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Welcome to the Through the Eyes of a Local series! A couple of times per month I interview someone from a faraway city, sometimes not that far away, to bring you some insider’s insights about many destinations out there. This way you can travel with the best information in hands, and actually do what locals in that city do as well.
If you want to read other interviews of this series, take a look at my “Through the Eyes of a Local” archive! I’m sure you’ll learn a lot about many cities and get inspired to visit these amazing places.
In today’s interview, Amy will tell you how Melbourne is really like and what the best spots in the city are.
Melbourne is located in South East Australia and is the second most populous city in the country. We have a population of about 5 million and it encompasses a vast urban agglomeration spanning 9,992.5 km². Multiculturalism has shaped the city to what it is today with pockets of communities that has given rise to a colourful and vibrant lifestyle. This is a city that embraces the arts, sporting events on a world stage and caters for people of all ages and diversities.
Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself? Where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Amy Chung and I am a family travel blogger at Family Globetrotters. My blog centers around my small blended family of 3 and we impart practical travel tips and destination guides for families looking for new adventures abroad.
I was born in Malaysia but have lived in Australia since I finished school. Although I did spend a few years in Queensland, I finally settled in beautiful Melbourne and now I call this fair city home. Travel is an important part of our lives and we love adventures of all kinds. Coupled with my love for photography, despite not being very good at it, we manage to document our travels well. I love writing too and I find it therapeutic. So coupled with my love for travel, it was inevitable that my blog was borne.
What do you like about Melbourne?
Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia and I love this city because it is so multicultural and diverse. It is known as the Events Capital of the world as there is always something going on throughout the calendar year. It is safe, has a great combination of eclectic neighbourhoods and its surrounding countryside range from wineries to beach to stunning National Parks. It’s also a great city to raise a family as it’s incredibly kid-friendly.
Which 3 places do you highly recommend paying a visit in the city?
Melbourne is known for quite a few things but if I were to choose 3 things you must see, it would include a street art walking tour, the neighborhood of St Kilda and attending the Australian Open.
Melbourne is renowned for its laneways and graffiti art that adorns its public walls. There are ample streets for you to find and they are incredibly Instagrammable.
St Kilda is just a short tram ride away from the center of the city and there you’ll get in contact with beach, famous pier for fishing and ice cream, Luna Park, our oldest amusement park, decadent local dessert cafes and loads of pubs and eateries. It’s a real one-stop shops for everyone.
Lastly, if you’re able to time your visit in January, you really must attend the Australian Open. Even if you’re not a tennis fan, there is so much to do once you’re inside. General admission tickets are cheap and we are the only Grand Slam tournament to feature 2 stadiums.
And which place should people avoid?
Every city has a spot to avoid and in our case, I’d suggest you avoid King Street at night and especially on the weekends. The nightclubs and strip clubs can get a bit rowdy.
Is there anything you don’t like about your hometown? What is it?
The only thing I dislike about Melbourne is that it’s so far away from the rest of the world!
What are your favorite things to do in Melbourne?
Coffee and brunch culture in Melbourne is huge. Locals are always in search for the best baristas and we are known to be coffee snobs. And I am always reminded of this when I travel and I must admit I struggle not being able to get good coffee outside of home. Brunch is Melbournians favourite meal of the day. We are very accustomed to waiting 30 minutes to an hour for a table without any complaint or qualms.
I love shopping in the city. You’ll find all the mainstream shops plus all the eclectic and one-off designers if you know where to look. Melbourne is a small city and easy to navigate so the best way to shop is to just get lost.
What is the best way to get around Melbourne? Is it easy to reach nearby cities?
In the city center itself, you can walk from one end to another. The trams within the city, however, are free so you can hop on and hop off at any given time. Public transport in Melbourne is not exactly the best and because it is so spread out, I advise renting a car if you wish to see the surrounds.
All other major cities around Melbourne are a flight away. The closest city is Adelaide and that’s a 9.5-hour drive. Sydney is about a 12-hour drive away. In saying that however, if you have the time, there are many picturesque towns along the way. Otherwise, fly. Sydney is only a 1-hour flight away.
How travel-friendly is the city?
Melbourne city is very friendly and everyone is always willing to help and welcome tourists. We love showing off what we have to offer! The city center itself has volunteers who are dedicated to assisting travelers to get around easily. The airport is about 45 drive away but you can access the Skybus that takes you directly to the Southern Cross Station.
