Things to do in Melbourne

I knew I was going to love Melbourne, before I even arrived. Known as the food and coffee capital of Australia there was plenty for me to taste and try in my 10 days there, and it’s almost impossible to pick my favourites from the long list. This cosmopolitan city also boasts some of the country’s best cultural highlights and designers, which kept me entertained in between mealtimes!

the prince melbourne

To Stay

The Prince – a design haven in the bohemian St Kilda district, this chic boutique hotel offers 40 stylish bedrooms. Their two-hatted restaurant, Circa, serves beautiful food; go at lunchtime for the reasonably priced In’n’Out set menu.

To Eat

Supernormal – there is often a queue for this popular fusion restaurant. Have a drink at the bar before devouring indulgent dishes such local oysters, roast duck bao and velvety wagyu beef.

Saint Crispin – I had my favourite Melbourne meal at this modern Australian eatery. Open for lunch Friday to Sunday, you can sample three courses of the chef’s exquisite creations for a fraction of the full dinner price. Before your meal, try the “Snap, crackle and pop”; a magical combination of puffed pork crackling, dashi, brown sugar and white sesame.

Coda – this award-winning basement restaurant is stylish and slick. All the Vietnamese-inspired food is tempting. I suggest ordering half-portions so you can taste a wider variety of dishes – the unique blackened quail is especially good and I loved the fresh and vibrant hanoi roll.

Gelato Messina – the mecca of ice-cream, this much-loved institution has spread across Australia. The Italian-style gelateria makes successfully inventive flavours; salted caramel and white chocolate is the most popular.

Lune Croissanterie – as long as you’re willing to wait (sometimes up to two hours!) you’ll be rewarded with the flakiest croissant, perhaps in the whole of the southern hemisphere. Their perfect pastry recipe was created by a rocket scientist turned chef, which explains the space theme of the bakery.

Top Paddock – the perfect weekend hang-out for a leisurely brunch with friends. Don’t miss their famous blueberry and ricotta hotcake with berries, organic maple, seeds and double cream.

Tipo 00 – this new pasta bar is thrilling the Melbourne locals, and it’s a struggle to nab a table at the intimate venue. Sit at the bar and enjoy a bowl of the homemade pappardelle with braised rabbit, marjoram & hazelnut.

Tuckshop Takeaway – set up by ex-Fat Duck husband and wife team, this cute corner shop serves some of the best burgers I have ever tasted. Everything is homemade, from the bouncy brioche burger buns to the nostalgic sodas and shakes.

Cookie – those in the know head to the 1st floor of the Curtin House building for the city’s best Thai food. Be sure to order the addictively good betel leaf wrapped pork skewers.

To Drink

Patricia Coffee Brewers – those in the know head to Patricia for their morning wake-up. The café was set up by Bowen Holden and Pip Heath in 2011 and named after their grandmothers (coincidentally both called Patricia!). Tucked away in the centre of town, with only standing space, this tiny venue is frequented by local office workers. With leather aprons by Jess Wootten, cups by potter Malcolm Greenwood and pastries by Lune Croissanterie, I loved every detail.

Market Lane Coffee – serving seasonal coffee from around the world these speciality roasters pour some of the best coffee in town. With four branches around Melbourne you are never far away from a Market Lane fix.

Bar Americano – In my opinion this compact bar mixes the finest drinks in town. Hidden away on the corner of Presgrave Place, with enough standing space for just 10, it is a homage to the drinking dens of the 1930s. Order from their short seasonal menu of strong classic cocktails.

Everleigh – This prohibition venue is repeatedly crowned the best bar in Melbourne, and for good reason. Sit at the long glamorous bar and ask the talented mixologists to create something to suit your taste. The juices are squeezed fresh for each drink and ice is supplied by the bar’s own company, and cut as needed.

Black Pearl – A Fitroy favourite, this friendly bar opened over 14 years ago and has a loyal following. Barmen Will entertained us while we drank our creative and tasty drinks. Upstairs, The Attic is a cosy room, perfect for private events.

Siglo – This al fresco rooftop wine bar has great views over Parliament and is always filled with beautiful bohemians. The smell of cigars will linger in the air as you drink a glass of wine from their sophisticated wine list.

ai weiwei

To See & Do

National Gallery of Victoria – This large museum has two branches in different areas of town. At the international venue, wander around the permanent collection of Eastern and Western art, both ancient and modern. We enjoyed the bold and brilliant Ai Weiwei and Warhol temporary show.

Centre for Contemporary Photography – A small gallery in North Fitzroy showcasing eclectic contemporary photo-based art. The centre also host photography courses.

South Melbourne Market – This local covered market has been running since 1867, with a wide range of vendors offering all kinds of food, clothing, homeware and more. It is a lovely place to walk around, stopping when something delicious catches your fancy. I couldn’t resist the baked treats from Agathe.

The Shrine of Remembrance and Botanic Gardens – The Shrine of Remembrance is Melbourne’s most iconic landmark, paying tribute to the lives lost in the first world war. Nearby the beautiful botanic gardens offers a quiet place away from city life. In summer you can go punting on the lake and watch films under the moonlight.

Neighbours Tour – A must for all Ramsay Street fans, meet the stars and find out the secrets behind Australia’s most famous soap.

aesop

To Shop

Aesop – If you are already an Aesop addict you will love shopping at the brand’s stores in their home city. Less than half the price of UK outlets, you can buy the whole face care range without any guilt.

Gertrude, Smith, Johnston and Brunswick Streets – these streets in the hip Fitzroy area are back-to-back with some of the best independent boutiques, local labels and cool eateries.

Loose Leaf – this beautiful flower emporium is a jungle of hanging plants and fragrant blooms. Stop by to pick up one of their lovely bunches or a scented candle.

Monkhouse Design Shop – Found in East Brunswick this carefully curated women’s boutique stocks a unique range of independent luxury labels from Australia and around the world.

The Cool Hunter – This slick store in the Prahan district is a gallery of desirable objects and items. Pick up a The Horse watch or a set of glasses from cult brand Iittala.

Hansom – Hansom was founded by a British couple who opened their first store in 2012. I visited the flagship Fitzroy store and wanted to buy everything from this laidback local brand. I particularly liked the peach cropped palazzo pants paired with a simple white silk shirt.

yarra valley

To Escape

Yarra Valley – This stunning wine region is the perfect day trip from the city, just a one-hour drive from central Melbourne. There are over 80 wineries from small family owned to corporate, all producing cool climate wines. I recommend heading to Innocent Bystander for a tasting and to try their delicious sourdough pizza. If you like fizzy wines, visit the pictoresque Chandon vineyards to sample their collection, including an unusual sparkling red wine.