Where to Stay in Melbourne: 2020 Best Neighbourhoods
Where oh where to stay in Melbourne? It’s an excellent question when considering how you’re going to spend your time in Australia’s second biggest city.
Should you set yourself up right in the centre of the action… or should you branch out and spend a few days in the ‘burbs?
This can be a tough decision. There is plenty to do in Melbourne’s city centre, activities to suit all kinds of travellers. However, a stay in the suburbs offers up an invaluable example of what life is like for the 4.5-odd million people who call the Victorian capital home.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Melbourne, this guide will explore some of the most hip, hop, happening areas of the city (as well as the pros and cons of staying in the city centre itself). We’ll cover some typically Melbourne things to do and look at the public transport and accommodation options on offer.
And then… it’s up to you I suppose, to decide which corner of the city suits you and your travel preferences, best!
Here are some of the best neighbourhoods to stay in Melbourne, to suit all travellers. If you’ve got your kids with you, this family guide to Melbourne will be great for further reading.
Where to Stay in Melbourne for the First Time: The Central Business District
There’s no denying that the CBD is an ideal place to base yourself for your first trip to Melbourne. It’s where quite a lot of the tourist sights are and unlike other cities (here’s looking at you, Sydney), the CBD is actually located in the centre of the city.
It’d be quite hard to get bored in Melbourne’s CBD. It’s chockablock full of interesting laneways, beautiful and weird street art boutique stores, wonderful eateries and hip bars.
So – should you stay in the city centre? Here are the pros and cons of doing so.
The pros of staying in the CBD
Melbourne’s trams are free along a specific route in the CBD. So, unless you’re venturing outside of the city, you won’t have to pay a cent on this mode of public transport. That’s a lot of cash that can be immediately saved, right there.
The CBD is well connected to most of the city – you can catch a train from Flinders Street Station to just about anywhere and if they’re behaving and running on time, you’ll be at your destination before you know it.
You can eat quite cheaply in the city – I recommend exploring options in Chinatown or the various laneways that make up the city. We’ll explore this in more detail below.
If you’ve come to Melbourne to party, then you can easily get up to no good in the city centre. There are plenty of trendy watering holes spread across the city.
The less exciting aspects of the CBD
It can be quite expensive to stay in, as with any major city centres in Australia.
It’s not quiet, because what city centre ever is?
You don’t really get a taste of authentic Australian life – the city tends to be full of tourists, rich people who can actually afford rent in this part of the town, or students.
Read more: 50+ Unique things to do in Melbourne
Things to do in Melbourne City
What to do in Melbourne – where on earth do we begin?
Take a cruise along the Yarra River
I personally think the best way you can see a city is from the water and Melbourne is no exception.
There are river cruises that leave the city and travel along to the port suburb of Williamstown, offering up really lovely sights.
Book a ticket onto a Yarra cruise here
Tour the MCG or catch an AFL game
As the self-appointed “sports capital” of Australia, I guess you’d possibly do yourself a disservice by travelling to the city and not immersing yourself in at least a little of its sporting history.
At the very least, you can tour the Melbourne Cricket Grounds – also known colloquially as the MCG, or because Australians love to shorten everything, just “The G”.
I do thoroughly recommend at least trying to check out a game of AFL or Aussie Rules, as it’s also known. It’s treated much like a religion in most of the states and territories of Australia and the atmosphere in the G during a game is said to be electrifying (guess who hasn’t been to an AFL game since 2012?).
Buy your ticket to tour the MCG here
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria
Ah, here’s something I can get thoroughly behind.
The National Gallery of Victoria is in my humble opinion, a national treasure. It plays host to a varied amount of exhibitions (there has been one featuring the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Dior during my time in the city) and is home to the largest collection of Australian art in the world.
There are two sites that make up the NGV – the main International hub is located a short stroll south from Flinders Street Station and the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square.
Oh and as an important side note – unless you’re attending a specific exhibition, entry is free!
Poke around the laneways and check out the local urban art
Melbourne is well-known for the many laneways throughout the city, which play home to a varied amount of cafés, restaurants, shops and watering holes.
Most of these laneways have been adorned with street art – the ever-changing Hosier Lane and ACDC Lane (which pays homage to one of Australia’s greatest rock bands) are two of the most popular.
You could spend a whole day exploring Melbourne’s laneways, either by yourself or as part of a guided tour.
What I like best about them, is it rather takes you out of the city and lands you firmly in Europe. They are undoubtably one of the reasons that Melbourne has earned its reputation as the cultural capital of Oz (the city wears many different hats, as I’m sure you’re starting to notice!).
Book onto a Melbourne Laneways tour here
Grab cheap dumplings from Chinatown
Remember those cheap, budget maintaining eats we covered earlier? Melbourne’s Chinatown is an ideal place to head for less-pricier meals.
If you’re a fan of dumplings, then I heed your cry for delicious goodness and thoroughly recommend checking out Hu Tong on Market lane or Shanghai Street Dumpling on Little Bourke Street.
