The best things Melbourne has to offer are dotted in the most unlikely of places.
Melbourne is a city that rewards you for getting lost. Whether you take a long drive to the country or down the coast, or simply take a wrong turn while navigating one of the city’s alleyways, it’s rare that you’ll find yourself at a dead-end. So while it’s great to visit the city with a well-laid plan, rest assured that you can easily fill your days with spontaneous tram rides and directionless walks.
It’s a city that values and supports art and culture as much as it does sport and spectator events, and as its nickname as “the city of festivals” suggests, always offers activities or events that will leave you entertained or inspired. Whether you’re visiting for one night or one month, for a special event or just a relaxing holiday, you’ll likely come to the end of your trip with a longer list of places to visit and meals to sample than you had upon arrival. We’ve compiled this list to help you narrow it down.
#1 Where To Stay
#2 How To Get Around
#3 What To Pack
#4 The City
#5 The Suburbs
#6 Take A Day Trip Here
#7 Go Here For A Breathtaking View
#8 Take A Hike
#9 Parks And Rec
#10 Where To Eat/Drink
#11 Where To Shop For Bargains
#12 Locals Go Here For Breakfast
#13 Where To Have An Indulgent Night Out
#14 Worth The Hype
#15 Avoid It
#16 Don’t Leave Without
Where To Stay
You’ll find the most options for accommodation within the city centre. Melbourne’s public transport system was designed carry passengers to and from The Hoddle Grid – the streets bordered by Flinders, Spring, La Trobe and Spencer Streets – so the hotels that lie within these borders will also make getting around easy.
CHEAP AS CHIPS
Ibis Budget, 97-103 Elizabeth Street, CBD
When all you need is a place to store your bags and recharge your batteries after days of exploring, shopping and eating, and nights of drinking, dancing and more eating, an affordable room at a reliable Ibis budget hotel is a perfect choice.
Prices from: $119/night
WON’T BREAK THE BANK
Jasper Hotel, 489 Elizabeth Street, CBD
Jasper Hotel is on the border of the CBD. It’s walking distance to the intimate bars and Korean BBQ restaurants of Victoria Street and right around the corner from the famous Queen Victoria Market.
Prices from: $159/night
Adelphi, 187 Flinders Lane, CBD
You know the rooms at the Adelphi are nice because they look like they’ve been taken straight from a post on Apartment Therapy; the furniture is modern and stylish, and each room features familiar touches and cosy linens. For a really splurgey day at the Adelphi, take a dip in the rooftop pool – make sure you swim to the end and peer at the street below from the glass bottom.
Prices from: $265/night
How To Get Around
Unless you want an off-road adventure, everywhere you need to go in Melbourne is accessible by public transport. As soon as you arrive, visit a 7-11 or convenience store to purchase a Myki – a full fare card will cost $6 – and top it up with either an amount of money or the number of days you’ll be in town. You can top up your card at the same stores, on buses or at the recharge machines scattered across the transport network. The Myki system can be a little complicated – even locals get a bit confused about the different rules for trams, trains and buses – but as long as you scan your card at ones of the neon yellow card readers when you board, you’ll be okay.
Melbourne is famous for its tram system, and travel on trams is free within the city bounds. There’s also a fleet of historic City Circle trams that do as they say – circle the city – all day, offering a free hop-on/hop-off service with pre-recorded information about attractions and Melbourne history played on the trams as you travel.
Cycling is a very popular mode of transport in Melbourne, and the infrastructure is slowly catching up to the trend. Melbourne Bike Share is a great way to see the city from the streets – just make sure you wear a helmet!
What To Pack
Melbourne weather is famously unpredictable. Between March and November, it’s safe to stick with light layers – tights, jeans, cardigans and button-downs are good staples. Depending on the time of year, you might need to add some warmer outerwear as well. Pack a collapsible umbrella, sunglasses and a scarf in your bag, because it’s near impossible to know which of these you’ll need on any given day.
Throughout summer, the weather is just as likely to switch in an instant, but a review of a weather app (we like WeatherZone to see how the temperature will fluctuate throughout the day) in the morning will help you decide whether shorts or jeans are a better option.
A pair of comfortable sneakers or boots will double as walking shoes through the day and dress-code-friendly footwear if you decide on a spontaneous night out.
There is so much to see, do and eat in Melbourne and there is never a bad time of year to visit. From the Australian Open and Melbourne Food and Wine Festival to the AFL Grand Final and countless festivals celebrating film, literature, arts and music, there is always something happening in the city.
The city’s streets and public transport system are very safe for locals and visitors alike. Public transport runs until 11pm on Sundays, midnight on weekdays and 1am on Friday and Saturday nights, and the major taxi services – Silver Top and 13CABS – are affordable and reliable options as well.
The famous St Kilda beach is the one you’re like to see featured in guide books of Melbourne, but you can avoid the crowds and get a better sense of the southside of town by opting instead for a visit to South Melbourne beach.
