Melbourne in spring

As spring unfurls and daylight lingers longer, Melbourne comes alive with new possibilities. Take a long weekend break to relax and refresh. Join the flock at Melbourne International Arts Festival or a Fringe Festival event, frock up or get suited for the Spring Racing Carnival, and dare to dream that your horse could come in. Stay the night in a boutique cbd bolthole, to immerse yourself in Melbourne's 24/7 possibilities, or live like a local in your chic neighbourhood pad. Find new styles, as the city sheds its layers, and explore what's new, as arts and music spill into the laneways and blossoming gardens of Melbourne.

Day one

Check into your city hotel and check your footwear. BYO coffee cup? Check. Start with a spot of shopping at Emporium Melbourne and work your way up to the Paris End of the city. Zigzag through laneways, and climb the stairs from boutiques to bookshops. Plot a course for Metropolis, Elk, Lucy Folk, Hill of Content and Melbournalia. Next stop: Wonderland. Tumble down the rabbit hole, into ACMI's exhibition. It's all about Alice: her timeless tale and on-film adventures. Refuel at the The Duke nearby, and pause for a drink on the terrace. Now you mustn't be late for that important date. The Laneway Learning one. It's in a café, or a bar somewhere, down a laneway… As dusk falls, order cocktails at Trinket. Do dinner at Pentolina, then hightail it to your big ticket event: an amazing Melbourne International Arts Festival show. Top off the night with food, drink and karaoke at Heroes.

Day two

Explore Melbourne's inner north neighbourhoods: Fitzroy, Carlton and Collingwood. Caffeinate at Industry Beans or brunch at Archie's All Day. Browse the stalls at Rose St Artists' Market, then jump on an eastbound tram to Abbotsford Convent, for food and clothes markets, artist workshops and galleries, a children's farm and great food options.

Back in Fitzroy, shop local fashions at boutiques like Kuwaii, then wander to nearby Carlton for an eye popping afternoon at Melbourne Museum's Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition. As twilight falls, follow the garden path back to the cbd. See the twinkling city from a new perspective at Bomba's revamped rooftop bar. Downstairs, duck through laneways to your dinner date with Lesa. Find Fringe Festival cabaret and comedy at bars, clubs and Melbourne venues from ACMI to The Wheeler Centre. Love live music? Head to an indie music gig at The Workers Club or one of hundreds of venues across Melbourne. Out late? Peckish? Late night café and gelato bar Boys and Girls will have you sorted for some pretty sweet snacks, before you jump that tram back to base. Back on the city streets, there's any number of places open all hours for a nightcap. Just follow your nose…

Day three

Start your day at the Arts Centre Sunday Market, then head inside the Australian Music Vault for tales of local legends and a look at the amazing collection of memorabilia. Also southside, add South Melbourne Market to your hit list for fresh produce, coffee, bakeries and patisseries, plus SO: ME Space – a permanent pop up place for design, fashion and creativity. Get there by tram from the city, and continue down to the bay for a sunset stroll along St Kilda pier. Time to dress for dinner. Wander through the twilight to riverside drinks at Arbory or Ponyfish Island, then prepare for a peak dining experience at Scott Pickett's Matilda. When dessert is done, roll upstairs to bed – for your stylish boutique stay at United Places Botanic Gardens.

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