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Things To Do
Things To Do
With so many things to do in Melbourne CBD and other nearby attractions, Rydges’ visitors will never get bored.
Only minutes from Melbourne's CBD, accommodation at Rydges on Swanston Melbourne is an easy walk to the vibrant cafes and restaurants of the famous Lygon Street, as well as the sights and tastes of the Queen Victoria Markets. There's easy access to CBD Melbourne, Carlton Gardens, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum, IMAX theatre, Melbourne Zoo, National Gallery of Victoria, Victorian Arts Centre, Flemington Racecourse, Southgate Shopping Centre, Crown Casino, MCG and Telstra Dome.
Things to do in Melbourne
Rydges on Swanston is on the northern fringe of the Melbourne CBD and is ideally located for exploring the main city attractions. Attractions in the northern part of the city include the wonderful Melbourne Zoo, the iconic Queen Victoria Market, the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens with the adjacent Melbourne Museum and the culinary delights of Lygon Street.
Heading into the city, the Old Melbourne Gaol (where Russell turns into Lygon Street) is well worth a visit. The building once dominated the Melbourne skyline and between 1842 and its closure in 1929 it was the scene of 133 hangings, including bushranger Ned Kelly. This is the main reason ghost tours of the gaol are popular. Displays include death masks and histories of famous bushrangers and convicts.
In the CBD there is a lot of atmosphere to soak in by exploring the streets and laneways. Little Lonsdale Street is home to Melbourne Central, a spectacular blend of ultra-modern architecture with a huge glass cone, the largest freestanding glass structure in the world, enveloping an historic shot tower. The city shopping is excellent and a great place to start is Collins Street for the Block Arcade and some stylish shopping in the country’s oldest arcade.
Little Bourke Street is home to Chinatown and, arguably, the best selection of Chinese cuisine in the country. The Chinese Museum in Cohen Place (just behind Her Majesty’s Theatre), traces the history of the Chinese who arrived in the wake of the 1850s gold rush and established Chinatown.
To the east of the city, Parliament House (Spring Street) is an imposing building. Tours run several times a day on weekdays and the public galleries open when parliament is in session. Behind, St Patrick’s Cathedral is a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture and the largest church in Australia. From here you can visit Fitzroy Gardens and Captain Cook’s Cottage and it’s not far to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the National Sports Museum and Rod Laver Arena.
At the bottom of Swanston Street is Flinders Street Railway Station with the longest platform in the country. Across the road (corner of Swanston and Flinders) is St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. It’s Gothic with a 96-metre spire, one of the best cathedral organs in Australia and the choir sings an evensong daily. Diagonally opposite is Federation Square, the contemporary focus for the city with its open spaces and modern art galleries as well as the Melbourne Visitor’s Centre. Just along the river is the SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Heading across Princes Bridge and the Yarra River will see you on St Kilda Road. Here you will find the Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance. And, naturally, heading further along St Kilda Road will take you to St Kilda on Port Phillip Bay for the beach, the Pier, the Esplanade, Luna Park and the delightful atmospheric of al fresco dining in Acland Street.
Princess Theatre Melbourne
Located at 163 Spring Street, Melbourne’s iconic Princess Theatre is one of the city’s most spectacular landmarks. The 1488 seat theatre dates back to 1854. Like many old theatres it went though some rough patches where its future and viability were questioned but after being purchased in 1986 and refurbished by Marriner Theatres, it was reborn as a sensational venue for modern musicals and theatrical productions.
The theatre re-opened in 1989 with the musical Les Miserables, followed by Phantom of the Opera, which established a new record for the longest-running show ever staged in Victoria. Other world-class productions to wow audiences at the Princess include Cats, Mama Mia!, The Producers, Dirty Dancing, Jersey Boys and Hairspray. And it has been announced that THE BOOK OF MORMON will open at the Princess Theatre in January 2017. From South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez, THE BOOK OF MORMON has won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show has been breaking box office records all around the world including the London production having the highest single day of sales in West End history. It has been hailed as the “funniest musical of all time” and the “best musical of this century”.
The Princess Theatre Box Office is currently closed but tickets can be purchased from the Regent Theatre Box Office at 191 Collins Street. The nearest train station to The Princess is Parliament Station and trams 86 and 96 go to Bourke Street. The free City Circle Tram also goes past the Princess Theatre. Snacks are available at all bars in the theatre. There is no ATM on the premises – the closest is on the corner of Little Bourke and Exhibition Streets.
