The best things to see, eat, and do in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city.
Welcome to Melbourne—a city known for its buzzing food scene, dinging trams, and devout reverence to the cult of coffee. It’s here that flat whites and football (the Aussie rules variety) hold equal footing; and where good food is discussed and deified, pursued and consumed with a passion that is unmatched elsewhere in the country.
Melbourne possesses the kind of relaxed charm and approachability that effortlessly draws visitors in (and gently insists they stick around a little longer). With an international reputation as a food capital, it’s the kind of place that might see you throwing out the guide book in favor of an itinerary purely devoted to gastronomic exploration—in which case, you’ll have a ball.
Beyond the bars and restaurants, Melbourne’s creative pulse, heritage streetscapes and abundant green space also add to its status as a charismatic destination.
More akin to a luxury townhouse than hotel, Melbourne’s newest lodging is a hushed and serene home away from home. Set in chic South Yarra’s leafiest pocket—directly opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens—this 12-room boutique hotel takes a tactile and understated approach to high quality amenities. The suites’ muted interior palette of soft greens, greys, and blush adds to the serenity, while balconies make the most of the verdant surrounds. In rooms, the textural Szilvassy ceramics, Le Labo toiletries, and Australian craft whisky all add to the wonderfully sensory approach.
Just a hop from the city on the edge of Melbourne’s Little Italy precinct, this newly-transformed former drive-in motel dials up the drama with hot pink leopard print carpets, splashes of neon, and a dark, clubby feel. The King-sized Neon Suite is all glamour, with an in-room wine cellar and cocktail bar, selfie mirrors, and neon-lit sitting room. The adjoining wine bar downstairs, where staff will happily guide you through some of Australia’s finest drops, is a major plus.
Palm-lined St. Kilda Beach has long been a playground for Melburnians seeking fresh air and seaside vistas, and this iconic art deco-era hotel makes a fine base from which to experience its bayside charms. Built in 1937, the heritage-listed Prince of Wales Hotel (now known simply as “The Prince”) scored a recent refurbishing, and its 39 well-sized rooms are a dreamy, pastel-hued escape. With balcony views across the water and palm trees, the palatial Premier Suite sports twin bathrooms and a spacious lounge area.
Australia’s Art Series Hotels are inspired by Australian contemporary artists, past and present. Named after the late David Larwill, this relaxed 96-room parkside hotel features a number of Larwill originals, while the well-proportioned rooms (aka ‘workspaces’) continue the art theme; with in-room painting utensils, art books, yoga mats, and mood boards. A short walk or tram-ride from the city, the Larwill has an on-site gym and cafe and scores a big tick for its remarkably comfortable beds. Overlooking the native gardens of Royal Park (great for walks and runs), the north-facing rooms are the pick.
Whether you put it down to geography, migration patterns, or the emergence of the modern Australian culinary identity, Aussie chefs have a real knack for putting a delicious new spin on Asian food traditions. At this bustling neon-lit laneway eatery, the “pan-Asian” genre is on full display, with Chef Zac Cribbes producing some seriously addictive flavor combinations. Start with a cocktail before moving onto a selection of small share plates such as the oyster with ponzu dipping sauce, peking duck dumplings, and the Vietnamese-style soft shell crab.
Few venues have influenced Melbourne’s laneway dining culture quite like this Flinders Lane icon, and over ten years in, Cumulus still embodies the effortless sophistication that defines the Melbourne dining experience. Breakfast might be ricotta-topped, house-made crumpets or a just-baked madeleine with single origin coffee; for lunch, perhaps the signature tuna tartare with goat’s curd and crushed pea along with a cheeky glass of Chablis. Dinners are equally as atmospheric; grab a seat at the open kitchen’s marble bar, then head upstairs to Cumulus Up for a nightcap.
Spanish food barely registered a pulse in the Australian food scene when MoVida chef Frank Camorra first started grilling up chorizo in Melbourne in the early 2000s. Now an afternoon spent drinking vermut and eating tapas in a tiny, jam-packed space off a graffiti-lined laneway is a quintessential Melbourne experience. It pays to let the knowledgeable staff guide your food and wine choices here (say yes to the chorizo-filled, Catalan-style potato bomb with mojo picon). Still hungry? Hop a few doors up to sister venue Bar Tini for cocktails, tapas, and a huge selection of wines by the glass.
Is it a wine bar? Is it a restaurant? Who cares. Low lit and wonderfully atmospheric, Embla straddles the holy space between the two in a way that Melbourne foodies can’t seem to get enough of. Bustling any day or hour, it’s the kind of place you could easily find yourself sneaking into for a mid-afternoon spritz and not moving from until the cash register is emptied at the end of the night (staff will keep you entertained throughout). Chef Dave Verhuel’s seasonal modern Australian fare is inspired in its simplicity. Great wines, too.
Part wood-lined 70s throwback, part dive bar, Leondardo’s is the raucous Italian honky tonk Melbourne didn’t know it needed (with excellent pizza to boot). Run by a team with a strong track record for solid food and wine, this terracotta-hued pizzeria inhabits a wonderfully untouched slice of kitschy Italian history (it was previously the home of one of Carlton’s original 1970s pizza-by-the-meter joints and interiors have been left largely intact). Go for the pizza (the Chinese bolognese is a must), stay for the DJ and boozy front-bar banter.
Attentive table service, smartly attired staff, charming old world atmosphere, exemplary cocktails; yes, this is what you can expect at The Everleigh—Melbourne’s most serious cocktail bar. Entered via non-descript staircase behind a diner, it gives little away from the outside, but once you step through the doors you’re transported to another time—where civility and perfectly made whisky sours are a sure bet. Also try their sister venues, Heartbreaker and Bar Margaux.
Melbourne loves a wine bar, and this place is a local blueprint for the genre. Interiors feel like you’ve stepped back to 20th-century Florence, and the atmosphere is always a buzzy mix of solo drinkers, winemakers, and off-duty politicians. Choose a bottle from the wine wall or be guided by staff (whose suggestions are always solid), then order some oysters and a glass of Tasmanian fizz and perch outside for some people-watching. Checking out their sibling venue, the rooftop bar Siglo upstairs.
One really can’t visit Melbourne without embracing the local pub culture, and nowhere else is that culture better preserved than in the Fitzroy neighborhood. The area has long drawn an interesting mix of folks, which is evident at this legendary 1866-built pub, where you’ll likely see football on the TV and rowdy fans getting passionate about the outcome over orders of chips and pints. Grab a seat in the atmospheric front bar, order a “pot” (standard beer glass size) of local craft beer and stay for a classic pub meal.
It wasn’t until local laws banned smoking inside venues back in the 2000s that Melbourne discovered the joys of the rooftop bar. Now the city loves them, and if you’re in the centre of town, Bomba’s Spanish-accented rooftop bar makes an excellent perch to take in the skyline with a cocktail (or fino sherry) in hand. Along with a great selection of wines, cocktails, and beers on tap, they serve a small selection of tapas (try the lamb ribs), and the retractable roof will save you from Melbourne’s fickle weather.
Made up of NGV International on St Kilda Road and The Ian Potter Centre in nearby Federation Square, ‘the NGV’ (as it’s known to locals) is Australia’s oldest, largest and most popular art museum. The St Kilda Road site’s fortress-like facade and iconic waterwall make for an impressive entrance, while its broad-ranging permanent collection counts around 80,000 pieces, dating back to the second millennium BCE. Look for the visiting exhibitions and live music on Friday nights.
Every city has its quintessential pre/post work exercise spot, and for Melburnians, a lap of ‘The Tan’ (the path circling the Royal Botanic Gardens in South Yarra) is the place to do it. Equally popular with professional runners, millennial influencers, cashed-up bankers, and “mums with prams,” this 2.3 mile circuit is easily reachable from the city centre and makes a great way to start the day—whether you’re chasing a brisk walk, light jog, or set of blood-pumping hill sprints.
There are few precincts in Melbourne so wonderfully complete and contained as Carlton’s genteel, tree-lined Lygon Street village. Start the day with coffee at local roasters Seven Seeds or Market Lane and grab a pastry from Baker D. Chirico before a morning stroll through Carlton Gardens. Next, browse the shelves at award-winning bookstore Readings, shop at boutiques Lee Matthews and Husk, then refuel with a bowl of pasta at Ti Amo followed by espresso and biscotti at Brunetti’s. Aperitivo time? Try DOC Espresso or the King & Godfree rooftop. Dinner? Head to Carlton Wine Room, Epocha, or the one-of-a-kind Japanese spot, Kazuki’s.