We were recently asked “why are there so few things to do in Melbourne on a Monday?” Here is the brief answer.
150 years ago a group of contractors and skilled tradesmen working at Melbourne University negotiated and eight hour working day. The 48 hour week gradually filtered down to unskilled workers and other employees who, by working longer hours on weekdays, were able to gain Saturday afternoons off. Melbourne was one of the first major cities in the world to have this half day weekend and it goes a long way to explaining why Melbourne has such a strong sporting tradition. (Something of the reverse happened later when in certain towns traders took half a weekday off in return for working Saturday mornings, Are there any towns out there that still have half-day closing? Maybe some of our readers can let us know.)
Of course people didn’t work on Sunday either but that hardly counted as part of the weekend as most people understand it today. Nothing was open (except the church of course) and in a good Methodist household to take out a pack of cards and play a game of patience was seen as a major step on the way to perdition. Couple the Sunday observance with 6 o’clock closing of hotels and you had a pretty sombre Melbourne – at least on the surface. As late as the 1960s tourists would come to Melbourne and find it closed for the weekend.
Unions had made steady gains for employees in the area of working hours except in the area of shop assistants. In the end, governments legislated to restrict trading hours which offered a fair degree of protection to retail employees even if it did create inconvenience for the customer. Old-timers (anyone over 30) will still remember the meat section in the supermarket being covered over at midday on Saturday. If you wanted to buy meat on a Sunday you had to head off to Balaclava where the Kosher Butchers, having been closed for the Jewish Sabbath, were given dispensation to open on Sunday.
Trading hours have been relaxed in recent years but in the end traders, particular small businesses and family operated businesses, need some breathing space so there are certain ‘dead times’. Retailers in the city used to open at 9am. Now, most open at 10am. Similarly on Mondays many restaurants are closed, most live theatres are dark and many regular entertainments and tours do not operate. Historically, Monday was always a slow day for certain traders. Monday was washing day withy the womenfolk slaving over a full week’s washing with little time to shop. Few traditional markets were open on a Monday and you will still find many closed Mondays.
Monday is also traditionally a slow day at work after the rave parties on Sunday. Look closely at the pupils of your bank teller on a Monday morning. However, some organisations capitalise on Monday being slow. If you put on a poetry reading or a magic show or a rehearsal you know there will be few things that clash and many community committees can only raise a quorum on Monday nights.
Few things happen in Melbourne on a Monday because Monday is the new Sunday. That was the short answer.
Still, there still plenty of things to do on a Monday if you look in the right places (such as White Hat).
White Hat recommends a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol as one of the important things to see and do in Melbourne. The walls ooze suffering, violence and desperation. Then there is of course the gallows from which Ned Kelly was hanged. More information at The White Hat Guide to Old Melbourne Gaol.
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria (International Collection) - The Australian branch of the gallery at Federation Square is closed on a Monday, but the International Collection in St Kilda Road is open. Entry is free and the gallery has a world class selection of paintings. More information at The White Hat Guide to NGV International.
Take a trip to Mernda Market - Mernda Market is a short distance north of Melbourne and apart from offering the range of things you would expect at a large market, it gives you the opportunity to observe a slice of life in country Victoria. On the other hand, if you a more urban type you might prefer to check out the Melbourne designs and vintage fashions at the Wonderfully Pretty Night Market in St Kilda on the 2nd Monday of the month.You can find a detailed list of markets open on a Monday at The White Hat Guide to Monday Markets in Victoria.
[Listing changed. New one coming soon]
On selected Mondays you can often attend a free lunchtime concert at BMW Edge in Federation Square. You can find more details at The White Hat Guide to BMW Edge.
In recent years Melbourne has put considerable effort into becoming a sustainable city and the newly developed inner suburb of Docklands has set benchmarks which have often been adopted internationally. You can find some of Melbourne's more notable sustainable buildings at The White Hat Guide to Sustainable Buildings in Melbourne.
Visit Toorak House - one of Melbourne's early impressive residences used by the Governor of the time. It now functions as a Swedish Church and community centre and is open to the public. Details The White Hat Guide to Toorak House.
Listen to some local poetry or maybe read some of your own at one of the local poetry nights. See details below.
A free tour of the historic Melbourne Town Hall. Numbers are limited so bookings are essential and required one day in advance. Tours Run Monday to Friday at 11am & 1pm and last for approximately 1 hour. Bookings: (03) 9658 9658
One of Australia's finest Victorian era buildings. It is open to teh public
on Wednesdays and Sundays and features fine displays related to Melbourne
history. More info >>
10am to 4pm, Sunday to Friday
Cnr Spring St & Collins St
Enquiries: (03) 9651 2233
The Hotel Windsor
Afternoon Tea at The Windsor For as long as most people can remember, afternoon tea at The Hotel
Windsor has been a Melbourne institution. A full leisurely afternoon tea
served in the luxurious surrounds of Melbourne's of Melbourne grand old
historic hotel really calls for a lady to wear a hat and gloves. If you
don't have a hat and gloves and the gentleman doesn't have a cane then
White Hat urges you to at least carry yourself with a dignified air.
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Always verify the information by using the phone numbers supplied with
each event or venue before making a special trip or using this
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Page last updated:
21 May, 2013
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