Known as “Melbourne's civic and cultural hub for the 21st century”, the Federation Square is a conglomerate of numerous attractions centered on unusual architecture and a large open-type area. Here one will find the National Gallery of Victoria: The Ian Potter Centre-Australian Art, the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI), and a one-stop Visitor Centre (Visitor Tourist Information center). The ACMI center features 2 state of the art cinemas and huge areas where visitors can watch movies, videos, and other digital media. The Federation square visit is worth just to see the exceptional architecture, made up of uncommonly reflective geometrical designs, and the remarkable glassed Atrium. There are many events held in the square’s 450-seat amphitheater, including various theatrical performances and free concerts; also some events are carried out on the plaza and along the banks of the Yarra River.
Gold Treasury Museum
Designed by the famous architect J. J. Clarke (at age of only 19) and constructed in 1857, the Old Treasury Building is a striking neoclassical sandstone edifice that once housed the gold metal from the Ballarat & Bendigo gold rushes. The “Built on Gold” exhibition in the vaults, where the gold was stored is an interesting multimedia show featuring videos and exhibits showing how the gold was dug up, stored, transported and sold. The ground floor keeps the “Melbourne - A City Built on Gold” exhibition, showing how the city was built using the profits from the gold rushes. One should spare at least one hour.
This 8-story movie screen rivals largest screen in the world – the one at Sydney’s Darling Harbor. Some recent subjects have been outer space, the African Serengeti, and the depths of the oceans.
Founded in 2000, the Melbourne’s Aquarium stretches over 3 levels and includes a Barrier Reef-type display, some interesting jellyfish and a huge walk-through tank with bigger fish, sharks, and rays.
The museum, situated opposite the nineteenth century Royal Exhibition Buildings is the largest in the country and one of the most interesting. Some of the most interesting items include a real blue whale skeleton, an indoor rainforest, and a really impressive insect and butterfly collection with many real-life exhibits, such as cockroaches, ant colonies, and huge spiders. There are also interactive displays and science exhibitions. Check out the brightly coloured Children’s Museum, which will bring joy to the kids.
Melbourne Observation Desk
From the 55th floor, near the top of the highest edifice in the Southern Hemisphere, one gets 360-degree views of the entire Melbourne city and beyond. A short movie shows one what looking at. Interesting are the displays relating about the life in Melbourne - both past and present.
Melbourne Zoois a must-see. Established in 1862, this is the oldest zoo in the world, and one of the best. There are approximately 3000 animals in this zoo, including the popular kangaroos, koalas, wombats, wallabies, echidnas, and platypuses. Additionally, rather than locked in cages, most animals here live in almost natural environment or well-tended gardens. One shouldn’t miss the butterfly house, with its thousands colourful occupants flying around, as well as the free-flight aviary and the lowland gorilla display. One should spare at least one hour only for the Australian natives, and around 2-3 hours for the entire zoo.
National Gallery of Victoria, International
Founded in 2003, the NGV International is a great showcase for Australia’s best collections of international art. There are 4 Gainsboroughs and 4 Constables in the gallery, as well as paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Monet, Van Dyck, El Greco, Manet, Delacroix, and Bonnard. Additionally, architecturally the edifice is a masterpiece, with high ceilings, incredible lighting, and great open spaces.
National Gallery of Victoria: Ian Potter Centre-Australian Art
This is another enchanting gallery in the heart of Federation Square (opened in 2002), featuring twenty rooms devoted to Australian art. Approximately 20000 objects are kept here, but only around eight hundred are on display at any one time. Aboriginal and colonial art collections are some of the highlights of this gallery, but one will find modern paintings here as well.
Old Melbourne Gaol
This is an interesting cramped former prison, with tiny cells and spooky collection of death masks and various artifacts of ninetieth century prison life. One hundred thirty-five hangings took place here, including that of the widely known bandit (and Australian hero) Ned Kelly, in 1880. Chilling night tours are held every Sunday and Wednesday, but one should call ahead to check the schedule. Note that this tour is not recommended for children under the age of twelve!
Queen Victoria Market
Occupying several blocks and with hundreds of indoor and outdoor stalls, on Queen Victoria Market one can find anything from live animals to bargain clothes. The markets can get too crowded and there’s plenty of junk to sort through, but here one will get a real taste of the city and its ethnic mixture. Look out for some interesting delicatessen sections and cheap eateries. There is a two hours “Foodies Dream Tour” of the market, which explores its countless foods and heritage.
Rippon Lea House Museum & Historic Garden
This grand Victorian house, eight kilometers from the downtown is worth a visit to get a feel for the old-money Melbourne. Socialite Sir Frederick Thomas Sargood erected Rippon Lea House, which features dozens of rooms, between 1868 and 1903, as well as a pool and ballroom, which were added in the 1930s. Although the Romanesque architecture is impressive, the real attraction here is the surrounding 5.3 ha (thirteen acres) of scenery gardens, which feature a conservatory, lake, an orchard, a lookout tower and extensive flower beds and shrubbery.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Constructed between 1880 and 1892, from the designs of the renowned English Gothic Revival architect William Butterfield, Anglican St. Paul’s Cathedral is noteworthy for its great decorative interior and the English organ built by T. S. Lewis. Inside you’ll gold mosaics on walls, Victorian tessellated tiles on the floors, tortuous woodcarvings, and beautiful stained-glass windows. Outside is an impressive statue of Matthew Flinders, the 1st sailor to navigate the Australian mainland from 1801 to 1803.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Although lacking the complexity of design of St. Paul’s, Roman Catholic St. Patrick’s is an interesting Gothic Revival edifice with superb stained-glass windows. Erected between 1858 and 1940, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was closely associated with the immigrants from Ireland escaping the middle 19th century potato famine.
State Houses of Parliament
This impressive monument to Victorian architecture at the top of a run of sandstone steps was erected in 1856. During the Australian Federation (1900-1927), it was used as the National Parliament and is also known as Parliament House.
Birrarung Marr, east of Federation Square along the Yarra River is Melbourne’s first new major parkland in more than one hundred years. Birrarung means “river of mists” in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people who initially inhabited the area; and marr means “with the side of the river”. Large open spaces and wide sculptured terraces were designed to host some of Melbourne’s most popular events and festivals throughout the year, and the terraces will provide you with striking views of the city, Southbank, King’ Domain, and the Yarra River.
Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens, just two kilometers south of the city on Birdwood Avenue, are maybe the best gardens in Australia and well worth a few hours of strolls and wandering. Over forty hectares (99 acres) are lush and blooming with more than twelve thousand plant species from all over the world. One shouldn’t miss the oldest part of the garden - the Tennyson Lawn, with its 120 years old elm trees. Other interesting corners include a fern gully, rainforests full with fruit bats, ponds full of ducks and black swans, camellia gardens and an herb garden.
One may wander at his own pace or take a free guided walks that leave the National Herbarium Building, F Gate, Sunday through Friday at eleven am and noon.
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