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When asked why travelers should visit Melbourne, Australia, Ivan Dixon goes for the hard sell.
“It’s a playground for adults,” said the professional animation director, who has called the bustling city home for nearly a decade.
It’s clear there’s no shortage of trouble to get into in Melbourne, which Dixon — a native Australian who has lived all over the city — praises for its round-the-clock happenings, accessible public transportation, pedestrian-friendly streets and, of course, ever-evolving foodie scene. A vegetarian (or “veggo” in Aussie-speak), Dixon says he favors cheap eats that pack a lot of flavor over pricey, fancy dining.
But no matter what you’re looking for, you’ll surely find it in this metropolis of 4.4 million people — which may soon outpace Sydney, Australia’s most populated city, and its 5 million locals.
We tasked Dixon with giving us the low-down on this Down Under destination. Here are his top tips.
To find what’s hip in Melbourne, head to:The adjoining suburbs of Fitzroy and Collingwood have been the trendiest areas as long as I’ve lived here. For the best veggie Mexican, go to Trippy Taco. Melbourne has a lot of rooftop bars, but Naked in the Sky is the only one in Fitzroy. Get coffee from Sonido or De Clieu.
Where do you soak in the arts scene?There’s a great community at the Abbotsford Convent on the east side of the city, right on the beautiful Yarra River (which is accessible by bike and not far from Victoria Park Railway Station). It now houses galleries, cafes, workshops, gardens and markets.
A tourist activity that’s actually worth the hype:There’s almost always a film festival running at Australian Centre for the Moving Image. It also has big exhibitions related to films, actors, directors and studios. If you’re a film nerd, it’s great.
The best spot for a photo op is:From the top of Ruckers Hill in Northcote. If you don’t want to go that far, the streets around Flinders Lane feel very European, and you can find cool street art in most alleys.
Where can visitors go to experience a “typical” Aussie meal?Australian food is an amalgamation of international palates, imported by decades of immigration. If you want Italian, there’s Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar or Pizza Meine Liebe. For Korean, try Kimchi Tray. For Japanese, there’s Kenzan Japanese Restaurant; for Chinese, Dainty Sichuan; for Vietnamese, N Lee Bakery Cafe; and for Ethiopian, Nyala African Restaurant. One of my favorite places is Moroccan Soup Bar in Fitzroy North. The name is deceptive, as there’s not really any soup. It’s a set menu with an amazing chickpea yogurt dish as the highlight. It’s owned by an inspiring woman who makes a point of hiring young Muslim women and who encourages a dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim people.
One thing visitors might not know about the city is:It was nearly going to be called Batmania, after John Batman, the European explorer who settled the area and who obviously liked the sound of his own name.