram 57 to North Melbourne and get off at tram stop 12, where the Fringe Hub is located. Start at the box office and see what takes your fancy. There’s also a festival app for booking tickets and checking show times. Acts to look out for include A Day Like Every Other, comedian Arj Barker (best known for his role in TV series Flight of the Conchords), Impromptunes and the Nixie Confessions light sculpture.

When you’re tummy starts to grumble (or when wine-o’clock rocks around), stop at Prudence on Victoria Street. It’s a bit further away from the hustle and bustle of Errol Street during the Melbourne Fringe Festival, so you’ll be more likely to get a table. And while this pub doesn’t actually have a kitchen, you can order food from nearby restaurants and have it delivered to your table, in Prudence. Ask the staff to show you how it works.

Another venue worth visiting for a drink and/or dinner is the Town Hall Hotel – it’s very close to Melbourne Town Hall and also boasts a cosy, welcoming atmosphere.

Hidden Gems of Brunswick and Fitzroy

Today head out of the CBD to explore some local hang-outs and shops in Melbourne’s alternative inner-north suburbs.

First stop is Brunswick – home to an eclectic and creative community of musicians, artists, jewellers and more. To get there, catch a train from Parliament Station. Take the Upfield Line and get off at Jewell (about a 20-minute trip).

Once you’ve arrived, get stuck into brunch at a Acustico, a quirky little tucked away cafe with comfy couches, an old piano and lanterns that make it feel more like a lounge room than a cafe. The menu is loaded with tasty and unusual options, but I can personally recommend the Spanish chorizo baked eggs. Perfect way to start the day.

From here you can explore local boutique stores and op shops on nearby Sydney Road. Ones not to miss include Mr Kilty, Kinki Gerlinki, DeJour Jeans and Savers. Be sure to stop at the Mediterranean Wholesalers and let your tastebuds run wild (think cheese, pasta, smoked meats, cheese, cheese and cheese).

You can also check out Tinning Street – a local space for local artists, designers and craftsman to display their works. During September, exhibits include photography, light paper work and paintings.

Once you’ve seen enough, hail a taxi and head to Brunswick Street in Fitzroy (it’ll cost about $15).

Tucked away on Rose Street is the Rose Street Artist’s Market. Open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-5pm this little market has been offering all kinds of handmade wares, from photography, jewellery and fashion to homewares, collectibles and yummy food to creative locals for the past 10 years.

If you need a coffee or something lunchy, the market’s own rooftop cafe and bar Young Bloods Diner has a delicious, fresh menu to satisfy shopping-induced appetites.

Like Sydney Road, Brunswick Street is also lined with dozens of quirky stores, so if you’ve got enough time and energy left, carry on wandering up the street. Keep an eye out for Vintage Sole, American Vintage Clothing Co, Dangerfield and Gorman

By now you’ll be well in need of a rest so head to Naked for Satan. Don’t let the bizarre name put you off (if you’re curious, stand close to the wallpaper), this Spanish-inspired restaurant and rooftop bar is a Melbourne institution. Downstairs, you can literally help yourself to $2 pintxos and try out their unique vodka infusions (think salted caramel, chilli and cherry and opium and rose). Or, head upstairs to the Naked in the Sky rooftop which boasts a full restaurant menu, cocktails and amazing views of Melbourne. Be warned: it’s always busy. But once you’re there, you’ll see why.

Before you leave this side of town, try one of Melbourne’s best cocktails at Black Pearl. Repeatedly named one of the best cocktail bars in the city (and the world), this intimate lounge-style bar is classy without being pretentious.

Wine, Gourmet Food and Countryside

Today you’ll leave the hustle and bustle of Melbourne for the gourmet Yarra Valley region. About an hour’s drive from the city, delectable food, locally produced wine and craft beer are what this area is all about.

You can hire a car and tour around yourself or join one of the many day tours from Melbourne. Priced between $100 and $200, tour operators worth checking out include Go West, Epicurean Tours, Yarra Valley Winery Tours and Yarra Valley Wine Tasting Tours.

If you opt for a self-drive tour, focus your trip on the little village of Healesville. Be sure to visit the White Rabbit Brewery for some locally made craft beer and delicious meals to boot, the Healesville Sanctuary to get up close and personal with local wildlife, Domaine Chandon winery to taste some of Australia’s world-renown wines, before finishing it all off with dessert at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting before 15 September, head to Oakridge Wines for the Yarra Valley Open Studios Group Exhibition (late August – 15 September) or grab a map and tour around artists galleries as part of the Yarra Valley Open Studios event (13-14 September).

Takeaways

Whatever you do while you’re in the Yarra Valley, be sure to indulge!

Book ahead street art walking tours, Yarra Valley wine tours and some fringe shows to avoid disappointment

Download the official Melbourne Fringe Festival app for show times and to book tickets

Be prepared for four seasons in one day with an umbrella and/or a raincoat, sun cream, sunglasses and a hat.

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