MELBOURNE DAY 2: Fitzroy, Queen Victoria Market and Melbourne Zoo
This morning, breakfast in Bohemian Brunswick Street Fitzroy (around fifteen minutes from the city on tram 112). A Melbourne institution, Mario's is hard to beat, serves breakfast daily starting at 7am and is known for its great coffee. Babka, at 358 Brunswick Street is another of Melbourne's most popular breakfast stops with wonderful breads and pastries baked on the premises and some of the best eggs in town. It is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except Monday, but you will probably have to queue for a table on the weekend. If you can't get in for breakfast, come back for afternoon tea — the cakes are worth it!
After breakfast, catch a cab to the 125-year-old Queen Victoria Market, the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, half of which is devoted to fresh produce (closed Mondays and Wednesdays). Join one of the Foodies' Dream Tours, which depart each Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. These offer insight into the history and architecture of the market, allow you to meet some of its colorful characters and include tastings of the market's best produce.
From the market, jump on the Tourist shuttle bus to Lygon Street, Carlton, Melbourne's Italian hub. It's a ten-minute tram trip from the city (No 1 or 8 Tram). Sit at a sidewalk table at University Café or Carlton Espresso where you can order one of the city's best espressi or cappucini or sample fabulous pastries to rival anything in Italy at Brunetti's around the corner in Faraday Street.
Apart from cafés, the strip between Grattan and Elgin Streets contains King and Godfree, a deli and wine store where you will find a huge selection of Australian and imported wines and spirits, two of Melbourne's best bookstores-Readings and Borders, Cinema Nova, an art movie house with eleven separate theaters as well as fashion and produce stores. Around the corner on Elgin Street is Esposito at Toofeys, where you can have a perfect Italian seafood lunch (Monday to Friday) in a stunning room with service to match.
To walk off your lunch, why not visit Melbourne Zoo, with 55 acres divided into bioclimatic areas, with a special Australian fauna section, and situated only two and a half miles from the Central Business District. It is open every day of the year from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on selected days in summer until 9:30 p.m. when there is free live music and you can see the animals at their most active.
Or do what most Melburnians do, shop till you drop! Options in the city include The Bourke Street Mall, a short pedestrian and tram only strip where you'll find Melbourne's two major department stores, Myer and David Jones as well as the recently renovated GPO filled with boutique shopping opportunities. A series of laneways and arcades run from the Mall, through Little Collins Street, Collins Street, Flinders Lane and right through to Flinders Street, concealing fascinating arcades with tea rooms, bars, fashion boutiques and specialty stores. Don't be afraid to wander and get lost in this secret part of Melbourne. Eventually you will come out on one of the city's main streets. Also well worth exploring is Flinders Lane. Once home to the rag trade, it is now Melbourne's designer hang-out where you'll find clothes, furniture, craft, and Melbourne's finest art galleries.
Tonight, dine Carlton or Verge on Spring Street Melbourne. Be sure to make a reservation. Following dinner, if you're after something unique, try Madam Brussels, located on Bourke Street in the city. This venue is uniquely created from AstroTurf, a fake garden fence and vines growing on the bar! Other top venues include Manchuria in Waratah Place and Der Raum, located in the suburb of Richmond, a short cab ride from the city.
* Panorama image courtesy of the Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau