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?

where to stay in Melbourne

Just another ordinary day in one of Australia’s most interesting cities.

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.

Read more: Melbourne Itinerary: How to Spend a Week in Melbourne

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grafitti melbourne kid

Very neat urban art in the city centre.

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

cold drip coffee melbs

Don’t forget to have some coffee in Melbourne, it’s the best in the world (ask any Melburnian and they’ll tell you as much!).

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

escher ngv

The Escher x Nendo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

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

hu tong dumplings

If there’s one thing Melbourne does well, it’s dumplings.

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.

lucy lui bar

Lucy Liu Bar in the CBD.

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.

flinders street

The clocks of Flinders Street Station, a Melbourne icon.

Where to Stay in Melbourne’s Central Business District

  • Budget: Melbourne City Backpackers has free breakfast and is close to Southern Cross Station.
  • Mid-range: The InterContinental Melbourne was built in 1891 (I would presume it has been renovated since then!) and features two restaurants, a lounge bar and a pool.
  • Lad-di-da: The Grand Hyatt is a high-rise with city views, which also boasts an indoor pool and spa.
  • Unique or boutique: The NOTEL is not your average hotel – rather, it’s a collection of airstream trailers on a carpark rooftop. You can read a review about the experience of staying in one, here.
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.

sunset docklands

Sunset in the Docklands area of the city. It’s okay, I guess.

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

docklands buzz lightyear painting

There’s plenty of urban art around the Docklands.

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!

melbourne star view

The view from the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel.

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

Go Ice-Skating

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.

docklands carpark view

A colourful carpark near The District.

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.

tram southern cross

Looking down at Bourke Street from the steps of Southern Cross Station.

Docklands Accommodation Options

  • Budget: Melbourne Central YHA is just down the street from Southern Cross. I’ve always found the standard of YHA’s to be very high.
  • Mid-range: The Travelodge Hotel is reasonably priced and located right next to Southern Cross Station.
  • La-di-da: These luxury apartments look out over the water and come with an indoor swimming pool and wellness centre.
Check out other hotel options in Docklands

chapel street prahran

Wandering along Chapel St in Prahran.

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.

Read more: How to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in Australia

prahran street

Prahran has some genuinely beautiful architecture..

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.

astor theatre st kilda

“Stopping taking photos and just pat me, damn it.”

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

luna park st kilda

The entrance to Luna Park. Good luck sleeping tonight.

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).

yarra winter

This trail will take you right back along the Yarra.

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

  • Budget: Lords Lodge is a hostel set in a 150 year old mansion, which is an 8 minute walk from Prahran station.
  • Mid-range: Oaks South Yarra is a contemporary hotel right next to South Yarra train station.
  • Lad-di-da: The Parkview Hotel has wonderful views over Albert Park and city skyline.
  • Unique or boutique: The Cullen is a boutique hotel featuring decor inspired by artist Adam Cullen. There’s also a popular dumpling bar onsite. Yum.
Check out other hotel options in Prahran

collingwood buildings sunset

Collingwood at sunset.

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.

Read more: A Day Trip to Healesville in the Yarra Valley

art collingwood

Not sure what this is meant to be – Collingwood is odd.

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
easeys trains collingwood

What else would you do with old carriages other than pop them on top of a roof and turn one into a restaurant?

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.

yarra mcg

If sport is a religion, then the MCG is the cathedral.

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.

sussex hen

Harassing the residents of the Farm.

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.

clown face collingwood

Great. More nightmares.

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

  • Budget: Collingwood Backpackers is a laidback hostel, right in the thick of the action.
  • Mid-range: City East Motel is a nice mid-way point between Collingwood and the nearby suburb of Abbotsford.
  • Lad-di-da: Tribeca Serviced Apartments are upscale self-serviced apartments which are an 8 minute walk to North Richmond Station.
Check out other hotel options in Collingwood

fitzroy art

You spend enough time wandering around Melbourne and you’ll recognise street artist’s work. This is by Baby Guerrilla.

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

fitzroy pizza place

Pizza, anyone?

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.

brunswick street art fitzroy

Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is great for shopping and nightlife.

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

icebar fitzroy

Winter is here.

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.

ghost sign fitzroy

A ghost sign of Fitzroy.

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

ned kellys brunswick

Ned Kelly-inspired art in Brunswick.

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

melbourne zoo butterflies

Inside the Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo.

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.

otto and spike socks

How cute are the tram socks? I may or may not have a pair…

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.

dog painting brunswick

Brunswick’s urban art is weird. Street art in Melbourne… odd in general.

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.

dejour jeans brunswick

Magic jeans from Brunswick.

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.

brunswick station

Never am not amused by this building at Brunswick Station.

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

  • Budget: Dolma Hotel in Brunswick offers free wifi.
  • Mid-range: Vibe Hotel in Parkville is only an 11 minute walk from Melbourne Zoo.
  • Lad-di-da: These serviced apartments are right in the action of Brunswick East.
Check out other hotel options in Brunswick

welcome to thornbury

Welcome to Thornbury… and Northcote.

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!

northcote social club sign

The Northcote Social Club is worth checking out, if you’re in the area.

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!

