With its picture-perfect terrace houses, enviable cachet of cultural hotspots and more sleek coffee shops than you can shake a bag of finely ground beans at, it’s little wonder that Melburnians regularly claim their bayside city to be the most liveable in the world. Add to the mix a first-rate food scene and an abounding wine region on its doorstep and you may just find yourself agreeing with them. We’ll give you plenty of reasons to hit the streets come rain or shine.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Secret locations: In most cities, a venue that’s tucked away down a shady alley or up neverending flights of stairs may find it difficult to attract footfall. But in Melbourne the harder the place is to find, the better.
  2. Numbers game: Melbourne’s CBD follows a standard grid format but streets outside of these ordered city blocks stretch on, passing through several neighbourhoods. And, upon entering a new suburb, the numbers reset.
  3. Café culture: Working in a café in Melbourne is a coveted career choice. In fact, these well-paid positions attract talented and enthusiastic staff who are likely highly trained baristas.
  4. A little tip: Hospitality wages are excellent here but if the service is outstanding it’s polite to round up the bill or add 10 to 15 per cent.
  5. Weather: Melbourne’s weather can be notoriously fickle. Pack layers that both combat cold snaps and protect you from the searing sun, as well as an umbrella to keep yourself dry.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. The Prince, St Kilda

    On the waterfront

    This hotel’s streamlined art deco balconies give the heritage-listed 1937 building the air of a lofty ocean liner. The current 39-room venue opened in 1999 but there has been a guesthouse on this site since the 1860s.

  2. QT Melbourne, CBD

    Industrial evolution

    The 188 rooms have a contemporary industrial feel, with concrete-and-timber surfaces that are offset by specially commissioned rugs and contemporary art.

  3. The Hotel Windsor, CBD

    Grand affair

    This Victorian structure was built in 1883 during the world’s love affair with grand hotels. It’s set to undergo a au$330m redevelopment between 2018 and 2020 (adding almost 300 rooms) but the original glamour of its baroque-style ballroom, heritage suites, sweeping staircase and broad hallways will remain.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Pony: Not a small horse but a small beer – 140ml to be exact
  2. Pot: Another beer size, somewhere in between a pony and a pint
  3. Dim sum: Questionable meat dumplings often found in fish-and-chip shops
  4. Parma: Breaded chicken, covered in passata and mozzarella; a local delicacy
  5. Sook: Someone who is easily upset or particularly whiny
  6. Rug up: Dress warmly
  7. Ordinary: Something bad or sub-optimal
  8. Yahoo: An uncouth lout

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Seven Seeds, Carlton

    Reap what you sow

    Launched in 2008 by Mark Dundon (considered the city’s godfather of speciality coffee), Seeds has influenced a generation of wannabe roasters, baristas and café-owners. Responsibly sourced beans are a given here.

  2. The Kettle Black, South Melbourne

    Breakfast of champions

    Housed in a stunningly restored Victorian terrace house, this popular haunt could easily win the title of Melbourne’s most photogenic café. Sweet and savoury hankerings are given equal billing and satisfied in the most inventive ways.

  3. Supernormal, CBD

    Bao wow

    Part of chef-restaurateur Andrew McConnell’s stable, this is “canteen” by extraction but not execution. Start with a lobster roll and the twice-cooked duck bao, then move on to the whole snapper with burnt butter and kombu

  4. City Wine Shop, CBD

    By the bottle

    Elegantly lived-in, with buckets of old-world charm, this cosy wine shop-cum-bar attracts everyone from visiting French winemakers to off-duty cabinet ministers. The food is excellent and the staff know their wine so let them take the lead.

  5. Heartbreaker, CBD

    Open heart

    If there’s a boozy, raucous night out (or just a curious observance of the regulars having one) on the cards, Michael Madrusan’s good-time dive bar is the only address you’ll need.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. Modern Times, Fitzroy

    Old and new

    This showroom is packed with vintage pieces of furniture tastefully matched with contemporary Australian art and design objects. There are plenty of luggage-friendly purchases in the form of ceramics, textiles, jewellery and prints.

  2. Pickings & Parry, Fitzroy

    Man’s world

    This smart menswear outpost sells authentic, international heritage brands. There’s also a barber that offers a range of traditional grooming services out the back.

  3. Kuwaii, Brunswick

    Go slow

    Kristy Barker founded womenswear label Kuwaii as an antidote to fast fashion. Her considered approach yields well-made dresses, jumpsuits, culottes and T-shirts in painterly hues that mosey from staple to statement.

  4. Northside Records, Fitzroy

    Making music

    Owner Chris Gill has the best new and used vinyl collection in town. He believes that it’s important to invest in the local music culture so you’ll find plenty of cuts by Melbourne artists.

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