Melbourne is a city of neighborhoods. Italian or Chinese, groovy or chic, bohemian or beachside — Melbourne has them all. Each has its own character instilled by the type of people who live and work there — émigrés from all over the world who have brought their customs, beliefs, businesses, food, art and style to the city.
The Central Business District
Laid out as a grid, the city center is easy to navigate. The modern skyline of the financial district contrasts with well-preserved Victorian architecture, and the alley ways and arcades that snake through the city give it all charm and character. Swanston Street, a pedestrian mall generally considered to be the city's main drag, runs from the ornate 19th century domes of
On the southern bank of the muddy and surprisingly narrow river lies the landmark
Prahran & South Yarra
Just out of the city are Prahran and South Yarra, names often used interchangeably for roughly the same area. Home to Chapel Street, lined with boutiques and nightclubs, this is Melbourne's favorite playground and is packed every weekend with young people out for only one thing—fun! Saturday nights see the street grind to a halt and transform into a traffic jam disco, as cars blare top volume techno music, while the gay strip along Commercial Road also buzzes. The funkier, more relaxed Greville Street is home of vintage fashion stores, a
Further out is St Kilda, which has transformed from a shabby red light district to a bayside resort, and is now a popular place for backpackers and Melburnians on a sunny weekend. The attraction is not so much the mediocre
Just north of the city is Carlton. Many of the quaint Victorian terrace houses have been converted into student accommodation for the nearby university, and the district's cafés and bookstores buzz with life. The new
Even more cosmopolitan is Brunswick Street, one of Melbourne's liveliest and most distinctive streets. Originally a working class neighborhood, it has emerged as the heartland of bohemian café culture, humming night and day with colorful bars, nightclubs and restaurants of every description, as well as funky and unconventional stores. Running parallel a few blocks down, Smith Street retains a grittier edge, with long-time local residents, refugees and the down and out mixing with the patrons of its cafés and music venues.
Williamstown & Other Areas
A little further out, but easily accessible by ferry or train, lies the old town of Williamstown—once a vital port. This quiet residential suburb has recently regained favor after many years in decline. Picturesque and historic streets, views over the sea and pride in bygone days attract hundreds of weekend visitors. An
Once home to Greek immigrants, Richmond more recently has become known as “Little Saigon” with a growing Vietnamese community opening restaurants and shops along Victoria Street. The factory outlet stores of Bridge Road and Swan Street attract those in the know seeking bargain buys.
Tree-lined streets and beautiful town houses distinguish South Melbourne, popular both for its
Melbourne her neighborhoods, and it is only through exploring them that visitors will get a feel for the underlying beauty of this vibrant multicultural city.
Melbourne was founded less than 170 years ago with the declaration "this will be the place for a village." These were humble beginnings for a city now populated by over three million, and which has accommodation choices as rich as any city twice the size. Melbourne has long been Australia's intellectual and arts capital and has recently become the continent's major "event" city - this unique position has given her hoteliers an understanding of the varied needs of the traveler. Melbourne is a city of extremes and contrasts, full of obvious delights and hidden treasures. Her accommodation is no different, ranging from five-star flash to hole in the wall surprises.
The best approach to visiting Melbourne is to know what you want from your stay, then locate yourself appropriately. For a corporate business trip, or if you just want to be in the living heart of the city, Melbourne's central business district is the place to be. If you are in search of nightlife, glamor or a more Hollywood approach to business, South Yarra and Toorak in the city's east will serve you well. For affordable accommodation with access to pubs and live music, or more expensive beachside hotels, St Kilda may be the best choice.
Central Business District
Melbourne is a bay side city that does not always feel like a bay side city! Unless you are actually in a seaside or riverside locale, the general impression is of an inland metropolis. The proximity of the city center to the Yarra River is not readily apparent until you suddenly realize you are standing on a bridge or the view from your window includes a water taxi. The city is an exciting mix of old and new - its architecturally exciting aquarium sits next to a tram line that still runs 80 year old cars. The Rialto Building (until recently the tallest building in the hemisphere) towers over a number of 100-year-old churches. Internet-connected information kiosks sit beside National Trust classified horse troughs.
