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This short article was first published in the
White Hat Melbourne Newsletter No. 203 of 18th January 2007

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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Take a trip to Whittlesea Monday Market - The Whittlesea Monday Market (formerly the 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.
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On selected Mondays you can often attend a free lunchtime concert at The Edge in Federation Square. You can find more details at The White Hat Guide to The Edge.
Take an evening stroll along the Paris End of Collins Street then into the Treasury Gardens.
  1. On the first Monday of the month, young architects hold an open session in a city bar called 'Process' with various speakers discussing current aspects of architecture. See details below and also at The White Hat Guide to Design Events in Melbourne.
  2. Do something romantic. Even if you're by yourself the evening may end up more romantic than you expected. You can find some suggestions at The White Hat Guide to Romantic Melbourne.
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  4. Take a ride over Melbourne in a hot air balloon. Melbourne is one of the few major cities in the world where it is possible to balloon over the city. You will need to book in advance. Details at The White Hat Guide to Hot Air Ballooning in Melbourne.
  5. Take a trip to the inner suburb of Footscray. Wander around Little Saigon and enjoy a healthy Vietnamese meal for an incredibly cheap price.
  6. Take a tour of the MCG - one of the world's great sporting stadiums.
  7. Wander around Station Pier and the neighbouring suburbs of Port Melbourne and Sandridge. Maybe enjoy a meal or a drink in one of the restaurants and cafes on the waterfront.
  8. Visit Melbourne Museum -  a fine museum with exhibits of both local and international relevance. Details at The White Hat Guide to Melbourne Museum.
  9. 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.
  10. Much of Melbourne's history is tied up with the bridges across the Yarra River. You may wish to investigate some of the bridges mentioned in The White Hat Guide to 7 Bridges of Melbourne.
  11. 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.
  12. Listen to some local poetry or maybe read some of your own at one of the local poetry nights. See details below.
  13. Enjoy some magic at Magic Mondays. See below.
  14. Spend a quiet hour or two in one of Melbourne's historic cemeteries soaking up the history of this remarkable city. Details at The White Hat Guide to Cemeteries in Melbourne.
  15. And finally, if it's raining then you could have a look at The White Hat Guide to 50 Things to do on a Rainy Day in Melbourne.

Choose a particular Monday


Some forthcoming events on a Monday in Melbourne

Moomba Parade

The parade runs northbound on St Kilda Road (on the park side of the road) between Dorcas St and Linlithgow Avenue.


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'Process'

Process is a series of Monday night architecture talk at Loop in Melbourne organised by the Young Architects Commitee of the RAIA.


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Passionate Tongues - Poetry and Spoken Word

Featuring a constantly changing line-up of some of Melbourne's finest poets. ($10 Jugs every Monday.)


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Magic Mondays
Perfect night out for everyone that loves magic.


Selected attractions open on certain Mondays in Melbourne

Free Tour of Melbourne Town Hall
A free tour of the historic Melbourne Town Hall. Numbers are limited so bookings are essential and required one day in advance. More information >>
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National Gallery of Victoria - International Collection
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Old Treasury Building
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 >>
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The Hotel Windsor

You can find a comprehensive guide to markets around Australia at The White Hat Guide to Markets in Australia.

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