Melbourne is the hippest city Australia has to offer – it is buzzing with entertainment opportunities that almost leave you clueless. Especially when it comes to nightlife Melbourne will keep you more than busy – the city is full of innovative bar concepts, talented mixologists creating one taste-explosion after another, a restaurant scene that will blow your mind, everything from stand-up-comedy to escape-the-room and tons of healthy hipster food all over the place. But this is not even it, leaving the booming CBD area you will find a completely different face of Melbourne with its surrounding beaches and districts. To make your experience perfect read our guide on our favorite Melbourne highlights.
We spent 10 days in Melbourne, our longest stay at one place during our 4-month Australia road trip – and to be honest, even this wasn’t enough time to explore it all. But that’s the beauty of it, this city just never gets boring – and it’s nice to know you can come back and make a whole new adventure of it. But anyhow, we took the exploration of Melbourne pretty serious and did a bunch of things we love to share with you.
Here are our top 12 Melbourne highlights you must not miss:
#1 of our Melbourne highlights
Do a bar crawl – or depending of how much you can drink in one night, do more than one
My husband loves good cocktails and innovative bars – while I am more a wine person his mission in Melbourne was clear: check out all the cool bars and taste as many cocktails as possible. And we weren’t disappointed – Melbourne’s bar scene is incredibly rich in options, quality and innovation. To be honest, it is not far away from what New York and Berlin has to offer. We share with you our favorites – but don’t miss to go on a crawl yourself and find yours. Certainly there is much more out there and Melbourne wouldn’t be Melbourne if there weren’t tons of new pop-ups by the time you get there.
Our bar favorites:
Berlin Bar, CBD: Berlin Bar in the CBD is a tribute to the times where Germany was still separated into East and West. They have two differently themed bar rooms representing a posh West Berlin and a communist-style East Berlin with old-school patterned wallpapers, Stalin pictures and old furniture. While the cocktails weren’t the best it is a great place alone for the cool and inventive style.
Eau de Vie, CBD: One of Melbourne’s speakeasy bars that takes you back to the prohibition era in the USA. Very well designed – they even have a hidden whiskey bar behind a bookshelf. Cocktails are great, the staff wasn’t very friendly but maybe he just had a bad day. Be aware that the bar doesn’t have a sign at the entrance – so you have to search for it.
The Everleigh, Fitzroy: Old-world style bar in Fitzroy with a talented bar tender – just tell him what you like and he will surprise you.
1806, CBD: Travel back in time when visiting this old-school cocktail bar with decor from the prohibition area. Choose a table on the upper level so you can watch the mixologists performing magic on their drinks.
Madame Brussels, CBD: It’s so tacky that it is cool again. Madame Brussels is a rooftop bar in an English garden party style. Perfect for mild summer nights.
Mamasita, CBD: Mexican-style cocktail bar with amazing food
#2 of our Melbourne highlights
Treat yourself to the amazing restaurant scene
Melbourne is almost exploding with dining options – it is really hard to make your picks and we were constantly bothered by the fear-of-missing-out feeling. When google-ing the best restaurants in Melbourne you always will come across the same top recommendations: Tipo 00, Osteria Ilaria & Chin-Chin. The thing is, they are fully booked already weeks in advance or you will find yourself standing in line for hours. No doubt, they are probably great restaurants – but travel time is too scarce, so we skipped them. To be honest, we didn’t regret it at all – there are so many great options and you won’t be disappointed.
So here is our list of favorite restaurants:
Sezar: Intimate place with modern, Middle Eastern food. Make sure you try a fair share of the starters, they are delicious. We went for a tasting menu with corresponding wines which blew our mind. Highly recommended.
Pascale Bar & Grill: This tasty steak restaurant within the QT hotel serves great meat and good wine in a hip atmosphere.
Red Spice Road: Don’t miss it if you fancy modern Asian cuisine. Also the interior is quite spectacular – you will be sitting under huge red latern.
#3 of our Melbourne highlights
Do a graffiti-walk
Melbourne wouldn’t be as cool without the countless graffiti walls spread throughout the entire city. They are everywhere, at some point you simply get used to them. But that would be a shame – lots of the graffitis are real pieces of art and worth a closer examination. Thus, don’t miss your perfect day activity – do a graffiti walk through the hidden laneways. Next to amazing sprayings you will also encounter corners and backstreets you wouldn’t otherwise – there is no better way to get to know a city. You can find several self-guided tours – just google it and follow the recommended trail (we did the one suggested by the Lonely Planet, but timeout.com is always a good address, too.)
#4 of our Melbourne highlights
Visit the colorful Brighton beach huts Followed by a beach-walk to St. Kilda
Melbourne has beautiful outer districts that lie right at the beach and have their little city centers themselves. A great day activity is to visit Brighton and enjoy some wave-jumping or sun-tanning at the beach, followed by a nice walk to St. Kilda. Brighton is famous for their little huts that are scattered along the beach shining in all kind of colors and make a perfect spot for some beach fun. From there it is only a 1.5 hour walk to St. Kilda – one of Melbourne’s most popular suburbs. The walk is nice and easy leading along the beach and a boardwalk, you will pass some cafes on the way that are just perfect for a little refreshment.
#5 of our Melbourne highlights
Enjoy St. Kilda – and don’t miss the penguins!
St. Kilda is very lively and seems also to be a loved destination for locals. We can understand why! There are nice beachfront restaurants and a cute hut called Little Blue you can reach via the jetty. Don’t miss to stop by and enjoy the sunrays while admiring the view on Melbourne’s skyline. To be honest, all of beach restaurants & bars are good selections for a pre-dinner drink or even dinner – it’s actually hard to choose, so we just had a row of drinks to try all of them.
