A Sydneysider’s guide to Melbourne

Flinders Street Station Melbourne.
Flinders Street Station Melbourne.

Melbourne has been voted the most liveable city five years running, meaning if you haven’t visited, now is the time!

Ah, Melbourne. A cultural, hipster café hub, free from lockout laws, and teeming with art and potential for a weekend away. So my main BFFs and I booked a Tiger Airways return flight from Sydney for $160, to spend some time eating and exploring in the world’s most liveable city.

If you’re keen to do the same, take advantage of the long weekend coming up and read this guide for an unforgettable holiday.

Where to stay

If you’re after something fancy, the Park Hyatt Melbourne was ranked the second best hotel in Australia and New Zealand. The 5-star Park Hyatt is located in East Melbourne, and has a pool, spa, sauna, gym AND tennis court. Wow. The catch? It’s around $900 a night.

On a budget? There are a tonne of backpacker hostels around the city and surrounding suburbs; some, like Urban Central, start from $25 a night.

If you’re after something mid-range, there are plenty of hotels to choose from – or you could do what we did and stay in an Airbnb apartment, which allowed us to cook our own meals and pretend we actually lived in Melbourne.

Where to eat

So you’re not going to get a table at world-renowned Heston Blumenthal’s Blue Duck restaurant in Crown Casino, but it’s OK – there are plenty of other options to satisfy your inner foodie.

Chin Chin is a South-East Asian hawker-style restaurant nestled in the well-known Flinders Lane, and is well worth the hype. It’s known for using the freshest ingredients and for its creative dishes. If you’re feeling brave, let the wait staff do your ordering for you. You won’t be disappointed.

Vue De Monde, located on level 55 of the city’s iconic Rialto building, is an eating experience like no other – it scored a whopping 18/20 in Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide and was this year’s Reader’s Choice winner. A meal here is not cheap, but the presentation and flavours created are exceptional.

For a sweet treat, Butterbing Cookies are where it’s at. These sweet babies are sold at over 50 locations around Melbourne, and are worth the scavenger hunt.

For cheaper street-style food, there are stacks of food trucks around the city, selling everything from ice cream sandwiches (My Two Mums) to superfood juices (Blendco) to the good old fashioned hang-over cure (Dude Food Man). Once again, Melbourne caters to everyone.

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Where to drink

You won’t realise how dead Sydney nightlife is until you experience Melbourne after dark. From hipster bars to clubs that don’t close until the early hours of the morning, Melbourne’s got you sorted for a party.

The Gin Palace is a classy joint with an old-world feel. They serve cocktails, as well as more types of gin than you ever knew existed. Don’t worry, the super knowledgable staff really know their stuff. A more expensive cocktail here will set you back $24, but is wicked good and pumped full of alcohol, so you might as well settle into the deep-set couches.

Campari House is a low-key rooftop bar and restaurant in Central Melbourne. They serve fresh cocktail jugs (either Pimms, mojito or sangria) for $35. It has a small, outdoor setting, so finding a table can be tricky. But it’s worth hanging around because the pizzas are epic. Try the Italian Sausage if you’re not on a diet (or even if you are – this can’t be missed).

Union Electric is an adorable little bar in Melbourne’s CBD, serving creative cocktails, craft beers and more. If you need food everywhere you go like me, they serve Asian style dishes for you to munch on. Hip-hop music provides a chilled out vibe.

If bars aren’t your thing and you just want to dance the night away, The Emerson spreads out across three levels, featuring a cocktail bar, lounge and rooftop, and of course, a dance floor! This club was also voted “nightclub of the year” in 2014 and 2015. Located in South Yarra, this place always has some sort of party going down.

What to do and see

Visit St Kilda Beach and Pier: The beach (while arguably not as good as Sydney’s world-famous Bondi) provides excellent conditions for swimming, and a great view of the sunset. You can walk to the end of the pier around dusk, and watch penguins coming in from the sea. From there, visit Acland Street. This is one of the main streets for shopping, eating, drinking and everything else in between. They also have a large number of cake shops (hint: the more cakes on display, the worse they seemed to taste) for your nutella donut/macaroon/cheesecake fix. For a more substantial meal (not that you can’t eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner) Abbey Road Café has monstrous meals from nachos to Italian, and transforms into a bar with live music for nighttime.

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Find bargains in Brunswick: This is the Newtown of Melbourne. Vintage style shops and the biggest Vinnies I’ve ever seen on Sydney Road, as well as some killer hipster cafes, makes this suburb one to put on your list. If you’re into markets, Queen Victoria Market is a huge, Paddy’s Market-style destination, and has something for everyone. Make sure you don’t go on a Monday or Wednesday though, as it’s closed.

Drink coffee! Melbournians love to claim they make the country’s best coffee. If you’re into your java, The Green Refectory, also on Sydney Road, has some of the best coffee in Brunswick (according to Timeout, anyway). Pair it with their Big Breakfast, which comes with the best haloumi I’ve ever had (and I love haloumi).

Wander the laneways: Aside from coffee, Melbourne’s got a reputation for laneways. Hosier Lane is near Flinders Street Station, and an absolute must if its your first time in Melbourne. The graffiti never fails to impress and is a must-add to your Instagram portfolio.

See art: the ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) hosts a range of digital art events, and always has something on that will spike your interest. Otherwise, take in the Andy Warhol exhibition at The National Gallery of Victoria until the end of April.

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Get a bird’s-eye view of the city: The Skydeck is an obvious choice for one of the best views of the city, and a ticket is surprisingly inexpensive at $19.50 (adult). Otherwise, perch yourself on a bar stool at one of the many rooftop bars. Aside from the aforementioned Campari House, you can try Chignon for tasty Mexican and tequila shots, or Siglo for a view of old Melbourne.

So there you have it. Less than two hours away by plane resides a mecca of shopping, food and culture. Go see for yourself why Melbourne truly is the world’s most liveable city. – Story and photos by Lauren Croft