Even though Melbourne has been my home for the last ten years, I am constantly finding new things to do in the city and love being a tourist in my own town. There’s no wonder Melbourne is rated consistently as the world’s most liveable city due to its thriving dining scene, arts, sports, laneway culture and a coffee culture other cities are yet to rival. I’ve teamed up with Expedia.com.au to bring you the ultimate weekend guide to make the most of the beauty that is Melbourne.
On arrival, check in to Melbourne’s coolest boutique hotel – QT Melbourne then spend the evening soaking up Melbourne’s vibrant CBD bar and dining culture. Start at the QT rooftop, a gorgeous open bar with bird’s eye views over Melbourne (the perfect space to see and be seen) then venture across the road to wine bar, Embla, to feast on delicious food from the wood oven and award-winning local and international wine.
Once you have feasted to your heart’s content, it’s time to explore one of Melbourne’s greatest assets – its laneway and speakeasy-style bars. Whether it’s access through a bookshelf, a takeaway pizza joint or a fridge, there are so many hidden bars and laneways to get lost in so it’s always a good idea to be prepared with a map.
To start the ultimate city bar crawl, head to Meyers Place to Pizza Pizza Pizza, a hole-in-the-wall pizza shop. Ask nicely to see the ‘secret menu’, and a beautiful hidden world will be revealed behind a black curtain. This dimly lit cocktail bar of no name specialises in retro-inspired cocktails like the Rusty Nail, Pina Colada and Alabama Slammer to keep you going till the wee hours of the morning. Continue on to Presgave Place to discover one of Melbourne’s smallest bars – Bar Americano.Paying homage to the golden age of drinking and Bax’s favourite Venetian Bar, Harry’s Bars, the American Bar is the place to come for seriously good classic cocktails, which rotate with the seasons. My favourite is the namesake Americano with Italian bitters, house-infused vermouth, citrus and soda.
Follow the mysterious lamp light in Malthouse Lane to an unmarked wooden door and you will find Eau De Vie – a prohibition style bar in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. One of Melbourne’s most classy establishments, this jazz inspired bar makes a perfect spot for an intimate date. Expect to be taken on an adventure by the expert bartenders who shake, stir and swizzle a mouth-watering array of cocktails. If you’re lucky enough to find it, you may not want to leave. Inside it’s elegant, sophisticated and oh-so-sexy.
A trip to Melbourne isn’t complete without a ride on The City Circle Tram which offers a free and convenient way to get around central Melbourne. The City Circle route is serviced by heritage W class trams decorated in special maroon and green with yellow and gold trimmings. Stop for coffee at the atmospheric Brother Baba Budan on Little Bourke Street, before enjoying a breakfast at one of Melbourne’s most beautiful cafes – Higher Ground – housed in a heritage-listed former powerhouse. A must order is the ricotta hotcakes served with maple syrup, seeds, grains, seasonal fruits and flowers – one of the prettiest dishes you will ever see. As for the interiors, they are jaw droppingly beautiful with 15-metre-high ceilings, dangling greenery and dramatic arched windows swathed in natural light.
Spend the rest of the morning shopping up a storm in the CBD including Bourke Mall and the Emporium. Take a relaxed walk around Melbourne’s many laneways exuding charm, including De Greaves Street, Flinders Lane and Little Collins Street. For upmarket shopping, venture further afield to the ‘Paris’ end of Collins Street for designer shopping at its best, or take a walk around the beautifully historic Block Arcade, renowned for its impressive etched glass roof and the largest mosaic floor area in Australia. Don’t miss the impossibly pretty Hopetoun Tearooms to ogle at the dozens of freshly baked cakes and pastries on display.
After you’ve shopped up a storm, check out the epicentre of Melbourne – Federation Square and Melbourne’s famous street art on Hosier Lane, Centre Place and ACDC lane
To avoid a long dinner queue, have lunch at Chin Chin, Melbourne’s most famous dining spot. Even years after opening, Chin Chin is still the restaurant buzzword hot on every Melbourners’ lips.There’s a lot to love about Chin Chin’s fit out. It’s a modern take on the old school hawker dining halls with its cramped, bustling atmosphere. Pop art posters flank the entrance and are paired with other contemporary touches like hanging filament globes and exposed brick walls, giving it a semi industrial feel. The pan-Asian inspired menu is designed with a shared eating concept in mind. If you’re feeling indecisive, just say, “feed me” and the chef will serve up a selection of their favourite dishes so you can fully enjoy the experience. The staff are friendly and attentive, retaining an uncanny sense of calamity amongst the madness.
