WHAT TO DO
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city of the Australian state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia and Oceania. It is located along the Yarra River and Port Phillip in the southeastern part of the country. It was founded in 1835, in the then British colony of New South Wales, by free settlers from the colony of Van Diemen’s Land (modern day Tasmania). It was incorporated as a Crown settlement in 1837, and named Melbourne by Governor General Richard Bourke in honor of the then British Prime Minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne. In 1851, four years after Queen Victoria declared it a city, Melbourne became the capital of the new colony of Victoria. In the wake of the 1850s Victorian gold rush, the city entered a lengthy boom period that, by the late 1880s, had transformed it into one of the world's largest and wealthiest metropolises. Today, Melbourne consistently ranks as one of the world's most livable cities, and its inhabitants are referred to as 'Melburnians'. Designated as Australia's cultural capital, Melbourne is globally renowned for its art, food, sports and diverse neighborhoods. With so much to offer, it is a traveler's dream.
Begin your journey in the heart of the city center at Federation Square. Located at the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, it occupies a prominent city block. Whether they love or hate the architecture, Melburnians embrace 'Fed Square' as a place to meet, celebrate, protest, watch major sporting events or simply hang out on deckchairs. Situated within the square is the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. The National Gallery of Victoria's impressive Fed Square offshoot was set up to showcase its extraordinary collection of Australian works. Set over three levels, it's a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions, comprising paintings, decorative arts, photography, prints, sculpture and fashion. Indigenous art is prominently featured and there are permanent displays of colonial paintings and the work of Melbourne's own Heidelberg School, most notably Tom Roberts' famous Shearing the Rams (1890) and Frederick McCubbin's monumental triptych The Pioneer (1904). The modernist ‘Angry Penguins’ are also well represented: the gallery houses the work of Sir Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Joy Hester and Albert Tucker. Other prominent artists whose work is displayed include Grace Cossington Smith, Russell Drysdale, James Gleeson and John Brack. Note: the gallery is open every day from 10a-5p. Across the street is the historic Flinders Street Station. Opened in 1910, Melbourne's first railway station is also its most iconic building. You’d be hard pressed to find a Melburnian who hasn’t uttered the phrase, ‘meet me under the clocks' - the popular rendezvous spot at the front entrance. Stretching along the Yarra River, this neoclassical building crowned with a striking octagonal dome contains an abandoned ballroom, which is closed to the public. The station's underground walkways connect the city’s north and south (divided by the Yarra) with underpasses linked to Southbank via a pedestrian bridge.
Melbourne is well known for its creative street art, and nearby are a few laneways that are not to be missed. The city's most celebrated laneway for street art, Hosier Lane's cobbled length draws camera wielding crowds and wannabe Instagram models posing in front of edgy graffiti, stencils and art installations. Subject matter runs to the mostly political and countercultural, spiced with irreverent humor. Be sure to also see Rutledge Lane, which horseshoes around Hosier. In addition, there is AC/DC Lane (named after the Aussie rock band), Caledonian Lane and Blender Lane. For another form of beauty, head to St Patrick's Cathedral at 1 Cathedral Place. Designed by William Wardell, Melbourne's Catholic cathedral is among the world's finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture and the largest church in Australia. Building took place between 1858 and 1897, but was officially completed when spires were added in 1939. The imposing bluestone exterior and grounds are but a preview of its contents: inside are several large bells, an organ with 4500 pipes, ornate stained glass windows and exquisite mosaics in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. From the cathedral, stroll along Melbourne's fanciest road, Collins Street. The eastern end of Collins is lined with pretty trees, grand buildings and luxe boutiques. Ornate arcades also lead off the street: the Block network, comprising Block Place, Block Arcade and Block Court, was named after the 19th century pastime of ‘doing the Block’, which referred to walking the city’s fashionable area. Found at 282 Collins Street is the Block Arcade. This beautiful Victorian shopping arcade, built in 1892 and inspired by the Galleria Vittorio in Milan, features ornate plasterwork and mosaic floors. Note: seek out the following shops - the historical Hopetoun Tea Rooms, Haigh's Chocolates and Basement Discs. Just across Little Collins Street is the delightful Royal Arcade. Built between 1869 and 1870, this Parisian style shopping arcade is Melbourne’s oldest and has managed to retain much of its charming 19th century detail. A black and white checkered path leads to the mythological figures of giant brothers Gog and Magog, perched with hammers within the domed exit to Little Collins Street. Note: they’ve been striking the hour here since 1892.
