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When people think of Melbourne, they think food, they think art, they think culture; but this southern city of Australia has all this and so much more on offer to the inquisitive traveller.
We take the trouble out of planning your next trip with these insider tips from local Melburnians who know the best of the best for their hometown.
When deciding where you want to stay, think about what activities you will be doing – do you want to be in the middle of the Melbourne CBD where everything is happening, a little further out to places like Windsor and Prahran which has “a really lovely character and excellent shops to explore”, according to Broadsheet Melbourne editor Tacey Rychter or perhaps relaxing beachside in St Kilda.
If indulgence is more your thing, David Hagger of The World Loves Melbourne says head to Southbank for the ultimate weekend getaway with hotels like Crown Towers or Crown Metropol at the Casino for luxury and foodie options.
“Outside the CBD I would stay in somewhere like The Olsen near the action on Chapel St. The Art Series Hotels are fun, playful and are well appointed,” he suggests. For families, Meetoo blogger and mother of two, Kate Nelson says try South Yarra or Richmond for some fun. “In the CBD it’s easy access to many galleries and museums, as well as the city’s famous laneways and street art,” she said. “In the same breath Melbourne also has some fabulous neighbourhoods just on the edge of the CBD which are an easy 15min tram ride (or if you’re keen you could walk)… both suburbs are easy access to the CBD and also have a lot to offer on their doorsteps.”
Once you’re settled into your hotel, Editor in Chief of The City Lane, Paul Kristoff, says the best way to get your bearings and explore the city is either on foot or by tram. “Hop on a tram from the Melbourne’s CBD, 15-20 minutes in any direction and you’ll be rewarded with some true “local” experiences,” he said.
Sarah Harrison of Little Miss Melbourne agrees: “Trams within the city are free, and [the CBD] offers an easy base for day trips to explore the other areas of Melbourne too.” And if you’re into something a little different Louise Hudson of St Kilda Tourism Association suggests trying the newest form of transport – Rickshaw! – while exploring the popular seaside suburb.
“St Kilda Rickshaws was started up by a trio of friendly Americans who let you enjoy a three-wheeled bike ride anywhere round the area, whether to get from A to B or to simply lap up the sights. It’s the coolest way to see the area,” she reveals.
Renowned for its laneways filled with gourmet eats and high quality coffee, Broadsheet Melbourne editor Tacey Rychter says to eat as much as you can. “The quality, level of creativity and variety of food now in Melbourne is just out of control. And there’s so much of it,” she said. “Have a drink here, a bar snack there, dessert somewhere else. Pack it all in. You can never have it all, but you can try.”
Little Miss Melbourne also says the Flinders Lane area and top end of town are real hot spots to look into. “Some of my faves include the classic European, fun food at Rice Paper Scissors or Lucy Liu, tapas at Bar Lourinha and Movida, authentic Japanese at Hihou, Shandong Mama Mini for laneway dumplings, duck waffles at Cumulus Up, or some smoked goodness down in Meat Maiden,” she said.
If secret foodie experiences are more your thing, founder of The Love Assembly, Aubrey Daquinag, says the guys behind Lime & Tonic Melbourne are always coming up with incredible unique experiences in Melbourne.
According to local insider Editor in Chief of The City Lane Paul Kristoff, Melbourne’s CBD is also home to many hidden bars and restaurants. “One of my favourites is Murmur, which has been going strong for several years now but is still very much a hidden gem. Down a laneway and up a flight of stairs, you’re greeted with a welcoming space full of couches, benches and, most importantly, some excellent drinks,” he reveals.
“Another great choice is Gin Palace… but what many people aren’t aware of is that in between Gin Palace and the neighbouring Bar Ampere is the Swamp Room. There’s no street entrance, and the entrances from the two aforementioned venues is not easily found. Once you find the Swamp Bar however, you’re greeted with a deep south, swamp themed room complete with rockabilly music and blues.”
As for hidden restaurants, Rychter says Rosa’s Kitchen is a great little find on Punch Lane for a well-priced, comforting Italian meal. “I also think Tonka in Duckboard Place is always a winner,” she said.
Explore the city streets for amazing street art and cultural wonders. David Hagger of The World Loves Melbourne says the best way to see the iconic Melbourne in a snapshot would be “to check out Hosier Lane, then wander to Federation Square and Flinders St Station and St Pauls Cathedral, then walk to the NGV along St Kilda Rd and finish off with a stroll along Southbank and to the Casino.”
If you’re taking a family holiday then don’t despair either – there’s more than just good cafes and cultural exhibitions to keep the kids entertained. Meetoo blogger and Mama of Two, Kate Nelson, suggests wandering along the riverbank towards the Botanical Gardens. “Behind Federation Square on the river is a great playground – and heading down there is also a great opportunity to walk along the river and enjoy the view,” she said.
A little further up the road is the Botanical Gardens which Nat Esler of Millie Mummy Melbourne agrees is fun to explore. “The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden within the Royal Botanic Gardens is well worth a visit, with plenty of places to explore and enjoy the sunshine,” she said Fashionistas need not worry either, according to editor of lifestyle, fashion & travel blog Melbourne Girl Emily Collie, Melbourne has it all.
“Melbourne offers a broad range of shopping destinations throughout the city and its suburbs. For boutique designer finds in the city, I’d head straight for Emporium Melbourne. Otherwise, located in the South-East you’ll find that Chadstone Shopping Centre lives up to its title as the ‘Fashion Capital’ with many designer flagship boutiques calling the centre its home,” she reveals.