Another nearby spot for live music is the Thornbury Theatre. If you’re after somewhere with a bit more of a chilled vibe, check out Joe’s Shoe Store.

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
dvate painting northcote

I love Dvate, mostly because his work commonly features birdies.

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!

fox painting northcote

A fancy fox.

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.

tram view northcote

Taking the tram back towards the city.

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

clive palmer sign footscray

Australia is already great. It really doesn’t need your help, Clive.

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.

Franco Cozzo, an institution of Footscray.

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.

Read more: Open House Melbourne: Exploring the City’s Historic Buildings

bulldogs painting footscray

You’ll see tributes to the West Bulldogs everywhere in this part of town.

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.

sun theatre yarraville

The Sun Theatre cinema in Yarraville.

Visit Yarraville

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

moody melbourne over maribyrnong river

Looking at the city over the Maribyrnong.

Stroll along the Maribyrnong River (or take a cruise)

Melbourne’s other river may be lesser known but is perhaps all the more nicer.

You can take a stroll along it (or participate in the Saturday Parkrun) or even go for cruise, if the weather is fine and you feel so inclined.

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
royal hotel footscray

Favourite building in Footscray.

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.

footscray terminator statue

The Footscray Terminator. I don’t get it either.

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

  • Mid-range: Footscray Motor Inn features serviced apartments with free wifi and whirlpool baths in the upgraded quarters.
  • Lad-di-da: Boutique Stays is a three-bedroom town house with an outdoor dining area. You’ll be truly living the local’s life in Footscray!
Check out other hotel options in Footscray and Yarraville

melbs skyline from williamstown

The view of the Melbourne city skyline from Williamstown.

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

williamstown main street

The main street of Williamstown.

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.

castlemaine museum williamstown

HMAS Castlemaine is now a museum.

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.

titanic restaurant williamstown

Outside the Titanic restaurant in Willy.

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!

williamstown station

Williamstown train station.

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

  • Mid-range: Simmers Serviced Apartments have free wifi amongst other ammenities.
  • Lad-di-da: Quest offers self-contained apartments, right on the waterfront.
  • Unique or Boutique: Captains Retreat is a B&B set in a large, heritage house. Some of the rooms feature fireplaces and water views.
Check out other hotel options in Williamstown

things to do in melbourne

One more laneway, for old times’ sake.

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

What NOT to Do When Visiting Australia
Interesting and Bizarre Facts About Melbourne
The Best Weekend Getaways From Melbourne
Road Tripping the Silo Art Trails in Victoria
Alternative Places to Visit in New South Wales
15 Reasons Why Summer is the Worst Time to Visit Australia
An Introduction to Australian Slang
30 Tips for Travelling to Australia
Things to do in Hobart, Tasmania

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Pin me baby one more time (for future reference).

When travelling to #Melbourne, should you stay in the centre of the city, or one of its hip, surrounding suburbs? This guide explores what there is to do, see, eat and drink in the city, as well as areas such as Fitzroy, Brunswick, Prahran and Footscray. Armed with this information, you'll be able to make your choice of where to stay next time you visit this #Australian city. / #traveltips / #Australia / Melbourne Accommodation / Melbourne Hotels / #Melbournecity / #VisitVictoria /

All prices are in AUD.


LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats. Follow along on Facebook or sign up to the monthly newsletter.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

nat - June 7, 2018

Such a detailed and comprehensive post!

It was interesting to read about your thoughts on Airbnb (I feel that everyone adores it). Reminds me of the situation in Hobart with the rental market

    LC - June 7, 2018

    Thanks Nat! Yeah, I don’t like it at all. It’s a good idea in theory but in practice… I think it needs to be better regulated and tend to avoid it like the plague now, unless it’s the only booking option for say a tiny house on someone’s property for a country escape or something, haha.

BrendaPomponio - June 9, 2018

What a great round up of some great places in Melbourne. As a Melbournian I even found your tips and places to visit interesting and love how you break it down to include the good and not so good bits of each suburb.

    LC - June 14, 2018

    Thanks Brenda! Although a lot of the suburbs seem to make the same “con” points haha. “Expensive and perhaps a little bit stabby”.

Rhiannon - June 9, 2018

The village next to my village is called Williamstown. One day I’ll take some photos so we can compare and contrast our Williamstowns. Yours will win, hands down. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get my head around CBD meaning Central Business District! In my job we use CBD to mean “could be dodgy” (as in fraudulent claims) and I think it’ll forever mean that to me, I can’t unlearn it! So to me, Melbourne CBD is “Melbourne could be dodgy” haha.

I found out tonight that my aunt is actually from Melbourne! Well, she’s from NZ but moved to Melbourne when she was like 11 or something. For some reason I was always convinced she was from Brisbane. Anyway, she was trying to explain to me where in Melbourne she lived which, it turns out is apparently not “actually” Melbourne (Croydon), and when she was explaining all the areas I told her I already had a vague idea and showed her this post – she loved it!

    LC - June 14, 2018

    Only because it’s next to the water! To be fair Melbourne can be dodgy… so maybe in this instance CBD is apt?

    I’m so glad your Aunty liked the post! And that she’s from here rather than Brissy. It’s a much nicer city in my opinion (and not as stinking hot in the summer).

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