And do try to grab a meal at the Michelin-starred (well, the Australian restaurant isn’t Michelin starred because that isn’t a thing here. We are ALL about the Sydney Morning Herald’s chef hats in Oz) Hawker Chan’s. Expect lines.
Alternatively, you can take a three hour dumpling walking tour, where you stuff yourself silly. Sounds delightful to me!
Book a place on the Dumpling Walking Tour here
Catch a flick at ACMI (or see an exhibition)
If museums are your thaaaang then get thee to ACMI (the Australian Centre for the Moving image), located in Fed Sq.
It pays homage to all things filmic and gamesy and has the neatest exhibitions. There are also regular screenings of contemporary and classic cinema from Oz and around the world.
ACMI is well worth checking out if you’re a fan of film.
Edit: ACMI is currently closed for extensive renovations. It’ll re-open in the middle of 2020.
Get your drink on and go bar hopping
Melbourne’s nightlife (unlike Australia’s other big city, Sydney) actually exists and many Australians travel to the city just to party. There are a range of bars and pubs to suit every traveller.
Cheap drinks in cheap hotels, delicious cocktails in fancy settings – Melbourne’s rooftop bar scene is also quite strong, with options that look far more appealing to explore in the summer, rather than winter time.
Melbourne is home to several secret and themed bars – Berlin Bar is a personal favourite of mine, yet I think the drinks at the Croft Institute taste like the cordial that I was never allowed to drink as a child, anyway.
Buy your ticket to tour Melbourne’s bars here
Drink all the coffee
Melbourne’s coffee culture is strong, something that most inhabitants of the city are proud of. It’s hard to get a bad cup of joe here.
If you too are coffee obsessed, consider doing a tour around one of the cities hotspots for cafés, where you’ll learn about the beans and craftmanship behind Melbourne’s coffee (and maybe even take some tips home with you!).
Book a place on the coffee lover’s tour here
Public Transport Options in the CBD
As mentioned, the trams running through the city are free and it’s always worth taking the City Circle tram if you’re new to Melbourne. It’s aimed at tourists and will take you on a loop around the CBD, which will help you get your bearings.
The biggest trains stations are Flinders Street and Southern Cross. There are other stations serviced by the City Loop – Parliament, Melbourne Central and Flagstaff.
Where to Stay in Melbourne’s Central Business District
Check out other hotel options in Melbourne’s CBD
In summary: Melbourne City is a great place to base yourself if it’s your first time visiting, you have a list of attractions you want to tick off, or you’re heading on to another destination. However, if you want to experience Melbourne like a local, you’re much better off exploring other options.
Where to Stay in Melbourne to Be Close to the City: Docklands
Docklands is one of the best places to stay in Melbourne, somewhere worth basing yourself on your first trip.
It’s close to many sights and areas of entertainment, plus Southern Cross Station is right in the area, meaning you’ll be able to get to other parts of the city in no time at all.
Pros of staying in Docklands
The easiest way of getting into the city is to catch the SkyBus from the airport (either Tullamarine or Avalon), which will take you straight to Southern Cross Station, located in Docklands.
So, you won’t have to go far! You can check into your hotel, shower and take a nap and get out and exploring.
Docklands is essentially on the fringe of the CBD, meaning it’s not far from the main attractions and has a few of its own.
Cons of staying in Docklands
As it’s home to many businesses, it can get a bit quiet on the weekends, with many of its cafes and restaurants closing.
This can be good or bad. On the upside, there’ll be less people wandering around and it’s quieter, without being that far-flung from the city itself.
The downside is that you’ll have to travel further afield for food.
Read more: How to Spend a Weekend in Daylesford
Things to do in Docklands
Here are some things you can get up to in the Docklands.
Catch an AFL, Soccer or Big Bash game at Marvel Stadium
As previously mentioned, Melburnians are mad about their sport. Marvel is the second largest stadium after the ‘G and there’s usually a game of some description happening there.
It’s not the place to head to if you want to see a game of Rugby League, the sport that only Queensland, New South Wales and sort of Canberra care about. That would be AAMI stadium.
Melbourne do have a team – The Storm – who generally do very well, not that many in the city care. I’d feel sorry for them, if I didn’t hate them for some reason. What can I say, I’m from NSW and my blood bleeds blue.
Play a round of golf
Fan of mini-golf? Head to Holey Moley, a rather neat golf course in Docklands.
They have a deal on Mondays where you can do nine holes for ten dollars and there’s a rather cool bar onsite. You’re pretty much expected to sip on cocktails or mocktails whilst doing the rounds!
Ride the Melbourne Star
The Melbourne Star Observational Wheel is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere and well worth a spin, for views of the city by day or by night.
An entry ticket will give you 30mins on the wheel, but there are all sorts of add-ons. You can order a sangria jug or a flight of sparkling wine, book a private cabin and even do yoga! It’s also unsurprisingly, a popular place to propose.
Buy your ticket to the Melbourne Star here
Want to escape the heat?
The Docklands is home to an ice-skating rink, which has a ‘Tight-Tuesday’, where all adult tickets are priced at $11.
Check out The District Docklands
Docklands is home to an indoor/outdoor shopping centre known as The District.
