Located on the leafy banks of the Yarra River, Australia’s second city is a place of contradictions and hidden charms. It is at the same time cosmopolitan and suburban, cultivated and football crazy, conservative and a haven for the avant-garde. Visitors come for its shopping, restaurants, cafés and nightlife.
Where to stay in Melbourne
CROWN TOWERS HOTEL
8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne (00 61 3 9292 6868; www.crowntowers.com.au). Expensive but salubrious large, multistorey building next to the casino. All 482 rooms have city or bay views and plasma televisions. The shops downstairs in the Crown Entertainment Complex include Versace, Prada, Burberry and Louis Vuitton. £££
26 Flinders Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9668 1111; www.hotellindrum.com.au). Built in a former pool hall, named after player Walter Lindrum, this 59-room red-brick boutique hotel is clean-lined, spacious and slick. Clubby rooms are plush, with mood lighting, and all the usual extras, plus free in-house movies and CD menus. Deluxe rooms have amazing bay or high arched windows overlooking Melbourne Park, the Botanic Gardens and the Cricket Grounds. £££
25 Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9653 0000; www.sofitelmelbourne.com.au). More sedately priced, but still with five stars, this sits at the ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street and, if you squint a bit, this nice part of town may just look like the grande dame herself. Smart, well-equipped rooms and particularly good for business travellers. The Club Sofitel rooms are located on levels 48 and 49, with views of either the park, gardens and cityscapes or Port Phillip Bay, Southbank or the Yarra River. Guests staying in Club rooms receive fresh flowers daily, complimentary water and clothes pressing. Plus, private check in, daily continental breakfast and evening drinks. ££
1 Parliament Square, Melbourne (00 61 3 9224 1234; melbourne.park.hyatt.com). The 240-room Park Hyatt is on Fitzroy Gardens, also opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral and near the Central Business District. The building is a modern block, and has big rooms, many with a balcony. Even the most modest rooms (the Park King or Twin) are 500-square feet in size with deep soaking tubs and marble bathrooms, enormous walk-in wardrobes and, in some, working fireplaces. There is a spa on the ninth floor, a tennis court, plus a gym with saunas and a 25-metre pool in a colonnaded hall. Downstairs there is a cigar lounge and the stylish, open-kitchen restaurant radii (see Where to eat). £££
THE ADELPHI HOTEL
187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (00 61 3 808 8888; www.adelphi.com.au). Ever dreamt you were swimming through the sky? You can in Melbourne. The Adelph’s rooftop pool, on the ninth-floor of this converted warehouse building, has an overhanging Perspex floor, letting you look down on the people wandering along Flinders Lane below. £££
One Southgate Avenue, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (00 61 3 8696 8888; www.langhamhotels.com). A sister to the London hotel, this elegant property overlooks the Yarra River from the Southbank Promenade and is within walking distance of numerous shops and cafés. The 387 bedrooms are traditionally furnished and have marble bathrooms. The Melba brasserie has themed cooking stations ranging from tandoori to chilled seafood, and guests are encouraged to interact with the chefs. The Chuan Spa is one of the best in Melbourne. ££££
THE LYALL HOTEL
14 Murphy Street, South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria (00 61 3 9868 8222; www.thelyall.com). The 40-suite Lyall Hotel is in South Yarra, a fashionable neighbourhood of boutiques and restaurants (particularly on nearby Toorak Road). The decor is contemporary Oriental with opulent fabrics in neutral and earth tones, original artwork and hand-made furniture. You can breakfast at Bistro Lyall, which is transformed into a Champagne bar at night, relax at the Retreat spa and work out in the gym, while those who must are whisked to work by courtesy limousine. £££
THE MANSION HOTEL
