The 9th National Editors Conference is more than sufficient reason to visit Melbourne, but we feel compelled to share our best secrets of the city with edibuddies wondering what else they might see and do while in town next May.

As an official UNESCO City of Literature, Melbourne offers a wealth of options. Whether you’re travelling from interstate, from regional Victoria, or from overseas, why not stay for the weekend (or the week) and take a leisurely literary break?

What is a City of Literature?

The 28 Cities of Literature are part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network that place creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans.

Melbourne was designated a City of Literature in 2008 in recognition of its ‘libraries, bookstores and cultural centres; the quality, quantity and diversity of publishing and editorial initiatives in Melbourne; and Melbourne’s literary events and festivals, amongst many other things’ (Creative Victoria).

Melbourne City of Literature fun facts

  • Home to the largest publishing scene in Australia, Melbourne also has an active reading culture, with ‘more people borrowing more books from local libraries in Melbourne than anywhere else in Australia’ (Cities of Literature).
  • Melbourne has more bookshops per head of population than any other Australian city.
  • The city’s community of authors, novelists, poets and playwrights is second to none
  • Melbourne is home to some of Australia’s most valuable literary prizes, including the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the nation’s single most valuable literary award, and the Melbourne Prize for Literature, which is awarded every three years (the 2018 winners will be announced tonight!)

Read more City of Literature fun facts from Creative Victoria, or take a look at the Melbourne City of Literature calendar for events happening in early May.

A literary city tour

Interior of the State Library Victoria's La Trobe Reading Room
State Library Victoria’s La Trobe Reading Room
Photo: Shawn Ang

The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas was established in 2008 as a central hub for the City of Literature’s diverse range of literary and ideas-based organisations and activities. Housed in a wing of the State Library Victoria, The Wheeler Centre offers more than 230 annual events focused on smart, engaging and entertaining writers and thinkers. Many of these events and talks are free. Visit the website for details of events planned for the week of the conference.

Established in 1854, State Library Victoria (SLV) is Australia’s oldest public library, and was one of the first free public libraries in the world. Located in a stunning 19th-century building, SLV is a must-see destination for all literary minded visitors – from the famed La Trobe Reading Room to its collection of over two million books and a vibrant program of events and exhibitions, many of which are free to attend.

Down in the Docklands, where it sits atop a heritage-listed wharf, Library at The Dock (lead image, above) is Australia’s first six-star Green Star-rated public building. Winner of several other sustainable design and architecture awards, this library opened in 2014 and boasts spectacular views of Central Pier, the harbour and the Southern Star Observation Wheel, while inside it offers more than 200,000 books, DVDs and CDs in addition to its digital collections. Featuring performance and gallery spaces, a recording studio, a café, interactive learning areas and a green terrace perfect for yoga, movie screenings and more, it’s quickly becoming a favourite community hub. Find it at the intersection of Collins and Bourke streets in Victoria Harbour.

Meanwhile, further down the coast is the hi-tech Geelong Library & Heritage Centre, opened in 2015. Well worth a day trip to Victoria’s second-biggest city, this award-winning golf ball-shaped spaceship of a building is located next to the Geelong Art Gallery and the Peace Memorial in Johnstone Park, and provides magnificent views of Corio Bay and the Melbourne skyline. It’s home to ‘Victoria’s biggest regional collection of public and private records’, according to its architects, and welcomes children with a dedicated space inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Geelong is located 85 kilometres from Melbourne, accessible by train (55 minutes from Southern Cross Station).

Geelong Library & Heritage Centre
Photo: UNESCO Creative Cities / CC licence

Gardens and galleries

Situated next to the conference venue are the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens, established in 1848. The gardens offer an ideal spot for a stroll before, after or during any of the conference days, or for a lunchtime picnic. Visit the Conservatory with its glorious floral displays (in May these feature tropical plants and Poinsettia); marvel at the model Tudor Village created by British pensioner Edgar Wilson and gifted to the City of Melbourne as thanks for food sent to the UK during WWII; or be delighted by the Fairies’ Tree, featuring mythical beings and native wildlife colourfully carved into the stump of a 300-year-old red gum by sculptor Ola Cohn, who also wrote four books.

Most of the attractions in Fitzroy Gardens are free, but for less than $10 you can visit perhaps their most famous, Cook’s Cottage – the oldest building in Australia.

The British flag flies in from of an 18th century cottage
Cook’s Cottage
Photo: Melanie Sheridan

Indeed, Cook’s Cottage pre-dates European settlement of Australia. It was built in Yorkshire, England, in 1755 by Captain James Cook’s father, then in 1934 transported, brick by individually numbered brick, to Australia. Also transported to the Antipodes were cuttings of the cottage’s original ivy coverings.

Sports lovers will no doubt be awed by the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), located opposite the conference venue. South of the MCG are Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, and the adjacent Domain Parklands, which feature the Alexandra Gardens and Queen Victoria Gardens, home to the famous floral clock. Entry is free to all these magnificent gardens, though some events in the Royal Botanic Gardens may have an associated cost. ‘One of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaped gardens in the world’ (City of Melbourne), the Royal Botanic Gardens feature more than 50,000 plants, many of them rare or threatened species.

If you’re more of the indoor type, you’ll be right at home in Melbourne’s CBD, home to numerous iconic galleries, including NGV (comprising NGV International on St Kilda Road and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square), Tolarno Galleries, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) as well as the city’s famous street art, located in sites such as Hosier Lane (you will have to brave the outdoors for this).

People walking through and taking photos in Hosier Lane. Federation Square can be seen at the end of the lane.
Hosier Lane, Melbourne 2016
Photo: supplied

Coffee and cafés

Melbourne is as synonymous with coffee culture and laneway life as it is with literature, and in the famed Flinders Lane precinct, the three are combined in a heavenly blend. Here, you’ll find writerly spaces including the Centre for Adult Education, where many Editors Victoria training sessions take place; the City Library and its literary-leaning Journal Café; and the National Trust-listed Nicholas Building, dubbed a vertical arts laneway and home to Bibliopath Book Sculptor and several writers and editors (sadly, the Collected Works Bookshop is shutting its doors at the end of this year). You’ll also find fabulous coffee and more of the street art Melbourne is famous for.

If you don’t know where to start, consider booking into the Literary Walk offered by Melbourne Walks, which Lonely Planet lists as one of its top ten literary walking tours of the world.

For information on getting to and around Melbourne, visit the conference general information page. Accommodation is available at special rates for conference delegates at the venue as well as nearby; details are available on the accommodation page.