There's something about Melbourne in winter. The moody afternoon light filtering through laneways; the warm glow of cosy wine bars; and of course, the plethora of events and festivals that keep the city buzzing. We guarantee you won't find an atmosphere quite as thrilling anywhere else in the country during winter – and whether you're looking for world-class restaurants and bars, blockbuster art and theatre, unique shopping experiences or exhiliarating sports, Melbourne has you covered. Hungry? Check out our checklist of the restaurants to visit during your winter getaway.
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces
To put it lightly, this is huge. In June, Melbourne will become the (temporary) home of masterpieces by Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Vincent van Gogh, Mark Rothko... the list goes on. They'll be on loan from New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – which, if you're even mildly interested in 20th and 21st century art, is a gallery that needs no introduction. Many of these works have never been seen in Australia before, and the exhibition will be an Australian exclusive, taking up the entire ground floor of NGV International. Accompanying this once-in-a-lifetime experience will be the return of the NGV's much-loved Friday Nights program, which features live music every week. Your ticket includes after-hours access to the exhibition, and there'll be bars and dining to cap things off.
Drowning girl 1963
Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
171.6 x 169.5 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Philip Johnson Fund (by exchange) and gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright, 1971
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein / Lichtenstein. Licensed by Viscopy, 2018
If you have fond memories of falling down the rabbit hole with Alice in the 1951 Disney animation or venturing into Tim Burton’s dark Wonderland in his 2010 live action film, then we’ve got good news: Alice has landed in Melbourne. Wonderland is a highly interactive and immersive journey through Alice's many incarnations in pop culture over the years, from Lewis Carroll's original texts to countless adaptations. The real draw of this groundbreaking exhibition is the experience itself, which features striking design and cutting-edge technology to really bring Alice's world to life. Your Instagram won't know what hit it.
More winter highlights
The vikings have dropped anchor at Melbourne Museum. The museum's major new exhibition, Vikings: Beyond the Legend, is the largest collection of viking artefacts ever in Australia, and it's the furthest the norse men have ever traveled from their hearths. This international blockbuster (nearly two million people have visited the exhibition worldwide) features more than 400 artefacts from one of history’s most fascinating civilisations, as well as 40 replicas (including a huge replica viking longship). Live out your archaeologist dreams and try to excavate a virtual viking ship, or challenge your mates to a viking board game.
Based on the 1939 film, but with added songs by powerhouse team Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (whose best-know collabs include Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar), this production (directed by Jeremy Sams) premiered at London's Palladium Theatre in 2011. In their 4-star review, Time Out London described it as "a spectacle worthy of the Palladium's heyday. Visually, this stage remake of MGM's 1939 special effects blockbuster is 'Over the Rainbow' and accelerating." The local iteration will star Australian veteran Anthony Warlow (who knocked our socks off in Fiddler on the Roof last year) as the Wizard, and a special double bill of Wicked alumni: Lucy Durack as Glinda the Good and Jemma Rix as the Wicked Witch of the West. Newcomer Samantha Dodemaide will play Dorothy, her first leading role in a major musical.
Lighting installations, open fires, hot cider and food stalls will ignite your winter Wednesday nights. The Night Market is a Melbourne institution, packing out the famous Queen Vic Market every week with locals feasting on smoked meat, mulled wine and hot chocolate. In addition to the food stalls, the market also hosts musicians, roving performers, fortune tellers and lots more surprises.
Open House Melbourne – held in July every year – is much more than the chance to stickybeak at some of Melbourne's most fascinating buildings (although that's a pretty huge drawcard, to be honest). It's also a chance to learn about the fascinating history of the city and to see corners of the city you'd never normally be allowed to access. You can (and should) delve deep underground to abandoned substations, climb winding stairs to the top of buildings like the State Library of Victoria (pictured) and attempt – like every Melburnian – to witness the famed Flinders Street Ballroom, located inside the dome of Flinders Street Station. Some venues also require you to book in advance, so register early if you've got your heart set on a particular address.
A world of great cinema comes to Melbourne every August, when one of the world's oldest most highly regarded film festivals takes over the city. The festival shows off international features, arthouse films, documentaries and shorts. Kids aren't forgotten about either with the festival regularly including family friendly films from across the world. If you're just wanting to go watch that one special film then you can, but movie buffs are better off buying buying a festival pass to be granted entry to all showings.
Melbourne's largest literary festival brings together fascinating talks and discussions by authors from all over the world. Readers and writers from all walks of life are welcome at the festival with a program of events to suit the casual Saturday afternoon reader to full-time word nerds. Better still around a quarter of all festival events are free (that means more money to buy books).
Must-see winter sport
There's a lot more to Melbourne's sporting scene than AFL (although who doesn't want to see a footy game at the MCG?). This winter, you'll be able to step into the shoes of a pro soccer player with the Real Madrid World of Football Experience (Jun 9-Aug 5). This touring exhibition will take visitors behind the scenes through 116 years of sporting history, through audio-visual displays and an immersive 360-degree cinematic match day experience.
One of the biggest games in Australia's sporting calendar will hit the MCG on Wednesday June 6: the opening game of the 2018 Holden State of Origin series. There's nothing like feeling the passion and intensity of 90,000 fans packing out the country's greatest sporting stage, as the NSW Blues and QLD Maroons go head to head. You can buy tickets here.
On Saturday June 16, AAMI Park will host the second test match in a three-test tournament between the Aussie Wallabies and the Irish national team. The Wallabies v Ireland test match will be the first time in a decade since Ireland's national rugby union team graces the city.
Where to eat while you're in town
Melbourne and winter dining are made for each other. What this city lacks in oceanfront eateries and year-long sunny courtyards it more than makes up for with world-class chefs, unparalled diversity of cuisines and award-winning design. To make your Melbourne getaway as delicious as possible, make sure you take note of some of our top picks for winter dining, from the hottest new restaurants to the cosiest wine bars and the hidden gems you must visit.
Win a trip to Melbourne
We’re giving away a weekend for two featuring two blockbuster exhibitions, meals at Melbourne’s finest restaurants and more. One lucky reader and their guest will spend a winter weekend delving into both Winter Masterpieces exhibitions; MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art and Wonderland. On top of that, our winner will be treated to cocktails, lunch and dinner at some of the city's hottest new bars and eateries.