If you are flying into Melbourne, the airport is approximately 22 kilometres from the city - around 25 minutes' drive. Skybus Super Shuttle (www.skybus.com.au) operates a non-stop Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station service that takes just 20 minutes. Tickets can be purchased and printed online, or purchased on arrival.
There are regular flights to Melbourne from all major Australian cities with Qantas (www.qantas.com.au) , Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) and Jetstar (www.jetstar.com). For airline travel within Victoria, you can choose from several regional airlines, including Qantas Link and REX (Regional Express). The international terminal at Melbourne Airport is serviced by 23 international airlines.
Melbourne's main railway hub is Flinders Street Station, just one stop away from Southern Cross Station where trains depart for rural Victoria and interstate destinations. For journey-planning information, visit www.vline.com.au.
Australia country code: +61; Melbourne: (0)3.
Former Melbourne University student and two-time Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey set parts of his wonderful The True History of the Kelly Gang in the 19th-century city. Chopper by Mark Brandon Read, made into a film starring Eric Bana a few years ago, is the Melbourne-set autobiography of one of Australia's most notorious criminals - now living free in the city. Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock, set at the beginning of the 20th century, is the story of a group of schoolgirls who mysteriously disappear near Mount Macedon, northwest of Melbourne.
Do go / Don't Go
Summer (December to February) is a great time to visit Melbourne - there's a real carnival atmosphere and plenty of free activities on offer. Winter (June to August) may be a little on the cold and wet side, but it's a great time of year to go for wine tours in the nearby Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula.
Melbourne is the culinary capital of Australia, with seriously good food at affordable prices, whether you want startling modern meals, high-quality comfort food, killer cocktails in hidden locations or great ethnic cuisine at a snip. Head to Richmond for Vietnamese food, Footscray for African and to Carlton where good Italian food shines among some mediocre pasta joints. Coffee is the city's second religion (football is the first) and you haven't really been to Melbourne until you've sipped a caffe latte in a laneway cafe, tucked away in the CBD.
Cabs can easily be flagged down in the street - if the sign is illuminated, then the taxi is available. Can't see one? Call 132227 (no international or area code necessary), and one will come to you.
Tipping is optional - and certainly isn't expected. However, it is customary to tip waiters 10 per cent of the bill if you're pleased with the service.
Australian dollar (A$).
The Crowded House song 'Four Seasons in One Day' was written about the city's ridiculously changeable weather. Bring clothes for all meteorological possibilities - and don't forget your umbrella.
The Arts Centre (www.theartscentre.com.au) in the Southbank Precinct on St Kilda Road is the focal point of Melbourne's art scene. The venue, dominated by an enormous spire, is where to catch live music and performances by the Melbourne Theatre Company. The Ian Potter Centre (www.ngv.vic.gov.au) on Federation Square is the National Gallery of Victoria's exhibition space. For more idiosyncratic art - much of it influenced by Australia's indigenous culture - head to Flinders Lane, where you'll find galleries aplenty in the section between Spring and Swanston Streets.
You can lose hours browsing the many lovely designer boutiques on the laneways that criss-cross the CBD. And you'll find fashion as yet undiscovered by the major department stores. Flinders Lane is another mine of couture excellence - head to Christine (number 181) for gorgeous accessories or Leghorn Rouge (number 242), which offers a hand-picked collection of shoes and other covetable items. Also try Little Collins Street - home to Assin and Marais (edgy but exquisite men and womenswear), and Shag (great vintage pieces). GPO Melbourne, part of the A$95 million renovation of the former post office on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets has an impressive collection of local and international labels.
The Eureka Tower (+ 61 (0)3 9693 8888) at Southbank, Melbourne's tallest building, offers 360-degree views of the city from Eureka Skydeck 88.
Melbourne is renowned for its live music scene, and most nights you can see a band for free at any one of the city's pubs. Head down to Brunswick Street in the boho enclave of Fitzroy and see what catches your eye.
January The year starts with a bang - well, more the thump of tennis balls from the rackets of Federer, Nadal et al - at the Australian Open in Melbourne Park. February The St Kilda Festival includes a free street party with DJs and bands on the foreshore - expect a genuine carnival atmosphere. March The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival sees gourmet events taking place throughout the city, while the Australian Grand Prix brings Formula 1 to this corner of Victoria. July The Melbourne International Film Festival is a great chance to catch all the films that Australia's chattering classes will be talking about for the rest of the year. September Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, which takes place in the first week of the month, is a buzzing showcase for the city's top designers and boutiques.