Explore Melbourne like a Local
Credit: backstreetnomad.com, written by Luke Marlin
The centre of the city, home to many major attractions, and where you should base yourself. My observation of the CBD is that unlike other major cities (like Sydney), almost the entirety of the city feels pedestrian, retail, and safe. Sure, there are businesses in highrise, the ground floor is almost exclusively shops, restaurants and bars, which makes it great (if a little overwhelming) to explore on foot.
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Sights and Things to do in the Melbourne CBD
Federation Square/Flinders St Station
There’s always something happening in Fed Square, especially on weekends. Don’t go out of your way because you’ll end up there eventually. And Flinders St Station is opposite, you’ll probably alight/depart from there at some stage too.
Bourke Street Mall
One of the main shopping districts in Melbourne. It has many of the big chains, small chains, and retailers of every type. Adding to your shopping experience are the sounds created by the many buskers along the street. The prominent position for the absolute best buskers is in front the GPO steps (now H&M) where you’ll often see people just sitting and watching.
Queen Victoria Market
The Queen Victoria Market in the Melbourne CBD at the corners of Franklin and Swanston Streets is one of the largest outdoor markets in the Southern Hemisphere and a great place to see the variety of multicultural food on offer in Melbourne as well as purchase souvenirs, various leather goods, and knockoff sports jerseys. If you are in need of a great coffee, find the Market Lane Coffee stall in the deli hall! (By Elizabeth, read more on Compass and Fork).
Comedy @ Spleen*
If you’re up for some good old fashioned laughs and you happen to be in Melbourne on a Monday night, check out Spleen who have a free comedy show every week. They often get some pretty big names too so you might even get lucky. The show is free but they appreciate a gold coin.
Spencer Outlet Centre
Also known as DFO, this is a great place to grab a bargain for last season’s shoes, clothes, bags, etc. We always set aside a couple of hours because it is full of bargains. Admittedly some shops are still better than others ($200 shoes should not be in an outlet centre) but there is still plenty of value to be found.co
Best Places to eat in the Melbourne CBD
Huxtaburger is a Melbourne institution. With 2 locations in the City it shouldn’t be hard to find one relatively nearby. The burgers are simple, but done well and are true to the American style. They are some of the most highly rated in Melbourne, a fact which I can attest to, but is also validated by a #1 ranking of burger joints in Melbourne from Foursquare.
Chin Chin has a reputation as being one of the best Asian eats in Melbourne. That was the extent of my knowledge before going but I have to say, the food was sublime, as advertised. In a contemporary and casual atmosphere, the food was a classy composition of authentic Thai with a modern, Western twist. I ordered my favourite Thai dish: pad siew. The modern twist added braised wagyu beef and was I surprised that the flat noodles were actually rolled. The most surprising thing, though, was that the staff were completely caucasian (I mean, think of every Thai restaurant you’ve ever been to).
Hwaro Korean BBQ
While maybe not a true example of “Melbourne culture”, it is a great example of multicultural Melbourne, just one of the many authentic national cuisines you can find in the city. Your meal will be cooked on the barbecue at your table as the waiter/chef comes round periodically to check on it. A different kind of food experience and a delicious one at that too.
Grand Trailer Park Taverna
You may be forgiven for thinking that Grand Trailer Park Taverna is a trailer park, when in fact, it is not. It’s an American style burger joint but instead of the plain old vanilla tables and chairs, they’ve decked it out with booths styled into, you guessed it, art deco caravans. It’s a really unique concept and one that any burger aficionado should try.
Located in Chinatown, Dessert Story is great for some traditional Chinese Dessert. Don’t let that put you off though, the desserts will still hit the sweet spot and satisfy any post-dinner craving. I recommend the Mango snow ice. It’s exactly as it sounds.
Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar*
Pellegrini’s was one that kept popping up in my search for good guides to Melbourne. It boasts authentic Italian cuisine by an authentic Italian in a shop that hasn’t changed in decades. Unfortunately, time ran out for me to visit this trip, but I still wanted to include it because it sounded like a great spot for a coffee or a meal.
Naked for Satan
If you like Tapas and don’t mind a splurge, head for Naked for Satan on Brunswick Street. Highlights included the cheese and walnut croquettes, grilled prawn skewers, grilled octopus, beef tartare, and pumpkin ravioli. All top class. They take their name seriously took, with vintage photos of nudes (subtley) collaged over many of the walls. There’s a large bar downstairs with a bar menu but for restaurant food, take the lift to level 2. Most importantly, Happy hour is 6-8 with pints and vodka infusions for $6. The beer when I visited was Stone and Wood Cloud Catcher and Pacific Ale, both great drops.
Tapas at Naked for Satan
The Black Cat
The Black Cat is a small bar and great place to sink a few late night tinnies or cocktails. The DJ created the perfect atmosphere for the small bar and looked to be loving every minute of it. We sat on the eclectic mix of couches for hours chatting with new friends and old.
One of the best tap lists of craft beer I’ve ever seen resides at Forresters. If you’re not in the area it is worth the trek out to Collingwood, even if you go nowhere else. Settle in, spend the night and see how many badges you can get on Untappd.
