Australia's second most populous city, Melbourne benefits from very mild winters and warm to hot summers, often escaping the intense heat of the interior. Once ranked as the most liveable city in the world, it is renowned for its excellent tram network, and is an ideal base for exploring the pristine beaches of Victoria's photogenic south coast.
Now on the exclusive UNESCO World Heritage Site List, the Royal Exhibition Building was designed for the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880 and was pioneered by the eminent English-born architect Joseph Reed. Here, you can wander around the charismatic landscaped gardens, and see the elaborate Main Hall, which has remained largely unchanged since its construction.
Founded in the 1850s, the Melbourne museum was rehoused in a state-of-the-art post-modern building in 2001 and contains a special Children's Gallery and the impressive Sidney Myer Amphitheatre. The venue, which is next to the Royal Exhibition Building, also has a superb IMAX Theatre, an Ancient Egypt exhibition, a Science and Life Gallery, and several other exhibitions related to natural and human history.
Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 1996, the Royal Botanic Gardens has more than 10,000 plant species, and, at more than 360 hectares, almost feels like a miniature forest. Today, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts head to The Tan Track, where they can take part in a gruelling 3.8-kilometre run on the famous stone circuit.
Showcasing more than 10,000 fish and animals, the family-friendly Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium opened in the year 2000 and is home to a spectacular 2.2-million-litre oceanarium known as the Mermaid Garden. The site also conserves a number of endangered species and expanded in 2008 to include a new penguin exhibition.
If you're a fan of delicious Asian dishes, you might want to dine at the Rice Paper Scissors restaurant, or try Scopri for some terrific Italian cuisine. Other top-rated restaurants in the city include the local-themed Eau De Vie restaurant, contemporary-styled Coda, and The Railway Club Hotel Steakhouse.
The majestic Park Hyatt Melbourne, the chic Crown Towers, and the immaculate Sofitel Melbourne on Collins hotel are ideal choices for revitalising, romantic city breaks in Melbourne. However, if you're after more budget-friendly accommodation in the city, you could book a stay at the conveniently located Alto Hotel on Bourke, the charming Art Series - The Larwill Studio, or the sophisticated Melbourne Parkview Hotel.