The second largest city in Australia is often overlooked by tourists. But as locals will tell you, Melbourne doesn’t play second fiddle when it comes to food, shopping, and finding fun things to do. Melbourne has many charms: stylish boutiques, friendly locals, and amazing culinary offerings. Melbournians will tell you to throw away the guidebook and just “get lost” in one of the many laneways in the CBD (central business district) or find your own favorite coffee spot to sit and watch the locals meander by. Eclipsing Brooklyn with cool hipster cafés there is plenty to do, see, and definitely eat in Melbourne.
Wake up and smell the coffee! Melbourne is known as the café capital of Australia and boasts outstanding lattes thanks to the vibrant Italian community. But Melbourne’s Little Italy is no longer the leading coffee neighborhood due to a huge influx of independent cafés and roasters around the city. Pop into any side street café and sip on some life-changing coffee.
Hardware Society was one of the first shops to heighten Melbourne’s obsession with scrambled eggs on toast and is still going strong. Hash Specialty Coffee and Roaster, Operator25, and White Mojo will serve you something hot and delicious for breakfast. If you’re after something a little simpler like donuts and a latte, head to Brother Baba Budan instead.
Head to the Queen Victoria Market. An institution in Melbourne, the Queen Vic Market (as locals call it) is the heart and soul of the city. Eat, shop, and explore the melting pot of different communities through delicious food at this open-air market. Favorites include European cheese, deli meats, and Russian boreks for a quick bite. Be sure to grab a bag of fresh jam-filled donuts on your way out.
Grabbing something for lunch is easy in Melbourne. The culinary trends from New York and Japan are seen all around the city, so no matter what you’re craving, Melbourne has it all. For Japanese, head to the tucked-away Izakaya Den for quick and easy sushi and crispy tempura prawns; for Italian, nothing beats sitting by the bar at Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar. For lunch with community spirit, Kinfolk is the spot. A seasonal menu made with sustainable produce, Kinfolk donates 100% of its profits to the community.
To work off your lunch, go for a light stroll around the Yarra River. If you’re feeling adventurous, run around the Botanical Gardens, known affectionately as “The Tan.” For a bit of culture, seek out the Aboriginal Heritage Trail. If you love art, stop at the Arts Centre or the National Gallery of Victoria before heading back into the city for some retail therapy. Melbournians love fashion and stay up to date with chic boutiques around the city. Nevenka (12 Howey Place) features local designer Rosemary Masic’s creative jackets and personalized dresses. Pieces of Eight (28 Russell Place) is a great place for handcrafted jewelry. For the boys, Captains of Industry (2 Somerset Place) is the place to grab another latte and a quick shave, as is King’s Domain for gentlemen killing time in the city.
Staying in the CBD for dinner is never a culinary dilemma unless you only have one night in Melbourne. Maha is delicious for Middle Eastern food, whereas Chin Chin and Longrain are local hangouts for upscale Thai food. Movida Tapas is well known for its delicious Spanish tapas, as is Bomba.
For cocktails, feel free to stumble into any laneway or alley and find your own cool bar, pub, or nightclub. Melbourne is known for its laneway bars and super cocktails. Eau De Vie and Gin Palace are perfect for sophisticated cocktails for those wanting to splash out, but if you’re looking for something a little more simple, the Rooftop Bar and Cinema is great during the summer and a fun place to chill. If you love jazz, hit up Bird’s Basement jazz club, or Heartbreaker for a party-bar experience like no other. For those wanting to do a Melbourne bar crawl, head to Fitzoy or St. Kilda.
Where to Stay
Melbourne has had an influx of new boutique hotels in the last couple of years. Adelphi Hotel is another example of Melbourne’s art scene in the heart of the city and a great base for first-timers to Melbourne. QT Melbourne is opening in September and definitely worth the trip to Melbourne alone with signature apartments and excellent on-site bars. Crown Melbourne is a favorite for those seeking luxury amenities.