2011's tourism hotspots: What to do in Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne has been sidelined by the tourism bulldozer that is Sydney for as long as anyone can remember, but Australia's thriving second city looks set to reclaim the spotlight in 2011.

The recent series of new hotel and restaurant openings helped Melbourne earn a place on the New York Times 2011 destination roundup, and its fame was bolstered domestically last month with the news that it has overtaken Sydney in terms of popularity for domestic travellers.

High hotel prices in Australia's traditional tourist mecca no doubt helped, but Melbourne has been making a name for itself as a very different experience for travellers thanks to its exceptionally strong creative industries and arts scene.

Often described as more European by visitors thanks to the abundance of parks and sidewalk cafes, this is a city which has now firmly found its footing in terms of international tourism - so what can visitors do in Victoria's capital city?

Walk in the park - Melbourne is jokingly referred to as Australia's garden city, and boasts green spaces filled with rare plant species and neatly landscaped grounds.

Admire the art - With an art scene acknowledged by many to rival those of leading cities such as Berlin, London and New York, Melbourne caters for almost all tastes thanks to its countless galleries. Visitors in May have the additional bonus of being able to visit the internationally-renowned Art Melbourne fair (May 19 -22).

Shop - Melbourne's shopping scene is fairly diverse, but for the really unique experiences, visitors have to dig deep. Converted buildings, hidden basements, unlikely arcades and the city's famous covered laneways, home to many stores offering one-off items.

Eat - Melbourne's Food and Wine Festival, which occurs annually in March, only serves to highlight the city's incredibly diverse range of restaurants, which range from Asian imports to celebrity homegrown favorites such as Attica's Ben Shewry.

See the sea - Melbourne's beaches are most popular with sun-seekers between November and March, but even out of season they offer a range of watersports activities such as sailing and windsurfing.

See a show - Dozens of theatrical productions are staged each week in Melbourne, well known as the cultural capital of the country. International productions made their way to the theater district, where grand facades which would look more at home in London or Paris make for a classic night out, while local productions dominate the scene at the Southbank theater hub.

Drink coffee - Melbourne has become known as Australia's coffee capital, with plenty of sidewalk cafes to enjoy a freshly-brewed cup while watching the city's hordes of business people rush by.

http://www.visitmelbourne.com/

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