The National Gallery of Victoria, or NGV, impresses with remarkable exhibitions year after year. The Van Gogh exhibition last year taught my uneducated brain so much about his art and life, the Monet exhibition previously evokes memories of vast canvases and swathes of colour. And this year’s spectacular offering brings the legendary New York gallery to Melbourne in MoMA at NGV.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA, specialises in both modern art (from about the 1880s to the 1950s) and contemporary art, which covers the period since then. So this means everything from Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse to Mondrian, Lichtenstein and Warhol, and beyond.
Don’t miss seeing MoMA at NGV with kids or without!
With so much for art and culture lovers to enjoy in Melbourne, this is the perfect time for a weekend away with the family, solo or with friends.
3 steps to the perfect art-loving weekend in Melbourne
Head to Melbourne via Tullamarine airport and catch the Sky Bus into the city, or a shuttle bus or taxi to your hotel.
Grab yourself a myki Explorer pack for public transport, so you can easily get around on trams and trains.
For a trip with kids I recommend breaking up all the art loving with some fun family-friendly attractions. These ones are my top 9.
1. Stay at a stylish hotel
The Blackman Art Series Hotel is sheer art-loving perfection. Dedicated to the fabulously figurative art of Charles Blackman, the foyer is particularly incredible. But having gorgeous artworks in your room raises this hotel far beyond the bland box of many.
The location on St Kilda Road, about a 10 min tram trip south of the city, means that you get more for your money than at a city hotel. You also have the parkland and walking paths around Albert Park Lake on your doorstep, and, if you fancy shopping on Chapel Street, cafe hopping in Windsor or visiting the Sunday craft market at St Kilda Beach, they’re all an easy tram ride away.
You’ll find wonderfully friendly and helpful staff, stunning views over Albert Park Lake if you’re lucky enough to score a room looking in that direction, plus a kitchenette in every room.
A family of four can be accommodated in one room with two queen beds.
See the latest The Blackman prices here.
Other super stylish Melbourne hotels include QT Melbourne, Crown Metropol (see my review here) and The Olsen Art Series.
Or check out these super family friendly accommodation options.
2. Soak up plenty of culture
See MoMA at NGV with kids (or without!)
Running from 9 June to 7 October, there are over 200 artworks and an accompanying kids installation called New York! New York! with heaps of interactive displays and hands on activities.
Entry to the exhibition is $28 per adult. The kids installation is free.
Lots of families were enjoying both the exhibition and the installation on the day we visited. It is really practical to see MoMA at NGV with kids. The videos, installations and sculptures in the exhibition seemed to really capture their interest. And they can play Space Invaders! There’s two machines in the 1970s section representing the art of designer Tomohiro Nishikado.
We even saw Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster filming there for Sesame Street!
All the way from @sesamestreet, we think our special guests #CookieMonster and #AbbyCadabby felt right at home inside MoMA at NGV and New York! New York! For Kids. #NGVMoMA #NGVKids • • • Photos: @eugenehyland Featuring: Roy Lichtenstein American 1923–97 “Drowning girl” 1963 oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas The Museum of Modern Art, New York Philip Johnson Fund (by exchange) and gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright, 1971 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/Copyright Agency, 2018
The exhibition is huge and arranged chronologically, so I recommend focusing on the sections you enjoy the most. My favourites were the earlier paintings up until about the 1960s, so we took our time early on and then sped up the pace once we hit the more avant-garde contributions of the 1980s.
Note that there is only one Van Gogh, one Seurat and one Gauguin in the exhibition and all three are on the very first wall as you enter, so don’t rush past and miss them!
I highly recommend buying your tickets online beforehand, arriving 10 or 15 minutes before open (10am everyday) and queuing at the gallery entry (to the right of the water wall as you face the NGV) for a minimal crowd experience. I think it helped that it was a very cold, wet day when we went, because it was much quieter than I expected.
From dropping our coats at the cloakroom all the way through to browsing in the gift shop, we spent about 1.75 hours there.
Explore Melbourne’s laneways, arcades and riverside
After you’ve upped your energy levels with tea and cake at Hopetoun Tearooms in Block Arcade (see food section below), take yourself on a walking tour from Collins Street to Southbank.
This 1 km walk starts across the road from Block Arcade at Centreway Arcade and will take you through the coffee-powered, graffiti-encrusted Centre Place …
to the European feel of Degraves Street …
… then turn left on Flinders Street to reach iconic Flinders Street Station. Meeting under the clocks at Flinders Street is part of a Melburnian’s DNA.
Turn right and go south on Swanston Street (which becomes St Kilda Road) away from the city, over the bridge to The Arts Centre and Southbank.
Have a meal or a coffee at Southbank or watch the buskers as you promenade along the Yarra, then jump on a tram back to your hotel.
Catch a show at a grand theatre
Soak up some sublime singing at a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performance at Hamer Hall, like I did on the weekend. Or time your visit to coincide with an Australian Ballet performance at the State Theatre under the spire at The Arts Centre. Giselle is coming up soon.
Or elsewhere in the city, Mamma Mia starts in July at the Princess Theatre, catch The Wizard of Oz or Swan Lake at the Regent Theatre and Rocky Horror will soon be on at Her Majesty’s.
3. Eat amazing food
Queen Victoria Market
Catch a tram up Elizabeth Street to the Queen Victoria Market. Always good for a wander, with stall holders calling out their specials and plenty of fresh produce on display.
But the reason I go is the hot jam donuts. An essential part of every visit to the market since I was a kid and still hugely popular. But the line moves quickly and you can get a bag of hot, fresh deliciousness for $6 for 5 donuts.
Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade
Sadly I am yet to try the magnificent cakes on offer here as there’s always a long queue. Book their very generous High Tea for $55 per person or wait patiently in the line for coffee and cake.
Or do what I do and salivate over their window display.
For a pre-theatre meal you can’t beat Fatto, which adjoins Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre. Relaxed and stylish, with great service and fantastic Italian food. Exactly what Melbourne does so well.
Menus and bookings on their website.
This modern Asian cool and groovy offering in Flinders Lane is all sorts of amazing, hence the need for a reservation to score a table. Their lobster rolls are the stuff of legends.
Menus and bookings on their website.
If you head out east on the number 6 tram shopping or exploring in Prahran or Armadale, then the cheeky waiters, colourful decor and phenomenal Italian food at Sagra in Malvern will have you refuelling with style.
Menus and bookings on their website.
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