It’s in Melbourne’s inner suburbs that you’ll really get a feel for what life in this city is all about. Many have quite distinct characters, whether as ethnic enclaves or self-styled artists’ communities. Browsing through markets and shops, cruising across Hobsons Bay, sampling the world’s foods and, of course, sipping espresso are the primary attractions. Café society finds its home to the north among the alternative galleries and secondhand shops of Fitzroy, while the Italian cafés on Lygon Street in nearby Carlton fuelled the Beat Generation with espresso, though these days boutiques far outnumber bookshops. Grungy Richmond, to the east, has both Vietnamese and Greek enclaves, is home to a number of good Middle Eastern restaurants, and has a diverse music scene in its many pubs. South of the river is the place to shop until you drop, whether at wealthy South Yarra, self-consciously groovy Prahran or snobby Toorak. To the south, St Kilda has the advantage of a beachside location to go with its trendy but raucous nightlife. To firm up your itinerary with something more concrete, make for the well-designed zoo in Carlton, or Scienceworks, a hugely enjoyable interactive museum in Spotswood. The outstanding Heide Museum of Modern Art is in Bulleen and, a bit further along in the same direction, Eltham hosts the artists’ colony of Montsalvat.

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