The jetty is also the place you want to be right before dawn – as St. Kilda is the home to cute little penguins. After they spend their day fishing in the ocean they return home in the evening to find a spot for the night. It is heartwarming seeing those cute creatures speeding through the water like little torpedos – you will be surprised how fast they are.
Unfortunately, more and more tourists (that before went to Phillip Island island to see the penguins) seem to know abut this place and it is not an intimate experience anymore. Especially as lots of people do not respect the rules – you actually can get really close to the penguins but they ask you to not use a foto-flash. When we were there it was just disregarded by so many that we were wondering how long they will keep the experience open for watchers. Although it is touristy, it’s absolutely worth it and you will fall in love with the little creatures.
St. Kilda also has a little city center mainly taking place along the main Fitzroy Street and some side roads. We found one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in St. Kilda, named Radio Mexico. Really cool place with delicious, authentic food – they even offer Chilaquiles, a dish Mexicans usually have for breakfast. It sounds nasty and it is nasty – fried tortilla strips soaked in spicy green salsa, but it’s so worth a try. Don’t miss to stop by Milk The Cow, a fromagerie bar offering great wine flights along with suitable cheese. If you fancy some cocktails check out Love&Dysfunction and 29th apartment – for some great beer aim for Freddie Wimpoles or The Local Tabhouse.
#6 of our Melbourne highlights
Relax on the rooftop bars in Fitzroy
Fitzroy is probably the hippest district of Melbourne – it is home to the city’s creative scene, hipster crowds and alternative lifestyles. In this part of Melbourne’s inner district you will find yourself within an arty flair and lots of little boutiques and art shops. Although Fitzroy lies pretty close to the city center (walkable in 30-40 minutes) it is way more relaxed and uncrowded. Also the skyscrapers are mainly focused on the CBD so it feels more like a small town rather than a big city.
Fitzroy is famous for their many rooftop happenings – the hippest places you will find on top of the buildings, so keep your eyes open. Don’t miss Naked for Satan – one of the coolest rooftop bars Melbourne has to offer. You will also find lots of multiculti along the streets with great restaurants from all over the place. If you like Ethopian cuisine Nyala African Restaurant is your place – tasty!
#7 of our Melbourne highlights
Try homemade dumplings and dim sums in China Town
Yeah, China Towns pop up in every big city and it starts to get a bit boring. But, to be honest, it is incredible that a completely different world is just a stroll away and you can hop between China and Australia. So, if you fancy some Chinese food here is the tip for the best homemade dumplings and dim sums in town: HuTong Dumlping Bar. It is a tiny place with Chinese mamas standing behind a window folding one dumpling after another in careful manual work. They offer various versions, so make sure you come hungry and don’t miss to try Shao-long Bao – those dumplings are filled with soup and burst in your mouth when you bite. Also, we found the steamed version dumplings are our favorite, they typically offer pan fried, seared or steamed. It might be smart to reserve a table beforehand – we were lucky and still got a table but just some minutes after our arrival people started to line up in front of the door.
#8 of our Melbourne highlights
Visit at least one of Melbourne’s wine bars
I’m a real wine lover – strangely I’m not a wine connoisseur. So I’m a cheap date, I more or less like all kind of wine (except dessert wine maybe) which makes me easy to please. But this doesn’t change the fact that I really enjoy wine experiences and therefore Melbourne’s wine bars are more than perfect. They offer great wine from all over the world along with light snacks that perfectly can be consumed before a dinner – so, for us it is the perfect pre-dinner experience. Here are our favorites
City Wine Shop, CBD: A very rustic place that mustn’t be missed. Guests are seated along the bar or the huge wooden table with wine boxes piled around you. Also, you basically sit with all other guests and can chat if you like to. All in all a perfect experience with great staff, wine and tasty food.
Milk the Cow, St. Kilda: I mentioned the place already in #5 but it is so good it’s worth a second time. Milk The Cow is a fromagerie bar offering wine flights paired with the most suitable cheese. It is a little taste explosion. They are open til late – so might also be a great place for cheese dessert.
Kirk’s wine bar, CBD: We actually didn’t have the time to go there but we passed it. Looked great, might be a worthy place to visit. Let me know how it went!
#9 of our Melbourne highlights
Have a coffee or espresso in one of the tiny laneway streets
Along Melbourne’s laneways coffee shops and organic bistros are lined up next to smoothie squeezers and individual art stores. They are right in the middle of the CBD but somehow convey a very intimate feeling that doesn’t feel like the typical big-city-life.
The lanes are tiny but crowded with chairs from the coffee shops and bistros and it’s a simply a happy place – friends gather for a coffee, some businessmen work on their laptop having an espresso and bearded hipsters are all over the place exploring the shops.
We really enjoyed going there for a coffee and mingle with the locals. Don’t miss it, maybe combine it with the graffiti tour.
#10 of our Melbourne highlights
Challenge yourself to an escape-the-room-game
Not everyone likes tricky activities – but we do, and we are very competitive. There are lots of escape-the-room-games in Melbourne so it’s hard to choose. We went for TRAPT– it is a bar and an escape-the-room-game the same time. So the deal is to enter the room, solve it and then treat yourself to a drink at the bar to celebrate your victory.
#11 of our Melbourne highlights
Have a laugh at one of Melbourne’s comedy shows
Australians are happy people and quite serious drinkers – so they must be good comedians. We visited an improvisation comedy show in the European Bier Cafe. Pretty cool place – first floor restaurant, second floor theater, third floor toilets and upper floor rooftop bar. To be fair, Australian comedians cannot keep up with the British in our opinion, but it is still fun and it’s also a way to get to know a country’s culture and humor. If you have time, don’t miss this fun experience and have a nightcab afterwards on the rooftop bar.