Melbourne: it’s the fashion, coffee and restaurant capital of Australia and was also crowned the world's most liveable city seven times in a row. So when I was asked to travel down to experience a short staycation you didn’t have to twist my arm.
It’s the ultimate weekend away whether it be with the girls or that special someone in your life. From a night at the theatre to historical monuments, walking the fashionable Toorak Road or dining in one of the many restaurants that are scattered around this city, Melbourne is like no other place in Australia.
Its unbeatable food scene, incredible coffee culture and never-ending buffet of entertainment is enough to draw in the crowds, but the bustling metropolis' biggest draw is undoubtedly its famous cobbled laneways and alleys. From lesser known spots like Celestial Avenue to the much-photographed Centre Place and the culinary hotspot of Hardware Lane, these narrow, graffiti-laden nooks are filled to the brim with all sorts of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, you will be hard pressed not to find something to do here.
My little weekend away saw me staying at Fraser Place just off La Trobe Street and offers affordable and stylish accommodation right in the heart of Melbourne city. Just a short 30 minute drive from the airport, the hotel offers 112 apartments with private kitchenette and in room washer and dryer facilities.
If being in the middle of all the action is what you seek then staying here is on point. Located in the heart of Melbourne's entertainment precincts, Fraser Place is surrounded by an array of trendy cafes, bars and restaurants and world class shopping. For those who love to shop, Bourke Street is a short 10 minute walk away.
I dined at the award winning Lesa restaurant, you know you are walking into a dining experience the second you ascend the dark internal staircase. Lesa – “to gather” in Old Norse – is more than just an elegant name. This rustic and moody room is a place to slow down and enjoy the company and good food with the important people in your life, aided by chef and co-owner Dave Verheul’s beautiful food and a truly idiosyncratic wine list.
The furniture, walls and floors plays an important role, a majority of it isn’t new or designer, instead, there are rustic French kitchen tables dating back to the 1700’s. These tables are surrounded by re-upholstered antique chairs which gives Lesa a sense of maturity and downplay the feeling you’re in a restaurant. The menu is fixed: four courses, with three choices at each step. Apart from bread and salad, nothing is shared.
Being that it is Spring Carnival Racing Season, I took the girls out to Caulfield for the Guineas Race Day. There is nothing like a day at the races watching all the fashion, punting on a winner and enjoying the non stop entertainment that Caulfield as to offer. Be sure to book into a marquee to really soak up the racing vibe. We played in the Bondi Sands Surf Lodge marquee where they had an actual pool, right beside the track!
I’ve attended plenty of race day events in my day, never have I seen a pool along the last 100 metres of the race track. There is entertainment everywhere you look and my favourite is the fashion show and fashions on the field. This year's theme was New York. As soon as you stepped foot into Caulfield you were transported to a scene from New York, yellow cabs, NYPD, bagels and bustling street performers right down to high school cheerleaders, it was a day of F.U.N. It’s a social media overload with picture worthy locations scattered all across the park. It is certainly worth planning your stay around a racing day event.
If the races aren’t your bag, then you can always indulge in a night at the theatre with a plethora of broadway productions to choose from. The Comedy, The Princess and Her Majesty's Theatres are all within a short walk from the Fraser Place, making it the ideal destination to enjoy Melbourne's rich cultural scene.
After a big day of shopping, exploring or racing action, when all you want to do is unwind, why not grab a bottle of wine a cheese platter and nibbles and head to the roof top garden at Fraser Place. There you can enjoy the city skyline, sit around debriefing on the day the was or, if your keen, laze on the sun beds and catch some of Melbourne’s glorious sun. There is even a little herb garden that the staff use to garnish and add flair and favour to their buffet breakfast each morning.
One thing I love to do when in a new town or country is explore their rich culture and history. When it comes to Melbourne, I love to experience the multiple facets of one of the world’s most liveable cities with the best things to see in Melbourne readily accessible.
As Australia’s international centre for performing and visual arts and the UNESCO’s City of Literature, Melbourne is much revered for its dance styles, films and street arts. The malls and markets are a real treat to the shopaholics who will also find the galore many of nature and wildlife attractions equally exciting.
Home to the world’s largest tram network, getting around to see all the attractions is easy with the free City Circle Tramline which just happens to be at Fraser Place’s doorstep.