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Travel Guide: Melbourne, Australia, for Design Lovers

Melbourne, Australia, is a seriously multicultural city. Melbournians embrace the outdoors and love cultural events, eating out, going to galleries, spending time at the beach and playing virtually any kind of sport. In fact, Melbourne was named the most livable city of 2012 in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global livability report. Founded in 1835, Melbourne now has a population of more than 4.1 million and plenty to offer visitors. If you have four or five days to spend in this fine city, here are a few places with a strong design element that may inspire you.


Must-SeesFederation Square:One of Melbourne’s most well-known and visited sites, Federation Square is home to a large open-air space and several cultural buildings. The Atrium, Edge Theater and Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) all offer visitors an array of wonderful and varied exhibitions.
Location: Corner of Flinders and Swanston streets
Noteworthy: The site has been home to the city morgue, a fish market and rail yards over the years.The highly controversial building shown here — one website called it one of the ugliest in the world — became Melbourne’s unofficial city square in 2002, after an international competition was held to create a cultural building that could also house an open amphitheater for up to 15,000 people. Lab Architecture partnered with Melbourne architecture firm Bates Smart to design the spectacular space.

There are several other notable buildings inhabiting the 40,900-square-foot Federation Square, and each one pushes the boundaries of design with interesting materials and shapes that challenge the senses.

In addition to shops, cafés and restaurants, there are also several cultural attractions in the square. The Ian Potter Center: NGV Australia gallery is dedicated to showing only Australian art, while the ACMI showcases film, television and digital pieces. Both are free to view, although some fees may apply for temporary exhibitions.

More info: Federation SquareIan Potter Center: NGV AustraliaACMI

Manchester United Building
Collins Street: A central business district with rich architectural history
Noteworthy: The mile-long street (1.6 kilometers) is considered one of Australia’s finest, with tons of shops, restaurants, hotels and more.The Manchester Unity Building (pictured), at 220 Collins St., was built in 1932 in the neogothic style. At the time it was the tallest building in Melbourne, and the first to have escalators. The Block Arcade, at 280 Collins St., is designed in the French Renaissance style; it opened in 1892 after architects Twentyman & Askew were asked to design a shopping arcade that would replicate the Galleria Vittorio in Milan. Hopetoun Tea Rooms,owned by one of the original traders, has a stunning triffid flower wallpaper and a window display of goodies that are impossible to resist.Also check out the Georges Building, the Regent Theatre, St. Michael’s Uniting Church and the Rialto Towers.

More info: Collins StreetThe Block ArcadeHopetoun Tea Rooms

Must-VisitsMelbourne Museum:Explores life in Victoria, the Australian state in which Melbourne resides, from the natural environment to the culture and history
Cost: Adults: $10 Australian; children under 16: free
Location: 11 Nicholson St., Carlton
Noteworthy: The Forest Gallery and the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre are permanent exhibitions that are worth visiting.The Melbourne Museum is a three-story structure, with a glass facade that mirrors the historic 1880s Royal Exhibition Building that it sits beside. Designed by the architects at Denton Corker Marshall in Melbourne, this award-winning structure is something to behold.

More info: Melbourne Museum

Prahran Market: Melbourne’s oldest produce market
Location: 163 Commercial Rd., South Yarra
Noteworthy: The covered market houses many of the finest delis, butchers, seafood merchants and grocers in Melbourne.Prahran began as an open-air market in July 1867. The market moved to its current location in 1891, when the existing Victorian facade was designed by architect Charles A. D’Ebro.More info: Prahran Market
Must-Visit ShopsThe GPO:A mecca for the serious shopper; a diverse range of retailers and eateries set in an elegant heritage-listed building
Location: 350 Bourke St.
Noteworthy: It is well known that in Melbourne, road distances are measured and recorded in kilometers starting from the GPO.The GPO was designed in the neo-Renaissance style by A.E. Johnson. The two-level post office building was constructed between 1859 and 1867. In 1887 a third level was added with the famous clock tower, creating a city landmark. United States architect Walter Burley Griffin redesigned the building in 1919, creating an open space to the public sorting hall.

The Australia Post stopped using this building for sorting mail in 1992, although it continued as a post office until 2001. Over the next several years, developers proposed a shopping mall and a major hotel development without success.

Following a major fire in 2001, the GPO building was restored and opened as a retail center in October 2004.

