MELBOURNE Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, is a vibrant metropolis packed with cultural attractions, historical sites and charming back lane cafes.
This southern city of many faces, some 970 km from Sydney, also plays host to major sporting events, including the Australian Open tennis tournament every January. For a truly local sports experience, take in an Australian Football League game where passions run high.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of their stay.
5 p.m. - A taxi ride to the heart of the city from Tullamarine Airport costs about A$60 and will take 30 minutes.
There are plenty of great places to stay, but if you check into the Rialto Intercontinental Hotel at 495 Collins Street you'll be staying in a unique building which began life as a wool shed.
The heritage listed property is made up of two buildings with a generous open space running between, housing a restaurant and bar on the ground floor. While the rooms are modern, the exterior of the building and foyer are from a bygone era.
6 p.m. - Enjoy an evening drink in the hotel bar and savour the historic ambiance. Follow this with dinner at "The Press Club," a restaurant just five minutes walk from the hotel known for its modern Greek cuisine.
8 p.m. - Whatever time of the year you visit Melbourne, there's always an opportunity to take in an evening performance at the Comedy Theatre Melbourne. Currently showing is 'Rock of Ages' set in Los Angeles in 1987.
11 p.m. - Stop by the Loft bar, at 117 Lonsdale Street in the heart of the theatre district. Floor to ceiling windows provide great views over the city skyline, making the climb up two flights of stairs worthwhile.
9 a.m. - Take a stroll down Collins Street to Southgate, and pop into Le Camera Southbank for a breakfast of seasonal fruits, bacon and eggs, and fresh coffee and juices. It's easy to while away an hour or more overlooking life on the banks of the Yarra River, with a constant stream of joggers, cyclists as well as oarsmen and women training in skiffs on the river.
10:30 a.m. - Take a sightseeing river cruise along the Yarra. Melbourne River Cruises offer several options including a 2.5 hour Melbourne Highlights Cruise. This voyage gives views of the landings of the early settlers, the 19th Century sailing ship "Polly Woodside", Westgate Bridge, the Governor's residence, and much more. The Victoria Docks provides a snapshot of the rich maritime heritage and boom of the gold rush area.
2 p.m. - Take a tram to Black Ruby's restaurant at 344 Rathdown Street, Carlton North. This country-like cottage offers a great selection of food and a 100 percent gluten-free menu. Mains range between A$19 - A$28, deserts about A$11 and a set three course menu can be enjoyed for a modest A$40
Jump on another tram to nearby Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. Walk off your lunch and enjoy the eclectic mix of shops that line this street. Brunswick Street has something to offer every style of visitor in particular the vintage shopper.
If shopping proves tiring, take the time to check out some of the great selection of bohemian cafes and the colourful array of laneway murals which enhance the northern end of the street.
7 p.m. - Enjoy a pre-dinner drink at the Gin Palace, 190 Little Collins Street. This quirky little wine bar tucked away in a laneway provides an intimate setting for cocktails.
8 p.m. Vue de monde at 430 Little Collins Street allows visitors to experience French cuisine in the hub of the city's laneways. The exposed beams on the ceiling and live piano and accordion music transport diners to the French countryside. Entrees range from A$12-A$30, Mains A$25-A$80 and deserts A$12.
9 a.m. - Enjoy a breakfast at Tropicana Juice Food Bar at 213 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. This colourful cafe is easy to find, as it has hundreds of oranges hanging from net bags on the outside of the cafe. Tables are parked on the main foot path close to the road with pedestrians wandering past as you enjoy the fresh fruit juices and an array of delicious food.
10 a.m - Use the free City Circle tram, which operates daily until about 6 p.m and takes about an hour to complete, providing a guided tour of the city landmarks. Jump on and off the tram to savour the delights of the city at your own pace.
2 p.m. - Pop by the Melbourne Museum, located at Nicholson Street, Carlton Gardens and enjoy an afternoon exhibition. "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" is on until October.
Enjoy afternoon tea at the Museum cafe before heading back to your hotel to check out and return to the airport.
(Reporting by Pauline Askin; editing by Elaine Lies)
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