Long, long ago, I moved to Melbourne, Australia for 6 months. Yes, okay, I was on exchange, but it felt like I moved my whole heart to another country. I loved every day of this journey, and fell head over heels in love with this magical city.
I had been dreaming about Australia since I was young, and I knew that I would move there, one day! The 6 months I spent there was nowhere near long enough, and I did cry into my chardonnay all the way home.
What I loved about my time there is that I truly lived. I left all my worries in California and sought a new life- one without stress and responsibilities. This time in my life was unlike any other, because I was simply free. I was free to make friends with absolutely everyone I came across. I was free to party until 5am and sleep until 3 the next day. I was free to explore a brand new country with people who were only temporary (or so I thought). Turns out, when you’re just living for you, life is pretty damn good.
Anyway, enough about my melodramatic study abroad experience (although if you do want to read about my adventures, I did document in a different blog!). While I was living in Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bun), I found some amazing places that I just HAVE to share. So, if you’re planning your trip to good ole Melby Melbs, you’re in luck!
Where to Stay
Melbourne is one of those places where you will want to be close to the city-center. There’s so much going on! I do recommend staying either in the CBD (Central Business District), or in one of the surrounding suburbs. The transit is incredibly easy to navigate, so staying near a tram in a suburb is definitely a good idea.
CBD- Obviously the priciest, but also close to a ton of cool bars (easy to walk home after a night on the town). I love the CBD, you can’t go wrong here. There are also a ton of great Airbnb’s that are on the less expensive side (and a lot of them have rooftop pools for some awesome reason).
Carlton/ Fitzroy/ Brunswick- If you’re planning to stay in one of the neighboring suburbs, I would choose one of these. They all have their own, cool vibes, and are very close to the CBD. Carlton is known for Little Italy, Fitzroy has some of the best shopping and brunch spots, and Brunswick is a haven for vintage shopping. You can’t go wrong with any of these spots!
St. Kilda/ Brighton- These are two of the “beach towns” you’ll often hear about. St. Kilda is a fun little hippie town, with an amusement park and shopping/restaurants close to the water. It can be beautiful in the summer months, and extremely cold in the winter. Brighton is gorgeous, but a little further away from the CBD. Brighton is known as one of the wealthier areas, and has a beautiful beach (you might recognize these fun huts- they’re at Brighton Beach!).
Honestly this is the most important part, right? Australia has some BOMB food, y’all. Melbourne is the city of brunch. Brunch will most likely be your main meal of the day (helllooooo home of Avocado Toast!), so plan accordingly.
7 Seeds- Wow, a must. One of the best brunch spots in town, and also one of the most creative. Everything here is amazing, so even if you don’t quite understand what you’re getting, you’ll probably love it anyway. They can get quite busy, so make sure you have some time to wait (maybe grab one of their famous Flat Whites while you wait!).
Hardware Societe- Another place with a wait, but so so worth it! This was always a treat when I lived here. Go, just go.
Chin Chin- A hip restaurant with Asian-Fusion food, Chin Chin will blow your mind. I’ve been three times, and every time I love it more than the last. Save up and go for the Chef’s Tasting ($80/pp)- your table will be flooded with delicious bites, perfectly curated for an incredible experience. Not a fan of a type of food? Tell them when you order and they’ll choose foods that suit your palette. Come HUNGRY. Save room for a yummy cocktail- they’re pretty original!
Hu Tong (Chinatown)- For the BEST dumplings of your life, check out Hu Tong. This three story dumpling lounge specializes in Xiao Long Bao, AKA soup dumplings (a must). I could eat here every day. I am a dumpling QUEEN! Do yourself a favor and also spring for the pan-fried dumpling. They are to die for. **Pro Tip** Order an extra portion of these to-go so you can eat them after a night out at the bars. You’re welcome.
The bar scene is a whole lotta fun and not to be missed! In a city of rooftop bars, be sure to spend at least one night out on the town.
Rooftop- One of the hottest bars in the CBD, Rooftop can be found at the top of a 7-level fun-house known as the Curtin House. Each level offers up a new world- from restaurants, to clubs, to the rooftop cinema. Grab some friends and head up to the 7th floor for some stellar views of the Melbourne skyline.
The Nightcat- Keen for some live music and dancing? One of my favorite spots to dance the night away is in Fitzroy. Wear some comfy shoes and get ready to boogie. Go on a Friday or Saturday night for live jazz or reggae, and be sure NOT to miss the bright pink toilets.
