Flinders Street StationFlinders Street Station

Melbourne's Walls Really Do Talk

Image: Shutterstock

Art and architecture lovers, listen up! Marvellous Melbourne’s calling. From its heritage walls to gloriously ornate façades, sleek contemporary towers, buzzing rooftops and art-filled laneways, this is a city with a whole lot to say. 

Nearly two centuries worth of stories, in fact. Founded in 1835, when European colonists arrived from Tasmania, the settlement on the banks of the Yarra River soon transformed into one of the world’s greatest cities. Dubbed ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ during the peak of Victoria’s gold boom (1850s – 1890s), when its wealth rivalled the British Empire’s capital of London.

Then, as now, Melbourne remains one of the world’s most marvellous cities, renowned as a global capital of art, culture, coffee, shopping, food, festivals, sport and more – also scoring the No 1 ranking in the world’s ‘most liveable city’ index 10 times over since the measurement commenced in 2002. 

Not forgetting its reputation as a destination that sublimely marries Melbourne’s past, present and future; mirrored in an eclectic patchwork of architectural styles, from jaw-dropping Victorian, Edwardian, Federation and Art Deco buildings through to Post-war, Mid-century modern and cutting-edge Contemporary landmarks.

Insider Tip: Check into TFE Hotels’ heritage wonder, Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne. Dating back to 1913, the stunning property – celebrated as an exquisite example of Edwardian Baroque era architecture – started life as the Commercial Travellers Club. Today, its Travellers Bar (adjacent to the hotel’s striking, circular Grand Vestibule), is the perfect place to raise a glass before discovering Melbourne’s iconic landmarks where art and architecture meet. Ask about Rendezvous Melbourne’s Heritage Rooms, complete with private balconies, to take in views of neighbouring icons like Flinders Street Station. 

Speaking of which… Immortalised on everything from postcards to Hollywood movies, the clocks under the French Renaissance-style dome of Flinders Street Station signpost ‘the meeting place’ for local sweethearts and visitors alike. 

According to urban legend, architectural plans for the Heritage-listed landmark (built between 1905 and 1910) were accidentally mixed up with those intended for another train station – in Mumbai (then Bombay) – resulting in a vaguely East Indian-inspired design. Whether fact or fiction, Flinders Street Station remains one of Australia’s most recognisable icons.

For art’s sake: situated at the junction of Swanston and Flinders Streets, not only is the grand railway station a muse for countless artists, but a living canvas to boot. In 1986, prominent Australian visual artist, the late Mirka Mora, created a beloved work of art in the form of a mosaic mural on an inside wall of the station at the Yarra River end (next to popular dining haunt, Clocks restaurant). 

Budding young artists can also make tracks to the SIGNAL building (formerly known as Signal Box ‘A’) – the last remaining signal box from a makeshift terminus of weatherboard sheds that predated the iconic railway station – now home to multi-art form programs. 

There’s even an underground arts movement, thanks to not-for-profit group, Platform Artists Group Inc, showcasing artworks in Campbell Arcade (aka Degraves Street Subway), which provides a handy access route from Flinders Street Station to Melbourne’s CBD. 

Did you know? In 1959, Flinders Street Station formed a backdrop for Hollywood sci-fi drama, On the Beach, starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. Clock this! When not filming, the silver screen legends relaxed in grand style at the first 20th Century American-style hotel constructed in Victoria (circa 1928) – at the time, hailed the only one in Australia to offer ensuite bathrooms and air conditioning.

Built to what was then Melbourne’s height limit of 40 metres, Hotel Alexander replaced a three-storey brick hotel that graced the site (corner, Little Collins and Spencer Streets) since 1866. Today, the refurbished Art Deco doyen proudly takes the name The Savoy Hotel on Little Collins, staking its rightful place among TFE Hotels’ Collection portfolio of luxury discovery properties. 

Insider Tip: for the best ‘panoramic exhibition’ in town – and one that never closes – book into TFE Hotels’ newest kid on one of the world’s most sought-after blocks, Vibe Hotel Melbourne (opened April 2020). Staking prime position on the corner of Queen and Flinders Street – overlooking the Yarra River – rooms with extraordinary views come as standard at this 206-room property, blessed with floor-to-ceiling windows. 

More extraordinarily, the hotel’s contemporary glass-fronted tower – rising 24 storeys from its heritage base – supports a 35sqm Terrace Suite that opens onto a private outdoor terrace measuring a whopping 60.69sqm. Big enough to entertain 22 people. 

Best described as a marvel before its own lifetime, Vibe Melbourne’s 147-year-old base – now home to St Marks Road Co. bar and dining hub – predates a mind-boggling line-up of the city’s icons. Easily 101 and more! Dating back to 1873, its grand Renaissance Revival-style Lobby level first claimed a foothold in the Melbourne’s heart during the peak of the gold boom, originally serving as offices for the maritime trade, opened the same year Government Offices launched in Treasury Place. Today, the upscale hotel’s street-level façade also echoes the post-World War II boom of the 1950s, when Fletcher Jones transformed the space into its main city showroom.

Vibe Hotel Melbourne and close neighbour, Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne, are located just steps from Australia’s oldest building, Cook’s Cottage (circa 1755), shipped to Melbourne and reassembled brick by brick in Fitzroy Gardens in 1934. Both hotels also look over Enterprize Park, the spot where colonists first landed aboard the tall ship, Enterprize, in 1835, on land traditionally owned by the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri) peoples of the Kulin Nation. 

Importantly, Enterprize Park is today home to the Scar Project. A collaborative installation by Indigenous artists, commissioned by the City of Melbourne during Federation events in 2001 to represent significant cultural artefacts or scar trees, honouring the historical presence of Indigenous people. Join Koorie Heritage Trust’s guided Aboriginal Walking Tours to learn more. Did you know? The Scar Project incorporates original wharf poles from Queens Bridge, one of Melbourne’s oldest bridges, which escape artist Harry Houdini famously jumped off, in 1910, bound in chains and handcuffs. 

Let’s end ‘on a high’!  Take the fastest elevator trip to the highest public viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere, aka Eureka Skydeck. Think 285 metres in 38 seconds! 

Did you know? Melbourne sits high on the Top 100 list of ‘must see’ cityscapes… anywhere on the planet. According to the latest, internationally-recognised Emporis ‘Skyline Ranking’, Melbourne boasts the No.1 city skyline in Australia and, globally, at #39, outranks Sydney (#40); London (#50); San Francisco (#52) and even Las Vegas (#77). 

Are you ready to discover Marvellous Melbourne? TFE Hotels’ proudly operates 12 hotels across five brands (and counting) in Melbourne’s heart, providing your ticket to discover all things newly bright and historically beautiful. Book now.  And if you're looking for something a little funky, the brand-new Quincy Hotel Melbourne opened its doors on Flinders Lane early 2021, marking the long-awaited debut of the Quincy brand – out of Singapore – promising a colourful and contemporary lifestyle experience unlike anything currently available in Australia. Signature dining, sensory experiences and a quirky approach to room service are just the start…

Peace of mind when you stay with us: Introducing Clean Touch.

Note some activities listed may be subject to Covid restrictions.

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