It’s where the Star is located and is home to a range of shops and fast-food outlets, such as the first Carls Jr Burger joint in Victoria.
There’s also a Hoyts cinema there which is worth mentioning, as EVERY SEAT RECLINES. Comfort to the max, or what?!
Public Transport Options in Docklands
Docklands is serviced by trams and trains.
The easiest way to get to Docklands is by Southern Cross Station. The 96 and 86 trams leave from out the front, which will take you into the city, up north or down to St Kilda.
Docklands Accommodation Options
Check out other hotel options in Docklands
Where to Stay in Melbourne for Food and Sightseeing: Prahran
Prahran is located in the south east of the city, a short train ride from the CBD and is one of the best inner city suburbs to stay in Melbourne. Its name is pronounced as “Per-ran” or just “Pran” if you’re Australian, which can cause a lot of confusion when you first move to the city, believe me.
The name stems from an Aboriginal word purraran, which is said to mean ‘almost surrounded by water’. And ain’t that the truth of it – whilst neighbouring suburb South Yarra runs along the river, Prahran is decidedly inland.
Prahran is probably one of the coolest suburbs to live in in Melbourne, with a thriving food and bar scene and plenty to see and do.
The pros of staying in Prahran
You’re a hop, skip and a jump away from the CBD, so you get the benefit of staying somewhere local, whilst not being all that far from the buzz of city life.
There are lots of trendy, boutique stores, cafés and a heck-tonne of bars, which will appeal to young travellers.
The less exciting aspects of Prahran
It’s certainly a scene for younger folk, rather than other decidedly family-friendly areas of Melbourne. And if you’re like me, you might wander Chapel Street muttering “am I cool enough to be here?” to yourself.
It’s quite a busy suburb and so parking can be a real nightmare.
And like many areas around Melbourne, it can sometimes feel a bit unsafe around night. As a young(ish) woman, I would and have been wary of this in the past.
Things to do in Prahran
Here’s some of what you can get up to in Prahran and the surrounding suburbs.
Check out the Prahran Market
This market is known to be Melbourne’s number one food market and is open every day, bar Mondays and Wednesdays.
You can find everything from fresh produce, to gourmet sausages and fine cheeses. They often have events, such as tea tastings and whole days dedicated to culinary delights such as truffles. Yum.
Have a poke along Chapel Street
Chapel Street is one of the most interesting stretches of road in Melbourne and Prahran is sectioned right near it.
You can buy essentially anything on this street, from homewares, to art supplies, books, plants and beautiful, boutique clothing.
There are plenty of places to stop in for a meal or a tipple and essentially every cuisine you can think of on offer.
All of this is available in the grungy, urban art adorned setting that is so typically Melbourne.
Watch a flick at the Astor Theatre
Technically located in the suburb of St Kilda (at the end of Chapel St), The Astor has been in operation since 1936 and seeing a flick there is an experience in itself.
Whilst the cinema occasionally shows new movies, it mostly dedicates itself to the films of yesteryear – anything from Casablanca, to Grease sing-a-longs and John Hughes tortured teenage feel good flicks. It regularly has double billings (I saw Alien and Aliens one night there) and has even screened every Fast and the Furious Film back to back.
The theatre itself is gorgeous – regal and ornate. There is only one screen, but the screen is massive. It does tend to get quite hot in summer and freezing in winter, so plan accordingly per the season.
You can check out the calendar here, which shows the screenings for each month.
One aspect of the cinema I love is that it has a pet cat – Duke, pictured above, who is always up for a bit of a cuddle after your session is over.
Dine on some of the suburb’s best Thai at its dirtiest club
Pretty much every Melburnian has heard of (or been to) Revolver, one of the most disgusting nightclubs in the city. Yet oddly enough, the same venue is home to a great Thai restaurant, Colonel Tan’s.
So if you’re a fan of Thai inspired food served in an American diner inspired aesthetic, get yourself to Colonel Tan’s. Make sure you avert your eyes from the Revolver dance floor on the way in.
If you want to discover more surprising hot spots for food, consider doing a tour of St Kilda’s secret food options.
Buy your ticket in advance here
Grab a tram to St Kilda Beach to check out the pier and Luna Park
Prahran is pretty close to what is probably Melbourne’s most famous suburb, St Kilda.
I personally think staying in Prahran offers up the both of best worlds, as you can catch the number 6 tram from High St and swap onto the 16 at St Kilda Rd to be at the beach within half an hour.
From here you can explore the admittedly very ordinary stretch of sand (Melbourne’s not got the nicest urban beaches, sorry – I am from Sydney and therefore a beach snob). However, the pier is rather cool and it’s well worth checking out Luna Park. It’s open on weekends, is the oldest theme park in Australia and the iconic face at the entrance is guaranteed to give you nightmares for weeks.
Learn about local history at Como Historic House and Garden
Another one that is technically in South Yarra, but a cool addition nonetheless.
This beautiful stately home is part of the National Trust (a wonderful organisation well worth supporting).
It is now a museum of sorts, which offers a glimpse into the lives of high society family the Armytages, who called it home for near on a century.
