This part of Melbourne stretches from the Queen Victoria Market down to the Yarra River, taking in the city’s legal district including the Supreme Court of Victoria on William Street. Bounded by Spencer Street to the west, the old Spencer Street train station was replaced in 2006 with the architecturally superb Southern Cross Station. It’s worth a visit even if you’re not planning a train ride.
Sitting between Bourke and Lonsdale streets, west of Bourke Street Mall, Hardware Lane comes alive at lunchtime and in the evening when office workers and bar seekers crowd the outdoor tables. The cobblestone paving, the window boxes and the brightly painted facades of the old buildings add to the atmosphere.
Former Royal Mint
Two blocks north-west of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Old Royal Mint was built in Renaissance Revival style, set off by a dazzling coat of arms. Originally constructed to mint the bounty from Victoria’s goldfields, it operated until 1968 and is now home to the Hellenic Museum, which holds items from the Byzantine period and displays related to Greek migration to Australia. 280 William St; (03) 8615 9016; open 10am–3pm Tues–Thurs.
Beside the Yarra River, take a journey into the depths of the ocean, past rockpool and mangrove habitats and a surreal display of jellyfish, then into a tunnel and the ‘fishbowl’ for a close-up encounter with sharks, stingrays and multitudes of fish. The Antarctica exhibition, featuring King and Gentoo penguins among other Antarctic creatures, is a must-see. Cnr King and Flinders sts; (03) 9923 5999; open 9.30am–6pm daily.
At first glance this might seem like a specialist museum, but no subject could be more generally relevant in Australia, where migration has been constant since the first days of European settlement. The Immigration Museum is about journeys, tumultuous new beginnings, and people coming from all corners of the world and bringing their traditions with them. It also investigates Australia’s changing government policies on immigration, and how they continue to shape the country. 400 Flinders St; (03) 9927 2700; open 10am–5pm daily.
Koorie Heritage Trust
As you walk through this centre you realise the drastic, violent and totally irreversible changes made to a culture over 40,000 years old. Displays take you through the local traditions and lifestyle, including food and crafts, as well as events that have occurred in the last two centuries. There are also changing exhibitions by local Aboriginal artists. 295 King St; (03) 8622 2600; open 9am–5pm Mon–Fri; entry by donation.
Queen Victoria Market
This famous market is spread across 7 hectares under the shelter of a massive shed. The meat hall is at the Elizabeth Street end, while outside all manner of fruit, vegetable and herb stalls extend towards the horizon. On weekends, Saturdays in particular, the aisles are crammed with shoppers from all over Melbourne, and the wide range of clothing and souvenirs make this a hot spot for tourists as well. Main entrance cnr Elizabeth and Victoria sts;(03) 9320 5822; open 6am–2pm Tues and Thurs, 6am–5pm Fri,6am–3pm Sat, 9am–4pm Sun.
On Wednesday evenings during summer, the ‘Queen Vic’ takes on a whole new character with the Suzuki Night Market . At these times it feels more like a festival than a market, with live music, international food and a healthy dose of alternative-clothing and craft stalls.
Originally known as Burial Hill – many of Melbourne’s early settlers ended up here – Flagstaff Gardens were Melbourne’s first public gardens and once served as a signalling station for ships arriving from Britain. With open lawns, mature trees (including several lovely Moreton Bay fig trees and avenues of elms), a rose garden, public barbecues and tennis/netball/handball/volleyball courts, it is a lovely space in which to enjoy some time out from the city bustle. Bounded by William, Latrobe, King and Dudley sts; (03) 9658 9658 or for sports bookings (03) 9663 5888.