Next, hop on the Elizabeth Street tram and take it to the awesome Queen Victoria Market. With more than 600 traders, 'Vic Market' is the largest open air market in the southern hemisphere. The wonderful deli hall with art deco features is lined with everything from soft cheeses and Polish sausages to Greek dips and kangaroo biltong (a form of dried, cured meat). The market has been here for more than 130 years; before that, from 1837 to 1854, it was the old Melbourne Cemetery. Remarkably, around 9000 bodies remain buried here from underneath Shed F to the parking lot leading to Franklin Street. Note: every Wednesday the market hosts the Summer Night Market or Winter Night Market, depending on the season. One more excellent market is the South Melbourne Market, located at the corner of Coventry and Cecil Streets. Trading since 1867, this market is an institution - packed with a brilliant collection of stalls selling everything from organic produce and arts and crafts to Indigenous Australian deli products. It's famed for dim sims (sold here since 1949), and there's no shortage of atmospheric restaurants. From early January to late February, the lively South Melbourne Night Market runs from 5p on Thursdays. Not far from Queen Victoria Market is the Old Melbourne Gaol, found at 337 Russell Street. Dating back to 1841, this bluestone prison was in operation until 1924 and decommissioned in 1929. It's now a museum where you can tour the tiny, bleak cells. It was the scene of 133 hangings - including that of Ned Kelly, Australia's most infamous bushranger, in 1880 - and you can also attend spooky night tours or take part in the Police Watch House Experience, where you get 'arrested' and thrown in the slammer (more fun than it sounds). Note: the museum is open every day from 10a-5p. Close by is Carlton Gardens, a World Heritage Site located on the northeastern edge of the Central Business District (CBD). This rectangular park is a fine example of Victorian landscape design with sweeping lawns, a grand fountain and varied European and Australian tree plantings. It also contains the Royal Exhibition Building and Melbourne Museum. Built for the 1880 International Exhibition, the Victorian REB symbolizes the glory days of 19th century Melbourne's economic supremacy. It was the first Australian building to fly the country's flag, hold parliament (in 1901) and receive UNESCO World Heritage Status (in 2004). Note: tours of the building leave from the museum at 2p. Melbourne Museum provides a grand sweep of Victoria’s natural and cultural histories, incorporating dinosaur skeletons, a 600 species strong taxidermy hall, 3D volcano and an open air forest atrium of Victorian flora. The terrific Bunjilaka (Aboriginal Cultural Centre) on the ground floor presents Indigenous Australian history told through objects and Aboriginal voices with state of the art technology. Note: the museum is open every day from 10a-5p.
Melbourne is a sports mad city. Melburnians are crazy about AFL football, cricket and horse racing, while grand slam tennis (the Australian Open takes place each January) and Formula One car racing draw visitors in droves. Sport is part of the social fabric and takes on something of a religious aspect here. In fact, sporting events have nearly as many public holidays allotted to them as religion - everyone gets the day off for the Melbourne Cup horse race and the Friday before the AFL Grand Final. Take a walk along the Yarra River out to Melbourne Park, home of Rod Laver Arena - the main venue for the Australian Open. Across the railway tracks is the enormous Melbourne Cricket Ground. With a capacity of 100000 people, the 'G' is one of the world’s great sporting venues, hosting cricket in summer and AFL (Australian Football League, Aussie rules or 'footy') in winter - for many Australians it's hallowed ground. Make it to a game if you can, otherwise there are non match day tours that take you through the stands, media area and locker rooms. In 1858, the first game of Aussie Rules football was played where the MCG now stands, and in 1877 it was the venue for the first Test cricket match between Australia and England. The MCG was the central stadium for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, two Cricket World Cups and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Note: the MCG houses the Australian Sports Museum, which is open every day from 10a-5p.