How safe is your hometown? Is it ok to walk around with your camera or alone at night?
Melbourne is a safe city but like anywhere you would travel, you’d keep your wits about you. As mentioned above, avoid King Street at night as it gets rowdy. But I have always walked at night in the city without any issues and I don’t feel unsafe at all.
What are the best things to do when the weather is, respectively, bad or good?
Melbourne is known as the city with 4 seasons in one day. It is known for changing very quickly and the winters are very cold. It is cold not because it snows or it’s icy but the wind blows right through you. I know many people who come from the Northern Hemisphere who all complain there is no cold like Melbourne. We also have heat waves in the summer of up to 44 degrees Celsius. Melbournians always carry extra clothes, in case it gets too hot or too cold in a short span of a few hours in a day.
If the weather is good, stay outdoors and enjoy all the gardens and parks. Melbourne is also littered with pockets of different suburbs e.g. St Kilda is known for the beach; Fitzroy is known as the Hipster spot whilst Carlton is known as Little Italy. Go for a stroll in these areas for a great variety of restaurants, cafes, and boutique shops.
If the weather is bad, I suggest you stay indoors. Although the diehard Melbournians do tend to stay out as the winter has more bad days than good. Head out to Melbourne’s shopping arcades and malls, the undercover markets at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne Museum, and the National Gallery of Victoria.
Can you tell us where we can find the best view of the city?
You can find the best view of the city from the Eureka Sky Deck. It is located in Southbank and it is a 297 meters skyscraper which provides a panoramic view of the city from the 88th-floor. It is also home to the world’s first and only Edge Experience – a glass cube that projects out from the 88th-floor and suspends visitors almost 300 meters high above Melbourne city.
What is the most traditional dish in Melbourne?
I don’t believe we actually have one! Melbourne is a very young city compared to the rest of the world and we are very multicultural. I can, however, tell you to head to Lonsdale Street for the best gyros, Little Bourke Street for the cheapest dumplings and hotel Windsor for a traditional high tea.
Could you recommend a local bar and restaurant?
The Young and Jackson Hotel is one of Australia’s most well-known pub. Located on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Street, this iconic venue has been around for over a century. The Young and Jackson is both a bar and a restaurant. It is also very famous for housing the infamous painting, Chloe since 1909.
What is the biggest tourist trap of Melbourne?
I can’t say that we have one. The only touristy thing in the city are the horse and carriage rides and river cruises. Other than that we’re not an overly touristy city but rather more metropolitan. I wouldn’t worry about being scammed or cheated of your money. What you see is what you get.
Could you describe the people of your hometown?
Melbourne is filled with people from all walks of life. Immigration has allowed a diverse cross-section of people to live and integrate with one another. We are fairly laid back compared to other cities of the world but then again our population is small by comparison. We’re a friendly bunch and always up for a good conversation.
Tell us please a fun fact about Melbourne.
Surely we are the only city in the world where we have 2 public holidays in a year granted for sports. We have one holiday in September for the Australian Football League (AFL) whereby the Friday before the game is a public holiday. This is so families can go and watch the AFL parade. We also have the first Tuesday of November off every year for the Melbourne Cup, which is the most prestigious horse racing carnival in Australia.
What piece of advice would you give to readers who want to visit your hometown?
There is a lot to do in my city, so try and spend as much time here as possible. In a few short days, you won’t even be scratching the surface. From the 12 Apostles down the Great Ocean Road to the beautiful beaches of Mornington Peninsula, you will need time to explore all these beautiful areas.
Define your city in one word:
What is the biggest prejudice other countries have about Australia?
Perhaps I’m starry-eyed about my own country but I don’t believe there is any major prejudice against us. Like any country, we have issues such as our stance on refugees, up until recently same-sex marriage equality and our political arena may be a small laughing stock in the last few years.
Can you tell us a book based on Australia?
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton is currently the number one bestselling novel about Australia. The novel is about two rural families fleeing to the city and finding themselves sharing a great, breathing, shuddering joint called Cloudstreet, where they begin their lives again from scratch.
Huge thanks to Amy for taking time to share with us!
Read more interviews of Through the Eyes of a Local series and get inspired for your next adventure!