Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Victoria © Visit Victoria
Melbourne suburb guide
From laid-back seaside suburbs to the city centre’s street art-clad laneways, Melbourne’s neighbourhoods are as eclectic as they are exciting.
By Natasha Dragun and Carly Spek
Multicultural, artistic, and sporty, Melbourne’s neighbourhoods are diverse and dynamic, from the relaxed beachside suburbs of the southeast to the coffee shop-lined alleys of the city centre. Thanks to Melbourne’s extensive network of trams – some of them free – it’s easy to hop between its more central neighbourhoods, no matter where you decide to stay.
Where: City centre, Southbank
Melbourne’s compact central neighbourhoods mix high- and low-brow art with colonial and modern buildings and coffee shops galore, all steps from the meandering Yarra River. The atmosphere is both eclectic and buzzing, and the hub’s neat grid of streets makes it easy to explore – although it’s fun to lose yourself in its many street art-covered laneways.
Central Melbourne is famous for it's innovative food scene. Take a free City Circle tram to the Queen Victoria Market to find an enticing array of food and stalls where you can pick up quirky souvenirs. Central Melbourne’s artsy lanes are a highlight of the city centre, where you’ll discover hole-in-the-wall restaurants like Supernormal and perennially popular tapas joint MoVida.
With fashion-forward locals and vibrant street murals, there's plenty to see in Melbourne's city. Relax on the Yarra River with a picnic aboard an electric GoBoat, or wander the Southbank riverfront stretch to browse big-brand boutiques. Gaze at world-leading exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria or slink into Paris Cat, one of the city's underground jazz clubs.
From funky boutique hotels to luxury stays, there are plenty of choices for the perfect rest stop in Melbourne. Rest up (or continue to play) at the Notel hotel, where you'll find six 1970s Airstream trailers perched on the rooftop. At Southbank, luxury hotel The Langham has the best rooftop pool in town and Ovolo Laneways is an affordable but fun central option.
Melbourne’s south-east beaches
Where: St Kilda, Elwood, Elsternwick, Brighton
Beaches lined with palm trees and colourful bathing boxes, sun-dappled cafés, wide waterfront promenades, yachts dotting the bay – Melbourne’s beachside suburbs, south-east of the city centre, are laid-back and resorty, yet achingly cool. The further south you go, the better the beaches get. Think long stretches of sand and gentle rolling waves.
From street food to ocean-view dining, the south-east beaches have you covered. Wander along St Kilda's bustling Esplanade, where you’ll pass The Espy complex on the other side of the street, home to an abundance of scene-stealing restaurants. Grab coffee and cake from Monarch Cakes, or tuck into fish-and-chips from Pink Flake on St Kilda Beach.
Melbourne's south-eastern beaches offer a vibe that's more laid back and playful than the hipster-chic streets of the city. Check out the Esplanade's pop-up stalls, or visit landmark amusement complex, Luna Park. Head beachward to rent bikes, dip into historic sea baths or stroll waterfront promenades. A visit to the beach bathing boxes of Brighton is a must!
Melbourne’s south-east suburbs
Where: South Yarra, Prahran, Windsor
The neighbouring suburbs of South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor in Melbourne’s inner-south-east are an enticing mix of wide leafy streets studded with jaw-dropping mansions. Here you'll find some of the city’s most applauded restaurants, with the upscale shopping strips of Toorak Road and Chapel Street offering plenty of retail temptations.
Wine and dine the days away in Melbourne's food-obsessed south-east suburbs. Pay a visit to Prahran Market for deli goods galore and a piping hot coffee. Eat modern Asian food in a buzzy warehouse at Hawker Hall or take your pick of the area's abundant eateries. Spend your evenings sampling the different specialties of Chapel Street's bars.
You can expect to find excellent dining, picturesque surrounds and dangerously tempting boutiques in Melbourne's south-east suburbs. Spend all day touring themed floral displays in the Royal Botanic Gardens, or wander along Chapel Street where retail outlets blend a mix of upscale and edgy big-brands and independent boutiques.
There are plenty of stylish spaces to rest your head after long days spent exploring Melbourne's south-east. At the end of the night, flop into bed at chic art hotel The Cullen, named for the late Australian artist Adam Cullen. In South Yarra, The Como Melbourne offers another stylish local sleeping option, or wake up overlooking the Royal Botanic Gardens at United Places.
Where: Richmond, Collingwood, Abbotsford
This precinct of Melbourne is vibrant and multicultural and you'll quickly see why Melbourne has been dubbed the sporting capital of Australia. The inner-east is a hub for sports fanatics of all games thanks to its major stadiums surrounded by legendary bars and live music venues. It’s also home to ‘Little Saigon’ along Victoria Street, offering a parade of tasty eateries.
Join the crowds at charming local pubs to celebrate (or commiserate) your favourite sporting team, or dress your best for a sophisticated night out in Melbourne's south-east. On a match day, the legendary Corner Hotel is the place to go for cold beers, live music and counter meals. Nearby fine-dining restaurants also beckon; try Minamishima for omakase-style sushi.
Spend your days in Melbourne's inner-east cheering at local sporting venues Melbourne Cricket Ground and Rod Laver Arena, or exploring the surrounding attractions. Shop 'til you drop along Bridge Road or Swan Street and visit Abbotsford Convent, a historic creative hub along the Yarra River, which now hosts gorgeous gardens and spaces for live performances.
After jam-packed days spent celebrating athletic victories, Melbourne's inner-east has ample options for a good long sleep. Rest your head in a character-filled room at Element Melbourne Richmond. If you're looking for an easy stroll to Melbourne Cricket Ground, Richmond’s Lanbruk Apartment Hotel is particularly handy for catching a match.
Melbourne’s northern suburbs
Where: Carlton, Fitzroy, Brunswick
The neighbourhoods of Melbourne’s inner-north are a magnet for foodies, thanks to the thriving Italian restaurants in Carlton (aka ‘Little Italy’) and the bohemian dining rooms of Fitzroy and Brunswick. The further from the city centre you travel, the more diverse the offerings get, including a fantastic array of live music venues to get you on your feet.
Restaurants in Carlton’s Little Italy draw a loyal following for good reason. Lygon Street is the heart of this dining precinct, where you’ll also find design-driven Zagame’s House hotel, with its cosy Lord Lygon wine bar. Eat your way around the world on Brunswick’s Sydney Road, where a perfect day’s culinary delights include dinner at the likes of Cutler & Co.
When you're not exciting your tastebuds at northern suburb eateries, there are other adventures to be found. Explore the Melbourne Museum in Carlton Gardens with its collection of natural and cultural history artefacts; catch a film at gloriously retro Cinema Nova; shop vintage fashion and bookstores along Brunswick Street; and dance the night away at a live music venue.
Whether you're searching for quaint and quiet or central and vibrant, there's loads of rooms to choose from in Melbourne's northern suburbs. Zagame’s House hotel is a chic, modern option - with a lively restaurant and sound-proof rooms, so you can have the best of both worlds. The Park Hyatt Melbourne also offers a luxurious base for exploring the neighbourhood.