Make your way over the Yarra to Southbank and the impressive NGV International, located at 180 St Kilda Road. Housed in a vast, brutally beautiful, bunker like building, the international branch of the National Gallery of Victoria has an expansive collection, from ancient artifacts to the cutting edge. Regular blockbuster exhibitions draw crowds - I saw a superb showcase on Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat titled Crossing Lines. Key works include a Rembrandt self portrait, Tiepolo's Banquet of Cleopatra and Turner's otherworldly Falls of Schaffhausen. It’s also home to Picasso’s Weeping Woman, which was the victim of an art heist in 1986 to protest the lack of state art funding. The first floor is given over to Asian art, with exquisite pieces from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia. The gallery also has an excellent decorative arts and furniture collection. Designed by architect Sir Roy Grounds, the NGV building was controversial when it was completed in 1967 but has come to be respected as a modernist masterpiece. Make sure you wander through the foyer to the Great Hall, with its extraordinary stained glass ceiling, and continue out onto the sculpture lawn. Note: the gallery is open every day from 10a-5p. Continue south along St Kilda Road until you reach the monumental Shrine of Remembrance. One of Melbourne's icons, it is a powerful memorial to Victorians who have served in war and peacekeeping, especially those killed in World War 1. Built between 1928 and 1934, its stoic, classical design is partly based on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. The shrine's upper balcony provides commanding views of Melbourne's skyline and all the way up tram filled Swanston Street. The shrine draws thousands to its annual Anzac Day dawn service (April 25), while the Remembrance Day service at 11a on November 11 commemorates the signing of the 1918 Armistice, marking the formal end to World War 1. At this precise moment a shaft of light shines through an opening in the ceiling, passing over the Stone of Remembrance and illuminating the word ‘love’; on all other days this effect is demonstrated using artificial lighting on the hour. With its cenotaph and eternal flame (lit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954), the forecourt was built as a memorial to those who died in World War 2. There are several other memorials surrounding the shrine. Below the shrine, a stunningly conceived architectural space houses the Galleries of Remembrance, a museum dedicated to telling the story of Australians at war via its 800 plus historical artifacts and artworks. Note: the memorial is open every day from 10a-5p. Take time to reflect at the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens. From the air, these stunning, 94 acre gardens evoke a giant green lung in the middle of the city. Drawing nearly two million visitors annually, they're considered one of the finest examples of Victorian era landscaping in the world. Here you'll find global plantings and a range of Australian flora. Mini ecosystems, a herb garden and an Indigenous rainforest are set amid vast, picnic friendly lawns and black swan spotted ponds. In summer, the gardens play host to Moonlight Cinema and theater performances. Other features include the 19th century Melbourne Observatory for tours of the night sky.
Conclude your tour of Melbourne by visiting a few of its distinct districts. A short tram ride from the CBD delivers you to the city's trendiest enclaves, where a flurry of bars and restaurants continuously open and close; hip art galleries sit beside century old pubs; and you can slurp ramen before heading to a live music venue. You can find all of this and more in Fitzroy and Collingwood. Be sure to check out the Centre for Contemporary Photography, the Alcaston Gallery and the Collingwood Farmers Market. Now it's time to head down to the beaches - take the train from Flinders Street Station to the suburbs of St Kilda and Brighton. St Kilda is Melbourne's tattered bohemian heart, a place where a young Nick Cave played gloriously chaotic gigs at the George Hotel (formerly the Crystal Ballroom). Originally a 19th century seaside resort, the area has played many roles: post war Jewish enclave, red light district and punk rock hub. It's a complex jumble of Victorian mansions, Moorish style baths, seedy streets, a rickety roller coaster and nostalgia inducing theaters. Do not miss St Kilda Pier, the Esplanade, Palais Theatre and Luna Park - this rad place opened in 1912 and still has an old style amusement park feel, with creepy Mr Moon’s gaping mouth swallowing you up as you enter. There’s a heritage listed scenic railway (the oldest wooden roller coaster in the world) and a beautiful baroque carousel with hand painted horses, swans and chariots. Wrap up with a swim and some pictures of the colorful bathing boxes on Brighton Beach.