Melbourne's central business district is home to numerous theaters, two universities, dozens of bars and restaurants and a diverse range of shops and department stores. In the two square kilometers of Melbourne's city center there are over 50 establishments offering accommodation. If your needs tend to a more traditional business setting, the modern high-rise of the Grand Hyatt at the other end of Collins Street will undoubtedly suit. For a hipper, cutting edge hotel where all rooms are suites, the boutique Adelphi Hotel, with its glass bottomed rooftop pool jutting out over the street, is the one.
On the eastern city fringe, surrounded by gorgeous parkland and close to the Cricket Ground, Melbourne's favorite sporting venue, is the Hilton on the Park.
On the city's southern fringe, just over the Yarra River, is the recently developed Southbank. The jewel in the crown (or the fly in the ointment depending on who you talk to) is the city's Crown Entertainment Complex, home to the Crown Towers.
Swanston Street runs through Melbourne's heart. When it crosses the Yarra it becomes St Kilda Road, a massively wide, tree-lined boulevard, peppered with a number of solid four-star hotels such as the St Kilda Road Parkview Hotel and Sebel on its four-kilometer journey to...
St Kilda Seaside
St Kilda is an enigma. Is it an upmarket, gentrified haven for the upwardly mobile? Is it a Mecca for groovy artistic types with more taste than budget? Is it a sleazy hangout for the thriving local music scene? Of course it is all these things and whatever else you can imagine. Some feel St Kilda is a little grungy, others prefer to think of it as earthy and vibrant. There are almost 200 restaurants and cafés within walking distance of each other.
St Kilda is the home of affordable back-packer hostels, two of the most famous being Coffee Palace Backpackers and Enfield House. At the other end of the scale are the boutique hotels. The Prince has an enviable location at the corner of St Kilda's two main streets, Acland and Fitzroy, and spectacular views of the ocean and the city skyline. If the Phillipe Starck fittings and commissioned artworks are not to your taste you could always try the retro styling of Tolarno's.
Running parallel to St Kilda Road is Kings Way, featuring Eden on the Park. Nearby is Albert Park Lake, home of the Australian Grand Prix. Even outside race time this is a beautiful area to stay, surrounded by parkland, lakes and golf courses, and with easy access to both the city proper and St Kilda.
South Yarra & Toorak
Decidedly international in flavor, the leafy, bustling streets of South Yarra and Toorak are renowned for shopping, dining and real estate prices. It is in the heart of South Yarra that the seemingly never-ending shopping strip that is Chapel Street intersects Toorak Road. Here you will find the Hotel Como, plus a number of short term apartment complexes - you could try Punt Hill Serviced Apartments.
In addition to these more frequented visitor districts, Melbourne has a wide selection of hotels and motels scattered across its hilly suburbs. For example the Glenferrie Hotel has easy access to the shopping districts of Burke Road and Kew Junction. If the bohemian atmosphere of the inner northern suburbs of Fitzroy and Carlton appeals, you might consider Elizabeth Tower, close to the fantastic dining and nightlife of Brunswick and Lygon Streets.
Melbourne's accommodation is spread right across her districts and available in all varieties and at a range of budgets. Location is important and with a little investigation into the different areas of the city, you will end up right where you want to be. Enjoy your stay!
With a lively cultural life, a wide selection of clubs and bars, a restaurant for every cuisine, one of the world's biggest casinos, a multitude of festivals and events and a rich theater tradition, there is no excuse to be bored in Melbourne! The city that was once noted as a somewhat dour after-hours town has quietly transformed itself into an entertainment hub, with a nightlife that many larger cities would envy.
To keep abreast of what is going on, check the free street press—Beat magazine and Inpress which come out every Wednesday. Both are available from many music stores, cafés and pubs, and contain comprehensive listings for the week's entertainment. Alternatives are the daily newspaper The Age's green guide (Thursday) or the Victoria Visitor Information Centre.
Bars & Pubs
English-style pubs have traditionally been the bedrock of Melbourne's entertainment scene, and the city is blessed with a multitude. Every area will have one, and they range from the grungy Punter's Club to more elegant venues. There are traditional watering holes—Old Colonial Inn or the quirky Builder's Arms—and Melbourne institutions such as The Esplanade. Usually opening in the afternoon and shutting around midnight or later, many serve food as well as providing beer gardens, satellite television, pool tables or live music.
Recently, a slew of stylish, intimate bars have evolved in the lanes and alleyways of the central business district. They draw an eager crowd of after-work drinkers and stay open until late. Try Spleen on Bourke Street, or just head off and find one of your own—they seem to pop up in little recesses of the city overnight!
