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Some cities are what we’d call “48 hour cities”, which are essentially places where 48 hours is plenty of time to enjoy yourself, and then that’s probably enough. Melbourne is basically the exact opposite of that. Often unfairly overlooked for Sydney, Melbourne is a destination which offers foodie heaven, beachfront glory and bustling city all wrapped up in one package that can only really be described as caffeinated, curated hip living heaven.
Here’s what to do, where to eat and how to get around in Melbourne, which if you ask us, is easily one of the ten best cities in the world. In fact, probably top five…
With the clock ticking on your 48 hours, you’ve got options when it comes to getting from Melbourne Tullamarine Airport into town. Most journeys take between 25-35 minutes and the main choices are to either grab the SkyBus or take a ride sharing service, like Uber.
The SkyBus is a popular choice which offers service from MEL Airport to St. Kilda, the Central Business District (CBD) and other areas as well. The bus stops directly outside the terminal and if you book online, it’s about $14USD or £10 per person each way.
Ride share services from Melbourne Airport directly to wherever you’re going really aren’t that bad, especially if you’re splitting. A ride will typically fetch around $55 Australian Dollars, which is around $40USD or £28 British Pounds. If you’re splitting, it’s effectively just double the price of the SkyBus.
One obvious reason to spend more than 48 hours in Melbourne is simple geography. Like London and other exciting cities around the world, Melbourne is widely spread and each neighbourhood offers a totally unique and different vibe, with gems worth discovering.
If it’s your first time and you like easy access, the CBD and Southbank area is a popular choice, with major hotel chains galore and quick access to well known central shops, museums and cool nearby neighbourhoods like Fitzroy. You can’t go wrong with the Westin, The Langham or Treasury on Collins.
For something a little more unique, St. Kilda and Windsor are a really fun way to go. The areas are similar to the way Brooklyn sits near Manhattan and if you’re into food, boutiques and nightlife, this is probably where you want to be. Renting an Airbnb in either neighbourhood and seeking out Chapel St as a point of reference will lead to serious enjoyment, with fantastic access to the city via the 6 Tram.
Fitzroy is another solid choice slightly closer into the city and here you’ll find great boutiques as well as Airbnb options. If you’re looking for Santa Monica, California kind of vibes, Brighton further east of the city is high end beachfront living.
Getting Around Melbourne
In Melbourne, walking is your friend, but so is public transport. The above ground trams are super easy to use and will save you a fortune. Know this: they’re not free. The city is very liberal in enforcing that people actually pay, but don’t be a terrible tourist and ditch.
You can grab a MYKI card at any major stop, or 7/11 store and tap on/tap off whenever you get on. Google Maps has the full grid laid out, so whenever you’re on wifi just plug in your destination and then take screenshots for when you’re offline.
If Uber is your style, it’s everywhere and relatively cheap too. Bolt is a more popular local option as well.
Ask any Victorian, and they’ll proudly tell you they are coffee snobs. If not, they’re tea drinkers. No morning in Melbourne is complete without an amazing pastry which may knock Paris off the map, or a cup of coffee which likely beats any Colombian cafe. It really is that good.
For Morning Coffee
Dukes Coffee Roasters (CBD), Kinfolk (CBD), Bonnie Coffee (CBD), Slowpoke (Fitzroy), Journeyman (Windsor) or The Tamper Trap (Brighton) will definitely have you covered. Expect good pastry and muffins in any of the above, with full blown outstanding breakfast options a la eggs and etcetera at Tamper Trap or Journeyman. And yes, Journeyman is worth the journey.
Once caffeinated and croissant’ed the CBD is a perfect place to kick things off, especially if it’s your first trip. A walk along Southbank will take you weaving along the gorgeous Yarra River and you can wind your way through famous graffiti streets like Hozier Lane and cool things to see along Flinders Lane.
You can then transition through Chinatown and toward nearby Fitzroy, via the Melbourne Museum. The impressive structure is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere and combines science, culture, nature and photography in an impressive package. The gift shop is a gem for picking up cool trinkets from your trip too.
At this point, it’s probably time for some shopping, or a quick bite to eat. The good news is, across the street from the museum, the Fitzroy neighbourhood is off the charts for both. Simply wander up and down Gertrude, Brunswick or Smith Streets for boutique shopping both high end and low, and diverse restaurants at every turn. This is the perfect place to spend the afternoon.