Werribee Park, K Road, Werribee, Victoria 3030 (00 61 3 9731 4000; www.mansionhotel.com.au). Sweeping views of heritage-listed gardens and the winery and polo field just metres away make it hard to believe that the Mansion Hotel is just 30 minutes’ drive from the heart of Melbourne’s central business district. Opened in June 2000, the 92-room Mansion occupies the former St Joseph’s seminary wing of the historic Werribee Park Mansion. While popular with conference organisers for its rural outlook, the Mansion Hotel is a perfect retreat for couples or even families: there is a relaxing spa area, a gorgeous 17-metre indoor pool, and an open-air zoo and golf course next door. £££
THE PRINCE HOTEL
Prince of Wales Complex, 2 Acland Street, St. Kilda, Melbourne (00 61 3 9536 1111; Where to Eat), there’s the vodka bar Mink, a café, a bakery (Il Fornaio) and a bottle shop. £££
103-115 Spring Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (00 61 3 9633 6000; www.thewindsor.com.au). One of Australia’s last grand hotels and a member of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. Close to the Treasury Gardens and Princess Theatre, this 180-room landmark hotel evokes Victorian elegance while providing all the modern comforts you would expect, including a 12-choice pillow menu. ££££
Where to eat out in Melbourne
BAR LOURINHA 37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9663 7890; www.barlourinha.com.au). Bar Lourinha, close to the theatre district, is so laid-back that only a sign in the window lets you know that you have arrived. The interior is reminiscent of tapas bars in San Sebastian, northern Spain, with an L-shaped bar, two long high tables each seating about 10 and an open view into the kitchen. A serious range of wines by the glass is complemented by a great menu of dishes including enormous local mussels steamed with chilli. Vegetarian options, such as spiced chick-pea and spinach, are available. BECCO 11-25 Crossley Street, Melbourne (00 613 9663 3000; www.becco.com.au). This used to be an Italian restaurant called Pellegrini’s, which has been here since the late 1950s. The front coffee bar still exists, but the restaurant at the back, which had red and white checked tablecloths, has been replaced by an equally good Italian, Becco. The quality of the service and food is amazing. They have Wagyu Scotch fillet steak, plus scallopine with Prosciutto, tomato and buffalo mozzarella. THE BOTANICAL 169 Domain Road, Melbourne (00 61 3 9820 7888; www.thebotanical.com.au). This sleek, hyper-cool brasserie – decorated in granite, stainless steel, mirror and glass – with fireplaces for winter and a terrace for summer, is the backdrop for British-born chef Paul Wilson’s Mediterranean fusion food. There is an open kitchen and grill, producing dishes such as poached and truffle-crusted Hapuka fillet, dry aged pasture fed black angus sirloin, a selection of A-grade oysters and even a terrific breakfast (it opens at 7 am Monday-Friday, and 8am Saturday-Sunday). Wines are excellent. CAFÉ DI STASIO 31 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne (00 61 3 9525 3999; www.distasio.com.au). The best Italian restaurant in Melbourne, positioned just back from the bay. The view is great, the food sublime and the wine list far too tempting. CAFÉ RACER 15 Marine Parade, St Kilda, Melbourne (00 61 3 9534 9988). Near the bay at St Kilda. Serves excellent coffee and decent café fodder. It is easily recognised by all the Ducati motorbikes parked out the front. Closed in the evenings. CAFÉ SEGOVIA 33 Block Place, Melbourne (00 61 3 9650 2373). Mixes good meals with very good people-watching and decent wines by the glass. Closed Sunday evenings. COOKIE 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9663 7660; http://cookie.melbourneaustralia.com.au). This stylish, central restaurant has a remarkable amount of kitsch-yet-hip decoration, while the menu includes Thai food and 25 different Belgian beers.
DONOVANS 40 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda, Melbourne (00 61 3 9534 8221; www.donovanshouse.com.au). Also has great vistas – and a smart Californian beach house feel.
GROSSI FLORENTINO 80 Bourke Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9662 1811; www.grossiflorentino.com) Classic Italian cellar bar and grill.
HAIRY CANARY 212 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9654 2471; www.hairycanaryrestaurant.com.au). This is part-bar, part-café, the food has an Iberian influence, and the crowd is generally very groovy and boisterous. Impressive cocktails. Kids eat free Monday-Friday.
