Melbourne is known as the world’s most livable city, and after spending a few days exploring its charming narrow streets, quaint garden parks and bustling arcades, it’s easy to understand why. The city has a European vibe, transported onto one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Palm trees abound, a free tramway makes it easy to get around town and it’s nearly impossible to have a bad cup of coffee.
We stayed at The Blackman Hotel, which is a member of the Art Series Hotel Group, and has a contemporary boutique feel with original art in all the rooms and public spaces. It’s a bit removed from the main city center, but only a $7 Uber ride.
On our first day, we visited the Emporium Mall, a sprawling commercial center with over two hundred stores. There is a booming fashion scene in Australia, with many local designers selling countrywide, though not generally known outside the borders. Autonomy Clothing, which has its own coffee shop inside, and Dr. Denim Jeansmakers are two stops worth making for stylish menswear. A couple other interesting stores to note are Sneakerboy for kicks and I Love Ugly, a New Zealand streetwear brand with cool printed affirmations.
Melbourne is known especially for its coffee culture – and being in close proximity to Java and some of the world’s best coffee plantations means that it’s hard to get a cup that’s not amazing. You must ask for a “flat white” at least once – basically a latte, though traditionally served in a ceramic mug with art decorating the flat microfoam. These independent coffee shops are as ubiquitous as Starbucks back home. They are tucked into retail stores, alleyways and under arcade arches.
A large part of the appeal of Melbourne is the city’s walkability. With narrow roads and alleyways that were originally constructed for horse carriage traffic, there’s always something interesting just around the corner.
Art is really pervasive and a big part of the culture of Melbourne. Street art is legal is specialized areas and celebrated as a unique addition to the landscape.
AC/DC Lane leads to the city’s bar and rock district. Hosier Lane is another spot for graffiti artists to tag.
There is great food all over Melbourne. One of my favorite meals was at Los Hermanos, a small taco joint in Fitzroy, a suburb just outside the main city.
For an incredible meal and memorable experience, you’ve got to visit Ides. This little restaurant tucked way in a blink-and-you-miss it spot in Collingwood seats only 36 diners a night with a six-course tasting menu as the only option (no à la carte). The ambiance is trendy is fun and the chefs are willing to accommodate whatever dietary restriction you throw their way. Props to chef Peter Gunn and his team for taking care of us.
There are plenty of galleries and museums to keep a tourist busy. We visited the ACMI, which is the museum of moving image and has both a permanent collection of multimedia and changing exhibitions.