Melbourne is widely regarded as the live music capital of Australia. Everyone who is anyone in the Australian music scene plays here regularly, and almost-legendary venues such as the Punter's Club and The Espy are packed every night with band-goers looking for old favorites or the next big thing. The favored style is grungy alternative rock, but there is also a fledgling funk/jazz/hip hop community. International touring acts, from obscure cult artists to superstars, regularly visit. Tickets are usually handled by the main agencies, Ticketek and Ticketmaster.
Those with more discerning musical tastes will enjoy the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia, the brilliant 85-piece Australian Pops Orchestra or the delightful Australian Boys Choir.
Melbourne's club scene is large and varied but concentrated in a few different districts. King Street, in the city center, is home to several large and well-known establishments. South Yarra, around Chapel Street, attracts a hipper crowd to venues such as Revolver, The Viper Room, while Brunswick and Smith Streets in Fitzroy cater to a more bohemian, alternative crowd with smaller venue—the Night Cat and Planet Afrik for jazz, African and Latin music. St Kilda, home to Monkey, Twister and the Prince of Wales, is also a lively part of town. The Crown Entertainment Complex is home to a variety of establishments, from cabaret to wine bars, a jazz club and the popular Heat discotheque. Its casino is one of the largest in the world, and it also houses a five-star hotel and a plethora of shops and restaurants on the southern bank of the Yarra River.
Melbourne's thriving gay scene is mostly centered around slick Commercial Road in South Yarra, near the corner of Chapel Street. There is also a gay patch around Smith Street in Fitzroy and Collingwood, home to establishments like the cruisy Peel, the Laird leather bar, alternative rock venue Q & A and the Glasshouse pub. Unfortunately, as in most cities, men are much better catered for than women. Detailed listings as well as news, personal ads and the like can be found in the free gay press, the weekly Melbourne Star Observer and the fortnightly Brother Sister, which can be picked up at venues and also in many bookshops and cafés. Keep an eye out for various events held throughout the year such as Midsumma Festival, Queer Film and Video Festival and the ALSO dance parties.
Theater and Cinema
Melbourne's lively theater scene offers everything from experimental works to mainstream Broadway-style blockbusters like Miss Saigon or Phantom of the Opera. What is more, the city can offer them in truly beautiful and historic theaters such as Her Majesty's and the Princess Theatre.
Ballet and dance are as good as any in the world and The Australian Ballet performs 160 shows a year to packed houses. For something a bit more funky, Chunky Move discards traditional theater venues, performing bold works in club-type settings. OzOpera similarly abandons tradition and takes its own version of opera to everyday people in both Melbourne and across regional Victoria.
There is a full range of cinemas from Hoyts and Village blockbuster multiplexes to arthouse such as the Astor or the Lumiere. An International Film Festival is held in winter while summer in the city would not be the same without the Moonlight Cinema set in the beautiful surrounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Melbourne has a packed events calendar. A major International Arts Festival has its attendant Fringe Festival and the family-oriented Moomba Waterfest is fun. There are separate celebrations of comedy, contemporary visual art, gardening, writing, fashion and food. There are also Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Chinese festivals, and happenings in St Kilda, Chapel Street, Williamstown and Brunswick Street. Summer sees regular seasons of outdoor cinema, classical music and jazz, and year-round the city hosts trade fairs for industries as diverse as holidays, motoring, aeronautics and sex!
The city is renowned for major international sporting events including the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament, the Grand Prix motor race, marathons, cricket tests and major golf tournaments. But perhaps its biggest sporting events are its most unique—the AFL Grand Final, which decides the champion of the national football code and the famous Melbourne Cup horse race, held like clockwork on the second Tuesday of November—and stops the nation.
Melburnians love food. If one thing sets Melbourne apart from almost all other cities in the world, it is the outstanding quality, variety and affordability of its food and drink. Melbourne's thousands of restaurants and cafés feed the city's millions with nearly every cuisine imaginable.
While some of the best places can be tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the city, it is not particularly difficult to find good food anywhere. It is actually harder to find a bad meal than it is to stumble upon a great find! Just walk down the street and take your pick of cafés, restaurants, bars and takeaway outlets. Ambiance is as important as the food, and style is simply a way of life in Melbourne, so expect to find the most popular places in the city's famous streets and districts, each known for a specific approach to lifestyle, fashion or food.
