Melbourne in the fast lane
The F1 Grand Prix season opens with the Australian GP on the weekend of March 25 and 26, 2017. If the glamour of F1 or simply very, very fast cars piqué your interest it’s time to head to Melbourne.
While F1 cars today are much quieter than they were even a few years ago, it’s still a loud sport. If you are staying anywhere near Albert Park you’ll know exactly when each practice session commences. The sound, well scream, of the engines really, can be heard resounding across the neighbouring suburbs.
Of course, the main reason to be there is practice and the race itself but there’s a lot more to do in Melbourne. Here’s the WYZA guide to what’s to seek out.
One of the most impressive sporting arenas in the world, the MCG is a destination in its own right. It was built in 1853 and has stood the test of time. It still pulls in almost 100,000 fans for the AFL Grand Final each September but the record attendance was set by the 121,000 who came to see the Collingwood/Carlton Grand Final in 1970.
You can do a tour of the facilities that may include the players’ rooms and even a walk onto the hallowed turf. Or visit the National Sports Museum here where there’s a remarkable record of Australia’s sporting success in various codes.
However, the F1 weekend is also the opening round of the AFL season. The G hosts three evening games: Carlton vs Richmond on Thursday, Collingwood vs the premiers, the Western Bulldogs on Friday and Essendon playing Hawthorn on Saturday. The ultimate MCG experience is to get an invitation from an MCC member to dine first in the renowned Long Room (don’t forget your jacket and tie).
State Library of Victoria
At the other end of the city and of Melbourne’s cultural scene, take the time to visit the State Library of Victoria. The interior is simply stunning, especially the domed La Trobe Reading Room. If the architecture impresses, just think of all the remarkable minds who have read, worked and researched here.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
If you can stay on for a few days after the F1 circus has moved on, consider buying tickets to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. However, it runs for a few weeks: from March 29 until April 23, so hope that your favourites are on when you’re still in town. It’s been running for several decades now and offers free family entertainment plus some of the world’s best comedians and a Festival Club for those who wish to party on.
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
As the motorsport enthusiasts depart, the foodies descend. Consider being one of the crossover gang and stay until the Food and Wine Festival opens on March 31. Melbourne loves its food and its hard-fought title as Australia’s culinary capital. There are some 200 events scheduled before the festival closes on April 9, so whether you are seeking the cutting edge of a specific cuisine, the best of Victorian wines or the perfect pairings, this is the place to be.
Despite its name, the festival extends far beyond the city limits. There are 24 lunch venues outside the city, for a start. Meanwhile the Bank of Melbourne hosts the World’s Longest Lunch and there’s entertainment along the Yarra River. Whether you want to seek out the best of Melbourne’s laneway dining scene or rooftop views, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is simply fun and fine food.
The Australian Centre of the Moving Image
At some time during your stay in Melbourne you’ll end up in Federation Square. This is the home of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Besides two well-equipped cinemas there are rolling exhibitions, a video game centre and a very well stocked gift shop.
The Astor Theatre
This is at the other end of the temporal scale – an Art Deco wonder that has functioned as a cinema since 1936. This single screen theatre seats more than 1100 in the audience and has provision to show everything from 35mm and 70mm to scarily intense 4K films, along with an excellent sound system.
Queen Victoria Market
These expansive markets started in 1878 and now cover every known consumable. Of course visitors may not be there for grocery or vegetable shopping but if you wish to buy clothes or dressing gowns in AFL team colours this is the place to visit.
The best bookshop in the world
At the London Book Fair recently, Readings on Lygon St, Carlton was judged the best bookshop in the world. Now that’s a title to be proud of. It’s an independent retailer that began operation in 1969 and can be found opposite Cinema Nova.
No city in Australia does laneways anywhere near as well as Melbourne does. Here you’ll find cafes, restaurants, tiny stores and coffee shops and lots and lots of street art. Some to seek out include Hosier Lane, opposite Federation Square, Centre Place between Flinders Lane and Collins St, Degraves St that provides both coffee and art, and Union Lane, just off Bourke St Mall that is completely covered in art.
Full speed ahead!
Where’s your favourite spot in Melbourne?