Lonely Planet review
A big player in Melbourne's achievement of being named Unesco City of Literature in 2008, the State Library has been the forefront of Melbourne's literary scene since it opened in 1854. With over two million books in its collection, it's a great place to browse. Its epicentre, the octagonal La Trobe Reading Room , was completed in 1913; its reinforced-concrete dome was the largest of its kind in the world and its natural light illuminates the ornate plasterwork and the studious Melbourne writers who come here to pen their works.
The library has several exhibitions on display, providing a fascinating story to Melbourne's history. Its most notable item is Ned Kelly's armour , the getup of Australia's most infamous bushranger: a menacing helmet cobbled together from a plough with slit cut out of the eyes, and riddled with bullet dents. There's also numerous original Burke & Wills memorabilia and John Batman's controversial land treaty (read: land grab), in which he's believed to have forged signatures of the Wurundjeri people.
Bibiliophiles won't want to miss the Mirror of the World exhibition, with a weird and wonderful collection of books through the ages, from a 4000-year-old tax receipt and rare first editions to Peter Carey's laptop and Australian comic books (bet you never heard of Panther Man...). There's also a fine collection of Australian paintings, including the apocalyptic bushfire portrayed by William Strutt in his Black Thursday, February 6th, 1851 .
For more information, join a free guided tour to see the library’s vast collection. There's free wi-fi and internet, plus video game consoles and a chess room.
Join locals with a takeaway lunch on the library's grassy lawn, or head down the library basement to Moat , an atmospheric, European-style bistro with an appealing literary vibe.