Formula 1 returns this weekend, and ahead of the first race of the season, I spent some time finding out what to do if you are lucky enough to be attending the 2017 season opener.
Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state Victoria and is home to over 4 million people. Founded in 1835, the area is steeped in diverse culture, which is near impossible to experience anywhere else in the world.
Situated in the vibrant city, Albert Park has plenty to offer. At just 3 kilometres from the central business district, the green space has played host to the Australian Grand Prix since 1996. In that time, it has had some of the biggest names in motorsport grace its tarmac.
The suburb is a hit with tourists, with its many streets featuring shops, bars and restaurants – a must, especially if the sun is shining. Whilst out and about, take advantage of Bridport Street with its cafes and Victoria Avenue which is renowned for boutiques and delicatessens.
Melbourne is home to many restaurants, providing cuisines from just about any culture imaginable. A firm must is Chinatown – the food is very good value and freshly prepared. The atmosphere at night is incredible, too. Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar and Laksa King are among my favourites. The Railway Club Hotel Steakhouse is said to be one of the best places to eat if you’re looking for steak, but their grills are also highly commended. Situated on Raglan Street, you’ll be a little further away from the hustle and bustle, but within walking distance of the other bars along the Yarra River.
Like anywhere else in Australia, food and drink can burn a hole in your wallet. However, if you’re prepared to venture further out of the CBD, then meals become more reasonable and some even say more quirky. There are many urban eat-outs along side streets which are becoming more and more popular with both locals and tourists. Don’t be afraid to try somewhere new!
Nightlife: The city is famous for its vast array of nightlife and there’s no doubt that all the stops will be pulled out for the Grand Prix weekend.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, then head to Art Nouveau Curtin House. The Bar & Rooftop is a cinema on top of a skyscraper – they say champagne tastes better at altitude. Screening movies throughout the week, ensure you book upon arrival in the city to avoid disappointment. Watching Indie classics with a beer in hand, there’s not much to not like.
There are half a dozen places to choose from on Swanston Street, (a tad to the north of the Central Melbourne Station) while a night out in the clubs and bars of King Street (over to the west of the CBD) bowls along at a blistering pace. Either way, bars and clubs in Melbourne are rated as some of the best on the planet. However, if you are truly looking for the best, then the districts of Collingwood and Fitzroy (to the northeast of the city) are the places to hit up. They are what earn Melbourne its unique partying label.
Seeing the Sights: If you are lucky enough to have a few days to get over the jet-lag then there’s plenty of places to visit in and around Melbourne. From beaches to river cruises and amusement parks to botanical gardens, there is, quite literally, something for everyone.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are perfect to take a stroll around, even if there’s rain in the air (which there can often be, as Melbourne is famous for its four seasons in a day). Take a rug, a picnic and pick a good spot by the lake. It’s an idyllic space to take five away from the mayhem of the race track. The grounds are beautiful and there are many different pathways to explore. Within easy distance of the city centre, you’d be crazy not to get up that little bit earlier and have a walk around. They’re open from 7:30 a.m. daily and entry to the Melbourne Gardens is free.
If that’s a bit too tame for you, head to Eureka Skydeck to see if you have a head for heights. It’s known as the highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere. And if just the viewing floor is still not enough for you, then experience Edge, which allows you to tower over the rest of the city at over 300 metres up. Oh, and the cube is made of glass. Unsurprisingly, there’s not other experience in the world like it.
Lastly, if none of those are taking your fancy then head to St. Kilda. Home to theme parks, species of penguins, markets and much, much more, it’s no surprise that St. Kilda is Melbourne’s beachside playground. Luna Park is a family friend amusement park. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012, Luna Park mixes traditional rides with more modern day attractions. In fact, it boasts the title of having the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world and the only one of its kind with a standing brakeman in control aboard its moving carriages. Whatever your age, it is a great day out. Even if you don’t visit Luna Park itself, St. Kilda is an essential.
You can find more about things to do in Melbourne here: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g255100-Activities-Melbourne_Victoria.html
Transportation: Wherever you’re staying in Melbourne, I’m sure it comes without saying to allow plenty of time to get to the race track. Like any city, the roads can often become gridlocked. Not so fun, but the tram runs through the city is a great aid in keeping things moving.
Several tram routes service Albert Park. You’ll be pleased to know that they are inexpensive too. Oh, and on Friday and Saturday, the service runs all day and night and on Sunday until 11 p.m, giving tourists plenty of time to do a bit of sightseeing before vacating the race track.
Last year, Melbourne introduced a ‘free tram’ which permits travel from the iconic Queen Victoria Market, across to Victoria Harbour in Docklands, up to Spring Street and over to Flinders Street Station and Federation Square. Most of Melbourne’s bus routes run well within social hours.
Of course, if you are staying in the city centre then there’s always the option to walk. The streets are clean and always well lit. It’s also good to take in the view on foot. Melbourne is unique, to say the least.
Conclusion: I fully admit that Melbourne is one of my favourite cities in the world. There is something for everyone and truly unlike any other place I’ve visited. Be sure to pack for all weather occasions; even if it’s forecasted to be sunny then it’s not unfamiliar for rain clouds to appear out of nowhere.
The race track itself is one of the best on the calendar, providing a great weekend no matter what happens out on the circuit. Just be sure to take a look around the city too!