By Roselina Press
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Vibrant and multicultural, Melbourne brims with galleries, cafes, restaurants and a lifestyle that give Australia's second-largest city a distinctly European feel.
Here are tips about getting the most out of a trip to Melbourne from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of the world offer visitors the best local insights.
Rated as the world's most liveable city for three years in a row by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Melbourne is the birthplace of Australian film, a designated UNESCO City of Literature and home to a flourishing art scene.
On a large bay on Australia's southeast coast and near scenic wine estates, the city of more than 4 million people spreads out from the Central Business District (CBD) to lively inner neighborhoods such as Fitzroy, Carlton and St Kilda. (Map: http://goo.gl/maps/uxiFH)
Many attractions in the CBD are within walking distance of each other and getting around is easy by taxi or a network of trains, buses and trams.
Listings of shows, concerts and events can be found at www.au.timeout.com/melbourne, melbourne.wheremagazines.com.au, www.thatsmelbourne.com.au and www.onlymelbourne.com.au.
ARTS & CULTURE
For some of Melbourne's major cultural attractions, make your way to Federation Square opposite Flinders Street Station in the CBD. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, The Ian Potter Centre and the No Vacancy Project Space, which features emerging artists, are especially worth a visit.
On Saturdays from 11 a.m., bibliophiles gather at the Federation Square book market in the Atrium.
Immerse yourself in Melbourne's underground culture with a walking tour of laneways splashed with colorful murals and edgy pieces. Street art is scattered throughout the CBD but highlights include Blenders Lane, Croft Alley, Union Lane, Centre Place, Rutledge Lane and especially Hosier Lane.
The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas at 176 Little Lonsdale Street is the centerpiece of Melbourne's UNESCO City of Literature initiative. It runs literary events most weekdays, many of them free. (www.wheelercentre.com)
Beneath the Wheeler Centre is Moat, a bar and cafe with an urbane attitude. Borrow a novel from the bookshelf and unwind with a drink.
The State Library of Victoria at 328 Swanston Street houses more than 2 million books but goes beyond the printed page with historical objects like the armor of famous outlaw Ned Kelly. There are also free art exhibitions in the library's galleries.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the Rose Street Artists' Market is where locals go to stroll among the eclectic mix of stalls and people. From Collins Street in the CBD, take the 112 tram north to Fitzroy and get off at 60 Rose Street.
See a play at The Malthouse Theatre at 113 Sturt Street in South Melbourne. Built in 1892 as a brewery and malting works, it offers a year-round program of contemporary Australian theatre. Book ahead. (www.malthousetheatre.com.au)
BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER
Central Melbourne teems with coffee shops and breakfast options but you can't go wrong at The Hardware Societe at 120 Hardware Street, a cosy spot with contemporary French fare.
Or start the day with latte art at Manchester Press on Rankins Lane. This welcoming cafe is known for quirky, arty lattes that make ordinary coffee look tiresome. The all-day breakfast menu is excellent too.
A perfect hideaway for lunch is MoVida, a Spanish tapas bar amid the street art on Hosier Lane. It is bustling every day and bookings, often months in advance, are essential. If you're the spontaneous type, the walk-in tapas bar MoVida Next Door is just around the corner on Flinders Street.
At the State Library, have lunch at Mr Tulk, a cafe named after its first librarian. The polished timber and communal table give it a sophisticated but laid-back vibe. Lingering over your meal with a good book is not frowned upon here.
For dinner, try Chin Chin on 125 Flinders Lane, which serves up a modern and playful take on Asian street food. Be sure to peer out the windows - every night Chin Chin runs a contemporary video art space in adjacent Higson Lane.
Cumulus Inc at 45 Flinders Lane is a hit with its modern European menu. It also has tempting gluten-free options.
For a taste of Melbourne's ethnic diversity, try Lebanese pizza or cheese pie at the A1 Bakery at 643-645 Sydney Road in Brunswick. In Chinatown, dig into traditional dishes at Sichuan House at 22-26 Corrs Lane. South American flavors are on the menu at the Newmarket Hotel at 34 Inkerman Street in St Kilda.
Meat lovers will be in their element at Station Hotel at 59 Napier Street in Footscray, La Luna Bistro at 320 Rathdowne Street in Carlton North or Pei Modern at 45 Collins Street.
Seafood is the speciality at Richmond Oysters at 437-441 Church Street in Richmond and Rubiras at Swallows at 192 Station Street in Port Melbourne.
Vegetarians and vegans will feel at home. The Vegie Bar at 380 Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is a funky, busy spot for lunch or dinner. For more sophisticated vegetarian dining, try award-winning Attica at 74 Glen Eira Road in Ripponlea.
For an open-air drink, climb the winding stairwell to Rooftop Bar in Curtin House at 252 Swanston Street. The bar, seven floors up, doubles as a cinema in warmer months and offers impressive nighttime city views year round.
No visit to Melbourne would be complete without dropping by a laneway bar. Top spots include Loop at 23 Meyers Place, Bar Americano at 20 Presgrave Place and Cabinet Bar & Balcony at 11 Rainbow Alley.
For more discerning drinkers, The Melbourne Supper Club at Level 1, 161 Spring Street has an encyclopedic list of wine, spirits and beer, attentive staff and an elegant ambiance. Upstairs is the rooftop bar Siglo to take in the views overlooking Parliament House and light up a cigar.
For live music, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club at 25 Bennetts Lane is open every night with a line-up of world-class international and national jazz musicians.
The Corner Hotel at 57 Swan Street in Richmond is an icon of Melbourne's music scene with big names - including Ben Harper, David Gilmour, Crowded House and Mick Jagger - having played there over the years. (www.cornerhotel.com)
For wine lovers, Melbourne is just an hour or so from the vineyards and wineries of the Yarra Valley, Sunbury, Macedon Ranges, Mornington Peninsula and Geelong regions. Several companies run roundtrip day tours so there's no need to worry about drinking and driving.
If you've never seen the fast and furious contact sport that is Australian Rules Football, Melbourne has nine professional "footy" teams that play from March to September and it hosts the annual Grand Final to determine the national champions. Cricket and rugby are also hugely popular.
If you're visiting in January, don't miss the Australian Open, the first grand slam tennis tournament of the year.
Water plays a big part of Melbourne's history and identity, so consider a cruise along the Yarra River that runs through the city or a sail on Port Phillip Bay that leads to the ocean.
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)