Foodie adventures combine with shopping and culture at the other end of town, in the northside suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy. Visit on a Thursday night to catch a pub gig at the Evelyn Hotel on Brunswick Street, Yah Yah’s on Smith Street or The Old Bar on Johnston Street, or stop by an art opening at Strange Neighbour, Off the Kerb or RVCA galleries. Gertrude Street boasts a record store, food-and-recipe-only bookshop, designer homewares and local fashion that are among Melbourne’s best and best-loved. Not to mention the new and popular Belle’s Hot Chicken Diner and Cutler & Co, one of the city’s most prestigious restaurants.
#1 Evelyn Hotel (351 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy)
#2 Yah Yah’s (99 Smith Street, Fitzroy)
#3 The Old Bar (74-76 Johnston Street, Fitzroy)
#4 Belle’s Hot Chicken Diner (150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy)
#5 Cutler & Co (55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy)
Take a Day Trip Here
Just an hour outside of the city is a dream spot for people of a relaxation persuasion. Wineries scatter the Mornington Peninsula, and the family-run Sillitto Vineyard and Olive Grove is one of the most intimate. Referencing the property’s Tuscan heritage, their on-site restaurant offers classic Italian meals that are hearty and comforting. The restaurant also looks over Port Phillip Heads, making it the perfect spot to grab a bite on your way to the famous Peninsula Hot Springs. Located on the site of a natural geothermal hot spring, this spa, bathhouse and totally indulgent getaway spot will work out your creaky zones and make you feel as pampered as a Real Housewife.
Go Here For A Breathtaking View
If you’ve got the time and transport to head outside Melbourne and climb the iconic Hanging Rock, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the countryside that lies just outside the city’s bounds. You might be able to spot some kangaroos snoozing nearby, and you won’t get sucked through a black hole, I swear!
For incredible views within the CBD, travel 88 floors above the street and step out onto The Edge at Eureka Skydeck. It’s a glass cube jutting out almost 300 metres above the ground, guaranteeing you the ultimate recreation of Ferris Bueller’s “the city looks so peaceful from up here” moment.
For a free alternative, wander into the Sofitel Hotel through Collins Place and take the elevator to the 35th floor. From the bathrooms, you’ll get an incredible view of the city, and, on a fine day, even be able to see as far as the Dandenong Ranges.
Take A Hike
In the middle of the Dandenong Ranges National Park lies the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk, more commonly known as the 1000 steps. The walking trail is modelled after the physical tests required of World War II soldiers but is achievable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Tip: arrive early on weekends, or you might find it tricky to find a car park.
Parks And Rec
Home to everything from polar bears to lions, the Melbourne Zoo is an awesome day out and is located just outside the city. The city’s Botanical Gardens are a favourite of Melbourne joggers and the glass plant house at the St Kilda Botanical Gardens is a horticulturalists’ dream, but nothing can compare to the incredible and award-winning landscaped lawns of the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens.
Connecting the famous MCG to the city, the Fitzroy Gardens are swarming with scarf-wearing barrackers from April through September, but make for a great outdoor walk any day of the year. Pro tip: plug in your headphones and play Paul Kelly’s ‘When I First Met Your Ma’ as you wander through the gardens.
Where To Eat/Drink
#1 400 Gradi (99 Lygon Street, Brunswick) for the best pizza.
#2 Hu-Tong Dumpling Bar (14-16 Market Lane, CBD or 162 Commerical Road, Prahran) for the best dumplings.
#3 The Alderman (134 Lygon Street, Brunswick East) for a perfect date.
#4 Boney & Magic Mountain Saloon (68 Little Collins Street, CBD) for dancing/snacks at 2am.
#5 The Town Mouse (312 Drummond Street, Carlton) for a special occasion.
Where To Shop
Keen shoppers can’t go wrong with the northern end of the city. From Bourke Street to Melbourne Central (with Emporium, H&M and The Strand in between) you’re covered with high street classics and pieces by local and international designers. On Sundays, find the most unique vintage clothes, shoes and knick knacks at Camberwell Market. Trams 70, 72 and 75 pass by Camberwell Junction, and from there it’s a short walk to Market Place, which is never short of pre-loved treasures. If you’re a vintage fiend, it’s worth a visit to Retrostar on level 2 of Swanston Street’s historic Nicholas building. Keep an eye out for their regular warehouse sales as well – if you can handle the crowds you can come away with bulging bags for next to nothing.
