7 ways to spend the winter months in the city

It’s easy to get down in winter, with cold and overcast weather, shorter days, and lower energy. I’m about to go into my second winter thanks to the seasons being opposite in Australia (thankfully those are California and Australia winters), so I thought it would be good to write about how I keep busy on winter days since I’ve had a lot of them lately. Here are the ways I spend my days in Melbourne, before spending my nights working at a cozy bar in the city.

Grab a good book and head to your favorite cafe 

There are few things I love more than layering up in a warm sweater, finding a cozy cafe, and getting lost in a good book while sipping on my daily caffeine intake. Especially, when the coffee is as good as it is in Melbourne, and the cafe atmosphere just as phenomenal. I try and hit a different cafe every day because there are too many good ones to choose from.

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Explore the free museums 

Melbourne is similar to Washington D.C. and London with the amount of free museums you’re able to find around the city. There’s nothing better than spending your day looking at funky art, classic masterpieces, or a more avant-garde exhibit. I’ve explored the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square, which is a unique and interactive museum focusing on the history of film, music, and video games in Australia that is definitely worth checking out. I’ve explored the Ian Potter Centre, also in Federation Square, which has an aboriginal exhibit, as well as a new temporary 1980s exhibit if you want to go check out some neon, crazy patterns, and clothing right out of Saved by the Bell.

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Yesterday, I explored the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), which is my favorite museum by far. The layout of the exhibits and choice of displayed artwork was incredible, and I’ll be back very soon when their new Monet exhibit is installed come mid-May. Keep in mind these were all FREE museums, my mind is blown at the amount of art you have at your disposal anytime you want in the city.

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Lunch, window shopping and people watching on Brunswick St. 

Brunswick St. is one of my favorite places in Fitzroy. There are numerous little locally owned shops up and down Brunswick St., and delicious and affordable warm cafes to spend your afternoon in. I also enjoy people watching on Brunswick St, located in one of the “coolest” neighborhoods in all of Melbourne, because the fashion and people in general are so unique and interesting.

A second favorite if you’re looking for lunch and a cool cafe atmosphere is the popular Degraves Street located off of Flinders Lane. Although this is the famous street to experience cafe culture in Melbourne, I’ve found that also means very crowded and usually hard to get a table, especially on the weekends.

I prefer to mosey down Centre Place laneway, right across the street from Degraves, because it still has the atmosphere with less of the bustle and friendlier service.

Cafe No. 5 on Centre pl.

Dymocks Books and the State Library of Victoria

Dymocks is my favorite bookstore in the city (Readings is my favorite if you’re in St. Kilda), and the State Library of Victoria is my favorite library in the city, so depending on which atmosphere you like better I would recommend one of those to get your fill of warmth and books.

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Dymocks is located on Collins St. and it is literally a candy store of books for book lovers. They have so many categories to choose from, and they have the biggest selection that I’ve seen of my favorite genre, travel memoirs. The State Library is simply the perfect place to get lost on cold and rainy days, it is right up there with the New York State Library in terms of how gorgeous its architecture is.

Walk the city laneways and arcades

Even on the most wintery of days, I still need to spend some time outdoors and not be cooped up all day. Thankfully, with the fickleness of Melbourne weather even in the winter, you can usually find 20-30 minute increments of sun at some point during the day before it gets cloudy again.

During these spurts of good weather (or even when it’s raining because I love walking in the rain), I like to explore more of the hidden laneways and arcades that are sprinkled around the city. I’ve already talked about my affinity for street art, and there is heaps of it in Melbourne. It’s pretty much an outdoor museum every time you walk down an alley. Also, walking along or across the Yarra River is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

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Dumplings on Swanston Street

For a true introduction to the Melbourne dumpling experience I would recommend first going to Chinatown for the cheaper prices and chaotic ambiance, but my favorite dumpling place that I’ve found in the city is called Dumplings Plus on Swanston St. The Pork Dumplings in hot chili sauce are great on a cold night when you need warm and delicious sustenance. And on a plus, they are very generous with what they consider to be a “glass” of wine.

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Live Music 

One of the reasons why I chose to move to Melbourne was because of its live music scene, and with good reason. You can find good live music at multiple places every night of the week. I would recommend looking at Broadsheet for music listings or Beat Magazine to see what type of genre you’d like to see, because you can literally find just about everything. And what better way to spend your winter nights than to drink, be merry, and listen to live music all night long?

Note: Although I love winter in Melbourne, I’ll be looking forward to chasing summer come September in Southeast Asia and experiencing the Australian summer in December.

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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