With a large creative community, great galleries, world-famous places to eat and shop, and new places to discover cropping up nearly every day, it’s no wonder why graphic designer Ben Wright has called Melbourne, Victoria home for nearly a decade. “I’ve traveled the world,” he says, “but I always love coming back to Melbourne, a city that allows for a great lifestyle and lots of inspiration.”
A city where there’s always something new to discover, “it’s almost frustrating trying to keep up!” Ben jokes. While this guide only offers a taste of what Melbourne has to offer, he hopes it’ll give visitors some local knowledge to help them get started on their journey. “Melbourne’s a city that rewards the wanderer, so don’t be afraid to head down a side street or lane way as you never know what you’ll find!” Ben adds, “If you’re into great food and coffee and hopping between nice galleries and bookshops, you won’t be bored in Melbourne!” –Sabrina
Photography by Ben Wright
PLACES TO EAT
A Melbourne institution, the Queen Victoria Market Deli Hall is a must. Get caffeinated by the master baristas at Market Lane Coffee before exploring the aisles of stalls selling fresh breads and pastries, cheeses, antipasto, boutique wines and more. Queuing up for a $3 burek (a middle-eastern style pastry filled with either spicy lamb or spinach and cheese) has become somewhat of a Melbourne rite of passage.
Sourcing the best beans from around the world, which are roasted in Melbourne, the attention to detail that the skilled baristas at Duke’s put into pouring each cup is evident. Housed on the ground floor of a heritage building on Flinders Lane, the space consists of antique European tiles with modern wooden fit-outs and brass lighting. It makes for a quintessential Melbourne cafe experience.
This cafe is marked with merely a nondescript black and white sign that reads “coffee” behind a few yellow stools out the front, but inside, the baristas are pouring some of the Northside’s best coffee. As the name suggests, Everyday Coffee is open 365 days a year, and also serves up a small selection of bagels, sweets and juices.
On a sunny afternoon, one of the outdoor tables or windowsill spots at this Gertrude Street cafe is one of the best spots to be. Along with excellent coffee, they serve great lunches and a good selection of sweets. Be sure to try a Lamington: a small Australian cake coated in chocolate icing and coconut with jam in the middle.
By the time Lune’s doors open at 8 am, there’s already a steady queue lining the street, all waiting to get their hands on Melbourne’s most coveted pastry. Headed by a local patissier who trained among the best in Paris, every Lune croissant is made from the finest sourced ingredients with the utmost attention to detail. You can try classics croissants and crispy pain au chocolat, along with some of their own creations, such as a Turkish delight croissant and a range of cruffins (croissants baked in a muffin tin with different flavored fillings).
At the heart of this Collingwood cafe is an ethos of freshness and simplicity, which is carried through from the light and welcoming space, to the wholesome, modern Japanese-style lunch plates. Meaning “everyone’s home” in Japanese, Mina-no-ie, also serves coffee and freshly pressed juices, and they also have an adjoining store with a well-selected range of Japanese home wares, books and other miscellaneous bits and pieces. Lovers of all things Japanese needn’t travel to Tokyo to get their fix.
Now with two locations in the inner-northern suburbs, Alimentari is a deli with a focus on fresh Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern inspired cuisine. While the Fitzroy store has cemented itself as a Brunswick Street institution since opening almost 20 years ago, the recently opened Collingwood Store (with a more extensive menu and a leafy outdoor courtyard for long summer lunches) has fast become a Smith Street favorite. You can either eat-in or take-out one of their delicious sandwiches or salad boxes. Available for purchase are also their hearty range of home-cooked meals or fresh pastas which are made on-site daily, which can be taken home for later.
Enter the Spring Street Grocer (in the top end of the CBD) and follow the glowing yellow neon sign down the spiral staircase into cheese heaven. Stocking an impressive and seasonal range of farmhouse and artisan cheeses from Australia and beyond, the friendly cheese connoisseurs will only be too happy to explain all the different varieties and offer tastings if you need help making up your mind.