You’ll have to book a tour in advance as it’s only open on select days – you can check out times here (a note to anyone trying to do so atm – it’s closed until the 10th July, 2018).
Stroll along the Capital City Trail
As the name suggests, this trail circles the city and cuts through South Yarra.
The trail links up the cultural, sporting and outdoor highlights of Melbourne. It takes you past sights such as the G, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Zoo and the Docklands precinct.
The trail also hooks up to many others in and around Melbourne, such as the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail.
The whole distance is 29km and it takes around 4 hours to walk. You can ride it too, if you feel that way inclined.
Public Transport Options in Prahran
Trams run up along Chapel Street (you have to pay to use them). The nearest train stations are Prahran and Windsor, which run along the Sandringham line. You can catch the train there from Platform 13 on Flinders Street.
Accomodation Options in Prahran
Check out other hotel options in Prahran
Where to Stay in Melbourne For Culture and Fun: Collingwood
Located in the inner city, Collingwood offers a varied amount of activities for young folk and families, making it a popular destination to visit and live in for both parties (although it is young professionals who mostly find themselves able to afford the property prices and rent – lucky them).
You can do a range of activities here, from visiting a city farm to immersing yourself into the craft beer scene.
Basically, Collingwood is one of the best places to stay in Melbourne if you want to soak up a little bit of culture (and beer, too!) and have some fun.
The pros of staying in Collingwood
It’s colourful, vibrant and interesting. There’s great food on offer, plenty of boutique bars and it isn’t at all far from the city. Caters for families and individuals alike.
The less exciting aspects of Collingwood
As with anywhere inner city, it can be expensive to stay in.
Things to do in Collingwood
Here are some things to do in Collingwood, for all ages.
Take a street art tour
Collingwood and nearby Fitzroy are well-known for their varied and vibrant street art. You can do a self-guided tour by wandering the suburbs, or if you’re short on time and wish to see the best of the best, consider participating in a organised street art tour of the area.
There are walking tours of Fitzroy, where you can get to know some of the area’s more colourful characters. Perfect if you’re into true crime.
Book a place on a True Crime Tour here
Grab a specially brewed beer at Stomping Ground
Stomping Ground Brewery and Beer Hall is an independent brewery that is fantastic for a specific event (like a birthday), a meal, or for taking a tipple or two.
Collingwood was once the place for brews and Stomping Ground are working hard to bring brewing back home to its original “stomping ground”.
There is a range of beers and ales on top (and ciders too, for boring non-beer drinkers like me – yes, I am a monster) and as with all good breweries, you can get food onsite too.
Or just simply go on a craft beer tour
This part of Melbourne’s craft beer scene is only growing and there’s plenty of other venues available for enjoying local brews. Try Forester’s Beer and Music Hall, The Terminus Hotel, Moon Dog Brewery in nearby Abbotsford or just go exploring!
- Forester’s – 64 Smith Street, Collingwood
- Moon Dog – 17 Duke Street, Abbotsford
- The Terminus Hotel – 492 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North
Have dinner inside a train, on top of a building
It’s one thing to eat out on the rooftop of a building, it’s another to catch a meal on a stationary train and the ultimate to mix the two together and chow down on burgers, in a train, on top of a building.
You can do just that at Easeys. Be sure to book in advance.
Chow down on pizza at Lazer Pig
If nothing pleases you more than a slice of pizza, you should get yourself to Lazer Pig for some delicious food and local brews.
Pro tip – If you’re staying in Collingwood and keen on spending the night in, you can order it as delivery, too.
I didn’t feel like a real adult until I had pizza ordered to my house in Sydney at the age of 22, despite having lived out of home for years at that point. That’s right, it wasn’t my first drink, first entrance to a nightclub, first over-18’s event or first vote that made me feel like I’d made it into the adult world – it was a Doughboys pizza.
Attend a ‘Pies game
Collingwood’s AFL team are a strange one as far as the comp goes – they have a strong following and most people ardently love them or truly hate them.
The club plays its home games at the MCG, along with Hawthorn, Richmond and the Demons. Just another reason to consider catching a game the G, I suppose.
Dance all night at The Gasometer Hotel
Love to dance, but hate the awful music that most clubs these days insist on playing?
Well, once a month or so, The Gasometer Hotel plays home to Mr. McClelland’s Finishing School – where Melburnians gather to dance ’til the early hours of the morning to pop music.
You’re promised a night of excellent songs to shake your tail feather to and I have it on good authority that it’s a lot of fun.
Visit the Collingwood Children’s Farm
While you’re at the Convent you can head over to the nearby Collingwood Childrens’ Farm, which promises an experience of country life, for city folk.
It’s open every day of the year. You can brush a cow, cuddle a guinea pig, play with ducks, stroke the noses of horses or just wander the grounds.
As the name suggests, it’s an activity that’s ideal for kids, but I’m sure big kids will enjoy it too.
Check out the Abbotsford Convent
Located in nearby Abbotsford, the Abbotsford Convent spreads over 16 acres and is Australia’s largest multi-arts precinct.
On-site you’ll find studios, galleries, a school, a radio station, a lot of green space, restaurants and cafés.
