A Local’s City Guide to Melbourne

I’m so excited to introduce the second post in my new series called ‘A Local’s City Guide To’. In this series I’m asking travel-savvy ladies from around the world to share local knowledge on the place they call home. This guide comes from Rachel Bale, Founder and Editor of the popular travel blog, The Department of Wandering, which helps design-conscious travellers discover the true heart of a destination. Rachel and I did a press trip to Val D’Isere two years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. Read on for an invaluable take on Melbourne from one in-the-know Melbournian…

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A Local’s City Guide to Melbourne
An Introduction to Melbourne

Melbourne is one of Australia’s most southern cities, located in the state of Victoria and almost as far away from the UK as you can get. Most travellers set their eyes on flashy Sydney when planning a trip to Australia, keen to feast their eyes on the big sights. It’s in Melbourne, however, that you’ll discover a rough edginess and a uniquely European vibe that’s not found anywhere else in the country.

Known as Australia’s cultural capital and destination for all things cool, Melbourne is constantly reinventing itself with its creative culture, world-class cuisine and dynamic art scene. Go to Sydney for the sights but come to Melbourne for the vibe.

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I’ve called Melbourne home for almost all my life, except for the three years I spent living and working in Berlin. Having only returned about a year ago, I’m having such a blast re-discovering my home city all over again! There truly is no place like home.

International airlines fly directly into Melbourne or you can catch a connecting flight here from another Australian city. Since Australia is so big, you really do need to rely on flights between cities so take that cost into account when planning your trip. To get around Melbourne, base yourself somewhere central and use the tram and train network.

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A Local’s City Guide to Melbourne
Top 10 Things to do in Melbourne

In order to make the most of Melbourne, I’d definitely recommend spending at least 4-5 days in the city. This will ensure that you have enough time to explore Melbourne itself while also giving you the opportunity to do a road trip or two to see some of the state’s most beautiful regions. To help get your planning underway, here’s a list of the best things to do in this insider’s guide to Melbourne!

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1.Stroll along the city’s picturesque waterfront

The Yarra River cuts right through the centre of Melbourne and is flanked on either side with restaurants, bars and parklands. The riverfront is a hive of activity, day and night, attracting a mix of city workers, locals and tourists who are all out to enjoy this beautiful spot. Take a walk east along the waterfront and you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the skyline.

2.Hit the beach

Did you know that over 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast? Yep, we sure love our beaches! Almost all of Australia’s major cities are built right on the coast so we’re lucky to have the beach right on our doorstep. Melbourne is no exception so definitely make some plans to spend a day at the beach on your visit. Some of the closest beaches to the city are St Kilda, Port Melbourne and Elwood, but the further you venture away from the city, the more beautiful the beaches become. Taking a day trip down to the Mornington Peninsula (about an hour’s drive south from the city) is also a beautiful way to spend the day.

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3.Check out the Summer Night Market at the Queen Victoria Market

Any visit to Melbourne should include an hour or two at the Queen Victoria Market, the largest and most intact of our 19th century markets. This market truly is the heart and soul of the city and locals and tourists flock to buy up at the food halls and heritage sheds. If you visit in summer, be sure to visit the Nigh Market to enjoy Melbourne’s largest array of global street food, live music and soak up the fun atmosphere.

4.Watch the street artists at work as they paint up the city

Did you know that Melbourne is one of the great street art capitals of the world? The city laneways are a constantly shifting, open-air exhibition of stencil art, colourful murals and spray-painted graffiti. Wander down the most famous laneways including Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane and Union Lane and you won’t be able to stop snapping! You’ll most likely also see street artists at work, painting their latest additions.
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5.Go road trippin’ along the Great Ocean Road

Chances are you’ve seen the incredible photos of the Twelve Apostles and the Great Ocean Road’s rugged coastline. Known as one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, if you have the time, I’d definitely recommend making the trip to experience it. You can either hire a car and make the three-hour journey each way yourself (I’d recommend staying overnight otherwise you’ll be in for a very long day!) or you can book a day tour.

6. Explore Melbourne’s iconic city laneways

Melbourne is known for its cosy, narrow laneways lined with cafés, restaurants and eateries that thread throughout the city. Some of the most iconic are Centre Place, Degraves Street and Crossley Street. Each lively, little arcade has its own individual character and charm and each one is quite different from the next.

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7. Browse the vintage shops and quirky boutiques in Fitzroy

Take a 10 minute tram ride from the CBD and you’ll find yourself in one of Melbourne’s hippest neighbourhoods: Fitzroy. Full of thrift stores, one-of-a-kind vintage shops and local markets (not to mention seriously good coffee on every corner), spend an afternoon wandering around the colourful streets. Filled with locals, you won’t see many tourists here.

