Top 5 for Melbourne
- Take a city walking tour of the famous graffiti and street art.
- Check out the National Art Gallery of Victoria
- Go to the Fitzroy neighbourhood – for your lifetime dose of hipster culture.
- Laze away an afternoon in one of the city parks/gardens.
- Take in the plentiful food/drink scene J
Onto Melbourne – a totally different city on our whirlwind tour of Australia. Many people hail Melbourne as the artsy, funky, alternative place to be and be seen, and I have to say they’re right. There is an endless supply of street art, street musicians, unique bars, fusion restaurants, and a TON of different ethnic influences all mashed together into one. It’s a bit strange, a bit overwhelming, and a total blast. Once again, we got a smoking deal on a nice hotel (thank you Hotwire) – the Stamford Plaza Hotel, right downtown in the action. Our room was beautiful – with a kitchenette, a desk and sitting room, and a bathroom with gorgeous old marble tiles and old-fashioned brass taps. By the time we rolled in it was already dinnertime and a quick search got us to the highly recommended Cumulus Up – where we were seated by the bar and had great fun watching the chefs race around and plating the many plates flying out of the kitchen. After dinner meant another recommendation – Ginger Boy, an Asian fusion place in Chinatown, well known for good cocktails. And indeed, they were fabulous – and also $25 a pop. Alas, an artsy town does not mean cheaper prices.
The next morning was as promised, unbelievably hot. We decided to anyways walk over to Fitzroy, known for its boutique shopping, unique cafes and bakeries, and renowned hipster bars. I have to say this was one of the MOST hipster areas I’ve ever been – it was like there was a competition amongst locals to be more hipster than anyone else on the block. Same story for the cafes and shops – most advertising some combination of the latest trend- signature socks, handmade bags made from candy wrappers or rice bags, vegan muffins, paleo cakes, you name it.
We popped into several stores, mostly just to get a blast of air conditioning, and then found one of the destinations on our list – Naked for Satan. This bar had great reviews, and it’s definitely one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been into. We walked up three floors to the rooftop bar in the sunshine. Luckily today a large overhang was pulled down over the sweaty patrons, due to the sweltering 40 degree heat. Inside, the decoration is an odd mix of vintage grandmother-esque furniture – china cabinets, vanity tables, and upholstered armchairs, while the walls were panelled in dark wood and in some cases covered in graffiti art, as were the bartenders. We ordered each a local craft beer and some steak and pepper brochettes to snack on. So good. After resting up in the shade and drinking gallons of water, we ventured out again – and quickly were tempted into Little Creatures Brewery, a few blocks on. Cold beer just seemed so appropriate on such a hot day 😉 Again, we got some sampler-sized beers and ciders and sat in the blissful air conditioning. The brewery is set inside a vast warehouse building with chairs sat around low wood tables or high barrels. We sampled the truffle fries as well –salty and delicious. I am really starting to understand why joints that sell beer also sell salty snacks. We finished the afternoon with some shopping in the many hipster and boutique shops down the street from Little Creatures.
Side note: I cannot recommend enough the value in checking out Trip Advisor and Urban Spoon before going to a big city like Melbourne. There are SO many places to choose from and it’s great to have a fantastic experience by choosing the right places/things to do in your limited time.
That evening, based on another internet recommendation, we went to “Cookie” a restaurant whose name tells you absolutely nothing about the food. The street entrance is also extremely underwhelming. But Cookie is in fact one floor of a six-floor funky collection of restaurants and bars, each floor totally different from the last. Cookie is an Asian-fusion restaurant, oddly with waiters wearing something similar to ice-cream parlour employees and plates/dishes which look like something out of a German fairytale. Regardless of the strangeness, we had some fabulous Thai dishes and the staff were SO friendly. The place was completely packed and even with a reservation we had to sit at the bar for 30 minutes. So reso’s are recommended! Following dinner, we met a couple friends just up the stairs at the next bar – Mesa Verde. As I mentioned, a complete 180 degrees, it was a Mexican style bar with Mexican style drinks, food, and old Western movies playing on a big projector in one corner. Our friend proceeded to drag us to Section 8 – a bar so unbelievably hipster I barely lasted 20 minutes before walking home.
The next day my friend and I, with different sites in mind, separated and I walked through the Parliament gardens and Fitzroy gardens to see Captain Cook’s house. The gardens are beautiful and full of massive displays of tropical flowers – a novelty for a Canadian. Afterwards I proceeded to the National Gallery of Victoria, near Flinder’s Street Station, for a free tour of the most important permanent collections in the museum. I highly recommend the tour, the guide was very friendly, informative, and I learned much more about the pieces and the history than expected. Following the museum tour I decided to check out Movida, a tapas bar set on one of the graffiti-heavy side streets close to the museum.
On the last day, we toured around checking out the various famous pieces of street art scattered in the city. There are many, each as different from the last as you can imagine. I also checked out Queen Victoria Market – like an indoor farmers market with local purveyors selling their goods. Our final evening meant meeting up with another friend near our hotel for dinner. As the Bartender at GingerBoy put it, “there is not much to do in Melbourne besides eating and drinking”. While that’s not quite true, there was certainly a lot of edible and drinkable places around!