This was my very first trip to Australia, and my very first city within in. Everyone I knew that had been to Aus before told me that this place would be my favorite, so I decided to focus in here for my first trip down. Melbourne did not disappoint! There were seemingly countless options for food and drink, but we did our best to get to as many as possible. (And we had to take a full day off to partake in Melbourne Cup activities, of course—if you have the chance, plan your trip around this. It’s wild amounts of fun, all dressed up like a classy, grassy afternoon at the races.) Anyway, here’s what we found and what we loved. Might help map you to some of your own adventures when you find yourself down in this town.
Category: Best Rooftop
This place is in Fitzroy, officially my favorite area of the city. It looks less than exciting as you pass by, but go on in, head up the stairs to the back of the room and take the lift up to the rooftop. The panoramic view of the entire city will knock both your socks off. Don’t be deterred if you find yourself in a random city monsoon rain shower when you intended to go (as did we). The rain will likely let up shortly and you can pull up at a covered outdoor table until it subsides. (Oh, and be sure you click the above link and visit the website. It will surprise you.)
Right in the heart of CBD*, this place was jam packed on a Sunday (which we thought was a good sign). This was an eclectic, urban oasis, sitting under the Melbourne skyline—picture astroturf, varying levels, and cube stools that, at closer glance, was made to look like a giant Escape key like the one found on your keyboard. We didn’t catch anything on while we were there, but this place actually plays old movies regularly as well! I wish I had known that before so we could’ve made sure we hit one up. Another bonus: if this place doesn’t tickle your fancy, or you want to mix it up, there are two other places you can pop down to on levels below.
*CBD is what they call Melbourne City Centre.
To start with, let’s tell you where this place got it’s name. There was, back in the 1940s, a “madame” (female pimp) who had what were said to be “perfect” nipples… like brussel sprouts. (I know—cue all females rolling their eyes at the statement *perfect nipples*. I’m just passing on what I heard. From a man. Go figure.) This place is two floors of rooftop and features super kitschy decor and menu. You might wonder if it’s a gay bar if you Google it first. It’s not. It’s more like a dollhouse that serves cocktails and is frequented by any and all local patrons. It’s weird, and awesome, simultaneously.
I should also mention the Eureka building and the Melbourne Star would likely provide some of the most spectacular views… but unfortunately we didn’t hit either of them. So biz.
Category: Best Hidden Laneway Gem
We literally stumbled upon this place. When you’re passing the H&M (now that you cannot miss), heading down Little Bourke Street, you may notice a dark little alleyway. Do pass go. Do collect $200. This is a turn you’re going to want to make. We let our curiosity get the best of us, and we dipped into this covered alleyway full of tables and people and the first spot there grabbed our attention with it’s neon pink sign and the smells of hot Vietnamese food. The wine was average, but the food was outstanding and it was pretty cool to see personal photos and memorabilia from the owner’s family, while being served by him.
This is like a school yard for adults, but it’s in an alleyway in a big city. We actually came upon this on our way to another venue. Thirsty patrons sit with the barbwire fenced area on crates sipping beers and ciders, chatting, admiring the graffiti or enjoying the live DJ in the evenings. Or if you get a little antsy, grab a ball and shoot some hoops—because, yes, that’s a thing.
Category: Best Street Food
This an obvious one—Queen Victoria Markets wins with no competition. If you’re traveling to Melbourne, you’ve undoubtably heard about this attraction, and it truly is one not to be missed. In summer (Australia’s summer… opposite to Canada’s) it stays open every Wednesday night as well and we were lucky enough to hit it up on the first night! Bring some cash, do some shopping, sample as many food stalls as you can manage and the best news… they serve beer and wine! (Heaven.)
Category: Best Whiskey House In The Southern Hemisphere
This is a whiskey-lovers paradise. Offering over 700 different malt whiskies and an array of beers, the guys in here will let you sample until your heart’s content and you find the one that fits just right. And then, relax, sit and sip away. It’s dark and sexy and the perfect late night (or late afternoon, depending what time zone you’re on) watering hole. Not to be missed. Also, I noticed on their website afterwards that they have tastings on Thursdays, so if I were you, I’d plan around that!
Category: Best Secret Bar
Krista had heard about this one and I’m so thankful she did. This is a sexy little spot, with absolutely no signage, so not one you can really stumble upon. Insiders knowledge really comes in handy here… and now, we’ve passed it along to you! This bar is a little hard to walk into, so try to get reservations and once you’re in enjoy the dim lighting, the smooth music and the ultra crafty cocktail list. You’ll feel like a character in the show Mad Men.
Category: Best Brunch
This place takes the cake! Or the pancake I suppose. This way possibly the most memorable breakfast I’ve ever enjoyed in my life. I had an Ox Cheek Benedict (on delicious gluten-free bread, might I add) and Krista had a Duck Egg & Candied Bacon Waffle. Can you imagine that?! Seriously. There is no other word for this but MIND BLOWING. The vibe was wicked as well, super eclectic and laid back, with a view of a beautiful brick wall of graffiti from the window. Perfectly fitting.
We hit this lane up on our second day. Apparently this particular lane way is well known for it’s brunch. I must admit, I’m not sure we picked the very best of places here, but the good news is there are a tonne there to choose from—including a cute little French creperie with gluten-free delicacies (that I never made it back to, damnit). My suggestion: add this to your list of places to visit, find your favorite brunch spot and let me know about it!
In addition: Top Paddock was mentioned by many as one of the top brunch spots in town, but unfortunately, I didn’t make it there. Don’t let that stop you though. The reviews are phenomenal!
All in all, Melbourne is a city you can eat and drink your way through, easily and enjoyably. I’ve definitely gained 10lbs from all of it, but it was worth the effort it now takes to squeeze into my clothes.
Now, I’m sure I’ve missed more than a few of the best ones… what else do you recommend, seasoned Melbourne travellers?