8. Take a wine tour to the Yarra Valley

Just 60 minutes from the city is one of Australia’s premier cool climate wine-growing regions, the Yarra Valley. With over 80 boutique wineries dotted around the valley producing some of the world’s best chardonnay and pinot noir, if you’re a wine lover, this is a day trip that would be hard to pass up! To get there you can either hire a car or, better yet, simply take one of the many wine tours that depart from the city daily. Now you can cellar-hop to your little heart’s content!

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9. Sip a cocktail at one of the many rooftop bars

Keep an eye out for secret staircases and tucked-away elevators in the CBD – it’s a good bet that they lead up to a hidden rooftop. Melbourne is known for its rooftop bars nestled in amongst the city’s skyscrapers and it would be a shame to come to the city without experiencing one. There are many dotted about so take your pick but I’d recommend Naked for Satan, Rooftop Bar and Goldilocks.

10. Carefully plan your day around the food

In Melbourne, it’s all about the food (and the coffee). Australia in general is known for its high quality produce, trendy dining scene and its huge variety of international cuisine thanks to our migrant history. Melbourne is a foodie’s dream come true so I’d definitely recommend planning your days around which restaurants and eateries you’d like to visit. Keep reading to find my pick of some of the best.

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A Local’s City Guide to Melbourne
The Top 5 of Everything

Top 5: Restaurants

Chin Chin

Hands down my favourite restaurant in Melbourne, Chin Chin serves the best South East Asian food in town. It’s almost impossible to get a table and they don’t take bookings but if you can get in, it will blow your mind!
125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000 

Lazerpig

Find the best pizza in town at this fun pub complete with spinning disco ball. The Ronny J pizza is to die for. 9-11 Peel St, Collingwood, 3066 

Mr Ottorino

Book a table at Mr Ottorino for an intimate dinner with someone special. This tiny, family-run restaurant serves rustic, authentic Sicilian food. I always book a table here for special occasions. 122 Johnston St, Fitzroy, 3065 

Movida

This hip tapas bar is reputed as being the best Spanish restaurant in Melbourne and is located on the edge of graffiti-covered Hosier Lane. Be sure to book ahead. 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne, 3000

Attica

Hailed as being the world’s no. 33 restaurant, if you’re looking for a dining experience to remember, multi-award winning Attica in Ripponlea is your place. Bookings open three months in advance. 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, 3185

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Top 5: Cocktail Bars / Pubs / Bars

Milk the Cow

This fromagerie and wine bar is my idea of heaven. Grab a girlfriend and order the wine flight with matched cheeses and you’re set. 323 Lygon St, Carlton, 3053

Heart Attack and Vine

A few doors down from Milk the Cow you’ll find another beautiful and cosy wine bar. Both food and wine is beautiful here. 329 Lygon St, Carlton, 3053

The Grace Darling

My favourite pub for after-work drinks on a Friday, the Grace Darling is lively, cosy and pours a killer house red. 114 Smith St, Collingwood, 3066 

The Everleigh

Sister bar to New York City’s Milk and Honey, the Everleigh has been named one of the world’s best bars. Come for old-fashioned cocktails in a seductive, old-world setting. 156/150 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 3065

The Black Pearl

One of the best cocktail bars in Melbourne, The Black Pearl is hip yet comfortable and welcoming. Also named as one of the world’s best bars, this is a great place to head for a drink on a Saturday night. 304 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, 3065

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Top 5: Places to go for Breakfast / Brunch

Archie’s All Day

If I have a brunch date planned, I will ALWAYS suggest Archie’s All Day, just north of the city. It’s my absolutely favourite. The food and coffee are some of the best in town. 189 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 3065

Top Paddock

An Instagrammer’s dream, Top Paddock’s menu is inventive, fresh and beautifully presented. Afterwards, browse Richmond’s shopping strips. 658 Church St, Richmond, 3121

Lune

If you think the best croissants in the world are found in Paris, think again. You won’t find better than at world-renowned Lune Croissanterie. Be prepared to line up and wait for a box though. I promise, they’re worth it! 119 Rose St, Fitzroy, 3065

Touchwood

Spacious, airy and bright, Touchwood is one of the top brunch choices in town. The food is creative, trendy and downright delicious. 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond, 3121

Three Bags Full

One of the best all-day brunches in town can be found at Three Bags Full in Abbotsford, which is northside. Be prepared to wait for a table on the weekends. 60 Nicholson St, Abbotsford, 3067

