From penguins to koalas and from exotic fish to beaches, we reveal the sights, sounds and seaside resorts that make this Australian city worth visiting and also discover some useful Jewish things to do.
1. Visit Philip Island at dusk. This nature reserve offers plenty to entertain the visitors, but the highlight is the nightly parade of penguins - who return ashore and head for their sand dune homes at sunset after spending the day fishing. Think of it as the penguin equivalent of the commute home! How many penguins you get to see depends on the time of year - expect anything from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand!
Top Tip: The island is best visited in December - which is the height of summer in Australia - when penguin numbers are at their highest. And dress warmly, even in the summer, as it can get quite breezy there at sunset.
2. Take a trip to St Kilda. This beachside district is an oasis of calm in the middle of the city, as well as playing host to some of the trendiest bars and nightclubs in town.
Top Tip: Go during the daytime and round off your visit with a trip to one of the local cafes for stunning home made cakes.
3. Grab a bargain in the department stores. Central Melbourne is a shopper’s paradise, and with two huge, superb department stores - Myer and David Jones - located just a stone’s throw from each other, you’re sure to find something you like - and pick up a few presents for the folks back home while you’re at it.
Top Tip: Check out the surrounding shopping malls as well - clothes shops are far cheaper than in London while terrific natural cosmetics and toiletries can be picked up at branches of Red Earth.
Address: Myer 314-336 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Address: David Jones, 310 Bourke Street, Melbourne
4. Check out the Jewish district. There are more than 30 shuls in Melbourne so you’re not short of places to go if you want to attend a service, but it’s also worthwhile taking a walk (or drive) through the Jewish areas.
The majority of Melbourne’s Jews live in or around the areas of Caulfield and St Kilda, with much of the Jewish activity centred on Carlisle Street and Acland Street (including kosher shops and restaurants as well as Judaica stores). Notable shuls in Melbourne include the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, which dates back to 1877 and the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, whose shul was built in 1930.
Top Tip: Combine your visit to the Jewish district with a visit to the beach at St Kilda, as mentioned above.
5. Go to Melbourne Zoo. This massive zoo boasts over 350 species of animal, many of which are indigenous to the Southern Hemisphere. Expect to see creatures that you’ve never seen in zoos on this side of the world, including different types of wombats, koalas and kangaroos, as well as platypus and quokka (a type of wallaby). There are also lots of exotic birds, reptiles and insects.
Top Tip: Don’t miss the Butterly House, which features about 800 butterflies at any one time - you’ll see species you won’t have seen in your back garden.
Address: Elliott Avenue, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Melbourne
Tel: 61 3 9285 9300
6. Have some fish and chips. It might be a UK national dish but Australia also does it pretty well too! You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a good fish and chip place in the centre of town, as they are everywhere.
Top Tip: You’ll probably recognise some of the fish on the menu but why not try something that’s native to Australia? Trevally and Blue Grenadier are both regulars on fish shop menus (and they are both kosher!)
7. Take a stroll down Lygon Street. The heart of Melbourne’s Little Italy, this is a haven of little boutiques, inexpensive pasta and great Italian coffee!
Top Tip: If you do decide to eat here, make sure you?re not in a hurry as the service can be slow.
8. Visit the Jewish Museum. Located in the Jewish area of St Kilda, this takes an in-depth look at Jewish life in Australia through a range of permanent and changing exhibitions. Expect to see Judaic, newspaper cuttings, photographs, contemporary art and memorabilia from the ‘Dunera’, the ship on which Jews came to Australia after escaping from the Nazis. There’s also interactive exhibitions aimed at younger visitors, a decent shop and more.
Top Tip: The museum also offers tours of nearby St Kilda Synagogue and another shul, Temple Beth Israel. If you haven?t included a visit to a shul on your trip, now’s your chance.
Address: 26 Alma Road St Kilda 3182 Victoria Australia
9. Browse around Queen Victoria Market. A Melbourne institution, this huge market sells everything from bargain basement clothing and accessories to fresh produce. The pets section is fun to browse around too (although actually buying one is ill-advised as you can’t bring them back to your home country).
Top Tip: Go early in the morning when it?s less crowded. You can take a guided tour of the market but it’s a lot more fun to browse round yourself
Address: Between Peel, Victoria, Elizabeth and Therry Streets
10. Take in a movie. OK, we wouldn?t normally recommend this outside of the US, but Melbourne has its fair share of plush multiplexes, the films are all in English, and Australia often gets blockbusters before they arrive in the UK, so chances are you would get to see something that isn?t due at your local for months. The Village Roadshow complex at the ultra-modern Crown Casino is one of the best places in town to experience the movies, Australian style - and it?s easily accessible by public transport. The complex also features a casino and a host of other attractions for the perfect night on the town.
Top Tip: See one of the movies showing in one of the cinema’s four Gold Class screens, which offers more comfortable seating, table service and enhanced picture and sound.