Without a doubt, The Australian Open is one of the most anticipated events happening in Australia every January.
In 2018 alone, 743,667 tourists visited Melbourne (over a 10-day period) for The Australian Open. With tickets and packages to the tournament being available as early as July of the previous year and all tickets sold out by December, this is an event where being prepared and having a game plan helps.
Whether you happen to be winging it this year (the 2019 Australian Open is taking place from 14- 27 January), or planning for your visit in 2020, we’ve got you covered from ace to zinc.
WHERE TO STAY
Your accommodation in Melbourne is the next most important thing to secure after the Australian Open tickets.
Accommodation rates normally double (or even triple) at this time of the year, so it’s best to book early. While booking early won’t necessarily mean you get half the rate, most hotels offer package rates designed for the tournament.
Melbourne Park is the venue for the Australian Open and if you’re happy to splurge to get the most full-on experience, The Langham, Park Hyatt Melbourne and Sofitel Melbourne on Collins are all, on average, a 15-minute walk to and from Melbourne Park.
A good alternative is to find a suburb close to the city centre. Docklands is a perfect alternative. It is a modern harbour development roughly 2 kilometres from the Melbourne Central. It is also very close to the Southern Cross railway station, where you can grab a tram to Melbourne Park.
Docklands also has had lots of apartment buildings rise over the last few years, so there should be lots of AirBnb listings in the area.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Melbourne’s public transport is extremely convenient and straightforward. Tourists have the choice of bus, train, and tram to get around. Uber is also an option, but do know that all holders of valid Australian Open tickets are entitled to a free tram shuttle service that operates on Route 70 from the city centre to Rod Laver Arena and Melbourne Arena stops.
Hiring a car is not necessary nor advised (driving around and finding carpark in Melbourne’s city centre is precious time that can be allotted to watching the games). And even if you plan to explore tourist sites outside of Melbourne central after the tournament such as the Great Ocean Road or Philip Island, it is still recommended that you simply book day tours, and most of them include pick-up and transport.
SHOPPING / WEATHER
While Australia in general isn’t really known for shopping, Melbourne is as close as you can get to a shopping destination in the country.
Docklands, the more cost-effective alternative area to stay at, is also home to The District Docklands, one of the city’s major shopping areas where one can find major fashion shopping outlets, sporting goods and specialty shops.
Another thing to know also is that during the Australian Open, a lot of sports brands such as Adidas and Nike have outlets and stores inside and around the sporting grounds. Take advantage of limited edition merchandise that are exclusive to the Australian Open.
It also pays to drop by the official Australian Open souvenir shop before leaving (found inside Melbourne Park), but here’s a golden tip for the patient ones: if you can wait after the event is done (27th of January onwards), the Australian Open online shop offers massive discounts.
The reputation of Melbourne having four different seasons in one day is unfortunately true. The temperature in Melbourne, even during summer, can easily go from 38 degrees to 16 degrees (Celsius) in a few minutes. So it helps to wear layers, pack portable umbrellas, and the most important of them all – sunscreen.
Food choices within Melbourne Park and the arenas are limited and prices are expectedly higher. But with Melbourne being a melting pot of multicultural roots and influences, you will find yourself spoiled for choice and maybe even a little overwhelmed with the abundance of restaurants and local markets in Melbourne.
Three short tram rides away from Melbourne Park is the Queen Victoria Market, considered the best place seafood and oyster spot in central Melbourne.
If you are up for contemporary Australian-Japanese food, make use of your valid Australian Open ticket, hop on Tram Route 70 (which is the free of charge route that comes with your ticket), and get off Flinders Lane. Walk to Kisume, a sleek Japanese restaurant that sources only fresh Australian ingredients for its sushi and food (no items or ingredients are imported from Japan), making it Australian-Japanese in every sense of the phrase. With mains starting at AU 40.00, consider Kisume as a final ‘goodbye’ dinner on your last evening in Melbourne.
Ramen fans can also take Tram Route 70 and head to Shunjko in Russell Street and go to Shujinko, a 24-hour ramen bar with a friendly and casual vibe. This is perfect for an end-of-day meal after watching the games. Try their Black Ramen – ramen that is seasoned with blackened shellfish powder.
COFFEE / DESSERT
Time and again, it has been said that Melbourne has the best cafes in the world. The only way to find out whether this is true is to try. Be warned though, that those who attempted previously are now believers.
The iconic Brunetti is a family-owned café and pizzeria known for their European style cakes and coffee. They have several stores all over Melbourne, and the closest to the Australian Open venue is in Flinders Lane.
Those who are into third wave coffee can try the Sensory Lab at David Jones Melbourne CBD (entry is at street level, Little Collins Street). Almost everyone who has tried their coffee has been back on a daily basis, foregoing the shopping itself at David Jones.
Revel in the buzz by spending time at the Federation Square, where those who do not have tickets to the Australian Open (but definitely know how to party), gather to watch at the big screen.
The whole of Melbourne Park is bustling with activities and if your favourite players aren’t having a match, your ticket will get you free entrance to shows and concerts in the park.
Whether you are in Melbourne for tennis or food (or hopefully both), the Australian Open is definitely a festive couple of weeks. Have fun, drink lots of coffee, and don’t forget the SPF.