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Top 5: Coffee Shops

Proud Mary

One of the first cool, third-wave cafés in Melbourne, Proud Mary is my go-to place for a killer coffee. It’s also located right across the street from my flat, which I’m thankful for daily! 172 Oxford St, Collingwood, 3066

Seven Seeds

Housed in a large, converted warehouse, Seven Seeds is one of the big hitters in the Melbourne coffee scene. It’s roomy, busy and constantly buzzing. 106-114 Berkeley St, Carlton, 3053

Industry Beans

Located in the backstreets of hip Fitzroy, grab a table in the pretty front courtyard in this trendy café and roastery. Laptops welcome. 3/62 Rose St, Fitzroy, 3065 

Market Lane

Committed to only serving coffee that is in season and passionate about the local producers, you’ll find Market Lane in five locations around Melbourne. Locations various 

Brother Baba Budan

This tiny, hole-in-the-wall brews some of the best coffee in the CBD. Remember to look up – wooden chairs are strung up all over the ceiling in this quirky space. 359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, 3000

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The Best Place to go for ‘Avo on Toast’

Even though you can get the good ol’ avo on toast in many places around the world, nowhere does it quite like Melbourne. My favourite can be found at Archie’s All Day where it comes with Meredith goats feta, mint, parsley, lemon, sumac and pepita dukkah. Drool! 189 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 3065

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A Local’s City Guide to Melbourne
The Hidden Gems of Melbourne

Smith Street

Smith Street in bohemian Collingwood is where you’ll find lots of locals hanging out. As one of the best eat streets in Melbourne and dotted with record stores and vintage shops, we love this part of town. It’s also my neighbourhood so you’ll always find me hanging around here.

The Tan

It’s sometimes hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle when travelling so get up early one morning and hit ‘The Tan’ with the locals. This beautiful 3.8km running track loops around King’s Domain and the Botanic Gardens. This is such a quintessentially Melbournian thing to do.

Victoria Street

Most tourists wouldn’t have a reason to wander down Victoria Street in Richmond as there are no sights to see. Instead, you’ll find Little Saigon – a haven for foodies craving Vietnamese food. This street is lined with affordable Vietamese restaurants, Asian grocers, fishmongers, butchers and Vietnamese bakeries. Come for the pho at I Love Pho 264 for the best bowl outside Vietnam.

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A Local’s City Guide to Melbourne
Where to Stay

St. Jerome’s – The Hotel

Fancy glamping on a rooftop in the city? Book a luxurious bell tent at St Jerome’s – The Hotel and you can! This is one of Melbourne’s most unique accommodation options and an experience you’ll remember for a long time to come. Melbourne Central, 271 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, 3000

Adelphi Hotel

Located on Flinders Lane, the Adelphi Hotel is the crowning jewel of Melbourne’s boutique hotel scene. Rooms are elegant yet edgy and a glass-bottomed rooftop pool juts out from the hotel’s façade, overlooking the city. 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000

InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto

If you’re looking to splurge, book a room at the five-star InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, located right in the heart of the city. The design of the rooms is classic and sophisticated and the hotel is rich in character and history. 495 Collins St, Melbourne, 3000

*You can book these hotels via the links in this section

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A Local’s City Guide to Melbourne
About the Author

Rachel Bale is an international travel writer and editor based in Melbourne with a permanent cup of coffee glued to her hand. Her work has been featured in a wide variety of print and online media, including Nine Elsewhere, AWOL, British Airways High Life, Our Planet Travel + Lifestyle and more. Be sure to follow her travels and insider tips on Melbourne on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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What did you think of this Local’s City Guide to Melbourne? Have you visited any of the places listed, or are you planning a trip to Melbourne? If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, please leave a comment in the box below! Jess x 

Want more from this series? Read my Local’s City Guide to York, England

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4 Comments

  1. 5th March 2017 / 4:14 pm

    Girl I truly love this series you’ve just started – packed full of wonderful tips and amazing recommendations! I’ve never been to Australia – the furthest I’ve been so far is Singapore! Heard such great things though and I’d love to visit New Zealand as well!

    Hayley xo
    http://www.frockmeimfamous.com

    • Jessica
      7th March 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Aww I really appreciate the feedback on my series, thank you Hayley! I’ve never been to Australia either but it’s on my list, especially Melbourne! xx

  2. 4th March 2017 / 7:17 pm

    This is such a useful guide! I loved visiting Melbourne, even more than Sydney. I agree the rooftop bars are gorgeous and we loved our trip to the Yarra Valley.

    • Jessica
      7th March 2017 / 3:54 pm

      Ah I didn’t know you’ve been to Melbourne Angie! I want to go even more now after publishing Rachel’s Guide x

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