I Spent an Itinerary-Free Day in Melbourne — Here’s How it Went
Sometimes, it's fun to just be in the moment.
by Andy Flores | September 23, 2019
The night is still in this part of the city.
My map tells me I’m on Victoria Street, where the famous Queen Vic Sunday Market will bustle into activity once light cracks in the sky. Of course, I’ll be back to see it. For now though, at past midnight, I am alone, wandering down the CBD’s surprisingly hushed lanes and alleys.
Melbourne is a city I easily came to love. Its vibrant lane ways, friendly locals, and brilliant gastronomic scene make for a great destination when I just wanted a quick escape from routine—probably the same reason why I didn’t come up with a proper itinerary prior to my visit. I wanted my trip to be as spontaneous as it could get, without having to worry about ticking off all the touristy things on a must-do list.
I somehow wind up at a bar called La La Land—whether or not it was named after the hit Ryan Gosling-Emma Stone musical flick, I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure: They’ve got good beer. The ambiance is also rather cozy. Warm lights. An open-air area. Comfy couches all around for you to lounge on.
Come morning, I’m attending the Sunday mass at St. Francis’ Church. Traditions die hard, and if this is how I start my Sundays back home, so why not here, too?
Shortly after, I treat myself to a cup of cool boba as I make my way back to Victoria Street for its famed Sunday Market.
Queen Vic is almost unrecognizable when I arrived. It’s quite hard to believe that it’s the same quiet place I found myself in just hours ago. Now, it’s brimming with people, the faint yet mouthwatering scent of deli hanging in the summer morning air.
I get lost in the tangle of shops and stalls in the market and end up at Lollie Lovers, a sweet shop run by an elderly lady with wispy white-blonde hair. She introduces herself as Barbara, as I pay for some handcrafted rock candy sold in bottles labeled “Bitch Pills”—just the perfect souvenir for two of my friends back home. There are also bottles playfully named “wanker pills” and “erection pills”—pretty naughty for a seemingly innocent sweet shop.
Barbara, who is up for a chat, tells me that the shop has been operated by her family for three generations now. Lollie Lovers is among Melbourne’s original and most beloved confectioneries, and they’ve seen kids come and go through the years, eventually visiting with their own children. To keep up with the times, they’ve been trying to come up with different flavors and gimmicks (yes, the naughty pills are one of them).
As I turn to leave, she smiles and wishes me a happy trip ahead.
I hop from one store to another, stall after stall, scouring the market for the best local finds, which proved to be a task, as Queen Vic had everything—from fresh produce, to clothing, to books! Getting hungry, I get myself a massive macaron at a bakeshop showcasing a plethora of Insta-perfect baked goods.
By lunchtime, I’m enjoying a tray of sushi, seaweed salad, and a watermelon shake at the food court of Emporium, a massive shopping mall that flaunts a lineup of upscale retailers.
The great thing about Melbourne is that you’ll never run out of food choices, especially if you’re picky Asian eater because there are Asian restaurants everywhere!
On my way to who-knows-where, I check out the city’s colorful street art. Melbourne’s impressive concentration of street art has drawn global attention, and I’m no longer wondering why—Victoria’s capital might as well be a street art mecca, with its laneways bursting in color and expression.
I hop on the tram for a free ride and step down at the Library at The Dock. Situated right beside the Yarra River, this state-of-the-art library building treats you to fantastic views of the Central Pier and Waterfront City. Even if you’re not up for a good read, do swing by for its stunning architecture and views of the harbor.
It’s almost late afternoon, and I am taking a stroll down the Docklands. Pretty sure the place comes to life after dark, with all the waterside restaurants and bars, but just before sundown, it’s almost empty apart from some bikers and joggers passing by.
Melbourne looks magical at night. It transforms into a whole different place in the evening, and if you’re standing in front of Flinders Street Railway Station, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, you wouldn’t help but marvel at the dazzling building in all its 19th Century art nouveau glory.
With the day coming to an end, I look for a good place to have dinner. I decide to line up for some ramen at Shujinko, which is packed—this probably means that their food is to-die-for. Not to mention, they have all these newspaper and magazine clippings displayed on their windows.
Well, I can tell you now that the place does not disappoint. Their ramen is, indeed, divine and their takoyaki is also freakin’ delish!
With a happy tummy, I cap off my night and look forward to another day of spontaneity in the land down under.
Have you tried traveling itinerary-free? Tell us about your experience below!