While many know Sydney as the city worth traversing the globe for, the less obvious choice, Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria in southeastern Australia, might be the more interesting one. Known for its metropolitan European charm, thriving nightlife, dynamic art scene, and world-famous artisanal coffee, Melbourne is among the southern hemisphere’s most compelling hidden treasures. It’s easy to spend a few days wandering through the mural-filled alleys, letting a bartender in a secret speakeasy whip you up an award-winning cocktail, and enjoying top-notch museums and shopping. You can sip plenty of Victorian wine, find famously delicious dim sum, have your choice of Michelin-starred fine dining establishments, and try a tasting menu from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Drive a half hour out of the city and you’ll find beaches, wineries, hot spring spas, and if you’re lucky, a few kangaroos.
Part of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Ian Potter Centre focuses on Australian art. The more than 16,000 works in the permanent collection include paintings, sculptures and textile pieces from First Nations artists, making it the best place in Victoria, and perhaps anywhere else, to see Indigenous art.
Need a break from all that wine? Stop in at Gimlet at Cavendish House, from star Melbourne chef Andrew McConnell, a retro-inspired cocktail bar inside a 1920s Art Deco building. As its name suggests, the gimlet is a standout drink—pair one with a plate of oysters with seaweed butter and rye.
Melbourne is famous for its coffee, and the hype is warranted. A beloved staple, Atomica Coffee was the first coffee shop in the city to roast beans in-house, while the charming hipster spot Patricia serves fresh pastries from nearby bakeries and earns its lines out the door. But take note: Whether you order a flat white (espresso with steamed milk and foam), a long black (basically an Americano) or a Magic Coffee (a Melbourne specialty made with espresso and milk), the beans here are strong and not recommended after dark.
For the best view in the city, hit Melbourne Skydeck on the 88th floor of Eureka Tower. Billed as the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere at 935 feet in the air, the spot is a little touristy, but your Instagram followers will thank you.