There are several theatre entrances located on Spring Street and the glass doors are kept open prior to and during performances. There is one step up into each doorway and a ramp is positioned two hours prior to performance time for patrons needing an accessible entrance. There is a unisex accessible toilet located between the Male and Female toilets at the Little Bourke Street end of the lower foyer. It is recommended that people with mobility issues request Stalls seating and for wheelchair/accessible seating inquiries, call the Box Office on (03) 9299 9800. The same number should be used by people with sight or hearing impairments. Some shows have audio-described performances, seats close to the stage can be requested and there is a hearing loop within the Stalls seating.
Oh! And The Princess Theatre is meant to be haunted by a friendly ghost called ‘Federici’. Federici died of a massive heart attack on March 3, 1888, following a performance of the opera, Faust. Every opening night, a seat in the Dress Circle is left empty for him and it is a sign of good luck if there is a sighting of Federici on that night.
Melbourne Zoo offers visitors an amazing journey through a world of wildlife, just a few minutes north of the city centre, handy to Rydges on Swanston. The zoo is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm every day of the year (animal areas close from 4:30pm). The zoo is home to 70,000 plants and more than 300 different animal species including Asian Elephants, Sumatran Tigers, Gorillas, Orang-utans as well as kangaroos and koalas. Animal attractions and exhibits include:
Growing Wild is an exciting interactive area, designed especially for the littlies (aged 3 to 8 years) – patrol alongside a meerkat or crawl inside a Giant Tortoise Shell to get a tortoise-eye view of the world. It is a place to crawl, climb and scramble to combine play opportunities with nature. Keeper Kids in another indoor playspace where kids can explore and immerse themselves in role play to incorporate imagination with a connection to the natural world. In the new ‘Works Area’ kids can try their hand at plumbing, carpentry and zoo design.
The Butterfly House is one of the zoo’s most loved and magical experiences. Enchanting and educational, the magnificent tropical greenhouse is home to hundreds of spectacularly coloured native butterflies. Next door is the World of Bugs and it has even more fascinating insects that may not be quite as ‘pretty’ as the butterflies, including stick insects and the Giant Burrowing Cockroach.
The award-winning Trail of the Elephants exhibit invites visitors into an Asian village and garden setting to experience the wonder of the endangered elephant in its natural habitat and see the challenges faced in having humans and elephants co-exist. At the Orang-utan Sanctuary you can visit the largest tree living mammals in the world, in their treetop home. From the elevated boardwalk you can watch them behave as they would in the wild: climbing, swinging, nesting and feeding. The sanctuary features interactive games, sculptures and multi-media viewing platforms to connect with these highly intelligent and highly endangered animals.
Wild Sea is the zoo’s largest ever exhibit and it showcases the inhabitants who make Victoria’s coast and ocean home. There are Little Penguins, a seal colony, Altona and Percy the pelicans, Port Jackson sharks, fiddler rays, seahorse and all kinds of fish. The Baboon Lookout allows you to encounter Hamadryas Baboons as you would in the wild with uninterrupted views through glass and across moats. You can watch the baboons play, groom and search for food on their grassland savannah, surrounded by large rocky outcrops, pools and palms.
Lemur Island is a new walk-through exhibit that allows you to get up close to Ring-tailed Lemurs on the way to the Gorilla Rainforest experience, home to gorillas, Pygmy Hippopotamus, Mandrills and tree-top apes and monkeys. There are African Lions in Lion Gorge, along with the new African Wild Dog Pack and the Philippines Crocodile and the Australian Bush is home to koalas, kangaroos, cockatoos, ducks, wallabies, emus wombats and a Tasmanian Devil. A visit to the Melbourne Zoo really is a special day out!
Parliament House Melbourne
Parliament House is in Spring Street on the eastern fringe of the CBD and is open to the public throughout the year. When Parliament is sitting, visitors are welcome to visit and watch their government in action. The Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly (the Houses) both have public galleries, which are open whenever the House is sitting.
Visitors to Parliament House are required to pass through a security checkpoint before entering the building. This involves a walk through scanner and baggage scanning. Visitors with pace makers should ask to be scanned using the hand held scanners. Bags must be left at reception when taking part in a tour or sitting in the public galleries.
Audio loops are available in the Chambers. These can be used in conjunction with hearing aids. Disabled access is through the rear door at Parliament House (enter via McArthur Street). Disabled toilets are located on the ground and first floors.
Public tours of Parliament are conducted on days when Parliament is not sitting. There is no need to book for groups of less than 6 people. Public tours take place at 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm and 3:45pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) from the vestibule.
