The capital of the Australian state of Victoria, Melbourne is a city that is often overlooked as a destination. Whilst tourists flock in their droves to cities like Sydney, and regions like The Gold Coast, few would think to visit Melbourne, despite it being a cultural hotspot, rich in color and dynamism.

Its picturesque location on the banks of the Yarra river make for a splendid location, and the city offers a unique European feel, laden with that distinctive Aussie charm. It’s also a city that is made to be explored, with each suburb offering a new atmosphere and plenty of things to see, do, taste and experience.

Explore

Unusually for a capital city, Melbourne is actually a collection of different suburbs or districts – over 20 in total. Although not all of these districts will appeal to tourists, the key areas of the Central Business District (CBD), Fitzroy, and Southbank are attractive and engaging enough to warrant repeat visits.

As the financial and economic heart of the city, the CBD has all the vibrant energy you would expect, with an endearing smattering of laneways throughout. Amidst the skyscrapers you’ll find all manner of indie eateries, artisan cafes and coffee shops, cultural hotspots, and some award-winning street art.

Melbourne

Fitzroy, situated around 10 minutes away from the CBD, is often described as Melbourne’s answer to Shoreditch or Brooklyn. Hip is the word here, and this quirky, creative district is typically favored by artsy types and scenesters, but there’s still plenty to enjoy for anyone who visits.

Fitzroy is also the neighborhood to explore if you want to catch a glimpse of Melbourne’s unique history. You’ll swear you’re in a quaint British town on some streets, thanks to the red brick and blue stone terraced houses that line the pavements here.

Head south from the CBD and you’ll wind up in Southbank, the neighborhood for Melbourne’s major cultural attractions and institutions. This is where you’ll find, among others, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, The Arts Centre, and the Melbourne Theatre Company.

Stay

Although the famous Crown complex is a regular fixture in travel guides to the city, one of the best new design hotels to spring up recently is the fabulous QT Hotel Melbourne. Situated in the middle of the affluent CBD, this hotel has become quite the hotspot thanks to its stunning rooftop and cocktail terrace, which offers one of the most breathtaking views of the Melbourne skyline.

Its industrial aesthetic pays homage to Phillippe Starck, with each piece of furniture in the rooms and suites combining function with form. Glass-enclosed bathrooms and some truly innovative uses of space make this a fascinating place to stay.

Eat

Melbourne is a foodie’s paradise! There are so many excellent eateries here that it’s hard to single any out in particular, however here are some places you have to check out, especially if it’s your first visit to the city.

Iki-Jime, a seafood restaurant in the CBD is a popular restaurant that effortlessly blends fine dining with the atmosphere of a cool late-night hangout. Low-lit, dark-wood interiors offer a sense of intimacy as well as amping up the glamour factor, and the delicious menu features dishes built with sustainable ingredients from across Australia, as well as the local area.

Opposite the botanical gardens in South Yarra, you’ll find Matilda159. This warm, inviting restaurant is minimal and modern, but also perfectly mirrors the natural beauty of its surrounding area. Service here is personal – the restaurant is named after the owner’s daughter – and you can even make reservations for a table in the bustling open kitchen. Only local produce will be found on the menu here, with seasonal dishes offering the best of what’s available. It’s the place to come if you want to taste the famous Australian specialty of Wagyu Rump Cap – pricey, but delicious and worth the splurge.

Enjoy

As a cultural capital, and the city for sporting events in Australia, there’s plenty to enjoy in Melbourne for all ages. You’ll never get the chance to do all these things in just one visit, so repeat trips to the city are definitely recommended.

If sightseeing is your thing, then you simply have to meet up with friends under the clocks at Flinders Street Station, next to Federation Square. Head to St Kilda to soak up the vintage, seaside atmosphere at Luna Park, and don’t forget to make a trip to the iconic Queen Victoria Market.

You can get your arts and culture fix at the Melbourne Museum in Carlton, the ACCA, the Ian Potter Centre and the National Gallery of Victoria. Catch the latest shows and entertainment extravaganzas at the Arts Centre Melbourne; and if sport is your thing try to time your visit for the famous Melbourne Cup or the Australian Tennis Open in November and January respectively.