One place worth mentioning is Lentil As Anything, a vegetarian restaurant that operates a pay-as-you-feel model. Their belief is that everyone deserves a place at a table – if you have the money however, do make a generous donation, so that this enterprise can continue. Read more about Lentil As Anything here.
Public Transport Options in Collingwood
Catch a train to Collingwood Station, along the South Morang line. It’s only four stops from Flinders Street.
Accommodation Options in Collingwood
Check out other hotel options in Collingwood
Where to Stay in Melbourne for Shopping and the Nightlife: Fitzroy
Just north of Collingwood, Fitzroy is an area worth staying in its own right, although there are plenty of crossovers between the two.
It’s the best place to stay in Melbourne if you love to eat and you love to shop, plus hitting the pubs in Fitzroy can too be a lot of fun.
The pros of staying in Fitzroy
Fitzroy is about as inner-city as you can get, without actually technically being in the city. It’s home to beautiful gardens, eclectic shops, colourful street art, fun bars and eateries.
I think vegans in particular are very well-served by Fitzroy – it has a high concentration of restaurants suited to this particular type of eating.
Whilst painfully hip, it’s also quite family-friendly, with a range of activities on offer.
The less exciting aspects of the Fitzroy
Same as most – it’s pricey and outside of the free tram zone, so you’ll have to pay for transport.
Read more: Quirky Date Ideas in Melbourne
Things to do in Fitzroy
Here are some things you can get up to in Fitzroy. It’s quite good for shopping and eating, particularly if you’re vegan.
Have a meal at Naked for Satan and take in the view
Love yourself some tapas and rooftop views? Well, be sure to book in a table at Naked for Satan, which offers high dining with gorgeous views of the city.
A pro but very obvious tip – try to get there around sunset (which can be as late as 8pm in the summer months, generally you’re best served by arriving at around 530pm in the wintertime).
If you enjoy the food, the place sells its own cookbook, which could be a funky souvenir worth considering.
Go op-shopping along Brunswick Street
Fitzroy is great for shopping, particularly of the Macklemore variety (I hate myself for making that joke, but let’s move on).
I’ve grabbed some decent buys along Brunswick Road, particular at the Brotherhood of St Laurence. This includes an awesome pair of leather shoes, which I nabbed for 8 bloody dollars. They fit like a glove and I wear them all the time.
67 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Check out the Rose Street Artist’s Market
The Rose Street Markets are held every Saturday and Sunday (11am – 5pm) and celebrate all that is handmade.
Here you can find all sorts of locally made goods, such as furniture, fashion, jewellery and paintings.
The great thing is that you can talk to the designers and artists themselves, right there at their stalls about their items.
It’s well worth going to at least have window shop and see what is going on in this artistic corner of the city.
60 Rose Street, Fitzroy
Chill out in the IceBar
Australia’s only IceBar is situated in Fitzroy.
Kept at -10°C, it regularly holds competitions to see how long patrons can last until they get too cold and have to leave.
It’s recommended that you wear long pants and closed shoes to visit, although snow capes, gloves and ugg boots are provided onsite.
Standard entry is $39, which includes a cocktail at the bar.
Stroll through the Edinburgh Gardens
At 24 hectares, these gardens are one of the largest parks in the city.
It’s the perfect spot for a picnic, BBQ, spot of tennis (table and court bound) or lawn bowls or just a wander around.
Around half the park is a designated off-leash area, perfect for doing a bit of dog cuddling if you’re so inclined.
Public Transport Options in Fitzroy
Catching the route 11 tram will get you to Fitzroy from the CBD. The closest Metro Trains Station is probably Parliament.
Accommodation Options in Fitzroy
Check out other hotel options in Fitzroy
Where to Stay in Melbourne to Live Like a Local: Brunswick
Located in the north of the city, Brunswick is a very multicultural suburb, with a trendy crowd. It’s a destination for great and varied eats, cool pubs and beer gardens, live music and weirdly, bridal dress shopping.
Brunswick is a bit more family-friendly than a lot of other destinations on this list, and is the perfect place to stay if you fancy taking your kids to the zoo, but you’re still a cool, professional adult who likes to have a good time.
The pros of staying in Brunswick
It’s close to the city, but far enough away so that you’ll feel like a proper Melburnian whilst you stay there. There’s plenty of cool places to eat and the shopping is pleasing.
The suburb has a great bar scene and there are just enough weird things happening on the regular to keep it interesting.
The less exciting aspects of Brunswick
Parts of it feel a bit shady at night. During 2012 in a very high profile case, a young Irish woman was assaulted and murdered just off Sydney Road. The local community was left reeling and the killer is now behind bars.
As with anywhere in a big city, big careful when wandering about at night.
Read more: Things to do in the King Valley
Things to do in Brunswick
Here’s what you can get up to in Brunswick.
Visit Melbourne Zoo
Brunswick is not far at all from Melbourne Zoo – you can catch a train from Brunswick or Jewell (heading down towards the City), hop off at Royal Park and you’re essentially there.