WHERE TO EAT
Melbourne has many great places to eat and enjoy a drink - it is the culinary capital of Australia. Start your day at Lune Croissanterie, located at 119 Rose Street in Fitzroy. Join the early morning line for the best croissants outside of Paris. Siblings Kate and Cam Reid have an outstanding recipe for these dreamy layers of pastry and butter, often dubbed the world's best. In the middle of this warehouse space is a glass, climate controlled cube where the magic happens. Book well in advance for the Lune Lab experience, an innovative three course pastry flight. Note: there is a smaller location on Russell Street, just off Flinders Lane in the Central Business District (CBD). Not far away in Fitzroy at 14 Johnston Street is Mile End Bagels. Here, the bagels are rolled fresh, boiled and wood fired each day. Chewy in all the right places, they come slathered in flavored cream cheeses with toppings like smoked salmon and edamame smash. The coffee is darn good and seating is at the communal table. Found at 172 Oxford Street in Collingwood is Proud Mary. A champion of direct trade, single origin coffee, this quintessential industrial red brick space takes its caffeine seriously. It's consistently packed, not only for its excellent brews but also for top notch food, such as breakfast dan dan noodles, and pancakes with lemon curd, cream cheese whip and eucalyptus. Note: for further coffee education, check out Aunty Peg's, its roastery nearby at 200 Wellington Street. A cool spot in the CBD is Higher Ground, located at 650 Little Bourke Street. The city's most impressive cafe looks more like an industrial designer hotel as it's housed in a former power station. Within the high ceilings are nooks, crannies and a mezzanine level - all flooded with light from arched windows. The atmosphere is relaxed and the brunch menu is innovative. Penta can be found south of the city center between St Kilda and Brighton, at 28 Riddell Parade in Elsternwick. This joint might be all polished concrete and muted tones inside, but the food here is a rainbow of colors, textures and technique. The Nutella panna cotta must be one of Melbourne's most Instagramed brunches, planted in a flowerbed of toasted marshmallows, edible blooms and banana slices coated in nut butter.
For lunch, head to the previously mentioned Queen Victoria Market in the CBD. The Vic Market is mentioned in every Melbourne travel list for a reason. It’s the largest open air market in the southern hemisphere, housing more than 600 stalls and small businesses, and it’s still the de facto grocery store for thousands of locals. Start with a borek or a bratwurst in the deli section, and then follow up with chocolate from Koko Black, a hot jam doughnut from the American Doughnut Kitchen, and a flat white from Market Lane Coffee. Note: on Wednesday evenings, street food vendors take over the market. From there, make your way north to King and Godfrey, located at the corner of Faraday and Lygon Streets in Carlton. It took three years to transform King and Godfrey, an Italian grocer since 1884, into this multi venue wonder. There's Johnny's Green Room with awesome rooftop views and a glitterati cocktail vibe; a deli with cold cuts, cheese and food to take away; Agostino wine bar and restaurant; and the all day espresso bar for coffee, panini, pasta or a negroni or two - molto bene. Next, continue north to the neighborhood of Brunswick for two stellar spots. The first is Very Good Falafel, found at 629 Sydney Road. The name gets it right: Very Good Falafel has easily the finest in town - bright green and chunky on the inside, crisp on the outside. Friends Shuki Rosenboim and Louisa Allan grew their business from a temporary stall at local markets to a permanent shop a few years ago, but sometimes they still stuff pita at the University of Melbourne farmers market. This place is always packed with young people in search of a quick bite, maybe a crisp falafel, velvety hummus, or sabich bursting with eggplant. The second spot is A1 Bakery at 643 Sydney Road. This family owned Lebanese bakery in Brunswick, a largely Middle Eastern neighborhood, has been going strong for more than 25 years. A favorite of students and locals alike, the place is as unfussy as it is sublime. Prices start at 1.50 Australian dollars (1 USD) for just out of the oven za’atar pizza covered in thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seeds and olive oil, and don’t exceed 15 Australian dollars (10 USD) for a generous chicken tawouk and falafel platter. In between, you’ll find a thick pie filled with hunks of haloumi, fresh tabbouleh and ful medames. Note: while you’re there, grab a bag of one of the freshly baked flatbreads to go.