In 1851, even before the colony of Victoria was self-governing, Governor Charles La Trobe declared that a site had to be set aside for parliament to meet and the current site on the eastern hill at the top of Bourke Street was chosen. Back then buildings were no more than two storeys high so the selected site had a view of the whole city. The Neoclassical design was borrowed heavily from Leeds Town Hall in Yorkshire, which is still considered one of the finest civic buildings in the world. The building was a ‘work in progress’ for close to 70 years. Construction began in 1855, the library was completed in 1860, The Great Hall (Queen’s Hall) and the vestibule in 1879 and, in the gold rush boom, the classical colonnade and portico facing Spring Street was added (1880 – 1892). The north wing was added in 1893 and the refreshment rooms at the back of the building in 1929. Thankfully it was all done with care and taste so it looks like one coherent, impressive building.
The original design included plans for a dome, but the economic depression of 1891 saw that plan shelved. Every now and then governments toy with adding a dome but the cost has always been prohibitive. From 1901 to 1927 Parliament House was the home of the Commonwealth Parliament (while they were working on building Canberra as the home of the Federal Parliament). During these years the Victorian Parliament met in the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton.
A lot of major events happened in the Parliament building in those formative years of Federation. The Australian Labour Party was formed, as was the Liberal Party and the First World War was declared in August 1914. The Parliament building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and here is a link to the official Parliament website.
Royal Exhibition Melbourne
The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne is one of the world's oldest remaining exhibition pavilions. In 2004 it became the first building in Australia to achieve a World Heritage listing. The heritage list is a snapshot of the nation’s most important places and the Royal Exhibition Building certainly qualifies.
Located in Carlton Gardens (9 Nicholson Street), the Royal Exhibition Building is close to Rydges on Swanston. The building’s architect was Joseph Reed, who also designed the Melbourne Town Hall and the State Library of Victoria. It was built by David Mitchell, who also built Scots’ Church and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Mitchell was the father of famed opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, who took her stage name from her home city.
The pavilion was originally completed in 1880 for the first of two international fairs hosted by Melbourne (the second was in 1888). When it was built, the Great Hall was the largest building in Australia, and the highest building in Melbourne. The building is set in ceremonial gardens. A wide avenue lined with plane trees links the front, southern entrance of the building with the city beyond. In 1888 electric lighting was installed for the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition. Over 60 miles of cabling allowed the interior and exterior of the building to be lit. It was the first in the world to have night-time viewings.
In May 1901, the Royal Exhibition Building hosted the opening of the first Federal Parliament. Prime Minister Barton wanted it to be as inclusive as possible. No other public building could accommodate such a large group of people (some 12,000), and the organisers were eager to make the occasion spectacular and memorable. The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited Melbourne for the event, creating great excitement as they attended receptions, processions and other functions held in their honour. Melbourne's streets and buildings were elaborately decorated, and people from all over Australia visited for the celebrations. A competition was held to find an Australian flag, which flew from the Exhibition Building on September 3, 1901. There were over 32,000 entries vying for the fame and the £200 prize money and five almost identical designs shared in the win.
Today, with its meticulously restored interior, expansive galleries and soaring dome, the Great Hall offers an impressive setting for trade shows, fairs and cultural and community events. One of the most popular events is the annual Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. Because it is a working exhibition pavilion, it is not open for general viewing but attending an event or exhibition certainly enhances the experience because of the building’s grandeur. There are guided tours held most days at 2:00pm (when the building is available). The tours depart from the adjacent Melbourne Museum and cost $10 for adults, $8 concession and $7 for children and Museum Members.
There is wheelchair access to the Royal Exhibition Building via the northern entry, opposite the Melbourne Museum entrance, with lift access to all levels. Wheelchairs are available for Royal Exhibition Building tours.
Queen Victoria Market Melbourne
The new Queen Victoria Market branding celebrates all that is great about Melbourne’s favourite landmark - it’s about connections, people and life through a very simple statement: Your Market. Forever.
Affectionately known by the locals as ‘Vic Market’ or ‘Queen Vic’, the Queen Victoria Market has been the heart and soul of Melbourne since 1878. The traders are passionate, the colours are vibrant, the energy is part of the atmosphere and the range of produce and goods on offer is amazingly diverse.
The historic landmark is spread over two city blocks at the top end of the CBD, not far from Rydges on Swanston, and is a bustling market that serves up everything from fruit and vegies, local and imported gourmet foods, cosmetics, clothing and souvenirs. Even if you aren’t in a mood to shop, it is just a great place to visit for the atmosphere.