Buy your ticket to Melbourne Zoo here
It’s a great place to head to if you’ve an interest in Australian fauna and would like to see them alive in one piece, rather than lying dead on the side of the road.
The zoo is a whole day affair and entry is $36.00 for an adult. Children between the ages of 4-15 get in free on holidays and weekends (and for $18 weekdays). Oh, to be 15 again. Just kidding. You couldn’t pay me enough.
Drink where Beyonce drank
Brunswick made headlines in 2013, when global superstar Beyonce travelled to the ‘burb and snapped a couple of photos in front of the house of a resident who had never heard of her.
She was then spotted at the delightfully dingy Retreat Hotel, on Sydney Road.
So if you want to do as “Queen Bey” once did, head to the treat for a vino and a packet of crisps and enjoy the local ambience.
Peruse some gorgeous knitwear at Otto and Spike
Otto and Spike make the most beautiful knitwear, onsite at their Brunswick factory. They’re been hanging around the suburb for over 40 years now and make their products out of soft, beautiful lambs wool and are big on not producing waste (so, a big thumbs up from this sustainability lover right here).
Their items are perfect for Melbourne’s winter weather, where the wind will whip straight through you and chill you the bone. They make everything from beanies, scarves and gloves, to picnic blankets and cutely patterned socks (pro tip – you can buy $10 socks with minor defects from their Brunswick store. I have a pair and think they’re perfect).
I personally next have my eye on this blanket, which would be a fantastic souvenir. Better start saving.
324 Victoria Street, Brunswick, VIC
Indulge in a long brunch
We Aussies love our brunch and this activity is often seen featuring highly on “what you must do when visiting Australia” type roundups.
I’m here to say – well, yeah. You should. Australia has a fantastic food scene, which is only just beginning to receive worldwide acclaim (WE’VE KNOWN THE TRUTH FOR YEARS). Most cafés go above and beyond the make the experience a good one, with all kinds of delicious meals, delightful decors and drinks.
As someone with a funny tummy who doesn’t drink coffee (a sacrilege in Melbourne, I’ll tell you that much for free) I appreciate the fact that there are always gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan options on offer and plenty of drinks, with all sorts of milks – from soy to macadamia.
Check out the street art
Like many areas of Melbourne, Brunswick’s urban art game is strong. The suburb’s identity is linked to the many pieces of art that adorn its buildings.
You can see many of the key pieces along Sydney Road and Lygon Street, as well as at Brunswick and Jewell Stations.
Take a High Tea at Mary Eats Cake
Melbourne does High Tea like a boss – you can have it at stately homes, local hotels offer themed varieties and there’s even one on a boat.
Brunswick Tea House has its own tea rooms dedicated to the practise, known as Mary Eats Cake.
You can nibble on delicious treats from $49 dollars per person, with options for add-ons such as flower crown and calligraphy workshops, cocktails and wine pairing packages.
Pick up some locally made, inexpensive jeans
If you walk down Sydney Road, there’ll always be this one rather unassuming store with a line of people gathered out the front.
This will be home to Dejour, where you can pick up a pair of locally made jeans for $55. I’m not joking.
If you don a pair of jeans which you love but are just not quite right, the staff will make adjustments on site to hemlines, zipper and button placement and length, for no extra cost.
The store also sells shorts, denim jackets and skirts. It’s basically a hipster’s wet dream.
My advice is go on a weekday if you can and GET THERE EARLY. The store opens up at 9.30am and I’ve arrived at ten and have had to wait for half an hour.
542 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056
Learn something completely random
Organisation Laneway Learning hold classes in just about anything – screen printing, DIY skincare, even tantric sex.
They hold classes in Brunswick, Newport and the CBD. They’re usually quite inexpensive – around $20 – and go for just over an hour.
It’s something worth checking out if you fancy picking up a new skill, during your time spent in Melbourne.
For a local’s perspective, I highly recommend checking out this post on reasons to visit Brunswick.
Public Transport Options in Brunswick
Brunswick is serviced by the Upfield Metro Train line – the best stations to stay near are Jewell and Brunswick. You can catch the number 6 tram back and forth from the city, which travels along Lygon Street.
Accommodation Options in Brunswick
Check out other hotel options in Brunswick
Where to Stay in Melbourne for a bit of everything: Northcote
Northcote is a hip, inner suburb north of the city and east of East Brunswick.
It and neighbouring suburb Thornbury offer up plenty of options for things to do, with lots of cool cafés, bars and restaurants, boutique shops, venues for live music and urban art to explore.
The pros of staying in Northcote
It’s rather self-contained, but not too far from the city. You could hop on a tram and be there in around twenty minutes.
There’s plenty to see and do to keep you busy… I’d say a pretty wide range of activities. Plus, it’s not too hard to get to other suburbs on this list.
The less exciting aspects of Northcote
It can seem a bit painfully trendy for those who are less inclined to these sort of places. Also, you may end up spending a lot of money if you dare to venture into many of the stores in the area. They’re really good!
Things to do in Northcote
Here are some things you can do in both Northcote and Thornbury.
Visit the Northcote Social Club
The Northcote Social Club is one of the central hubs for entertainment in the area.
