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Top 4 Must-See Places For Visitors in Melbourne

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by Sean Goedecke (subscribe)
Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published May 20th 2012
Southgate Precinct

Melbourne's a busy city. If you believe every piece of advice given to confused tourists, you'd have to spend a whole year looking at attractions before you could begin to appreciate it. Almost every cafe, restaurant, museum and fruit stand touts itself as a must-see for visitors. Luckily, most of these claims are wildly exaggerated. There are places in this category, though here's a quick list, starting with Southgate.

That's Southgate on the right.

Southgate Arts and Leisure Precinct lines the south side of the Yarra River, and is one of Melbourne's major entertainment areas. Think glasses of wine, river views and high rollers, as opposed to the microbrews and hipsters on the north side. There are some great restaurants here, with the general quality so high that you don't really need a recommendation. Stroll down the promenade and pick a place at random you won't be disappointed. At the west end of Southgate is Crown Casino, Melbourne's gambling soul. Even if you don't want to go inside, take a look at the front of the casino at night. Gouts of fire spout up from the side facing the river, providing amazing views to riverside diners and a horrible shock to nearby pigeons.

Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine of Remembrance is located in Kings Domain, a area of gardens along St Kilda Road. It was originally constructed to memorialise the Victorian men and women who fought in World War I, and has since been expanded to include all Australian soldiers. Both architects who designed the Shrine were World War I veterans. They drew inspiration from the Parthenon and the Tomb of Mausolus, perhaps seen most obviously in the set of columns at the entrance.

Eternal Flame
The Shrine, with the Eternal Flame visible in the foreground.

If you can, visit on ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day (the 25th of April and the 11th of November) to pay your respects with thousands of other Australians. At 11am on Remembrance Day each year, the unique design of the building catches a ray of sunlight and reflects it onto the word "love" in the Shrine's central Stone of Remembrance. The whole inscription reads: "Greater love hath no man", a quote from the Gospel of John about self-sacrifice.

Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens

The Royal Exhibition Building sits right between Melbourne Museum and Carlton Gardens. It's a three-for-one for the time-strapped tourist: spend a morning looking at the museum, examine the exhibition building after lunch and spend the evening relaxing in the gardens. Over the year, many shows and events are held in the Royal Exhibition Building and the surrounding gardens the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, for instance, has been held there every year since 1995.

Royal Exhibition Building
It's beautiful when the tulips are in bloom.

At night, the gardens become quiet and contemplative. Possums come out and play on the grass, in full view of pedestrians and evening picnickers. Years of tourists gaping at them and offering them food has made the local possum population almost tame, but you'll still have to be sneaky to get up close.

Federation Square

Next to the old-fashioned St Paul's Cathedral, Fed Square is a tangled mess of sandstone triangles and irregular glass shards. It's been charitably described as 'unique', even 'deconstructionist' but if you ask city dwellers, they'd be happy to take the deconstruction even further and knock the whole thing down.

Federation Square
Fed Square, seen from above.

Why is it worth seeing? For one, there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. More practically, it's right in the middle of Melbourne's best cafe district and contains some great museums, including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Ian Potter Centre. If you want to see a ton of things with very little walking, Fed Square might be for you.
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Why? Because Melbourne's a confusing city sometimes.
When: Anytime.
Where: All around Melbourne City.
Cost: Free entry to everything except the Melbourne Museum.
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