As you take in Melbourne’s attractions, you’ll soon discover the boundless allure, colour and atmosphere of its streets.
From the bohemian chic of Brunswick Street to the exotic sights and smells of Victoria Street, each has its own character and identity.
Here are five streets in Melbourne to explore.
ACLAND STREET & THE ESPLANADE, St Kilda
Situated right in the heart of the one-of-a-kind bohemian suburb of St Kilda, Acland Street and the Esplanade are sentimental favourites among both locals and visitors alike, and it is arguably the destination of choice for that quintessential Melbourne Sunday experience.
Typically, the day may go something like this – a brunch of bacon & eggs, a strong coffee, and a read of the Sunday Age at the Galleon Café, an institution among St Kilda locals.
After a leisurely walk down the end of St Kilda Pier to enjoy panoramic views of the Melbourne skyline and Port Phillip Bay, stroll back along the palm-lined Esplanade to Luna Park, one of the city’s most enduring and colourful icons. This much-loved old fairground is modelled on New York’s Coney Island and the entrance is through a garish laughing clown’s mouth.
Nearby is the famous Sunday St Kilda Esplanade Market where you can shop for custom-made jewellery, ceramic art or hand-made candles. Finish the day off with a pastry indulgence at one of Acland Street’s famous cake shops or perhaps a refreshing beer at the Esplanade Hotel with great views over the bay.
VICTORIA STREET, Richmond
Victoria Street epitomises the cultural diversity synonymous with Melbourne. The city’s growing Vietnamese community has transformed what was once a nondescript traffic route, into what could pass for a back street of Hanoi.
The smell of steamed Peking duck and incense lies heavily in the air, alongside a bewildering jumble of Asian supermarkets, family-run grocery shops, fishmongers, fruit stalls and Chinese herbalist shops.
If you love Vietnamese food then Victoria Street is the place to go. Restaurants like Tran Tran, La Lot, Thanh Thanh make this one of the best value eating streets in the city. One of the finest Vietnamese restaurants is the original Thy Thy. This is one place where it’s actually fun to be on a budget – and the crowded factor makes this gem even more authentic.
Best of all the service is fast, its BYO (bring your own wine or beer) and there’s a wide range of affordable dishes on the menu. Take a wander down Victoria Street and you’ll soon realise why this area has become known as ‘Little Saigon.’
CHAPEL STREET, South Yarra
Is like flicking through the latest issue of Vogue or GQ – it’s all about image. The beautiful people have to shop somewhere, and with a greater concentration of salons and fashion boutiques per square metre than anywhere in Melbourne, this is their strip.
Women strut their stuff as they peruse designer clothes shops like Saba, Collette Dinnigan, Scanlan Theodore and Kookai. Men cruise by in open-topped sports cars hiding behind Gucci sunglasses and drink lattes at the sidewalk cafés. This is the street to see and be seen.
Further south along Chapel Street, the suburb of Prahran and particularly Greville Street offer a less affected brand of cool, with its ever-changing mishmash of young designers and retro clothing boutiques, bookstores, music shops and cool bistros.
In this area is the Chapel Street Bazaar which houses antiques, collectables and memorabilia from the past century, including vintage and retro clothing, jewellery and furniture, all illuminated by one of Australia’s largest collections of 20th-century lighting.
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BRUNSWICK STREET, Fitzroy
Formerly a blue-collar capital in the city’s northern shadow, the suburb of Fitzroy and in particular Brunswick Street is where Melbourne’s alternative side is in full force.
This inner-city mecca for all things cool and kooky is awash with people from all walks of life; hippies, animal activists, tourists, yuppies, fiddle-playing punks and characters sporting amazing feats of body piercing.
Wander along Fitzroy’s main drag, for tonnes of vintage clothing stores, second-hand bookshops, and take your pick from an array of bohemian cafés and restaurants, like the popular vegan and vegetarian spot the Vegie Bar or stop into the Everleigh for some of Melbourne’s finest cocktails.
