This inner-city suburb takes in some of Melbourne’s best leisure and dining precincts, as well as a concentration of public arts institutions. Behind Flinders Street Station is Southgate, a stylish shopping and dining area on the Yarra River. On the riverbanks here are also some interesting public sculpture pieces.
Standing 300 metres and 92 storeys high, the Eureka Tower usurped the title of ‘Melbourne’s tallest building’ from the Rialto in 2006. This structure is a particularly prominent feature of Melbourne's city skyline due to the 24-carat, gold-plated glass across the top ten levels. On the 88th floor, Eureka Skydeck 88 offers the ultimate 360-degree view of the city, bay and mountains. Viewfinders placed around the deck pinpoint major attractions, while The Terrace is an outdoor area if you want to test the wind speed from these heights. For a heart-stopping experience, you can go inside The Edge, a 3-metre glass cube that projects out of the side of the building! On the ground floor is the Serendipity Table, an interactive touch pad screen with information on the history of Melbourne. 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank; (03) 9693 8888; open 10am–10pm daily.
Over 15 years ago, Southgate was just like Docklands (see p. 142) – an industrial site being slowly reinvented. Apartments, office blocks, shops, restaurants and a tree-lined promenade have been added to form what is today an essential part of Melbourne.
On the ground floor of the complex is a food court and shops. As you make your way to the top, the restaurants and bars become increasingly exclusive and the shops become boutiques selling glassware, art and jewellery. Some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants are located on the top floors.
Crown Entertainment Complex
This huge complex begins just over Queensbridge Street. As well as a casino, Crown contains shops, a food court, nightclubs and cinemas. Restaurants include world-class dining such as Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar and Grill, Japanese restaurant Nobu and Silks for Chinese banquets. The big names in fashion such as Versace and Prada reside here too, and items regularly top the $1000 mark.
Melbourne Exhibition Centre
Over Clarendon Street from Crown is the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre , with its striking entrance angled upwards over the water. This is the venue for most of Melbourne’s major expos, from car shows to wedding exhibitions. 2 Clarendon St, South Wharf; (03) 9235 8000.
Next to the centre in Dukes Dock is the 1885 tall ship Polly Woodside. Following renovations in 2010, visitors will be able to step aboard the tall ship for a journey into Melbourne’s maritime history. See www.nattrust.com.au for opening details .
Arts Centre Melbourne
The Arts Centre, on St Kilda Road over Princes Bridge from Flinders Street Station, consists of two main buildings – Hamer Hall and the Theatres Building, with its distinctive lattice spire intended to resemble a ballerina’s tutu. The Theatres Building plunges six levels below St Kilda Road and includes three theatres: the State Theatre, with seating for 2000 and a venue for opera, ballets and musicals; the Playhouse, for drama; and the Fairfax Studio, a smaller drama venue.
If you are not heading to a concert or a theatre show, you can still visit Gallery 1, also under the spire. This is the main exhibition space for the Performing Arts Collection, which preserves a variety of Australian performing-arts memorabilia. 100 St Kilda Rd; (03) 9281 8000; open 8am–end of last performance daily; admission free.
The large grey building next to the Arts Centre has been the home of the National Gallery of Victoria since 1968. After recent renovations, it now houses the gallery’s highly regarded international component, including permanent and touring exhibitions. There are more than 30 galleries, a water curtain at the entrance that has become a Melbourne icon, and a magnificent stained-glass roof by Leonard French towards the back of the building. 180 St Kilda Rd; (03) 8620 2222; open 10am–5pm Wed–Mon; general admission free. NGV Australia can be found at Federation Square (see p. 127).
Sturt Street arts
Behind St Kilda Road is Sturt Street, an industrial and fairly quiet street since the CityLink tunnel bypassed it. But it is home to four more arts institutions – the CUB Malthouse, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and the Melbourne Recital Centre (MRC)/Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) complex.
Once a malt factory, the Malthouse Theatre has four theatres and is home to the Malthouse Theatre company, dedicated to contemporary theatre. Next door, the ACCA is housed in a rusted-steel building that’s intended to resemble the colour of Uluru against a blue sky. Inside the stark structural forms are changing contemporary Australian and international exhibitions, quite often confronting and interactive. The annual NEW exhibition, held around March and April, is a portal into the best and latest Australian art. Vault, otherwise known as the Yellow Peril, sits next to ACCA. This abstract yellow piece became Melbourne’s most controversial public sculpture after conservative media criticised it as being inappropriate for its original location in Melbourne’s City Square. Its latest position is much more in keeping with its creative feel.
Resembling a giant beehive in parts, the stunning Melbourne Recital Centre gives ACCA a run for its money in the architectural stakes. Comprising the 1001-seat Elisabeth Murdoch Hall for chamber music, the 150-seat Salon for more intimate performances and public spaces including a cafe-bar, it’s an exciting addition to Melbourne’s arts precinct. The adjacent new home of the Melbourne Theatre Company is an equally fascinating, cutting-edge structure. Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St; bookings (03) 9685 5111; ACCA, 111 Sturt St; (03) 9697 9999; open 10am–5pm Tues–Fri, 11am–6pm Sat–Sun and public holidays; admission free; MRC/MTC, cnr Sturt St and Southbank Blvd, Southbank; MRC bookings (03) 9699 3333, MTC bookings 1300 723 038.