For high-end shopping, head to the “Paris end” of Collins Street (between Queen and Spring streets) for luxury flagship stores from Prada, Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton, as well as the iconic Block Arcade for boutique gifts and delicious chocolates from Haigh’s. The newly opened Emporium – which connects Melbourne Central, Myer and David Jones – boasts Melbourne’s first Uniqlo store. Chadstone bills itself as Australia’s “fashion capital” – and it’s not hard to see why. Arguably the biggest shopping centre in the Southern Hemipshere, it’s already home to more than 500 stores and their expansion plans don’t show any signs of letting up. It’s about 18 kilometres south-east of the city, but there’s a free shuttle bus departing from Federation Square daily.
BOOKS AND RECORDS
Crate-diggers will be satisfied with a trip to Brunswick Street staples Polyester Records and Poison City Records, conveniently located right across the street from one another. (If you’re south of the river check out the iconic Greville Records and the nearby Licorice Pie for second-hand rarities.) Back in Collingwood, you’ll be spoiled for choice with the selection of books and gifts at Happy Valley on Smith Street. The Good Copy, around the corner on Johnston Street, sells tools of the trade for writers and a selection of magazines not available elsewhere in Australia.
#1 Polyester Records (387 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy)
#2 Poison City Records (440 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy)
#3 Greville Records (152 Greville Street, Prahran)
#4 Licorice Pie (249a High Street, Prahran)
#5 Happy Valley (294 Smith Street, Collingwood)
#6 The Good Copy (27-29 Johnston Street, Collingwood)
Locals Go Here For Breakfast
#1 Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street, CBD) for the best coffee in the city.
#2 Hammer and Tong 412 (412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) are constantly reinventing what breakfast can be with inventive twists on the classic bacon and eggs.
#3 Breakfast Thieves (420 Gore Street, Fitzroy) switch up their approach to their delicious corn fritters seasonally.
#4 Bowery to Williamsburg (16 Oliver Lane, CBD) for a taste of New York in Melbourne.
#5 Everyday Coffee (33 Johnston Street, Collingwood) will make you feel like an instant local. They specialise in pour-over brews and stock bagels by local legends 5 and Dime.
Where To Have An Indulgent Night Out
The chances of getting a table at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck at Crown Casino are slim, so as a fall-back we’ll go for another well-loved bald chef’s CBD offering. The Press Club, from renowned Greek-Australian chef and Masterchef judge George Calombaris, offers a range of indulgent dinners, including the 13-course Olympus ($225 per head). Frank Camorra’s original Movida is the best place to go for high-end tapas, the $250 Vue de Monde degustation is a Melbourne rite of passage (on top of the 55-level Rialto no less), while Ben Shewry’s Attica in Ripponlea is one of the best and most inventive restaurants in the world.
End your trip to Melbourne with a visit to Croft Institute, one of Melbourne’s first laneway bars. Seek it out on Croft Alley, near Chinatown, and be transported to a three-storey science lab bar with one of the city’s most famous cocktail menus full of some of the city’s most potent concoctions. Siglo, overlooking St Patrick’s Cathedral and Parliament House, is the place locals go for a cigar and croque-monsieur at 2am.
#1 The Press Club (72 Flinders Street, CBD)
#2 Movida (1 Hosier Lane, CBD)
#3 Vue de Monde (lvl 55/525 Collins Street, CBD)
#4 Attica (64 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea)
#5 Croft Institute (Croft Alley, CBD)
#6 Siglo (2/161 Spring Street, CBD)
Worth The Hype
The ceiling of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Great Hall is one of Melbourne’s most-Instagrammed spots for good reason: visitors and locals alike can happily lay on the carpet and gaze up at the stunning stained glass view for hours.
If you find yourself in Collingwood with an empty stomach, it would be remiss of you to not pay a visit to Jim’s Greek Tavern. This local institution has been keeping Melburnians fed and watered for decades and shows no signs of slowing down.
It’s topped the lists of Melbourne’s best bars for the past decade and for good reason: Rooftop Bar, atop the bustling Curtin House is a laid-back bar with affordable cocktails, stoked staff, incredible city views and – during the summer months – built-in entertainment in the form of Rooftop Cinema.
It was once a shopping destination, but the South Yarra of Chapel Street has lost much of its allure since international mainstays like Zara, Topshop and H&M have opened their doors in the CBD. (The Windsor end, however, is enjoying a revival with a constant stream of concept stores, bars and restaurants, as well as its very own speakeasy/sandwich shop called Boston Sub.)
Degraves Street has been a tourist destination for years, but both the coffee offering and cramped outdoor dining leave much to be desired these days. Avoid the squeeze at other beloved CBD cafes, like Manchester Press, 1000£ Bend or Market Lane Coffee and just stick to wandering down to the Degraves subway to visit city stalwarts Sticky Institute and Corky St Clair.
Don’t Leave Without…
Spending a night exploring the CBD’s famous laneways, hidden bars, famous eateries and surprising rooftops. From Madame Brussell’s to Pellegrini’s and Sister Bella – the best things Melbourne has to offer are dotted in unlikely places and will reward the most curious visitors.
(Lead image: Rexness/Flickr)