The iconic Provincial Hotel at the junction of Johnson Street is a popular bar and meeting place for further explorations on a night out. A few doors away is Bar Open, a hip bar where local talents play late night music and performances in a small but intimate atmosphere upstairs.
Brunswick Street happens to be one of the best people-watching streets in the city. Firstly make it an afternoon as the street can be lifeless any earlier, as the locals aren’t early risers around here. Then, find an appropriate café such as Rustica, Brunswick Street Alimentari or Stagger Lee’s and armed with a coffee you can settle down to watch the drama unfold on one of Melbourne’s most free-thinking streets.
LYGON STREET, Carlton
In the inner city suburb of Carlton is the mother-ship of Melbourne’s streets. In the 1950s an influx of Italian immigrants began setting up businesses, creating what Lygon Street is today.
This is Melbourne’s ‘Little Italy’, crammed with alfresco dining, pizzerias and gelatarias (ice cream shops). Toto’s, the first pizza restaurant in Australia opened in 1966 and more followed over the years, like firm favourites, Café Corrento, Papa Gino’s, II Gambero and the University Café introducing Italian food and coffee to the people of Melbourne.
Finish off your alfresco dining experience with a coffee and there is no shortage of inventive coffee variations. “Will that be a straight black, espresso, cappuccino, café latte, double grande macchiato, greco, affogato; in decaff, half and half, with or without foam…?” Lygon Street, ah so Italian.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE & DO IN MELBOURNE
- Dine on the move aboard the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant – a beautifully restored 1927 tram, which is now a luxury restaurant on tracks. Board the tram for lunch or dinner and enjoy fine cuisine and Australian wine. A unique way to see Melbourne. Bookings are essential.
- The Eureka Skydeck 88 has awe-inspiring views of Melbourne and the surrounding area – stretching 60km to the horizon, from the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform.
- For that true Melbourne sporting experience, head to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or Docklands Stadium to watch an “Aussie Rules” (Australian Football League /AFL) game. Experience the spectacular excitement of the countries unique and favourite sport, where an average match can attract an almost capacity crowd of vocal – yet peaceful – supporters.
- The Moonlight Cinema is Melbourne’s favourite outdoor cinema screening latest release and classic films during the summer months in the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. For an entertaining night out pack a picnic and enjoy an outdoor movie on the lawns – it’s like a day in the park, dinner and a movie all in one.
- Visit the Southbank precinct for the home of Melbourne art and culture – the Victorian Arts Centre and the National Gallery of Victoria’s international collection. Federation Square fuses art with architecture while city laneways and precincts showcase the innovation and skill of local artists and designers while any number of theatres, museums and events will introduce you to a new Melbourne.
- A visit to Melbourne would not be complete without visiting the Yarra River. New buildings, walks and parks have been created along its banks including the Riverside Park. For the best view of the Yarra River, take a walk to Princes Bridge, St Kilda Road; take a picnic at one of several spots along its banks or board a cruise along the River from Princes Walk (below Princes Bridge).
- Take a guided tour of The Royal Exhibition Building to discover the history of Melbourne’s most famous landmark and Australia’s first World Heritage-listed building.
- Check out the Queen Victoria Market. More than just a shopping mecca this 19th-century market is a historic landmark, a tourist attraction and an institution for Melburnians. The ‘Queen Vic’ was opened in 1878, but the meat market building (except the Victorian facade) operated from 1866. There is a night market on Wednesday nights (November–March) with entertainment, bars, food outlets, unique arts and crafts, eccentric clothing, masseurs, tarot card readers and more.
- For that essential day or overnight trip from Melbourne, explore the world-famous Great Ocean Road. Winding along Victoria’s western coast this classic coastal journey offers stunning ocean views, beachside activities, laid-back coastal towns and maritime villages. The star attraction is the Twelve Apostles – giant rock stacks that rise majestically from the Southern Ocean and are the central feature of the rugged Port Campbell National Park.