City break: Melbourne

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Packed with culture, fabulous shopping, vibrant ethnic communities and home to the set of Neighbours, Melbourne is a fun Australian destination.

City break: Melbourne
With a cultural mix almost as diverse as London's, Melbourne is Sydney's smaller, more-stylish little sister. Greek, Italian, Aboriginal, Jewish, Vietnamese and Turkish communities all live relatively peacefully alongside one another. As the Neighbours theme tune goes, 'with a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend' - and this certainly rings true for Melbourne. More on Neighbours later... When to go

Melbourne experiences searing summers and freezing winters, so try to plan your visit around November and December or March and April. Don't attempt to swim at one of Melbourne's pebble beaches unless it's excruciatingly hot - the water ain't warm, and it's not all that clean either. Getting there

Flights to Melbourne usually route through Southeast Asia or Los Angeles. You should be able to secure a return flight for between GBP600 and GBP800. Try www.bridgetheworld.com for further information. If you're tagging Melbourne onto a longer Australian stay, check out Australia's newest airlines for extremely competitive fares between cities - Virgin Blue and JetStar. Both have recently offered (GBP12) fares one way between east coast Australian cities. Where to stay

Stay in central Melbourne to experience the best of the city. If you're planning to splurge, try the Adelphi with its glass-bottomed salt water swimming pool hovering over the street. Needless to say, skinny-dipping is prohibited. For those on a budget, The Nunnery is a stylish, welcoming guesthouse only a stone's throw from the city centre. What to do

Use Melbourne's meandering trams to see the city - they're cheap, frequent and efficient. VicTrip can help you plan your journey, or buy an all-day MetCard for .80 (GBP2.40) to jump on and off trams, trains and buses at your convenience. Check out the gorgeous clothes and shoes in the boutique stores of Flinders Lane and Little Collins Street and the wonderful Queen Victoria Market before heading to the 'burbs to experience some of Melbourne's great neighbourhoods. Little Saigon is the locals' name for the suburb of Richmond, where it's not uncommon to see live ducks for sale alongside fat bunches of coriander and cute paper lanterns. Lygon Street, in Carlton, is home to Melbourne's enormous Italian community. You won't find better spaghetti aglio olio outside Italy itself. And Toorak is Melbourne's very own Chelsea - don designer shades to avoid being blinded by the diamond rings and Rolexes. You simply can't visit Melbourne without a trip to Ramsay Street (real name: Pin Oak Court). The nice people who make Neighbours are now welcoming visitors to the set of the much-loved television series. You can see where Scott proposed to Charlene and take a wander around Erinsborough High. Go to www.neighbourstour.com for all the info. For a taste of Melbourne's history, visit the Old Melbourne Gaol to see the very spot where Ned Kelly was hung (no Heath Ledgers were harmed in curating this exhibit). For art and culture, check out the National Museum of Victoria which houses an amazing 12 million items, see a production at play house La Mama, or take the kids to the incredible Australian Toy Museum or kitschy fun-land Luna Park. For an escape to the country, rent a car and drive down to the Mornington Peninsula. Packed with beautiful beaches, natural bush, wineries and restaurants, the Peninsula is only an hour out of Melbourne and well worth a day or overnight trip. Eating and drinking

Spend an afternoon exploring the cafes of funky Fitzroy. Brunswick Street attracts bohemian Melburnians and is home to some of the city's best drinking establishments. Try The Gypsy Bar for a glass of wine, Mario's for amazing coffee and Polly for a fresh fruit cocktail amid sumptuous red velvet and faux crystal chandeliers. When you feel hungry, head to St Kilda to experience innovative Italian at Cicciolina, try Flower Drum in Chinatown for incredible dim sum or Hairy Canary in the city for cocktails and delicious tapas platters. To boogie the night away, dress up for Honky Tonk's and Misty in the central city, or slink into Bennett's Lane Jazz Club for some smooth soulful sounds. To find out what's going on, who'll be there and why with Melbourne's best free listings publication: Beat Magazine.
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