There’s a bar and kitchen, live music every day of the week and board games to play during quieter moments at the venue!
Grab some delicious brunch
There’s plenty of options for grub for every meal (of just about every cuisine, too), but we’ll stick to brunch options here, as I admittedly know them best.
Here are some brunchalicious cafés worth checking out:
- Bicycle Thieves 449 High Street
- Sookie La La 593 High Street
- Barry 85 High Street
Go for a shop and a poke
You could spend a lot of money in this corner of Melbourne, with many boutique clothing and jewellery stores, places selling craft beer, used bookstores and record stores too.
Start at either the top or bottom end of High Street and working your along each side, if you feel so inclined.
Catch a flick at Palace Westgarth
If the weather is bad (which happens often in Melbourne) or you just want to switch off and chill for a couple of hours, consider seeing a movie at the art deco Westgarth Cinema. Or, just go admire the building!
There too is the tiny Thornbury Picture House, showcasing independent films.
Check out Welcome to Thornbury
Melbourne has some great beer gardens, but Welcome to Thornbury is one of, if not the best.
There’s a revolving series of food trucks and a permanent bar, outdoor and indoor seating, an old games arcade and a photo booth!
Check out the Islamic Museum of Australia
Melbourne has some fantastic museums and although this one is a lot further out than most, it’s definitely worth visiting.
The Islamic Museum is not only a starting point for anyone wishing to know more about this religious, but pays homage to notable Muslim Australians, such as media presenter Waleed Aly, author Susan Carland and AFL sports star Bachar Houli.
Have a picnic at All Nations Park
Darebin Council are one of Melbourne’s more community and sustainability-focused councils, something you’ll see in All Nations Park – a 13 hectare public space that was apparently built on an old landfill.
The park is a lot quieter than others in the city and features children’s play equipment, a duck pond and plenty of public art.
Public transport options in Northcote
The best tram for commuting between the CBD and Northcote is the 86, which runs straight through High Street. There’s also Westgarth Station towards the bottom-end of the suburb.
Accommodation Options in Northcote
Check out other hotel options in Northcote
Where to Stay in Melbourne On a Return Visit: Footscray
Been to Melbourne a few times and want to check out a new area? Footscray is one of the best places to stay in Melbourne, if you want to experience somewhere new.
Once considered a particularly rundown corner of the city, Footscray is one of the areas being most rapidly gentrified, as Melburnians struggle to find anywhere possible to buy into.
The gateway to the west, Footscray is highly multicultural, which means there is a varied selection of food on offer, for a fraction of what these same meals would cost in the city or inner-city suburbs.
The pros of staying in Footscray
Staying in Footscray is akin to staying in real Melbourne, where many of the city’s citizens live.
There’s a university nearby so it’s a great scene for young folk with plenty of varied places to eat and cool, hip bars popping up everywhere.
The less exciting aspects of Footscray
It’s still a bit of a rough and tumble area and if you’re travelling via public transport, it can be a real pain to get to the other side of the city.
Things to do in Footscray
There’s a really mixture of things to do in Footscray and its surrounding suburbs. There are lots of different cuisines to try, plenty of bars to drink at and lots of lovely shops and cafés.
Chow down on some cheap Ethiopian
Footscray has a very multicultural dining scene and its Ethiopian in particular is top notch nosh.
Try Abesha Restaurant or the very unassuming Dinknesh Lucy if you want some quality eats for a pretty darn cheap price.
- Abesha – 327 Barkly St, Footscray
- Dinknesh Lucy – 227 Barkly St, Footscray
Visit Footscray Market
Footscray Market is an indoor market opposite the train station.
There’s a mix of food there, from fresh produce and standards meats, to more exotic Asian goods (like lotus flowers and pig’s ears. Yum).
Well worth making a visit there if you’re staying in a self-contained apartment and fancy cooking a meal in.
The smaller suburb of Yarraville is one of my favourites in the city.
It has a real community vibe to it – in fact, it feels more like a village than a suburb of Melbourne.
There are plenty of restaurants, cafés, bookstores, a wonderful cinema and a town square, where you can relax in the sun with food and drinks.
It’s the place to head to if you truly want to experience life as a local in this corner of the city.
Grab breakfast at the very punny Seddon Deadly Sins
Seddon Daily Sins is a cute little café in the neighbouring suburb of Seddon. It’s worth making the pilgrimage there if you’re a fan of puns, which is the main reason I would go.
148 Victoria Street 3011 Seddon
Stroll along the Maribyrnong River (or take a cruise)
Melbourne’s other river may be lesser known but is perhaps all the more nicer.
Have some pho-nomenally delicious Vietnamese at Pho Hung Vuong Saigon
This is said to be the best Vietnamese in the area and is a popular choice for locals. Nothing beats a warm bowl of Pho on a rainy, miserable Melbourne day.
As an aside, I’m a big fan of Roti Road, for Malaysian cuisine.
- Pho Hung Vuong Saigon 128 Hopkins St
- Roti Road 189/193 Barkly St
Go for a tipple
There are plenty of students in and around Footscray, due to the nearby Victoria University.