MoVIDA 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne (00 61 3 9663 3038; www.movida.com.au). MoVida has a bar but the real draw is the attractive dining room decorated with a colourful collection of Spanish film posters. MoVida’s menu is more comprehensive, too, with substantial main courses, tapas and a range of desserts written invitingly on a large blackboard above the open kitchen. In November 2009, MoVida opened two new restaurants, both at 500 Bourke Street, Melbourne. MoVida Terraza offers snacky dishes and a bar atmosphere, whereas MoVida Aqui serves fine Spanish cuisine similar to the original restaurant.
RADII Park Hyatt hotel, 1 Parliament Square, Melbourne (00 61 3 9224 1234; www.radiirestaurant.com.au; see Where to Stay). Designed as a thirties cruise ship, complete with little chrome-railed balconies and staircases and illuminated crackled-glass pillars, this restaurant and bar serves good Mediterranean and modern Australian fusion food. High Tea is also available. Expensive.
RICHMOND HILL CAFE & LARDER 48-50 Bridge Road, Richmond, Melbourne (00 61 3 9421 2808; www.rhcl.com.au). Housed in an airy Victorian building, this café and shop was previously owned by Australia’s answer to Delia Smith and is good for breakfast/brunch (it opens at 8.30am daily). Serves amazing fry-ups. Food is Mediterranean-inspired. The adjoining shop sells local and imported cheese in the Cheese Room, plus, olive oils, local wine vinegars, pasta, bread and locally-made chocolates.
THE BRASSERIE BY PHILIPPE MOUCHEL 8 Whiteman St. Southbank, Melbourne (00 61 3 9292 7808; www.thebrasserieatcrown.com.au). This popular brasserie on the river opened in 2004 and is all about comfort food: pan-seared scallops, steak tartar and a range of sumptuous country terrines.
FLOWER DRUM 17 Market Lane, Chinatown, Melbourne (00 61 3 9662 3655;www.flower-drum.com). Considered by many to be the best Chinese restaurant in the Southern Hemisphere. The service is amazing and the Peking duck pancakes are the stuff of local legend. Great for an occasion. Closed Sunday lunch. STOKEHOUSE 30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda, Melbourne (00 61 3 9525 5555; www.stokehouse.com.au). Right on the beach in St Kilda. For beautiful views over Port Phillip Bay and the city skyline have lunch upstairs on the balcony. Great seafood, including fresh oysters and grilled prawns. The wood-fired pizzas downstairs are also magnificent. TAXI DINING ROOM Level 1, Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne (00 61 3 9654 8808; www.transporthotel.com.au). This eclectic spot, located squarely in the middle of the futuristic Federation Square, specialises in contemporary cuisine by executive chef Michael Lambie, who has worked with Marco Pierre White in London. Designed by Peter Maddison Architects, glossy Pirelli black and orange rubber flooring provides the runway to the dining room, kitchen and tatami room. The main room overlooks St Kilda road and Southbank. VUE DE MONDE 430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9691 3888; <a target=”_blank”>www.vuedemonde.com.au</a>). Located in the historic 1883 Normanby Chambers building, this exemplary restaurant, voted Restaurant Of The Year by Australian Gourmet Traveller, specialises in modern French at its finest. Highlights include classically inspired Perigord truffle risotto. The Menu Gourmand includes a vast array of dishes, with matching wines for each course organised by the sommelier.
The best nightlife in Melbourne
BOND LOUNGE BAR 24 Bond Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9629 9844; www.bondbar.com.au). Named after the street it’s in, this is a multi-roomed, chocolate and cream-coloured space with a powder room, dance floor, ‘kitchen’ and a cellar specialising in cognac, single malt whiskies and fine wine. Can accommodate up to 500 people. CHAISE LOUNGE 105 Queen Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9670 6120; www.chaiselounge.com.au). Award-winning basement bar in Queen Street which serves great cocktails. The atmosphere is intimate and sumptuous: think candles, candelabras, antique chairs and couches. Lighting is low and there are beaded curtains dividing the various sections. Try the Grand Passion: a mix of Grand Marnier, gin, ruby red grapefruit juice and sugar syrup. HAIRY CANARY 212 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9654 2471; www.hairycanary.com.au). This is part-bar, part-café, the food has an Iberian influence, and the crowd is generally very groovy and boisterous. Impressive cocktails. MINK Prince of Wales Hotel, 2b Acland Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9536 1111; www.theprince.com.au). This cool cellar bar specialises in vodka – with a whopping 43 on its list it’s no surprise that this appeals to a discerning drinker. REVOLVER 229 Chapel St, Prahran, Melbourne (00 61 3 9521 5985; www.revolverupstairs.com.au). A cavernous New York-style warehouse space with DJs and bands, a pool parlour, pinball and a restaurant.
Where to shop in Melbourne
The shopping heart is based around Bourke Street pedestrian mall. The best clothes stores can be found at the top end of Collins Street, near the Hotel Sofitel; along Chapel Street near the intersection with Toorak Road (take tram Number 8 from the city); and, for big spenders, the Casino at Greville Street (off Chapel Street) offers some of the best labels in town, if you’re young and thin enough to want them. ALANNAH HILL Melbourne Central, Level 2 300 Lonsdale Street (00 61 3 9639 6399; www.alannahhill.com.au) Flirty fashions from an ex-circus girl. MECCA COSMETICA Myer Bourke Street and 150 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 39661 3274; www.meccacosmetica.com.au) Mecca Cosmetica stocks what may be the most comprehensive selection of cosmetics in the world. Brands include Philosophy, Shu Uemura, Fresh, Kiehl’s, Nars, Make Up For Ever, Stila and selected products from the Melbourne brand Aesop (one of Madonna’s favourites). Tester tables and make-up booths encourage experimentation. MISS LOUISE 205 Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 9654 7730; www.misslouise.com.au). Miss Louise is the store for accessories in Melbourne, attracting style-seeking visitors such as Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Venus Williams. Labels include Pucci, Versace, Fendi and Jimmy Choo. SCANLAN & THEODORE Little Collins Street, Melbourne (00 61 3 96506195; www.scanlantheodore.com.au). Sells pretty, feminine pieces, and is probably Melbourne woman’s favourite label, producing hugely wearable staples such as lamb’s-wool knits, well-cut trousers and beaded dresses. Its flagship store is a shrine to minimalism, decorated with flourishes such as bronze shantung curtains.
The best way to get around Melbourne
Orientation is fairly easy as all roads run on a grid pattern. Trams trundle all round the city. City Circle trams, notable by their brown carriages, are free, and operate during daylight hours around the outskirts of the city centre. All other trams have coin-only operated ticket machines; locals are used to explaining to visitors how they work. The cheapest option for making a number of trips in a day or week is to buy a daily or weekly ticket, available at train stations and newsagents, but curiously not on trams. These tickets will give you unlimited travel (within the sector you pay for) on all trams, buses and trains. A section-one ticket is more than enough for most travel that visitors will undertake. Two-hour tickets are available on trams, and inspectors check tickets regularly. If driving in Melbourne you ought to know that, in the city centre, certain roads are right turn from the left lane only. These will be marked with a sign that looks like a backwards question mark. Outside the city, cars must stop behind trams dropping off or picking up passengers on most routes. It pays to be wary of trams: watch what the locals are doing. When walking around town, it’s also worth noting that Melbourne folk tend to wait for green pedestrian lights more than elsewhere in the country, due to the zealous nature of some local constabulary with regards to a certain jay-walking law.
The best things to do near Melbourne
There are two very good wine regions about an hour-and-a-half out of town, both worth a visit if you have the time: the Yarra Valley (very good Chardonnay and decent Pinot Noir) and Mornington Peninsula (outstanding Pinot Noir). Many companies, such as Yarra Valley Winery Tours (00 61 3 5962 3870; www.yarravalleywinerytours.com.au), offer personalised visits with a pick-up service from your accommodation in the city. Really early risers may want to take a balloon flight over the Yarra Valley, culminating in a sparkling-wine breakfast and vineyard visit (try Go Wild Ballooning, 00 61 3 9739 0772; www.gowildballooning.com.au).
Tourist information for Melbourne
Vistor information centres are dotted across Melbourne, visit www.visitvictoria.com to find out the nearest one to where you’ll be.