In the north of the city, Brunswick Street has become a weekend favorite for long, languid brunches enjoyed in a distinctly inner city, urban environment. The best cafés have been established for years—such as Marios and The Fitz. Newer arrivals such Retro Cafe and Umago are sneaking up the popularity stakes. These eateries are well patronized and serve up huge, hearty delectable brunches (all day and all night) using the local fresh produce to its best advantage. Brunswick Street is a sanctuary for Melbourne's fringe dwellers and arts community, so be prepared to meet street performers, joke tellers, fire twirlers and many other colorful locals.
The first wave of Italian immigrants claimed this area as their domain and it remains so today. Any celebration of Italian culture takes place here—festivals, food, fashion and the Italian sense of fun. Many of the eateries are without pretense, simply serving good wholesome Italian food the way mama used to cook it. Places like Tiamo and Brunetti have remained the same since the day they opened and can be relied on for quality at a reasonable price. Santinos Terrace is ideal for that extra special treat.
If you are traveling to the east of Brunswick Street, chances are you will stumble into Victoria Street and wonder if you are still in Australia. A wonderful example of Melbourne's cultural diversity, Victoria Street is a hectic and exciting strip of Vietnamese restaurants, businesses and street traders. People scurry to and fro and locals flock here to enjoy incredibly quick, cheap eats which are guaranteed to fill the belly. Restaurants such as Tho Tho's, Thy Thy I and The Huong have thrived in this area on quick turnaround and word of mouth.
Central Business District
With abandoned warehouses being turned into slick, modern apartments, the city of Melbourne is no longer a place just for weekday business lunches. Groovy cocktail bars, such as the Gin Palace, Hairy Canary and Melbourne Supper Club are springing up in the back alleyways to accommodate the chic set who call the city center their home. There are numerous examples of fine dining in the city center that cater specifically for the Melbourne professional — Grossi Florentino, Marchetti's Latin and Tuscan Grill are all celebrated establishments.
Where would any hungry city be without a Chinatown? Situated on Little Bourke Street in central Melbourne, Chinatown is a significant attraction of Melbourne, seeing little change over the years since the first Chinese came to make their fortunes on the goldfields. Traditionally, Chinatown is Sunday yum cha, yet Melbourne's Chinatown reflects the city's all day, all night eating attitude. The choice is wide, from restaurants that are a treat to the pocket as well as the tastebuds, to Chinese dining at its most magnificent — Flower Drum. Along with the restaurants, Chinatown also has many grocers and specialty shops, as well as a Chinese Museum.
While Southbank may exude commercialism in a way that is quite unusual for Melbourne, the food and entertainment in this area have proved to be very successful. Visitors can choose from classy and more costly to fast, funky and affordable (Blue Train). The Crown Entertainment Centre, with its many offerings, is hugely popular. Southbank also acts as a gateway to many tourist attractions such as the Melbourne Aquarium, Victorian Arts Centre and Polly Woodside.
Fashion is the key when heading to Chapel Street. Be seen (and make sure you have reason for people to look) on this trendy strip of designer clothes and all-that-is-hip. Expensive cars cruise Chapel Street at night but it is just as popular during the day when the beautiful people shop and enjoy long lunches over wine and coffee. The eateries are specially designed to complement the clientele with attitude and accouterments to match. Try out Caffe Sienna, Caffe e Cucina and Kush.
St Kilda exudes the relaxed, kickback culture of the seaside all year round and has grown as another arts center within Melbourne. Acland Street is at the heart of this culture—a place where you can savor the best coffees and eat the most delicious, kilojoule-laden, continental cakes in town. Many of these cafés are without presence (La Roche Cafe), but others are tailored for a more groovy crowd (Big Mouth). On Sundays, enjoy the shopping on Acland Street then peruse the crafts at the Esplanade Market.
Just around the corner from Acland Street, Fitzroy Street could be considered the main drag of St Kilda with its broad avenue leading down towards the beach. In the past Fitzroy Street gained a reputation as one of the seedier areas of Melbourne, but has now been claimed by the young arty set. Restaurants, cafés and bars, such as Sapore, Mink and Leo's Spaghetti Bar, make Fitzroy Street the place to eat, while still retaining its old street life charm.
Restaurants may come and go in this culinary crazed city, but the hospitality industry is thriving. Enjoy!