Where there are students, there is drinking and Footscray has a range of cute little bars and pubs that are worth exploring.
Here are some options, to get you started.
- The Cheeky Pint – 231 Barkly St
- Back Alley Sally’s – 4 Yewers St
- Littlefoot Bar – 223 Barkly St
- Bad Love Club – Shop 5/68-82 Hopkins St
- Sloth Bar – 202 Barkly St
Check out the Footscray Community Arts Centre
If you fancy checking out some local art, head to the Community Arts Centre.
The centre holds exhibitions showcasing local talent and regular workshops and events. Definitely worth looking up if you like art and are staying in the area.
Public Transport Options in Footscray
Local buses tend to service the areas around the suburb, but you can easily catch the train to Footscray Station from the city via the Sunbury, Werribee or Williamstown lines.
Accommodation Options in Footscray
Check out other hotel options in Footscray and Yarraville
Where to Stay in Melbourne If You’re a History Buff: Williamstown
Love history? Well you’ll love this historic town.
Williamstown was Melbourne’s first port settlement and so is an important part of the city’s history.
It’s got a good mix of restaurants, cafés, craft stores and plenty of nautical activities on offer.
The pros of staying in Williamstown
It’s cute as pie, historic and self-contained. There’s so much to do there, it’s great for families and there’s even a beach. It feels quite safe at night – just watch out for the local ghosts.
The less exciting aspects of Williamstown
It’s quite far from the city, although there is a train that travels right on through to Flinders Street. You can also hop on a ferry that will take you to St Kilda.
Read more: The Best Places to Visit in Australia
Things to do in Williamstown
Many of the main attractions in Williamstown are based in history.
Take a ghost tour
As an old port town, Williamstown is home to some friendly (and perhaps not so friendly) ghosts.
There are plenty of sites which are reputedly haunted, such as the Timeball Tower and not so surprisingly, the old Morgue.
If you fancy yourself a ghostbuster, you can take a tour of Williamstown at night – tickets are priced at $36.
Buy your ticket in advance here
Grab fish and chips by the beach
Williamstown is home to one of Melbourne’s metro beaches, probably the best of a bad bunch (tough crowd, I know).
One thing that the city’s beaches are good for, is to provide a pleasing background for fish and chips! The ones sold at The Rotunda are said to be quite good, but there’s a surf club by the beach as well.
Check out wares at the Williamstown Craft Market
Held the 3rd Sunday of every month, the local craft market only sells wares that are homemade or homegrown.
Go there to shop, enjoy live music or grab a bite to eat from local vendors for lunch.
Explore an original war ship – HMAS Castlemaine
Located at Gem Pier, this old warship turned museum is an important part of Australian maritime history.
It demonstrates how crews lived and worked during the war years and is worth a poke around if you’re a history buff or simply a fan of boats.
Stroll along the waterfront (preferably with an ice cream)
And after exploring the ship, grab an ice cream from one of Williamstown’s many shops and take a stroll along the very pretty foreshore, with a view of the city in the background.
Take a ferry to St Kilda
And for even more boat and water-related activities, hop on the St Kilda ferry, which travels up along the sea to St Kilda pier.
You can observe the city from the water along the way.
Experience dinner and a show at the Titanic restaurant
Fancy dinner and a show? Head to the Titanic Restaurant for just that.
You’ll be taken on a voyage back in time and fed at the same time. The restaurant assures patrons that they’re guaranteed to not get wet, unless they end up spilling drinks on themselves.
Prices start at $90 for a three course menu and entertainment.
Learn about stuff at Scienceworks
This is a venerated museum of Melbourne and an excellent place to take the kids, for something that is a mix of inspirational and fun.
It’s also home to the Melbourne Planetarium, which provides a simulated display of the night sky, no matter what the time of the day, or weather!
Public Transport Options in Williamstown
Williamstown can be accessed by bus or train – there are several stops along the Williamstown line such as Williamstown Beach, Williamstown North and the eponymous Williamstown Station.
Accommodation Options in Williamstown
Check out other hotel options in Williamstown
While Melbourne’s city centre is endlessly interesting, I think it’s fairly evident that the city’s surrounding suburbs have quite a lot to offer. These are some of the best neighbourhoods in Melbourne, but there are plenty of others that would make this list.
Perhaps the next time you stay in the city, you’ll try branching out and give life as a Melbourne local (a Melburnian) a go.
A note on Melbourne Accommodation
While the obvious move regarding accommodation in Melbourne may be to suggest Airbnbs, you may have noticed that I have refrained from doing so in this post.
This is because I don’t really like using Airbnb – I’ve had issues with it myself and I dislike how it drives up rent prices in cities across the world, among other reasons. As someone who lives and works in Melbourne, the rising housing costs often cause me to cry into my pillow at night and cause many living here great concern over their own financial situations and the future.
If Airbnb is what you prefer using when travelling then by all means, investigate this further! I have done my best to suggest hotels and hostels across a range of different budgets, that will also serve you well. If you do want to read about using Airbnb in Melbourne then click here to read more.
Here are some other travel tips for Australia
All prices are in AUD.