My friends from Melbourne who love coffee chose this spot to take my wife and I when we visited. They had home made Nutella the day we were there so this just should give an indication on the type of establishment you’ve got.
Rose St Market*
I’ll be honest and say I didn’t make it to the market, but if your looking for a market near Brunswick Street and are into art and design, it sounds like you’ll enjoy stopping by.
More like, Gelato Amazing. On a hot day there will be nothing like a cold cup or cone of their creamy gelato. The flavours are as a creative and diverse as they are numerous.
Brother Burger and Marvellous Brew
I stumbled on this place while looking for burgers on Brunswick Street (thank you Foursquare!) It turned out to be a Godsend because not only were the burgers sensational, but the beer selection could not be faulted either.
Fitzroy Gardens/Cook’s Cottage*
This one I haven’t been to myself, but it kept popping up every time I found a small list of ‘to do’s’ for Melbourne so I figured why not add it in here too? The gardens are supposed to be beautiful and as is it named for Captain James Cook, captain of the First Fleet, it is somewhat historical.
Sir Charles is one of the largest coffee shops I’ve ever seen. We got a table out the front so didn’t really appreciate it until we went inside to look at the sweets (I’ll get to that). The tables seemed to just to go on and on. The coffee was excellent and as well as the usual breakfast and lunch fare they also have a wide variety of cakes and slices, though their signature is a mega cronut for $10: a croissant in the shape of a donut, the size of two, covered in icing and M&Ms. It looked like diabetes on a plate. We shared a small one and it was divine and it was surprisingly not sickening which made it even better.
I could probably dedicate a whole section to Lygon Street, simply because it is a street dedicated to restaurants. One of the best is Brunetti, especially if you like Italian and/or desserts (there’s actually many options for Italian on Lygon St), but I suggest you just walk down one side of the street when looking for dinner and pick somewhere that seems nice for the right price. It has everything. It is somewhat touristy but it’s a bit of an institution because of its variety.
A mainstay in any “Things to do in Melbourne list”. If you’re in St Kilda at least go have a walk around the park, even if you don’t go on any rides. As Australia’s oldest amusement park (built in 1912) it is very historic and certainly gives off the turn-of-the-century, Coney Island style vibes. Unfortunately, the prices don’t reflect this sentiment as a sixpence won’t get you very far. Good view from the roller coaster though.
St Kilda Beach
On a hot day, the St Kilda beach can be an easy and welcome retreat from the blistering city. And if you are there around dusk, keep an eye out for an army of fairy penguins making their way home after a hard day of fishing. It’s also one of the best places close to the city to take in the sunset so it’s a pretty great place to spend an afternoon.
Technically ‘The Taphouse’ is on Chapel Street, albeit at the very south, it is closer to St Kilda than the rest of the street. The Taphouse is another of the great craft beer halls of Melbourne. I’ve been to the Sydney Taphouse, the Melbourne Taphouse and the beer festival (GABS) they put on and seriously, these people know beer and know how to put together a tap list. It’s one of the most diverse tap lists you can imagine and is always rotating.
St Kilda Community Garden
I love St Kilda for the vibe and it’s foodie culture but I also love it for the Veg Out Community Garden. Located right in the heart of St Kilda, locals come here to tend to their vegetable gardens, their fruit trees and even their chickens. It’s located close to Luna Park, on the corner of Shakespeare Grove and Chaucer St, St Kilda. (By Kerri of Beer and Croissants)
Pink Lake is out of way and perfect for anyone who loves sights that are off the beaten track and decidedly weird. The Westgate Park area surrounding Pink Lake isn’t necessarily mind-blowing, after all, it’s located at a park next to a freeway. But if you like seeing the odd ball things a city has to offer, this is one of them. The Pink Lake is pretty cool and truly bizarre. A natural algae is to blame for its hot pinkness and you’ll surely get some cool shots here. (By Nina of Where in the World is Nina).
On your way back to Port Melbourne from the lake, take a look at Princes Pier. It might not look like much, but there are boards to read which entail the history of this pier. It was the sign of a new beginning for many immigrants during WW2. It’s humbling to think about, and yes, quite beautiful. The wooden stumps they left jetting out of the water is just another odd thing to add to your list.
Take the tram to the last stop in Port Melbourne, walk along the boardwalk and past Princes Pier for about 20-30 minutes until you get to Westgate Park for the Pink Lake. (By Nina of Where in the World is Nina).
Southbank and surrounds
If visiting Melbourne in January, you will not be able to avoid the Australia Open so you might as well get a ticket. For a cheap outside court ticket, you can wander around in the summer sun and soak in as much tennis action as you can handle. It’s a great way to hang out with friends, enjoy a few drinks and watch some of the world’s best go head to head. (By Jackson of Journey Era).
The Queen Victoria Gardens
On a beautiful day, the Queen Victoria Gardens are truly stunning! Whether you want to read a book, eat lunch or just enjoy the view, you can’t beat a relaxing afternoon here! (By Toni of Enchanted Serendipity).
Royal Botanic Gardens
Just out the city, the Botanic Gardens offer a tranquil escape from the constant eating that occurs under the watch of the skyscrapers. In that light, it’s the best spot in spitting distance of the city to get active and I couldn’t think of a prettier place to run.
Melbourne Botanic Gardens