Work off your lunch, with a long walk along the picturesque Yarra River at Southbank, Melbourne’s bustling waterfront hub. Here you can enjoy dozens of restaurants, cafes, bars and stylish retailers. If you’re feeling thirsty, pull up a chair at the Arbory bar for a beautiful cocktail or two. Then make your way to one of the most beautiful gardens in Melbourne, the Royal Botanic Gardens. Here you can enjoy thousands of plant species, lush lawns, fern gullies and its very own tropical glasshouse. If there’s time spare, get your culture fix at the adjacent Arts Precinct then explore Australia’s oldest and most popular art museum, The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).
If art isn’t your thing, opt for a sumptous afternoon tea instead at the Hotel Windsor, a quintessential Melbourne experience, steeped in tradition. Here you can indulge in a three-tiered decadent afternoon tea full of pretty cakes, pastries, freshly baked scones and finger sandwiches.
For the ultimate Italian feast, head to the atmospheric Tipo 00 to enjoy their delicious Italian cuisine. Think burrata cheese laden with roasted capsicum and caper berries, kingfish with pickled cucumber and black garlic; and one of their beautiful pastas like squid ink tagliolini, squid and bottarga. Other great dining options in the CBD include Supernormal, Cumulus, Grossi Florentino… but, to be honest, the good eating options are endless in Melbourne.
Go for a nightcap at the gorgeous French Saloon before a bar hop around Melbourne’s best roof top bars. An experience at Madame Brussels is like tumbling down the rabbit hole and discovering a Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea party. With its vintage inspired décor, astro turf and garden chaises, you will be hard pressed to find a prettier bar anywhere else. Continue on to Loop Roof Top, Siglo and Rooftop Bar to the early hours of the morning if you’re feeling keen.
Get up nice and early to avoid the lines at Lune Croisanterie, nestled on the back streets of Fitzroy, claimed by The New York Times to be the best croissants in the world. Lune’s traditional French style croissants are prepared over three days so there is a definite art to them. Don’t miss the kougn aman, a traditional pastry from the Bretagne region of France, laminated with sugar and baked in a buttered, sugared mold until caramelised
If that’s not enough to fill you up head to one of Melbourne’s favourite brunch spots and coffee roasters- Industry Beans. Here you can enjoy some of the prettiest and inventive brunch dishes going around in a industrial warehouse atmosphere. Think a rosewater compressed watermelon and lemon myrtle panna cotta paired with bee pollen curd and wattleseed granola or the cinnamon dusted brioche with
tonka bean creme pat, charred pineapple, maple roasted peanuts, blackberry coulis and coffee caviar. Feeling hungry yet?
Spend the rest of the morning meandering around the funky Gertrude and Smith Streets for arty boutiques and new designerware.
From Gertrude Street, go for a short walk to the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building, surrounded by the picturesque Carlton Gardens. The building is one of the world’s oldest remaining exhibition pavilions and is world heritage listed. Pop into the Melbourne Museum to have a peek at the latest exhibitions.
Enjoy an early dinner at the atmopsheric Marion on Gertrude Street before cocktails at the Everleigh.It may be one of Melbourne’s worst kept secrets, but there’s no denying it’s one of my favourites. Secretly located above Belle’s Hot Chicken, this speakeasy-style bar is the place to come for epic cocktails. It’s a beautiful venue, full of “olde-worlde” charm, cosy leather booths and candlelight. Perch at the epic long marble bar and sip on a classic cocktail from the golden era like a sazerac or an old-fashioned. Or you can leave it up to the experts: Whisper your poison of choice to the bartender, and they will create your perfect drop. Ice is cut to order, fruit is freshly squeezed… it doesn’t get much better than this. The perfect end to a a beautiful 48 hours in Melbourne.