Eat, drink, and live as the locals do in the charming suburbs of Melbourne.
By Anna Lavdaras
Melbourne has over 300 suburbs, each offering their own distinct lifestyle. From the grungy inner-city dwellings of hipsters and young professionals, to the ever-evolving outer suburbs with their converted-warehouses and line-worthy coffee houses. If you plan on really getting to know Melbourne, hop on one of the city’s famous trams and explore these neighbourhoods to find the real beating heart of the city.
Fashion-conscious South Yarra and Prahran are crammed with bars, eateries and designer boutiques, all conveniently located just 20 minutes from the heart of the city centre. The two adjoining suburbs are linked by the iconic Chapel Street, a main thoroughfare that hums with activity. If you’re hoping to stay locally, the Olsen Hotel is a tribute to the famous Australian artist John Olsen. From here, you are perfectly positioned at the north-end of Chapel Street to begin your descent towards Prahran.Show more
Federation Square is a unique cultural precinct that brings together world-class events, galleries, restaurants and bars, coupled with a creative program that showcases diverse works throughout the year. Located across the road from Flinders Street Station, Melbourne's major public transport hub, the square is part of Melbourne's free tram zone. More than 2000 events are held here each year, including the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March, Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April and Melbourne Festival in October. It also hosts performances, pop-up exhibitions and free workshops. One-hour guided walking tours are offered most mornings and depart from the Melbourne Visitor Centre.Show more
Fitzroy is truly one of Australia's hippest neighbourhoods, just two kilometres (1.2 miles) north-east of Melbourne’s city centre. If it’s your first time visiting, make the first stop Rose Street Artists Market, tucked just off Brunswick Street and held every Saturday and Sunday. Melbourne’s emerging artists and designers sell their wares here, including handmade jewellery, accessories, art and photography; there are plenty of opportunities to pick a unique gift to take home. When you're ready to take a break from the browsing, stop for a coffee at adjoining Young Bloods Diner, then continue the shopping on Gertrude Street, home to a string of small boutiques selling everything from vintage clothing to designer fashion.Show more
There are dozens of ways to enjoy St Kilda, Melbourne's favourite beachside suburb. The best way to get to St Kilda from Melbourne's city centre is by tram number 96, which takes about 20 minutes. Here, you can take a stroll along the palm tree-fringed Esplanade to the St Kilda Pier, home to a colony of little penguins. Afterwards enjoy a sweet treat at one of Acland Street’s many continental cake shops, such as the kugelhopf (brioche cake swirled with melted chocolate) at Monarch Cakes or a slice of baked cheesecake at Europa Cake Shop. If you enjoy people-watching while you brunch, the ever-buzzing GB Espresso on Fitzroy Street is the place to go. If you're after plant-based delights ranging from mushroom lattes to vegan eggs, take your taste buds to Matcha Mylkbar. However, it is Fitzrovia on Fitzroy Street that wins the award for best location with its perch overlooking verdant Albert Park. This bright, airy café specialises in reinventing breakfast favourites.Show more
A place Melburnians largely consider the art and culture epicentre of the city, Northcote is a hipster’s paradise. Located just a 20-minute drive from the city, there is enough to see, eat, and do to justify a full day spent in Northcote. Get brunching at Barry - no, not a person - a café that will make you feel more wholesome just by reading the menu. For the full wellness experience, try the Californian superfood salad and a banana smoothie served in a pint mug that looks utterly gluttonous but is in fact blended peanut butter, almond milk, and frozen bananas with a sprinkling of cacao nibs. Bicycle Thieves and Penny Farthing Espresso are equally delicious brunch destinations, while lunch is taken care of with Welcome to Thornbury. Melbourne's first permanent bar and food truck stop, it was once a car manufacturing factory and is now an enormous beer garden flanked with food trucks at any time of day (they rotate daily).Show more
A quick tram trip or drive will get you to Brunswick, just six kilometres (3.7 miles) north of Melbourne's city center. Traditionally known for its multicultural community, like other inner-city suburbs it has evolved into a cultural mecca with a rough-around-the-edges charm about it. Take your own tour of all the countries that contributed to this neighbourhood with a walk along Sydney Road. Here you’ll find every kind of worldly food offering, from Middle Eastern bakeries and Mediterranean cafes. Don’t walk past Dejour Jeans, an inconspicuous local secret hidden between two bridal shops. Store owner Nam will help you choose a pair of custom jeans; first you pick a wash or cut and then Nam tailors them (for free) on the spot. And if you’re lucky enough to find yourself here in March, make sure to head to the annual Brunswick Music Festival, where the Sydney Road Street Party takes place, shutting down traffic for a day, making way for food stalls, live music, and dancing.Show more