It’s first-come, first-served at this CBD tapas bar which sits next door to popular Spanish restaurant, Movida. Lively and atmospheric — being situated on a graffitied laneway just opposite Federation Square — guests crowd around the bar and pick from the daily specials on the chalkboard above. The service is friendly and sincere, and both local and Spanish wines are available.
This bright and fun gelateria is run by a Melbourne local who studied her craft at Gelato university in Italy! Serving all the favorite flavors, plus a few house specialties, its location in the heart of Lygon Street and late opening hours make it the perfect dessert stop-off after an Italian feast.
PLACES TO SHOP
Happiness is certainly guaranteed for lovers of beautiful books and magazines at this well designed bookshop in the heart of Collingwood. Lovers of print will be content to browse through the well curated selection of the latest novels, nice design books and independent travel guides. Along with a small collection of home wares and locally designed bits and pieces, those looking for a present or a tasteful souvenir of Melbourne are unlikely to leave empty-handed.
Much more that just a plant store, stepping into Loose Leaf from its industrial side-street location gives the feeling of having stumbled across a secret jungle in the inner city. A beautifully curated space, lovers of indoor plants will truly find their happy place, with exotic plants and flowers suspended from the walls and ceiling and a range of products for sale by local ceramicists.
This airy and bright space sits on a quiet residential street in Northcote and showcases the wares of the group of independent local designers who occupy the adjoining workshop. You’ll find handcrafted furniture made from quality Australian timber, their signature range of pots and a range of wares are available from talented Melbourne makers, such as earthy ceramics with organic patterns, rugs and wall hangings.
Climb the graffitied stairway to level three of Curtin House on Swanston Street in the city and you’ll find Metropolis books, a store specializing in the best of graphic design, architecture, photography, popular culture, fashion, film, music, art books as well as a collection of fiction, cooking and children’s books. The other levels of Curtin house are also worth browsing for interesting fashion stores and bars.
PLACES TO STAY
There are plenty of good accommodation options in the city, but if you’re looking for a unique experience, maybe this is your thing. Catch the train to the end of the Belgrave line, walk for 10 minutes, and you’ll find Jacky Winter Gardens, a private guesthouse situated alongside a creek among the lush bushland setting of the Dandenong Ranges. Owned and run by Melbourne illustration agency, Jacky Winter, the interiors have been fitted out with prints, custom designed wallpaper and other wares created by the agency’s talented artists. The house sleeps up to five people and booking can be made through their website.
Images above: Photography by Sean Fennessy
PLACES TO VISIT/SEE
One of Melbourne’s most well-loved outdoor spaces, The Royal Botanic Gardens are spread over almost 100 acres and are home to about 50,000 species of plants from around the world, tropical glasshouses, and a lake where you can take a gondola ride. The gardens also host an outdoor summer cinema in the warmer months.
The grounds of the Abbotsford Convent have long been enjoyed by the residents of the inner-northern suburbs. It’s hard to imagine that you’re still in quite a dense area of the city, as the sprawling gardens and adjoining children’s farm seem far removed from the big city. These days, the rooms of the convent have been converted into artists’ studios, a gorgeous bakery, cafes, and a gallery. The surrounding gardens host events such as festivals, various food and design markets, concerts, and an open-air cinema in the summer. Check the website to see what events are coming up.
Owned and operated by local illustration agency Jacky Winter, Lamington Drive is a gallery space which exhibits works from the agency’s talented roster of illustrators and graphic artists. Exhibitions change every month or so, and affordable prints are also available for purchase.
There’s nothing quite like catching an outdoor film on a warm summer night, but it’s even better when you’re on the rooftop of a six-story building with a 360-degree view of Melbourne’s skyline. Films range from the latest releases, cult hits to well-loved classics. The cinema runs throughout summer and the schedule is available online.