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The Best and Worst of Federation Square

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by Michaelie Clark (subscribe)
Pun-loving freelance writer based in Victoria.
Published January 2nd 2012
The Best and Worst of Federation Square

Federation Square
Federation Square


Opening in 2002 as a commemoration of Australia's first hundred years as a unified country, Federation Square has since been visited by tens of millions of people keen to experience its restaurants, bars, unique cultural attractions and many exceptional exhibits and events.

Now, almost a decade since this controversial $450 million investment was launched, it's time to take a look at what's hot and what's not at Fed Square – and to see if it's a site that still divides the city. Click on the links below to check out our wrap on the good, the bad and the ugly, and then let us know what you love and hate about this legendary Melbourne landmark.

The Good

Best and Worst of Federation Square
The public art is one of the best features of Fed Square.


By far one of the most important aspects of Federation Square is its art and culture. As home to both the ACMI and the NGV, there is never a shortage of shows on offer, but even more pleasing is Fed Square's commitment to free public art and its dedicated Creative Program.

All year long, visitors will find something to marvel at, whether it be a large-scale installation, a thought-provoking exhibit, an interactive display or a live performance. The public art includes both permanent and temporary features, so check the website to see what's on, or just turn up – there's always something to see.

With a huge calendar of events throughout the year, Fed Square has also become a renowned host of major festivals, concerts, forums, markets and celebrations – most of which are free. Take a look at the Fed Square Events Page to browse the upcoming attractions, or take advantage of some of the regular activities, such as free tai chi classes on Cheap Tuesdays.

The Bad

Federation Square Restaurants
The service detracts from the exceptional views at Feddish.


With so much to love about the culture of Federation Square, it's easy to have high expectations of the piazza's eateries. This is something that works against Feddish restaurant, as the standard of the dining experience is not necessarily in line with the prospect indicated by the venue's premium location, stunning views and menu prices.

The cost of dining at Feddish is not exorbitant, but neither is it an accurate reflection of the value of the meals. Entrées and desserts average at around $12-$14, while mains average at $25, yet the fare on offer is not always of the quality the menu suggests. The main issue is the service of the establishment – crispy skin salmon with salad nicoise is all well and good, but if it's delivered to your table stone-cold, half an hour before your entrée or without the glass of wine you've ordered twice and not received (despite being charged for it each time), you're unlikely to be impressed. This is a real shame given that the venue has all the opportunities to become a city favourite, with its spectacular setting and mix of indoor and terrace dining spaces.

Riverland Bar and Café on Federation Wharf, just below the Main Square, makes a much better show of things and works the river to its advantage, despite the limitations of being an almost wholly outdoor venue. The gourmet BBQ and bar food hits the spot every time, and is generally at least half the price of a meal at Feddish. Riverland positions itself to offer a much more casual experience than Feddish, but in the end, the upshot is that one exceeds expectations while the other fails to deliver.

The Ugly

Federation Square Tour
Learn more about Fed Square's controversial design.


In the ten years that Federation Square has been part of Melbourne, there has been much contention over the aesthetic appeal of the structure itself. With views of the design ranging from 'unique post-post-modern icon' to 'unparalleled eyesore', there is only one thing that's certain – it makes one hell of an impression.

Spread out over more than three hectares of the inner city, and extending down to Federation Wharf on the Yarra River, Federation Square is perhaps an incongruously contemporary edifice in the midst of a primarily heritage-bound locale. With its eye-catching mix of mottled colours and irregular lines and angles, it has become a famous – or infamous – feature of the city. To some, it is a celebrated symbol of both our history and our future, while to others it will always be a monstrosity.

If you haven't made up your mind yet, you can always learn more about the history, architecture and behind-the-scenes engineering of the precinct by taking one of Federation Square's free guided tours. The tours run every Monday to Saturday at 11am, starting from the Melbourne Visitors Centre, and provide a 50-minute exploration of the elements that make Fed Square so memorable.
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Why? Discover the good, the bad and the ugly of a remarkable Melbourne icon.
When: Anytime - see website for specific venue opening hours and event dates.
Where: Federation Square, Swanston St, Melbourne
Cost: Fed Square is free to visit - see website for information about restaurant prices and specific event costs.
Your Comment
You didnt mention the fantastic book market in the Atrium at Federation square which is on every Saturday.The Atrium is undercover so if is raining, or very hot you have shelter.The Ian Potter gallery is in the Atrium as well as another large screen and two eateries and Beer Deluxe.
by jeank (score: 1|16) 2867 days ago
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