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Fiona Sweetman
Hidden Secrets Tours

If you're hoping to uncover in a hurry the Melbourne that usually only comes with years of experience, look no further than Fiona Sweetman, mastermind of the Hidden Secrets Tours to reveal the city's most coveted secrets.

'Melbourne is a big city that still feels small,' says Fiona, promising great rewards to those who are prepared to spend just a little time watching and getting to know the place.

The people and their stories are what give Melbourne its edge, and it's what they do as much as anything else that makes the city so intriguing, according to Fiona. She's constantly inspired by people working hard running quirky, creative small businesses; innovating, collaborating and loving what they do.

Fiona's top three

Fiona Sweetman recommends three Melbourne must-dos:

Degraves Espresso Bar, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Coffee in a laneway

'A good coffee in a laneway. If not for the excellent coffee, then most definitely for the people watching. '

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Gun Street Girls at the Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Image: Carbie Warbie

A beer at the Espy

'A beer at the Espy. It's not glamorous, but it is an institution, with live music and great views of the bay. '

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Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria, Australia. Photo: www.sdpmedia.com.au

The MCG

'I think a visit to the MCG is a must. Even just head to the sports precinct - so many stadiums close together. '

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The sounds and smells of the city

It's also the distinct sounds and smells that make Melbourne, well, Melbourne for Fiona. 'There are birds in the city, and the ding of the trams and bikes, and buskers. It's a happy sounding city.'

Fiona concedes that there's an occasional chance of rain in Melbourne, but that rainy days offer the perfect opportunity to visit one of many, many galleries and even sneaking in a bit of wine and cheese tasting at a place like Milk The Cow in St Kilda.

She loves the smell of the city just after the summer/autumn rains, as well as the ever-present hint of coffee aromas and a bakery not too far away.

If it's coffee you're after, prepare to be dazzled. There are so many high quality options that Fiona's favourite can change daily. She does, however, love a coffee from Cup Of Truth, an actual hole in the wall in the subway beneath Flinders Street Station with the 2013 The Age Good Cafe Guide award-winning barista. She also recommends the cafe latte at Chez Dre in South Melbourne.

On sunny days you'll find Fiona and many Melburnians enjoying a picnic and a game of petanque or boules in one of the amazing gardens that surround the city, or gathering with friends at the BBQs that line the banks of the Yarra River.

Fiona's hidden gems

Fiona Sweetman reveals Melbourne's hidden gems:

Domed ceiling - State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The State Library of Victoria

'The State Library of Victoria is an amazing building, and for visitors it is a hidden gem. Its domed reading room is a spectacular space. '

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Shopping Secrets - Basement Discs, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Basement Discs

'I do love to share this underground independent music store. So few know about it and the wonderful collection of vinyl, CDs and instore shows. '

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Jump on a tram for surprising sights

In addition to a Hidden Secrets Tour of Melbourne's laneways and fascinating architecture, Fiona suggests you explore the city on foot so you can duck into the side streets and river walks that conceal the real Melbourne.

'Open a door, walk down a laneway, look up, ask a local where they recommend, even if it is just someone at a tram stop,' she says.

'One of my favourite things to do is jump on a tram and see where it takes me. They stop every couple of blocks, so if you see something, get off. The tram will always come back the other way to take you home.'

Melburnians are proud to share their city, and won't keep secrets just for themselves. Broadsheet and Milkbar have good information about the latest openings or cool spots to eat in.

Fiona stresses that a few days are never enough. 'There is always a gallery opening, local theatre, live music or comedy on, so plan to have more than a couple of days to get the most out of your time here.'

Fiona's fine food

Fiona Sweetman lets you in on her favourite Melbourne eateries:

Coda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Coda

'I will always recommend Coda, with its approachable yet sophisticated staff, fabulous space, and food that's a mix of French-Vietnamese. '

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Izakaya Den, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Izakaya Den

'For a last-minute bite - especially after a show - I head to Izakaya Den for its great food and drinks list. '

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Radio Mexico, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Radio Mexico

'I am a fan of Radio Mexico. It's a great venue not far from the beach. It's good for something casual and fun, with an outside terrace too. '

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Fiona's best bars

Join Fiona Sweetman for a Friday night drink:

Cookie, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cookie

'Cookie will always fill a spot on my list: Big, central city location, beer and lots of areas to sink into for a night. I happily take anyone there....

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Eau De Vie, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Eau De Vie

'I have had some great evenings at Eau De Vie. It's a place with a no-name door, secret rooms, and a focus on amazing cocktails. '

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Ponyfish Island, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ponyfish Island

'The after-work buzz on a summer night at Ponyfish Island can't be beat: A man-made island bar under a pedestrian bridge in the centre of town!'

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Fiona's shopping tips

Fiona Sweetman takes you into Melbourne's best shopping precincts:

Stall at The Chapel Street Bazaar, Prahran, Victoria

Chapel Street

'Chapel Street is where you will find some of the big international brands as well as some amazing vintage and local designer stores. '

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Ceiling detail, Cathedral Arcade, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

City centre

'The city centre is an amazing place to shop; from laneways filled with little boutiques, to main streets lined with other antipodean chain stores. '

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Northside Records, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

Gertrude Street

'There is some amazing shopping in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, just north of the city grid. '

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Hidden Secrets

Join Fiona and other savvy guides on a Hidden Secrets walking tour of Melbourne

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