Ah, Melbourne: the city of coffee, fusion food, and confusing weather. If you’re looking for a chill city break and some satisfying grub to go along, this southside metropolis definitely won’t disappoint.
Take the free City Circle tram
Yes, you heard that right: grab free rides on the red and gold heritage trams that loop around the CBD (city center). Hop on and off along La Trobe Street, Flinders Street, or Harbour Esplanade, and take in sights like the Flinders Street Railway Station and Federation Square while you’re at it. The tram comes every 12 minutes and takes about an hour to complete the full route. See full schedule here.
Browse and eat at South Melbourne Market
If Queen Victoria Market is too mainstream for you, then check out South Melbourne Market for a relatively calmer experience. Sample fresh local produce, dig your way through vintage knick knacks, and try not to go overboard on the offerings from the endless street snack stalls.
Drink lots of coffee
Melbournians are proud of their coffee, and no wonder: they do it pretty damn well. Order a flat white or long black at Dukes Coffee Roasters or Brother Baba Budan for the ultimate Aussie experience.
Get some sun in St. Kilda
Head to posh St. Kilda for a day of sunbathing and outdoor shopping, then rest your feet by checking into a cafe that’s NOT on touristy Acland Street. The pastries and coffee at Galleon Cafe, a no-frills local institution, are failsafe.
Know your trendy districts
To really know a city, you need to know where the cool people hang. Fit walking tours of industrial-chic Fitzroy, Italian paradise Lygon Street, and trendy Chapel Street to really absorb the city’s essence.
Stroll along the Yarra River
The Yarra River flows right through Melbourne’s CBD, and there are plenty of vantage points from which to catch its glorious stream. Make your way to South Bank and walk along the pedestrian-friendly paths while admiring the skyline and the architecturally distinct bridges that zip across the water. Or, head to the Botanical Gardens and squeeze in a jog — oh wait, who are we kidding?
Catch an Aussie-rules football game
Sports fans can cheer for a local team playing an exclusively Aussie sport at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG): Australian-rules football. It’s kinda like a cross between rugby and American-style football, with lots of muscle-y men running around in short shorts. Highly entertaining, even if you have no idea what’s going on!
Admire the graffiti in Hosier Lane
Graffiti-covered alleyways are usually a grungy, gritty affair, but the art at Hosier Lane is anything but sketch: the colorful murals attract swarms of tourists on the daily. The street is also home to popular tapas joint Movida.
Go to a Winery
There are plenty of wineries within driving distance from Melbourne, from Yarra Valley to Phillip Island. Pick one and go, if you can afford a day out of the city. Many wine tours are available, and in Yarra Valley hot air balloon rides and champagne breakfasts can also be arranged.
Check out Great Ocean Road
A jaw-dropping coastal drive awaits at the 243-kilometer Great Ocean Road, and there are plenty of sights like the majestic Twelve Apostles to literally take your breath away (it’s extremely windy around).
Cutler & Co.
For a more modern (read: hipster) Australian experience, Cutler & Co. is pretty hard to beat. This metal-factory-turned-restaurant offers oysters, steak, and a whole range of meat and seafood dishes that expertly marry multiple textures and flavors.
55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy 3065, (+61) 3-9419-4888.
Red Spice Road
If there’s one cuisine style that the Aussies have perfected, it’s fusion. Red Spice Road is one of those quintessential pan-Southeast Asian fusion establishments offering a very mean caramelized pork belly and other lip-smacking, meat-heavy dishes.
7 McKillop Street, Melbourne 3000, (+61) 3-9603-1601.
Jim’s Greek Tavern
The Aussies have totally mastered Greek cuisine as well, and if you don’t believe us you can try for yourself at decades-old institution Jim’s Greek Tavern. The place is perpetually full, there are no menus, and the staff serve dish after dish of grilled seafood, salads, and meat kebabs straight to your table until you’re ready to roll on the floor. Bonus: no corkage, woot woot!
32 Johnston Street, Collingwood 3066, (+61) 3-9419-3827.
Piggery Cafe might be a bit out of the way, but if you’re looking for a farm-fresh experience, Shannon Bennett’s latest project will be right up your alley. The chef, who also owns world-famous Vue de Monde, has installed a bakery and cafe on a picturesque mountain in Sherbrooke, offering freshly baked bread, Aussie pastries and a simple selection of burgers and comfort food dishes. There’s plenty of alfresco seating and even two not-for-dinner live pigs to greet you at the door.
1 Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke 3789.
Hammer & Tong 412
Brunch is a national pastime Down Under, and there’s nowhere better to experience this than at Hammer & Tong 412, where even the breakfast ramen tastes super sophisticated.
412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 3065, (+61) 3-9041-6033.
There’s no dearth of accommodation in Melbourne, and a safe choice would be the conveniently located The Westin with its comfy and spacious rooms. For some thing a little more The Prince hotel, in St Kilda, is a very swish address with design-forward rooms and excellent F&B outlets inside, and around, the hotel.
Direct flights from Cathay Pacific and Qantas give you plenty of daily options. While you’re there, hire a car in Melbourne — Avis is great — as it’s the best way to take in the whole city. You can also rely on the city’s public transportation system with its network of underground trains, buses and trams if you’re not covering much more than the CBD and adjacent districts.