Experience other cultures, eat excellent cuisine from around the world and explore local arts and history in Dandenong.
If you want to explore one of the most diverse areas in Melbourne, jump on a train heading towards either Cranbourne or Packenham and get off at Dandenong. Not only will you find Melbourne’s largest Indian community, but the suburb is also home to the huge and bustling Dandenong Market (open Tuesday and Friday to Sunday). Here, you can get a bag of fresh-from-the-orchard apples, feast on treats from food vans like Delicious Mauritius and Dandee Donuts, and shop for books, saris or a goldfish.
Once you’ve shopped to your heart’s content, it’s time to explore the rest of the neighbourhood. Long before Dandenong became the thriving spot it is today, it was a rural market town and you can see vestiges of its past at Heritage Hill Museum and Historic Gardens (open Tuesday to Friday). In its three preserved buildings, you can view a changing range of exhibitions or attend one of the on-site craft classes, before taking a stroll through the landscaped gardens. When you’ve worked up an appetite head to hip Young Uncle’s, where you can grab a St Ali coffee and refuel with Cuban sandwiches or jaffles made with Polish sausage. If you like what you taste, stock up on delicious cold-smoked pancetta or garlic sausage, all handmade next door at Uncle’s Smallgoods.
For those with an interest in all things culinary, one of the best things to do in Dandenong is join a local Food Lovers Tours. Held regularly, they lead guests on the trail of Indian sweet makers, Lebanese and Afghan bakers and other creators of delicacies before finishing with a meal at a local Polish restaurant. Another fascinating journey is the Interfaith Network Tour, exploring the spiritual communities and places of worship around Dandenong.
Afterwards, if you’re looking for a bar in Dandenong, try the Albion Hotel where there’s sport on the big screens and Sunday sessions with live music, or the Dandenong Club, with barefoot bowls on Friday nights from October to March.
There’s an excellent local arts scene, with the Walker Street Gallery & Arts Centre hosting exhibitions, artist talks and monthly openings. Nearby you’ll discover the Drum Theatre, with its huge range of productions, including musical theatre, concerts, comedy, ballet and more.
Looking for a cafe in Dandenong? Try the Dandenong Pavilion, a local favourite with a good range of breakfast dishes, as well as some of the best burgers you’ll find in Melbourne. For something completely different, Afghan Rahimi serves the cuisine of Afghanistan, including delicious dumplings, rice dishes, kofta and other delicacies. Go for the banquet if you can’t decide what to order.
Before you head home, make sure you leave some time to go shopping in Dandenong. Pick up charred, chewy flatbread from Maiwand Bakery, Scottish haggis or Cornish pasties from Rob’s British & Irish Butcher, and boxes of hand-made cham chams (rosewater balls) and burfi, made from condensed milk, at Bikaner Sweets & Curry Cafe. Right now, you’re in the heart of Little India, where stores are filled with aromatic spices and every pulse and grain you could imagine. It’s also the home of Roshan’s Fashions, which was one of the first Indian shops to open here in 1994. Here, you’ll marvel at the shalwar kameez, the long shirts worn by men and women over pants or tights, casual kurti and extravagantly hand-embroidered wedding saris and sherwanis (men’s wedding suits).