Naked for Satan- Another rooftop spot, and just across the street from The Nightcat, is Naked for Satan. This well-known rooftop lounge is the perfect spot for a drink and a glimpse of the Melbourne skyline.
Cherry Bar- Into old grungy rock n roll? Punk? Heavy dancing? This is your spot. I recommend going late on a Thursday night. There’s usually a $5-$10 cover on Thursday, but it’s worth it. This little spot on AC/DC Lane will transport you to the 60’s, and yes, they encourage dancing like crazy on the stage.
Asian Beer Cafe- Gotta throw this one in since I used to spend every Thursday here. Why Thursday? Besides being the absolute best night to go out (and rage) Asian Beer Cafe, also known as ABC, had ladies night on Thursdays. This meant $1 champagne. Oooooh boy does this bar get packed and wild. Only go if you’re ready to get down and dirty with some young 20-somethings. I guarantee a good time. Pro tip- sit out on the balcony for some good views and an even better time.
Things to Do
One of the reasons I love Melbourne is because there is always something to do. From wine tasting, to serene hot springs, they’ve got it all down in Victoria. Here are a few of my recommendations to ensure the best visit!
Mornington Hot Springs- Care to visit a beautiful peninsula outside the city and relax to your heart’s content? This is the spot for you. Spa lovers, rejoice! This maze of hot springs is the perfect way to spend a day. I would suggest renting a car, as this is about an hour drive outside of the city center. Give yourself the day to zen out and enjoy everything the hot springs has to offer.
Botanical Gardens/ Shrine of Remembrance- The city’s most beautiful, the botanical garden are breathtaking. Relax by one of the many small lakes, or take in the luxurious smells of Australia’s native plants. You can also find many plants and flower species from Asia, Australia’s neighboring continent. However, if you’re looking for one of the best city views, don’t miss the Shrine of Remembrance, located just next to the botanical gardens. Go right inside and climb up to the top for the best views.
Thrifting on Smith Street– Love to shop? If you love finding vintage treasures, then check out the shops on Smith Street in Fitzroy for some of the best thrifting in Melbourne! Plus, they have some super cute brunch/lunch spots, so taking breaks to ‘rest your feet’ will come easy.
Yarra Valley Wine Tastings- Raise your hand if you knew that Melbourne has a wine country comparable to Napa. If you didn’t know, yes, the wine country just 30 minutes outside of Melbourne is to die for. The wine is delish, and the prices are low since this area hasn’t gotten crazy touristy (yet). Plan to hop between wineries and enjoy $5 tastings!! I know, $5! Just make sure you have a reliable DD 😉
Great Ocean Road– One of my favorite parts of the world, this breathtaking drive will knock your socks off. Rent a car, either for one or two days, and start your drive. The first time I did this was in one day. We were exhausted. The second time, we stayed in Port Campbell overnight, and it was relaxing to have the extra time. Both can be done, so totally up to you and your budget! Here’s your plan:
Leave early and put “Great Ocean Road” into your GPS. About an hour outside the city, you will finally be on the road. From there you really can’t get lost! So go at your own pace and explore. Make a ton of stops and take your pictures, but remember, it only get’s more beautiful as you keep driving! Everyone will tell you which stops are best, but I only have three that I think should be mandatory, and the rest should just be an adventure.
The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and Lorne. Lorne is about the halfway point, and is the perfect place to stop for lunch. This gorgeous spot is an adorable aussie town right on the beach. The water is so blue that you won’t believe your eyes. Stop and stay a while! The Twelve Apostles is the most famous point along the road, and is not to be missed. Loch Ard Gorge is breathtaking. Be sure to go down to the beach to see the gorge and play in the sand.
Sunday Shopping at Queen Vic’s- Queen Victoria Market might just be the best market in the world. Fight me. When I was living in Melbourne, I used to go shopping at the market twice a week- on Sunday and Tuesday. These are the best days to go since the market is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays, bringing the prices on perishables down quite a bit.
The market has 4 main areas: Meat and fish, pre-made foods, veggie and fruits, and souvenirs/ specialty shops. The market is huge, and all-encompassing. So come to eat, or shop, but either way, give yourself a good amount of time to work your way through and experience the hustle and bustle.