A trip to France is on most people’s travel list. While there can be a number of reasons that stand in the way of actually landing on French soil, you know you’re lucky when you can find all things French and fabulous right here, in your own city!
Melbourne is home to various cultures, and you can immerse yourself in French experiences, right from indulging in its mouth-watering culinary treats and soaking in its history and art, to enjoying a vibrant French festival! So, don’t fret over that plane ticket to Paris that has been on your mind for so long. Until that happens, enjoy the best of France, in Melbourne.
Here’s a list of typically French things to do. You can tick them off one by one…
1. Grab a croissant
Make your way to Lune Croissanterie on Russell Street for their delicious, distinctly French croissants. There will be a queue, of course, but as a proverb goes, ‘all things come to those who wait’. Sink your teeth into these light, flaky pieces of pastry heaven – or do it the French way by dunking them in a café créme. Either way, it’s completely worth the wait!
2. Watch the world go by from a sidewalk café
Nothing spells Paris quite like sidewalk cafés with wicker chairs and people leisurely sipping their beverages and people-watching. Turn your steps towards Degraves Street and you’ll quite suddenly find yourself enveloped by a French atmosphere. Hardware Lane casts similar Parisian vibes.
3. Fancy a French meal?
For a lip-smacking breakfast, visit La Petite Crêperie, Melbourne’s smallest, yet most popular iconic French takeaway kiosk. You’ll discover it on the footpath at the corner of Little Collins and Swanston Street. You can watch your sweet crêpe prepared right in front of you and served with your favourite topping in takeaway cones.
For lunch, dine at Chez Bagou, a local French bistro, and you’ll experience its authentic atmosphere and amazing French cuisine.
If it’s dinner, then the Entrecôte steakhouse & café in South Yarra is just the place! It was inspired by the Le Relais De L’Entrecôte – the famous one-dish steakhouse in Paris.
4. Shop for chic French fashions
If you want to indulge in chic French designer wear from luxury brands like Dior, Hermès and Louis Vuitton, then the upper end of Collins Street is where you must shop. And if you’re feeling especially extravagant, slip that French manicure into your shopping list!
5. Attend the Bastille Day French Festival
Nothing takes you to the heart of a country quite like its celebrations, leading you straight to its culture, cuisine, language and festivities. This year, don’t miss the Bastille Day French Festival on 16th and 17th July at Federation Square. You’ll be immersed in all things French, right from art and history to the winter market, to Masterclasses and more. Entry is free although some events are ticketed. Stay tuned here.
6. Sign up for French cooking classes
Pull on that chef’s hat, tie your apron and dive into the secrets of traditional French cuisine. You can sign up with Dish Du Jour, run by French Chef Sebastien Piel, who offers cookery classes in Prahran for all skill levels and various menus. What’s your level? You can learn the art of light soufflés, fluffy omelettes and other delightful French favourites like Poulet Chasseur and Fish Papillote.
If you’re interested in indulging your sweet tooth, then join pastry chef and chocolatier Kirsten Tibballs on a journey alongside award-winning chefs and international guest chefs at Savour, her chocolate and patisserie school.
7. Visit the théâtre Français de Melbourne
Language is a huge part of getting a feel of a country. You can step into the Melbourne French Theatre and catch their productions, usually theatrical plays. They’re in French or bilingual (French/English), so it’s a great way to brush up your French or get familiar with it. Their website will let you know what’s on or coming up.
8. Stop and smell the perfume!
Interested in fragrances? How about creating some yourself, or attending a workshop to learn about the secrets of perfume selection and creation? You can learn the art of perfumery and create your own fragrance with Fleurage, in a private perfume-making class.
9. Enjoy live jazz
Jazz has been a big part of French music since the 1920s, and you no doubt want to savour its smooth tunes! Don’t miss La Mauvaise Réputation, the Melbourne-based French gypsy jazz group, as they perform live in the city!
10. Stroll and take in the sights
Parisians love to stroll! At Melbourne, wander along Collins Street, and you’ll surely feel the same spirit that inspires Parisians to walk just about everywhere! Begin your stroll at the Spring Street end of Collins Street and amble downhill. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful Beaux-Arts architecture and French brands that call out to you from their store windows!
If you’re a nature-lover, then the Royal Botanic Gardens offer wide, open landscapes and native flora that can refresh your soul as you stroll along this green heart of the city. It can almost transport you to the serene parks in Paris, with their abundant flowers in springtime or the beautiful architecture that frames their boundaries.
Once you’ve discovered the French spirit in Melbourne and grown addicted to buttery croissants, indulged generously in chocolat, shopped French brands, enjoyed sipping French wines, and had a memorable time at the French festivals, it’s inevitable that all this will become an inseparable part of you.