If you're in the mood for very good Greek, Hellenic Republic at 434 Lygon Street in Brunswick East is your place. The ironbark charcoal grill at George Calombaris’ northern outpost works overtime as long time staff serve and chat with ease. The slow roasted lamb shoulder is the signature here, but taramasalata (white cod roe dip) and grilled saganaki with sticky figs make an unbelievably good start. Wash it all down with ouzo (anise flavored aperitif) from the long list. For delicious Israeli cuisine, try Miznon at 99 Hardware Lane in the CBD. Originating in Tel Aviv, this place is as fun and as fresh as it gets. Book seats on iconic Hardware Lane, or sit on the 'steps' inside or up at the mezzanine level. Order pitas stuffed with everything from hot chickpeas to ocean trout belly and roasted whole cauliflower. Note: help yourself to the pita, tahini and pickle bar while you wait. For creative Asian, visit Supernormal at 180 Flinders Lane in the CBD. From the man behind Cumulus Inc, Andrew McConnell, comes this creative selection of pan Asian sharing dishes, from dumplings to raw seafood to slow cooked Sichuan lamb. The New England lobster roll is famous, as is the lunchtime tonkatsu sandwich special. Located at 45 Flinders Lane and quintessentially Melbourne, Cumulus Inc is famed for its generous slow roast lamb shoulder. It's all about beautiful produce and artful cooking, served at the long marble bar and little round tables. One of my favorite spots in the CBD is the always crowded Chin Chin, found at 125 Flinders Lane. Insanely popular, this bustling eatery serves Southeast Asian hawker style food with big flavors. It's housed in a glammed up warehouse that's all marble, white tiles and neon. Note: arrive on the dot at 11a or 5p to avoid a wait, otherwise fill in time at GoGo Bar downstairs until there's space. Be sure to go with the 'Feed Me' option on the menu - it covers the greatest hits. For yummy ramen in the city center, Hakata Gensuke at 168 Russell Street is tremendous. The original of four locations, it only does one thing and does it extraordinarily well: tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. Choose from four types (signature, garlic and sesame infused 'black' broth, spicy 'god fire' or the lighter shio) and then order extra toppings like marinated cha shu pork, egg and seaweed. For a post ramen treat, head to Gelato Messina at 237 Smith Street in Fitzroy. It is hyped as Melbourne's best ice creamery, and while purists might gawk at specials like peanut butter gelato with white chocolate covered potato chips, its popularity is evident in the long lines of people.
