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Three Perfect Days: Melbourne

With its hidden street art, clandestine restaurant entrances and concealed rooftop bars, there’s more to Australia’s second city than meets the eye

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Mark Roper

Birrarung Marr park is tucked between the Central Business District and the Yarra River

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Some cities, like dogs rolling over for a belly rub, give themselves up to you at once. These are places that clamor for your attention—the hip and the new announce their presence in sidewalk tables and neon signs, while terms like “biggest” and “best” are liberally conferred. Artier and more enigmatic than its shining sister city Sydney, Melbourne is not this kind of city.

After traveling to Australia in 1895, Mark Twain said that the country is “the most beautiful of lies … full of surprises, and adventures, the incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true.” In Melbourne, this sense of wonder is best represented by the city’s apparently endless maze of alleys (or laneways), which would be seamy and uninviting were they not bursting with art, eateries, retailers and a theatrical lust for life.

A night out in Melbourne can have you in a fake gymnasium drinking a cocktail out of a syringe, or driving in a car with a snorkel protruding from its hood. There are dessert-themed hotels, forest-themed desserts and animals that don’t even make sense. You can tell from the moment you arrive that some of the best stories of your life will come from here. You can only hope that people will believe them

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