Guides

The New Restaurants, Bars, Arts & Adventures You Need To Try Around Melbourne

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Melbourne is not a new city for me. My family is mad about AFL, so I grew up visiting often for games. Then when I was older I’d be there regularly visiting friends and exploring the trendier side of Melbourne — from famous laneways to underground nightlife.

Then Covid happened and more than one flight was cancelled. I hadn’t even bothered heading back to Australia‘s coolest city for about a year, waiting out lockdowns and wondering if there was anything left to see.

Now that I’ve been back I can definitely say: Melbourne is thriving, baby.

The best thing about Melbourne, to me, is that it’s perfect for a weekend getaway (or staycay). Spending a normal or long weekend just soaking in the art, eating out for every meal and consuming way too much coffee is spot on for immersing yourself in local culture. Add in a couple of activities to get the blood pumping for balance, and BOOM, perfect vacay.

Melbourne might be about the accidental discoveries, but to get you started, I have a few must-dos for your next visit.

Where To Stay

 

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Use that international flight money to treat yourself and enjoy the funky luxury at new W Melbourne hotel.

While this chain started in New York, this location is uniquely Melbourne. The thought that’s gone into decor that reflects the laneways, art and fashion of the city is incredible.

For me, the crowning glory is the guest-only 24/7 indoor pool on level 14, with city views and a bar that operates until 9 pm on weekends (hours are changing though, just ask staff on arrival). They also have several restaurant options, and seeing as I indulged in room service more than once I can confirm the food is also a delight.

Where To Drink

 

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It’s Melbourne, so there’s no shortage of delicious cocktails or chill pubs to seek out. If you’re looking for the new and particularly thrilling though, start at Curious — the Alice In Wonderland-themed (but in a sophisticated way) bar by W Melbourne.

Late-night bar and brasserie– Bar Margaux –is a treat for a late/ very early rendezvous. They serve cocktails, wine and French comfort food until the small hours.

Eau De Vie isn’t new, but with a 1920s American prohibition theme it feels very cool, underground and moody. Then there’s Bar Americano which boasts the world’s best Negroni, they’ve also just opening al fresco dining, so that’s fun.

Where To Eat

Let me just spend my days waddling around Melbourne streets, stuffing my face. No one can deny this city really attracts cool venues and exciting menus. Plus, I don’t know why I love the kitchen bar sitting area that so many of these new restaurants seem to have, but I do. It makes me feel way cooler and more part of the action than I actually am, I guess.

I start my food journey at Cumulus Inc. On Flinders Lane, in Melbourne’s famous art and fashion precinct, these guys serve up a seasonal and healthy menu using local produce. They’re also just incredibly friendly — not just to me but to each other — and those vibes just add to the atmosphere.

Not far away you’ll find Supernormal. Oh my god, the food here, I’m still dreaming about it. The menu is inspired by Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul and Hong Kong — but all with a unique twist. The decor walks a perfect line between trendy and neon-kitschy.

For perfect comfort food, you need to drop in for Udon or Ramen at Chocolate Buddha. Did the vego Udon cure my raging hangover? Yes, yes it did. Plus it’s the perfect casual setting for a little people-watching in Federation Square.

Then there’s always the classic DIY option of hitting up Queen Victoria Markets and making your own picnic.

What To Do

Obviously, you didn’t even Melbourne if you didn’t visit a laneway full of street art. If you hit up famous Hosier Lane, you can wander right on over to NGV afterwards to also visit a collection of indoor art and just feel really renaissance by the end of it all.

Somehow I’d never been to NGV before, and as a very basic-level art appreciater, I was so impressed with the way the collection takes you through Melbourne over the decades. It also makes an effort to represent Indigenous and female artists.

While you’re getting cultured, let me remind you the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child is back at Princess Theatre. If you haven’t seen it yet, just go. The story made me cry, and the staging brings the magic to life in a way that feels so incredibly real. If you have seen it, go again. This was my second time and so much of it felt brand new, there were a lot of details I missed the first time around.

The pièce de résistance for me, though, wasn’t arty at all. It was a visit to Urbnsurf, a giant wave pool you can surf in out in Tullamarine. Sure, it was raining and cold, but wetsuits truly are amazing and I didn’t feel it at all. There’s also a Three Blue Ducks on-site, so you can refuel with delish wood-fired pizza when you’re done. You can check out my full experience here.

The writer was in Melbourne as a guest of Tourism Australia.

(Lead image: Instgram: wmelbourne / cumulusinc)