For dinner, make your way to Flower Drum at 17 Market Lane in the city center. Established in 1975, it continues to be Melbourne’s most celebrated Chinese restaurant. Ask Australia’s most famous chefs about their favorite Melbourne restaurant, and many will mention this Cantonese fine dining institution in Chinatown. Take the elevator up from the host stand to the large red carpeted dining room and be awed by the besuited waiters who deliver some of the best formal service anywhere in the world. There are dumplings and noodles, a legendary Peking duck, and seafood fished out of tanks just prior to cooking. Most dishes are served with some level of tableside preparation and panache, adding to the pure theater of the experience. Sydney born chef Khanh Nguyen has made a splash on the Melbourne food scene with Sunda, located at 18 Punch Lane in the city center. Here, he challenges preconceived notions about Southeast Asian cuisine with imaginative versions of classic dishes that feature both regional Asian and native Australian ingredients. Instead of the traditional fish custard wrapped in a banana leaf, his take on otak otak is a crab curry parfait with finger lime. His egg noodles come with XO sauce, chicken crackling and native pepperberry. Note: be sure to ask for the off menu Vegemite curry, limited to a few portions a night. Anchovy can be found at 338 Bridge Road in Richmond. Here, ace chef Thi Le draws on her Vietnamese heritage to add swag to her modern Australian food. Classic and clean flavors speak volumes in dishes like sand crab with makrut lime, tamarind, chile and coconut. Plus there’s a cocktail list to make you weep, with infused spirits and fresh herbs galore. Note: the restaurant is open Wednesday through Saturday. Also in Richmond, at 4 Lord Street is the outstanding Minamishima. It is arguably Australia's best Japanese restaurant - if you care to empty your pockets and book two months in advance. Hidden down a side street, the best seats are at the bar, where sushi master Koichi Minamishima prepares seafood with surgical precision and serves it one piece at a time. Note: the restaurant opens at 6p and is closed on Sunday and Monday. Another solid spot for sushi is Kisume, located at 175 Flinders Lane in the CBD.
Occupying an old brick warehouse down a dirty laneway at 11 Duckboard Place in the city center, Lee Ho Fook is the epitome of modern Chinese culinary wizardry. The kitchen packs an extraordinary amount of flavor into signature dishes such as crispy eggplant with red vinegar, crackling chicken, Wagyu beef and crab and scallop rice with homemade XO sauce. Note: the restaurant opens at 6p and is closed on Monday. Found at 55 Gertrude Street in Fitzroy is the excellent Cutler & Co. This is chef Andrew McConnell’s flagship Melbourne restaurant and its attentive, informed staff and joy inducing dishes make it one of the city's top places for fine dining. This is modern Australian cooking at its best, and the menu covers its bases with a la carte and tasting menu options. The bar at the front of the restaurant is a hot spot, and the fried chicken, abalone katsu sandwich and fruits de mer platter are masterstrokes. Plus, there’s the sister wine bar Marion next door for a jolly night cap. Note: the restaurant opens at 5p and is closed on Monday. I saved the best for last. Attica is Australia's only restaurant on San Pellegrino's World's Top 50 Restaurants list. It is located south of the city center at 74 Glen Eira Road in Ripponlea. Here, chef Ben Shewry creates contemporary dishes with native ingredients, like saltwater crocodile rib glazed with soured honey and peppermint gum, and dessert served in emu eggs. The tasting menu is modern Australian, and the service is impeccable. Open minds and die hard food lovers are the ones who get the most out of Attica. Note: book well in advance - reservations are taken on the first Wednesday of the month for the following three months.
End your evening in Melbourne with a drink or two. Siglo can be found at 161 Spring Street in the city center. It is the best spot in town for taking in the cool views of the Melbourne cityscape, be it late afternoon or at night. The impressive drink list caters to every whim, and there’s a snack menu to soak up the booze. Note: entry is via the similarly unsigned Supper Club. Located at 10 Russell Place is Gin Palace. With a drinks list to make your liver quiver, 300 gins and a serious whisky collection, it is the perfect place to grab a soft couch and hard cocktail - or opt for a secluded alcove or bathtub filled with cushions. The martinis and G&Ts here have been legendary since 1997. Note: the bar is open every day until 3a. Also in the city center, at 234 Russell Street is the very cool Heartbreaker. Black walls, red lights, skeleton handles on the beer taps, random taxidermy, craft beer, a big selection of bourbon, a jukebox and tough looking sweethearts behind the bar - it's always a good time at this joint. Note: order Connie's Pizza slices from the bar and pick up behind the pool table. Wine bars are having a moment in Melbourne, and Carlton Wine Room is one of the best. Found at 172 Faraday Street in Carlton, this popular haunt has a comfortable dining room with banquettes upstairs and a lively bar downstairs. Knowledgeable staff guide you through the 100 bottle list and reserve wines - ask for the 'staff choice'. Note: the city's beloved arthouse Cinema Nova is just around the corner on Lygon Street. Cookie is at 252 Swanston Street in the city center. Part bar, part Thai restaurant, this kooky cool venue with grand bones is one of the more enduring rites of passage of the Melbourne night. The bar is unbelievably well stocked with fine whiskies, wines and plenty of craft beers, among them more than 200 brews on offer. The staff also know how to make a serious cocktail. Note: the bar is open every day until 3a.
