If you'd like to drink in a bar called Naked for Satan, eat pizza in Bimbo Deluxe and buy vintage clothes in Shag, then Fitzroy is the place for you. It's bohemian without the edge. The entertainment strip of Brunswick Street is lined with quirky cafes, noisy bars and obscure retailers. It can look a bit run down, but that's part of the charm. In my experience it's the most fun part of Melbourne.
Carlton is a suburb north of the city centre popular for its Little Italy district, which centres around the laid back, cafe lined Lygon Street. Carlton is also famous for Melbourne University, and is home to many students, which accounts for the low rent accommodation typical of the area. It's also famous for the Carlton Gardens, which contain the Royal Exhibition Building and Melbourne Museum.
St Patrick's Cathedral
St Patrick's is a distinctively Melbournian cathedral. Mixing an English Gothic style with local bluestone construction, it marks itself out as different to those who would ape the motherland's warm brown tones. This was a bold church for a frontier society. It's also the largest, and tallest church on the continent, with a striking spire that reaches up over a hundred meters.
Parliament Gardens are a small triangle of grass underneath the Parliament building, at the meeting of Spring and Albert Street. The gardens contain Coles Fountain, a mesmerizing c-shaped curtain of water, and a memorial to Pastor Sir Douglas and Lady Gladys, two prominent Aboriginal Australians. I'm not sure if they always have flowers in their hands, or if they only received them the day I took the photograph.
Looking at Victoria's parliament today, it seems about the right size for a state capital, maybe even a little small when compared to the giant skyscrapers so close in the Central Business District. But imagine yourself a hundred and fifty years earlier, when Melbourne was a newly formed township formed on the edge of the desert in the scramble of a gold rush. Back then few buildings were taller than a couple of stories, and the Parliament, so broad you can hardly squeeze it into the frame of a photograph, would have appeared as alien and unexpected as Gulliver in Lilliput. To think they almost put a great dome upon it, but ran out of money as the gold rush petered out. What might that have looked like.
Old Treasury Building
Melbourne was founded on gold, and one of the first buildings that sprung up was naturally a treasury to store all that newly discovered wealth. But this was no mere log cabin to hide the gold, the Melbourne town planners had grand ideas, and visions of a great future city. So they invested in a building that would become one of the greatest works of architecture in the country - an Italianate structure in the Renaissance Revival style.
While neighbouring Fitzroy Gardens is famous for its tree lined paths, the Treasury Gardens are renowned for their nocturnal wildlife. Nighttime visits to the gardens can have you face to face with some tamed Possums, and maybe even a bat or a flying fox. During the day you'll not see more than the ducks at the central pond. But it's a very pleasant place to wander.
Coop's Shot Tower
When a new shopping mall was planned to be built above the Melbourne Central station, it was part of the requirements that the Coop's Shot Tower could not be destroyed. So they had to build the shopping mall around it. The result is one of the most eye-catching sights in the country - a 50 meter high 19th century shot tower contained within a very modern shopping mall. The whole thing is encased within a 70 meter glass dome - the tallest glass structure of its kind in the world. It looks spectacular.
Note: The lead shot used in shotguns was, until the 1960s, produced in shot towers. The molten lead would be dropped from the top of the tower, and it form into droplets as it fell. It would then fall into a pool of water at the bottom of the tower, and be instantly cooled and turned into lead shot.
The Public Purse
Simon Perry's sculpture cum park bench was put up in 1994 on the Bourke Street Mall and very quickly became one of the most recognisable art works in the city. The name is a reference to the source of the funding - the "Per Cent for Art" scheme, where one percent of the public purse was put towards works of art for the whole community to enjoy.
The Royal Arcade is a beautifully restored Victorian building which uses the city's natural light to wonderful effect as you walk through its cascade of arches and boutique shops. The centrepiece is Gaunt's clock, flanked by two statues of Gog and Magog, the unwelcoming faces at the end of time.
Melbourne Town Hall
Unassuming, now, under the great office towers in the central business district, Melbourne's Town Hall was once one of the finest buildings in the city. It was built at the end of the 19th century in the Second Empire style so popular in America, especially in the newly built city of Washington D.C. It's still home to the Mayor of Melbourne, but it is also used to host a number of events, including plays and concerts.
You might at first glance mistake Hosier Lane for a graffiti strewn alleyway, the kind you'd avoid on dark nights. Instead it's a renowned centre of urban art, with an upscale restaurant whose chef appeared on Masterchef Australia. The art is unplanned and, as such, of differing quality, from amazing to little more than simple tagging. But its organic nature means that you might catch someone in the act of adding to the collection.
With its claustrophobic al fresco eating on a busy and narrow arcade, Degraves Street has a very European feel to it. It feels a bit French, but the food is predominantly Italian. You'll be sitting shoulder to shoulder with busy office workers grabbing a quick lunch, and watching the passengers going to and from Flinders Street Station.
Linking Southgate with Flinders Street Station, the Yarra Footbridge is a relatively new addition to Melbourne's river crossings. It's distinctive high arch rises up above the elevated portion of the bridge which allows the river traffic to pass under the foot traffic. Recently the bridge has become part of a trend that's been exported from Europe - love locks. You can now see padlocks across the bridge expressing the devotion of Melbournians.
This is Melbourne's most prominent bridge, and built on one of the oldest river crossings in the country. It gives great views of the Southbank and is the centre of many of Melbourne's biggest celebrations, including the fireworks show on New Year's Eve. It was built in 1888 and offers a glimpse of the Melbourne that existed before the great glass skyscrapers.
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