Melbourne is getting ready to reclaim its starring role in Australia’s cultural landscape and the city’s premier culture destination is Southbank, boasting a vibrant Arts Precinct along with buzzing entertainment, shops, and some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants.
It’s a glorious spot for walking, following the Yarra River from Southgate to the Crown Entertainment Complex and beyond. Take in stunning views of Melbourne’s skyline along the way, be entertained by buskers and colourful public art, or pull up at a riverside table for a sunset tipple. It’s time to celebrate.
At the heart of the Arts Precinct is the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia’s oldest art museum. The NGV International collection includes work from Rembrandt, Picasso, and surrealist René Magritte. Fashionistas are in for a treat with Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto set to open in December, fresh from the Palais Galliera in Paris.
Under its signature spire, dramatically lit at night, Arts Centre Melbourne is a complex of theatres and concert halls, its premier venue the State Theatre, with one of the largest stages in the world.
Also in Southbank is the Melbourne Recital Centre, one of the world’s finest live music venues. Its two strikingly beautiful spaces, a 1000-seat auditorium and a more intimate 150-seat salon, offer a dazzling array of music including classical, jazz, cabaret and rock.
For art that will get you thinking, head to the rust-red Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, its upcoming exhibition 'Who’s Afraid of Public Space?' due to open in December. Art is everywhere in Southbank, from the imposing five-metre-tall black steel waves, ‘Forward Surge’, that kids love trying to climb to the top of, to the colourful and much-loved mosaic ‘Ophelia’. One of the most controversial pieces of public art is the bright yellow abstract minimalist 'Vault'.
Look for the colony of giant golden bees on the side of Eureka Tower, before taking the elevator to the 88th floor for jaw-dropping 360-degree views. Step out over The Edge (in a glass cube) if you dare, or experience Vertigo, giving you the illusion of holding on to the building for dear life.
Deciding where to eat in Southbank is a hard choice, with a string of bars and restaurants alongside the river. One of them, Ponyfish Island, floats on the river and is a picturesque spot for a meal or sunset cocktail.
Step into Crown Melbourne, the largest casino complex in the Southern Hemisphere, for entertainment, luxurious clothing boutiques and a huge choice of dining, including Bistro Guillaume, Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill, The Atlantic, and Rosetta Ristorante.
Gin lovers can’t go past the Patient Wolf distillery and bar in a red brick industrial warehouse, while further along from Southbank, the heritage sheds of South Wharf house waterfront bars, restaurants and cafés. Pull up a deckchair and enjoy a drink at the Boatbuilders Yard.
Permanently docked nearby is the enchanting Polly Woodside, one of Australia’s last surviving 19th century tall ships. For river cruises, including dinner cruises and summer twilight cruises, Southbank is the perfect starting point.
After a day exploring Southbank, the terrace at the Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne Southbank is the perfect spot to wind down. This striking building with its curved glass façade and sustainably engineered design has floor-to-ceiling windows in each of its 220 studio rooms and apartments. It’s hard to take your eyes off the view but the capital of culture beckons.
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