There are a number of splendid watering holes in Fitzroy and I would like to share a few of my favorites. Naked for Satan can be found at 285 Brunswick Street. Reviving an apparent legend (a man nicknamed Satan who would get naked because of the heat of his illegal vodka distillery), this place is packed with travelers vying for a seat on the roof terrace with wrap around balcony, Naked in the Sky. Nearby at 304 Brunswick Street is Black Pearl. Low lighting, leather banquettes and candles set the mood downstairs at this mellow spot. Sit at the bar to study the extensive cocktail list or let the expert bartenders concoct something to your tastes. Upstairs is the table service Attic Bar - be sure to book ahead. Note: the bar is open every day until 3a. My favorite place in Fitzroy is Everleigh, located at 150 Gertrude Street. Sophistication is off the charts at this hidden, upstairs nook. Settle into a leather booth in the intimate setting with a classic cocktail, or sidle up to the bar for a solid martini. The 'bartender's choice' is encouraged: state your flavor and alcohol preferences and a tailored cocktail will appear soon after. Note: the bar is open every day until 1a. Back in the CBD at 111 Lonsdale Street is Bar Margaux - brought to you by the same group behind Everleigh and Heartbreaker. Walk down a flight of stairs and through the door marked 'MGX' to discover a New York meets Paris brasserie. Come for a cocktail or stay for a full French meal. Locals like to stay up late so steak tartare, snails and lobster croque monsieur are served all night - tres bien. Note: the bar is open every day until 3a. Also in the Central Business District, found at 1 Malthouse Lane is Eau de Vie. This speakeasy has an impressive list of cocktails, plus a hidden lounge behind a bookcase. Note: the bar is open every day until 1a. Finally, there is the totally awesome Hotel Esplanade, located at 11 the Esplanade in St Kilda. A list of Melbourne essentials wouldn’t be complete without a pub, those sacred drinking dens where locals come for cold beer, hearty meals and live music. The Espy is like a pub on steroids - with its five levels of eating, drinking and music. Once an elegant hotel, the 140 year old building has had a massive makeover to bring it back to its former glory. Think tropical wallpaper, velvet couches and chandeliers. This rad seaside pub has 200 beer taps and two kitchens, one for classics like fish and chips, the other for Cantonese grub.
WHERE TO STAY
Melbourne offers a number of places to call home during your stay and there are 2 that I especially enjoyed. Both are in prime locations and provide exceptional service, modern amenities and comfort. The first is The Langham, located at 1 Southgate Avenue on the Southbank Promenade. This sophisticated hotel along the Yarra River is a short walk from the NGV International and the Shrine of Remembrance. Refined rooms with handmade furniture feature smart TVs, minibars and free WiFi. Upgraded quarters add river or city views and some have private patios or balconies. Amenities include a posh restaurant with river views, a chic lounge bar, plus a sleek spa and an indoor pool.
A second option is QT Melbourne, located at 133 Russell Street in the city center. This fashionable hotel is close to the shops on Collins Street and not far from St Patrick's Cathedral. Contemporary rooms with exposed concrete ceilings offer complimentary WiFi, flat screen TVs and minibars. Upgrades add sitting areas, free standing tubs and city views. Other perks include a trendy restaurant featuring an open kitchen, a cake shop and 2 very cool bars - 1 is on the roof, while the other serves creative food along with dynamite cocktails.
Melbourne has amazing culture, excellent museums and fantastic restaurants. It treated me well and I look forward to returning.