There’s the art deco Deli Hall with its original marble counters for dips, terrines, meats, cakes, pastries, chocolates and an amazing range of local and imported cheeses. Take away options include Italian, Turkish and the market’s famous bratwurst sausages. The Meat Hall has a range of meats as well as sensational seafood with ten resident fishmongers. The fruit and veg (A & B sheds and H & I sheds) is fresh, varied and good value because of the competition.
Queen Victoria Market also offers the widest range of organic produce available in Melbourne. I Shed, which is dedicated to organic and biodynamic produce, is situated near the corner of Therry and Queen Streets. And, of course, there is an array of general merchandise – clothing, shoes, jewellery, accessories, leather goods, CDs & DVDs, mobile phones & electronic accessories, handicrafts, artefacts and souvenirs. As well as stalls there are quaint shops selling specialty goods and, if you get peckish, the Vic Market Place Food Court caters to almost every visitor’s taste. As well as take away there is dine in seating for over 400. The space is heated and protected from rain and wind.
String Bean Alley is the Market’s newest retail precinct, made up of a series of repurposed shipping containers transformed into artisan workshops and stalls. String Bean Alley trades every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and during the Night Market Season. The petite Brocante Marche is a fresh twist on a French vintage market (first Sunday of each month). This is a fun French themed marche not a French product market. You will be inspired by the ingenuity of the repurposed vintage products.
The Queen Victoria Market is open five days a week – Tuesday and Thursday from 6:00am to 2:00pm, Friday from 6:00am to 5:00pm, Saturday from 6:00am to 3:00pm and Sunday from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Closed Mondays, Wednesdays and public holidays. You’ll find the market on the corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets (enter from Elizabeth, Victoria, Peel or Therry Streets).
Here is a link to the what’s on section on the official Queen Victoria Market website – could be tours, cooking demonstrations, disco yoga or barbeque workshops!
Forum Theatre Melbourne
Melbourne’s Forum Theatre is in the heart of the CBD, on the corner of Flinders and Russell Streets), and it is one of the city’s most recognised landmarks. Once known as The State Theatre, it opened in 1929 with the largest seating capacity of any theatre in Australia. Since then the theatre has been divided into two separate venues. Downstairs is Forum I – it is famous for its large stage, mesmerising proscenium and cabaret style booths. Upstairs is Forum II. It is a smaller venue with tiered seating, small stage, surround sound and cinema sized screen.
When it was one venue there were 3,371 seats. The grandness of the theatre was immediately apparent as soon as audiences entered the foyer. Patrons’ attention was immediately drawn to the illuminated clock in the centre of the floor, synchronised to the clock tower. Audiences in the 1,372 seat Dress Circle entered through rotundas on either side, while audiences in the 1,999 seat Stalls were overwhelmed by the vast night sky, complete with accurately placed constellations. Opening night was a spectacle (for the times) with a double movie presentation – The Fleet’s In starring Clara Bow and The Cameraman starring Buster Keaton. Talkies began in April 1929. By 1938 the entertainment included an orchestra and a Tivoli stage act.
In 1956, along came television and, by the early 1960’s, movie audiences had dwindled. That’s when Greater Union converted the building to two smaller theatres and introduced The Forum as a name (1962). In 1978 the Forum was added to the Historic Buildings Register and came under the protection of the National Trust. In 1996, David Marriner bought the complex and converted it to become one of Melbourne’s premier live music and cabaret venues for comedians, magicians, dancers and live bands.
With its unique Gothic-Romanesque architecture, the Forum Theatre is the place-to-be for live performances of various artists, both local and international. The interior of the venue is no less elaborate with the sky-blue ceiling creating an illusion of an outdoor amphitheatre setting. Famous for being one of Melbourne's most popular live band venues (it is an over-18 venue), the Forum also plays host to many popular festivals throughout the year including the Melbourne International Comedy and Film Festivals, the Melbourne Jazz Festival and the Melbourne Arts Festival. Again Melbourne has something special on its theatre scene with a happy marriage of contemporary performance plus the atmosphere, history and style of a bygone architectural era.
The Forum Theatre Box Office opens 90 minutes before the commencement of a show and stays open until half an hour into a show. The venue is accessible by train (Flinders Street Station), trams and buses via Swanston, Flinders and Russell Streets and the closest taxi rank is in Swanston Street. The Flinders Street entrance has one step up to a line of double doors and a ramp is positioned here during performances. Patrons in wheelchairs should book direct with the theatre by ringing (03) 9299 9800. Here is a link to the Forum Theatre website.