More info: The GPO

High Street Armadale: A 3.7-kilometer stretch (more than 2 miles) of High Street with many historical buildings offering an abundance of antiques shops, furniture stores, fabric houses, art galleries, clothing stores, cafés and restaurants
Location: Start your walk at the Malvern Town Hall (1251 High St., Malvern) and head west until you get to Chapel Street, Prahran.
Noteworthy: Many ornate buildings from the 1880s all the way through to the postwar years are located here.The Berkelouw Bookshop (shown), built in 1885, is one fine example of the abundant Victorian buildings. The shop is well worth a visit, as it stocks one of the most comprehensive collections of interior design and architectural books in Melbourne.More info: High Street ArmdaleThe Berkelouw Bookshop
High Street, Prahran: This street is home to many eclectic stores for housewares, including rugs, lighting and furniture.
Noteworthy: Melbourne’s interior designers frequent this stretch of shops on a regular basis; many of the major fabric houses also reside here.Fenton and Fenton (shown) is full of bright and interesting one-off objects. This shop will not disappoint.
Safari Living and Nyary are also worth checking out.More info: Fenton and FentonSafari LivingNyary
Must-StaysHotel Lindrum:A luxury boutique hotel with a unique history
Cost: U.S.$192 to $267 per night
Location: 26 Flinders St. — a five-minute walk from Federation Square
Noteworthy: Originally built for tea merchants in 1900, this Romanesque revival–style building has had a checkered history.In the 1920s the area around Flinders Street became the headquarters for a major newspaper, and the building was occupied by various printers. In 1973 the building was bought by Dolly Lindrum and became a house for playing billiards and snooker. In 1999 it was transformed into a hotel.

More info: Hotel Lindrum

The Cullen: This is one hotel in a series of Melbourne Art Series Hotels scattered around the city.
Cost: From $219 Canadian
Location: 164 Commercial Rd.
Noteworthy: Street Art Suites feature personalized stamps left by internationally acclaimed street artists who stayed there.Based in Prahran, opposite the iconic Prahran Market and a easy tram ride to High Street shops, this boutique hotel pays homage to Adam Cullen, an Archibald Prize–winning artist who challenged the conservative nature of the competition with his bold, pop style art.Cullen was a finalist for the Archibald Prize (Australia’s most prestigious art award) nine times; his work is shown throughout the eight different rooms and public spaces.

More info: The Cullen

Must-EatsDavid’s:A long established, moderately priced restaurant with a Shanghai-inspired menu
Cost: Appetizers: $6 to $14 Canadian; entrees $11 to $30
Location: 4 Cecil Pl., Prahran
Noteworthy: Located in a former warehouse, this restaurant is also close to High Street shops.The interiors have recently been redesigned by Hecker Guthrie Interior Designers. The use of industrial-style furniture and crisp color gives David’s a fresh, modern appeal.

More info: David’s

Cookie Bar & Restaurant: A breezy, fun bar and restaurant
Cost: Bar snacks: $6.50 to $28.50 Canadian; small to large dishes: $9.50 to $42
Location: Curtain House, 252 Swanston St., first floor
Noteworthy: Cookie is located in Curtin House, which was built in 1922 and was once the office of the Communist Party. Named after an Australian prime minister, this six-story art nouveau building has a rooftop cinema, a live-music venue, a rare-record store and more.Cookie has an interesting, laid-back interior that feels like someone’s home. It’s a friendly place to spend time recharging while sightseeing.More info: Cookie Bar & Restaurant
Baker D. Chirico: A bakery designed with the humble bread basket in mind
Location: 178 Faraday St., Carlton
Noteworthy: Try one of the custard-filled bomboloniCarlton is the coffee heart of Melbourne, so owner Daniel Chirico knew the area didn’t need just another coffee shop. Since great bread is another Melbourne fixation, he fused the best of both worlds.Designed by March Studio in Melbourne, the place has shelving and a ceiling made from curved plywood, giving it an organic feel. The timber countertop serves as a giant chopping block.

More info: Baker D. Chirico

Must-Visits Outside Melbourne:

Port Phillip Estate: 
A winery, hotel and restaurant
Location: 263 Red Hill Rd., Red Hill South, Mornington Peninsula, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) from Melbourne
Noteworthy: The dramatic rammed-earth building, designed by Wood Marsh Architecture, is home to a restaurant, Cellar Door, and luxury accommodations.Port Phillip is the perfect place to stay at if you feel like spending more time discovering the local beaches. If not, just spend a few hours enjoying the views of the surrounding landscape from the winery’s expansive deck.More info: Port Phillip Estate
TarraWarra Museum of Art: A privately funded public gallery that focuses on Australian art from the mid-20th century to the present day
Cost: Depends on the exhibition; standard adult cost: $12 Canadian
Location: 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd., Healesville, about one hour from Melbourne
Noteworthy: Designed by Allan Powell Architects, the TarraWarra Museum has no unnecessary embellishments and uses materials that harmonize with the striking landscape.The estate is also home to TarraWarra Cellar Door and Restaurant.More info: TarraWarra Museum


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