For Great Lunch
Marios (Fitzroy), Marion (Fitzroy), Archie’s All Day (Fitzroy) Tokyo Tina (Windsor), Chin Chin (CBD), Cafe Di Stasio (St Kilda) or David’s (Prahran) will set you off right, from eccentric Japanese food (you can guess which one) to refined Italian (you can guess that one too). Basically, you can’t go wrong. Keep in mind, these places are great on either day.
Whether you’re a “boutique shopper” or not, the Fitzroy area is worth a gander. There are small art galleries, unique jewellery stores only offering local designers and clothing shops offering the same. Since you’ve worked so hard all day, it’s also home to one of Melbourne’s very best gelato spots, Gelato Messina.
After wandering through Fitzroy and Carlton and peeking into a few shops, the day should be mostly behind you. With that in mind, it’s probably time for a drink.
Best Bars In Melbourne
For pretty spectacular views of the city as the sun sets, Naked For Satan has an awesome rooftop bar worth checking out for low key beer and wine. If more bespoke cocktails and speakeasy vibes are your scene, check out Loch and Key, Au De Vie or The Attic in Black Pearl.
Melbourne is part of Victoria, which makes up a part of Australia which will cause your jaw to drop if you head even just a couple hours away. If you do have more than 48 hours, which we hope you do, a trip to the 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road or anything of the sort is basically mandatory.
For an affordable, small group tour, we highly recommend Hike and Seek Tours, which offers neat excursions to a variety of “wow” worthy places, all with friendly guides and no more than 9 people. It’s basically the anti “tour”, tour.
If someone says they didn’t quite “get” Melbourne, it’s because they’re one of the dumb tourists who walked the five blocks near their central hotel, couldn’t find a Starbucks and decided to turn around. Buh-bye, idiots. Aside from the endless nightlife, world class food and friendly vibes, it’s the huge mix of neighbourhoods which makes this place so exciting. For day two, you’re ticking them all off.
If you’re staying in the CBD, it’s the 6 Tram from Town Hall/Collins St to Chapel Street which will put you in prime position. Ultimately, you’re going to go further out to Brighton, so if you’re someone who likes to work out to in, you could just go all the way to Brighton first.
Chapel St is a as vibrant as life gets and it’s the perfect place to cruise up and down enjoying local cafes, shops and eateries; all while getting a sense of actual local Melbourne life. People live here.
Once you’ve had your fill of Prahran and the Chapel St area, you can fill the most insatiable of sweet tooth’s at Glacé. This is the insane super Michelin star style chef meets all your munchies dreams in one spot dessert bar, headed by Christy Tania. The honeycomb ice cream with salted caramel may be the greatest thing on earth, maybe.
Brighton, St Kilda And Beyond
The other major stop of the day is Brighton, and yes, you’ll be seeing the Instagram worthy Brighton Bathing Boxes, amongst other fun things. Bring your best camera, or at least a phone capable of doing some justice.
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This high end neighbourhood offers uncanny beach and city views, great walking and really funky spots to eat and drink. Figure out the most logical way to get from wherever you are to the Bathing Boxes, walk the beach and then plan on heading inland to peep the local spots.
Note: if you end up on the wrong street, it can feel a bit like old rich one percenters with too much of your grandmas perfume on. Just turn a corner and it’ll all work out.
If you’re a walker (not the Game Of Thrones kind), you’re in luck. Glacé is quite near Fitzroy St, not to be confused with the neighbourhood, which will take you down to the St Kilda Pier. This is a beautiful stretch of pier which is a clever place to perch for sunset.
Which now brings things to the big moment on any trip. After sunset, maybe some cocktails and probably some sweets, there really just aren’t many ways to toast a big trip quite like dinner. In Melbs, which is short for Melbourne, there are so many shades of wonderful.
Where To Eat Dinner In Melbourne
For a special $120 USD (ish) per person style meal, Cutler and Co is worth every penny. It was easily the highlight of the most recent culinary journey and all done without pretentiousness. From there, down: Gazi (CBD), Babu Ji (St Kilda), Coda (CBD), Amok (Prahran), Cumulus Inc (CBD) Supernormal (CBD) or Cafe Di Stasio (St Kilda) will bring a smile to your face.
That’s it! Your 48 hours are up and it’s time to go home. If you have extra time, it’s worth making time for Melbourne Park where you’ll find the Australian Open Tennis and Melbourne Cricket Ground, or if you’re a big wine fan, maybe heading to the Yarra Valley to scout some great juice. Melbourne is a city like the greatest of onions, so it may take you a couple trips to fully peel it back, but you’ll fall in love from minute one.