Melbourne is one of Australia’s biggest cities, and regarded as the ‘cultural capital’ of the country. Famed for its many shopping streets, cafe culture and events, it’s regarded as one of the best cities in the world to live. The centre of Melbourne is packed with things to do and see, while the inner suburbs offer a taste of the Melbourne lifestyle in lovely surrounds. The city is well connected by trams, trains and cycle paths, so you can look at staying outside the city centre if you want to get to know the real Melbourne a little better.
Central Business District
Otherwise known as the CBD, this is Melbourne’s historic and commercial centre. Largely built during the Victorian Gold Rush in the mid 19th century, the streetscape is dominated by grand sandstone buildings. In contrast to the narrow laneways and shopping arcades that connect the ordered blocks. These have become the focal point for the city’s famous cafe and street art culture. The CBD is a good location for first time visitors to the city, and those who want to be close to the major museums, galleries as well as public transport.
- The East End Theatre District.
- The Queen Victoria Market, where hundreds of vendors sell fresh groceries delicious street food.
- Federation Square, a great spot for people watching, and home to a cluster of museums including the National Gallery of Victoria.
- Melbourne’s cafe culture on Degraves Street.
- The Block Arcade, an exquisite 19th century shopping arcade.
Just north-east of the CBD are the neighbouring suburbs of Carlton and Fitzroy. Both are close to Melbourne University and are popular with students and young professionals. Carlton is centred around Lygon Street, also known as the Little Italy of Melbourne. It has great tram connections to the city centre, but retains a lovely community feel. For hipsters, a breakfast cafe on Gertrude, Smith or Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is the place to be and be seen.
- Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building.
- The best Italian food (including Australia’s first pizzeria) in Australia on Lygon Street.
- Bar-hopping and shopping on Smith Street and Brunswick Street.
- Indulging in a Melbourne-style coffee and breakfast at any cafe in this area. Residents of Carlton and Fitzroy are usually very hip and have driven the rise of Melbourne Cafe Culture.
- For vintage lovers, the Smith Street Bazaar and Lost Weekend Vintage Market.
Brunswick is just north of Carlton and is bisected by Sydney Road. It’s a perfect example of why Melbourne is frequently voted one of the best places in the world to live. Sometimes inner Melbourne can feel a little pretentious, but Brunswick feels inclusive and friendly, while still offering the top eateries and shopping that Melbourne is renowned for. It’s a good spot for laid back couples and families – there are endless streets of federation era cottages and plenty of parks and kid-friendly cafes.
- The Brunswick City Baths, a classic Australian public swimming pool.
- The CERES Community park, where you can admire the community gardens and shop at the organic market.
- The galleries, bars and pubs on Sydney Road and Nicholson Street.
- Quiet bike-friendly streets and gorgeous Victorian workers cottages.
On the north-east end of Port Phillip is St Kilda, one of Melbourne’s few true beachside suburbs. It’s long been a multicultural hub, with significant Jewish, Greek and Chinese influence. Fitzroy and Acland Street have casual but excellent restaurants and bars, and plenty of places to buy swimwear and other surf paraphernalia. St Kilda is just a short tram ride from the city centre, but feels more like a small beach town, chilled out and separated from the hustle and bustle of inner Melbourne. If you are staying in St Kilda during Summer, you’ll also be grateful for the sea breeze that sweeps over this coastal suburb – Melbourne has some stifling summer days and some airflow will be very necessary.
- St Kilda Pier – The pier is one of the most recognisable icons of Melbourne and has been loved by generations. Walk, ride or even skateboard down its length to the Pavilion, where you can sit and enjoy a snack while admiring the view across Port Philip.
- Luna Park – an old-school theme park with a striking ‘moon-face’ entryway.
- The Jewish Museum on Carlisle Street.
- St Kilda Beach and the Esplanade across the street.
Stonnington – Prahran/South Yarra/Toorak
The City of Stonnington is a district containing the suburbs of Prahran, Toorak and South Yarra. These are some of Melbourne’s most sought after residential areas, due to the quality of housing, lovely parks, shopping and dining options. For families and commuters, the easy tram to either the city or beach at St Kilda sweeten the deal. Prahran and South Yarra are connected by Chapel Street, a long strip of shops and cafes that include Australian designers, antiques dealers, chain stores and independent boutiques. Toorak is one of Australia’s most expensive suburbs and is full of gorgeous mansions and terraces. The local shopping square, Toorak Village, features mock-Tudor architecture and is a nice spot for coffee and some retail therapy. At the western tip of Stonnington are the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne – a beautiful place to relax after a days sightseeing or take the kids to stretch their legs and look for wildlife.
- Greek coffee and cakes on Chapel Street.
- International and high-end shopping on Chapel Street and in the Jam Factory.
- The Capital City Trail by the Yarra River, accesible to both cyclists and pedestrians.
- Beautiful old mansions and terraces in Toorak.
- Como House and Gardens on the Yarra River – an Italianate mansion in luscious grounds, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic.