Luxury Escapes Guide to Melbourne CBD
From hatted restaurants to family-run cafés, bustling main streets to creative laneways – the colourful canvas of Melbourne’s CBD is a multicultural empire.
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Discover Melbourne CBD
Things to see and do
Take a Gin Masterclass at Little Lon Distilling Co
Secure a seat at Little Lon’s Gin Masterclass and go behind the scenes of the distillery’s exciting history and characterful gins. Influenced by the colourful debauchery of Melbourne’s Prohibition era, Little Lon’s historic heritage-listed cottage (and former gangster haunt) plays host to a true Melbourne tasting experience. Uncover the secret behind the flavoursome botanicals of each bespoke tipple while sampling a selection of small batch, twice distilled Melbourne gins – handcrafted using the finest local ingredients from the neighbours’ front yards. Keep the spirit alive with a cocktail (or two) of your choice and cheers to your new-found gintellectualism.
See the city with a local lens
Dive into the depths of Melbourne culture with a resident expert on Urban Adventures’ Bites & Sights tour. Kick-start on a high at Eureka Skydeck and snap skyline vistas from the 88-storey observation deck. Get a lesson in the local obsession and use coffee lingo to order a barista-brewed flat white, then weave through the warren of graffiti-lined laneways for an education in the city’s street-art movement. Hear about the wave of migrants that founded Melbourne’s multicultural food scene over a hearty sample of your guide’s favourite dish, then ride the tram to the iconic Queen Vic Market and let loose on the local produce. Arrive a tourist, depart a Melburnian.
Indulge in some retail therapy
Increase your overdraft – Melbourne’s passion for fashion is serious business. Main streets are linked by secret laneways revealing myriad Melbourne designers, while international retail giants dominate bustling malls. Discover vintage treasures tucked inside the historic Block Arcade, then rest up with a croissant at the charming Agathé Pâtisserie Petite. Weave through tourists on a souvenir spree along Swanston then make a beeline for Bourke Streets’ big department stores. Browse through the boujee boutiques at upscale Emporium then catwalk across to Melbourne Central, a five-storey retail atrium housing a heritage-listed shot tower. With endless shops to throw a credit card at, the CBD has your retail therapy covered.
Follow the Capital City Trail on two wheels
Take to two wheels around the Capital City Trail and view Melbourne’s ever-changing landscape from a front-row seat. The 30km loop of dedicated bike path takes you through stunning Aussie bush without venturing out of the city. With bicycle hire available all over the city, you can go retro with a Dutch-style city cruiser or get a boost with the latest e-bike. Begin east along the Eucalypt-lined Yarra River before winding north to Abbotsford Convent and the serene Merri Creek. Stock up on picnic supplies at Fitzroy’s Piedimonte’s before zooming through the west’s Royal Park (listen out for the lions at Melbourne Zoo!). Finish in bustling Docklands for a well-earned drink at The General Assembly.
Hunt down the city’s world-famous street art
Melbourne is a mecca for graffiti artists, an urban art gallery dripping with culture, fresh paint and ideas. Lose yourself in its lacquered laneways and explore the explosion of expressive art that saturates the city streets: take in a visual story with a freshly brewed coffee along Degraves Street, capture the elaborate caricatures of Caledonian Lane and catch aerosols in action along the ever-changing canvas of Hosier Lane, where art and activism collide. Don’t miss AC/DC Lane, where the city’s passion for music erupts across the stencil-stained walls. Afterwards, pop into legendary live venue Cherry Bar for cocktails and rock‘n’roll.
Crack up at the annual Comedy Festival
Book yourself in for a barrel of laughs at the annual Melbourne International Comedy Festival. From eccentric jokers to deadpan duos, comedians flock to perform at the city’s hottest venues or to catch their break in a backstreet basement as Melbourne hosts over 600 shows of witty stand-up, musical ditties, satirical parodies and more. Secure seats for big-ticket stars in advance, then go with the flow and fill in the gaps with up-and-coming comics on the night. Can’t decide? Attend a line-up show for a taste of the talent – there’s something for everyone. The punchline? You can get tickets for as little as $30.
Cheer from the sidelines at a sporting event
Cheer on Australian athletes year-round in sports-mad Melbourne. Applaud the horses in your Sunday best at the prestigious Melbourne Cup, enjoy on and off-track action at the Formula One Grand Prix, and join 100,000 cricket fans at the iconic MCG for the annual Boxing Day Test match. Throughout winter, be sure to secure seats at a live AFL game or treat yourself to October’s sought-after Grand Final tickets. Summer rallies international tennis stars for the Australian Open – grab ground passes and enjoy a day on the outdoor courts or kick back on the grass with an Aperol Spritz. Melbourne’s next sporting event is always around the corner.
Watch talented artists perform a show at Her Majesty’s Theatre
Book tickets to your favourite show at esteemed Melbourne icon Her Majesty’s Theatre. Playing centre-stage to big-name musicals, comedians, operas and more, this prestigious venue has been entertaining Australians since 1886. Step through the palatial entrance into a timeless 1920’s Art Deco auditorium with a grand orchestral pit and stalls embellished in rich crimson and gold – a glamourous setting where 1,700 seats feel impossibly intimate. Have every whim catered to away from the crowds in the Director’s Box, an exclusive pre-show and interval oasis with private bar and canapés, then settle into plush velvet seats amid the glitter of fading lights and let the show begin.
Top places to eat and drink
Navigate through Melbourne’s foodie HQ – Flinders Lane – and discover hidden bars and award-winning eateries. Line up with the locals for Chin Chin’s chicken and chilli jam, order spicy bites from the Thali Bar at upmarket Indian – Tonka or sneak down AC/DC lane to for pisco sours and alpaca croquettes at Peruvian restaurant Pastuso. Groups can’t miss Movida for stylish Spanish share plates or the bottomless cocktail-pizza-party at Trinket. Take your tastebuds on a Pan-Asian adventure at Supernormal – the Szechuan lamb and spanner crab are favourites – and for dolce? Enjoy a degustation of artistic desserts at Adelphi Hotel’s Om Nom Kitchen.
Melburnians flock to pasta pros Tipo 00 for the best tortelloni outside of Italy. Relaxed and romantic, the laneway setting echoes the intimate restaurants of Rome, while the passion behind perfecting authentic handmade pasta is reflected in the clean and clever menu. Delve into the melt-in-your-mouth burrata and wrap your fork around the signature squid ink tagliolini or wagyu neck pappardelle. Pair your pasta of choice with a cheeky Aperol spritz on summer nights or choose an Italian tipple from the extensive wine list. Leave room for the trademark dolci – the tipomisù is an indulgent coffee-chocolate collab layered with dollops of fresh mascarpone. Bellissimo!
Leave your collared shirts and pretty skirts at home – Heartbreaker’s gritty, good-time venue brings L.A.’s rowdy dive scene to Melbourne. Nab the red neon-lit corner spot with friends and you’ve scored yourselves the closest thing to a VIP area. Shoot some pool or take over the retro jukebox, loaded with decades of rock ‘n’ roll tunes, then order from the well-stocked bar. Opt for flowing shots with craft beer chasers, sip a top-shelf bourbon or go classy with a Manhattan or old fashioned. No tapster theatrics here – pre-batched classic cocktails are poured and garnished in seconds. Soak it up with a cheesy New York-style slice or pizza pie, dished out until 3am.
Cheap eats don’t get better than Delhi Streets, an alleyway gem that promises big flavours on a small budget. Savour light bites amid fluoro décor and Bollywood posters, and experience the energy of India’s markets in Melbourne. Awaken your tastebuds with the zingy Indian nachos, then get hands-on with a Thali plate and your choice of two curries, rice, naan, papadums and pickles. Choose paneer pizza naan for something different or opt for the classic chicken biryani. Slurp it all down with a mango lassi or BYO. Just like Delhi’s markets it’s packed every night of the week, so book in advance.
The best dumplings in Melbourne lie beyond the grand red gates of Chinatown. Steamed, fried or floating in broth – get a belly full of fluffy goodness at Shanghai Dumpling House, with plates for under $10. For special occasions, splash out on fine dining at Flower Drum or join friends at China Red for easy touch-screen ordering. Tucked away in an alley arcade, family-run ShanDong MaMa boasts the best seafood dishes outside of Yantai, while the famous barbeque pork buns at Tim Ho Wan are a must. Follow the lanterns to backstreet bar The Croft Institute or kick on with karaoke at Heroes. If you’re in town, don’t miss Chinese New Year celebrations!
Brunch aficionado’s reach for Higher Ground’s award-winning dishes, expertly made lattes and industrial-chic feel. Step through the doors and peer up to geometric beams framing 15-metre high ceilings and split-level seating surrounded by exposed brick and cascading greenery. Watch stylish baristas brew specialty coffee using the signature Darling house blend , served alongside a paddock-to-plate menu that pushes boundaries with its imaginative pairings. Order the fresh market fish and truffle croquettes or fluffy ricotta hotcakes drizzled with maple syrup – spend a moment (or several) capturing snaps for the ‘gram, then tuck right in. Afterwards, bounce across to Spencer Street DFO for a post-brunch shopping spree.
Don your best dress for a rather fancy garden party at Madame Brussels and be transported into an Alice in Wonderland-style soirée. Roll up to the rooftop and stroll merrily through the faux-green grass, take a seat among the floral décor, then order a ‘drinkipoo’ from the smiling staff dressed in tennis whites. Choose a Pimm’s or a Gin Garden Jug from the cheeky cocktail menu and snack on ‘sexy sandwiches’ or hot scones oozing cream and gooey jam. Clink your glasses amid skyline vistas in the terrace garden – the views are simply fabulous, darling.
Get a taste of the Mekong in Melbourne at funky Vietnamese eatery Uncle. Elevated among the treetops, tropical flavours flow from the kitchen through to the quirky design, with geometric shapes, orange-hued lighting and windows opening out to a leafy green canopy. Gather friends on the cane furniture and devour the ‘uncle knows best’ menu – a lucky dip of delicious Vietnamese cuisine –or ask the friendly staff for recommendations. Pig’s ear banh mi and chargrilled roti breads with spicy miso dipping sauce are a must. Balance out the spices with a refreshing Mekong Splice – a coconut foam cocktail with zesty mango sorbet and white rum.
Nothing says Melbourne like dropping a recycled shipping container in an empty carpark and turning it into one of the CBD’s best beer gardens. Popping up in 2006 and then never leaving, Section 8’s temporary vibe feels like an illegal street rave – brick walls camouflaged with street art and hanging cables wrapped in greenery create a trendy setting for a summer night with friends. Take a seat on a wooden crate and order from a rotating list of craft brews, sours and house-created cocktails. Epic dance parties are frequent and always free, with Melbourne’s best DJs spinning until 1am. The junkyard party flows through to neighbouring Ferdydurke, a sky-high venue born from repurposed scaffolding.