If there’s a perfect time of year to explore Melbourne, it’s autumn. Summer’s heat has bowed out, avenues of trees are dressed in an outrageous display of colour, and the milder days and evenings beckon you to stroll around this intriguing city.
But if you think you really know Melbourne, you may just need to think again. Even people who have lived here for years concede the city is rather like that proverbial iceberg where just 10 per cent is visible, and the other 90 per cent is hidden, ambiguous or there for a short time.
Melbourne’s famous laneways and arcades, its inspired restaurateurs and chefs, baristas and sommeliers, fashion and jewellery designers all seem to be engaged in a delightful conspiracy to surprise residents and visitors with new discoveries that make this city one of constant change.
Hidden Secrets Tours is, of course, right across all this, and adds to its walks as Melbourne adds new morsels to its ever-changing menu of things to do.
Food, wine, coffee and now artisan spirits are absolutely central to Melbourne’s culture. But much of the city’s best is hidden away in lanes and arcades, behind secret doors and atop historic buildings where there’s a fabulous trail of rooftop bars.
You can certainly explore on your own, but you can also cut to the chase and join a walking tour to find the very best, or bring a group of friends for your own private group tour.
Coffee is an essential kick-start to the day for many people – even Nigella Lawson said: ‘I don’t usually drink coffee, but you have to have coffee in Melbourne!’ when she was at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
So take a Café Culture Tour through the maze of laneways, learning about the coffee palaces of the 1950s, getting the heads-up on the top coffee roasters and single-origin beans, and finding those little café gems you can return to every morning while you’re in Melbourne. Lunch is included in a hidden café on this tour.
If you’d like to explore more broadly, the Lanes and Arcades Tour gives you a taste of café culture, but also reveals local fashion and other designers, Melbourne’s famous street art and 19th-century architecture.
Then set aside time to see some international art: the extraordinary, immersive digital Van Gogh exhibition at The Lume (Australia’s first digital art gallery) runs till June 30; while the world-premiere Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition, ‘The Picasso Century’, opens on June 10 at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).
Come early evening, it’s time for a craft gin, a fine regional wine, a cocktail or two. But how to find those elusive local haunts, rooftop venues and tiny bars behind secret doorways that evoke memories of glamorous speakeasies?
The Hidden Secrets Liquid Crafts Aperitivo Walk shows the city’s best. Grab a group of eight or more friends and join us. You’ll stop in at three venues for a flight of gin, whiskey or beer, cocktail mixing and tapas-style snacks. There’s plenty more to discover (Victoria has more than 70 distilleries), so you’ll receive a take-home package of special offers and a personalised map. Dont forget to book ahead for groups.
Dinner time? There are so many great restaurants in Melbourne that it’s hard for even the locals to keep up. A Progressive Degustation Walk includes three venues, each with a different food style, history and design, along with individually chosen wine tastings and savoury snacks.
By now you’ll have nailed Melbourne’s food and beverage culture, so what about some special events and shows?
‘Hamilton’ plays till August (the Melbourne season of ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ sold out, so you’d best be quick to book!), the Australian Burlesque Festival presents ‘The Blaze Out’ on May 13 and ‘The Big Tease Soiree’ on May 14, while the new and shorter version of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ opens in May.
And then of course there’s sport. Australian Rules Football (AFL) is the local obsession, and there are games at Melbourne’s big stadiums every week. Soccer and rugby union are played at top levels too.
Autumn is also a great time to plan for Melbourne’s extraordinary ‘RISING’ festival, which features dozens of day and evening art, music, performance, ceremony and food events from June 1 to 19. Just remember to book a cosy hotel for your visit!
We love this time of year, and particularly we encourage you to book at tour, a restaurant or what ever else tickles your curiosty early – book in advance, watch for last minute updates, but do book ahead, as it helps everyone to staff venues and ensure your experience is the best it can be.
For more information on these and other events, visit https://www.visitmelbourne.com/regions/melbourne/whats-on