By Claire –
Melbourne is stylish, arty and cosmopolitan. Regarded as Australia’s ‘cultural capital’ the city of Melbourne is a melting pot of art, culture, coffee, fashion, food and nightlife – with boutique shops, chic laneway eateries, and rooftop bars. But if you want to really experience Melbourne, you need to live like the locals!
The best hangouts and haunts aren’t necessarily found in guidebooks, so we’ve compiled this handy ‘insider’s guide’ to Melbourne CBD – so you can discover the hippest sights, sounds, sips, food and drink this vibrant city has to offer!
- Street Art – Hosier Lane, Caledonian Lane, Union Lane and DeGraves Street
Weaving a maze through the city, Melbourne’s laneways are home to some of the world’s most spectacular street art. Renowned as the ‘Street Art Capital of the World’ the CBD boasts an extensive range of street art adorning alleyways all over the city. The large-scale multi-coloured artworks offer an insight into the Street Art subculture and represent Melbourne’s diverse art scene.
- Carlton Gardens & Royal Exhibition Building – 1-111 Carlton St, Carlton
These stunning gardens (situated on the edge of the CBD) complement the grey urban sprawl, with lush trees, shrubs, flowers, plants, lakes and a stunning fountain – along with the majestic Royal Exhibition Building, which offers a glimpse of 1880s Melbournian architecture. Take a stroll around the gardens, relax on the grass, and visit the nearby Melbourne Museum.
- Rooftop Bar & Cinema – 7/252 Swanston Street
Located smack-bang in the middle of the CBD, perched atop of Curtin House, is arguably one of the best rooftop bars in Melbourne. After ascending the gruelling seven flights of stairs you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the city, and a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a drink whilst watching the sunset. From December to March the bar transforms into an open-air cinema complete with deckchairs and a projector, and screens a diverse range of films.
If you love rooftop bars, we know you’ll like exploring Australia’s Best Rooftop Bars!
- Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club – 25 Bennett’s Lane
Tucked away in Bennett’s Lane is an iconic jazz club that’s been drawing in Jazz lovers for decades. With unpretentious décor and snacks and drinks available at the bar, the musicians are the main event – and perform daily at this Melbourne music institution. Jive to the smooth sounds of jazz from emerging and established groups whilst sipping a cocktail or a beer.
- Sydney Myer Music Bowl – Kings Domain, Lithgow Avenue
Offering free concerts throughout summer, ‘The Bowl’ is the best place to listen to live music whilst you picnic on the lush grass and soak up the sunshine. Bring your own food and drinks along and enjoy an affordable night out with family and friends whilst enjoying the spectacular sounds and watching the sun go down.
- The Comic’s Lounge – 26 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Located on the north of the CBD, this laughter-filled lounge is THE place to hear the biggest names in comedy, featuring comedians from your favourite radio and TV programmes 6 nights a week. Hear hilarious comic styles, which range from stand-up and improve to sketch and theatre – all in an enormous yet intimate venue with food and drinks available. Experience a bit of Vegas right here in Melbourne.
- Filter – 555 Collins Street
With post-modern perspex display boxes, white composite bench-tops and lime-washed timber, Filter is an ultra-cool café. The coffee is brewed by pourover, aeropress and plunger to produce Scandinavian style filter cups, and the food including smorrebread, dark rye bread, cured meats and pickled veggies really hit the spot during the morning rush.
- Brunetti – 314 Bourke Street
Brunetti has developed a cult-like following in Melbourne thanks to its fresh Vittoria coffee and traditional Italian-inspired cuisine including pasta, risotto, cakes, tarts, gelati, chocolates and biscotti. Located centrally on Swanston Street, Brunetti is a great place to stop off for lunch after a busy day of shopping or to grab a coffee any time of the day.
- Traveller – 2/14 Crossley St
This Melbourne morning hotspot features caramel coloured curves and laminate trim, and is one of Melbourne’s grooviest (and quite possibly tiniest) cafes. Serving Seven Seeds coffee, the small cafe offers coffee along with pastries and sweets to locals who love this joint. Insider Tip: The name Traveller is nowhere to be seen – so look for a sign showing a shoe.
- Movida – 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne
Opposite Federation Square you’ll find the Melbourne institution Movida. The wildly popular tapas bar serves a selection of small Spanish dishes, along with beer and wine, to the hungry masses who wait eagerly to be seated at the buzzing bar. Movida has the relaxed yet energetic vibe that is perfect for having a beer at the bar, before moving onto a table to enjoy a share plate of croqueta, Spanish anchovies, Jamon and a glass of wine.
- Ginger Boy – 27-29 Crossley Street
Offering a modern Australian take on Asian Hawker-style street food, Ginger Boy is favoured by locals in the know. With an energetic environment influenced by buzzing Asian marketplaces, the décor has a chic Shanghai Opium den vibe with red ambient light. Dine on small plates and larger shared plates, which pack a punch with delicious Asian flavours.
- Coda – 141 Flinders Lane
Nestled in a warehouse-style minimalist space underground, Coda is cool as hell. Serving up a diverse range of French-Vietnamese and modern-Australian cuisine, each dish is finished off with exceptional execution. You’ll need to book in advance if you want a table, but with the space split between sit-down restaurant and no-reservations bar, it’s the kind of place you can amble into any night of the week and grab a spot at the bar for a meal and a drink.
- Berlin Bar – Level 2/16 Corrs Lane
Hidden down a cobblestoned lane in China Town, this seriously cool bar is one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets (until now) – which is accessible only by ringing the doorbell and being admitted to the first-floor bar. The dimly-lit space is split into East and West Berlin lavishly decorated on one side and cold and grey on the other. With an intriguing selection of cocktails inspired by the respective sides, this is the perfect place for first dates.
- Section 8 – 27-29 Tattersalls Lane
This unassuming bar hidden in a hole cut out of a shipping container is one of Melbourne’s most permanent pop-up bars. It represents everything that the city is about – with wooden shipping palettes for seats, graffiti covered walls, and a relaxed beer garden vibe plonked in an empty parking lot. Grab an imported beer, cocktail or wine, enjoy the thumping beats and soak up the cool warehouse vibe.
- Supper Club & Sigloo – 161 Spring Street
Open later than most, The Supper Club is an after work hotspot for performers and hospitality types. Enter via an unmarked wooden door where you can relax on a Chesterfield couch with a glass of wine and a Cuban Cigar. Afterwards, ascend the stairs to Sigloo – set on the rooftop overlooking the illuminated Government House, and enjoy a cocktail with a view.
Now with all that insider info, you’ll be wandering the streets of urban Melbourne like a local and as all true Melburnians know, the best bars, cafes and clubs are always hidden away from sight, so get exploring!
Do you have an insider’s tip for Melbourne’s best hot spot? Share with us in the comments!