24 Hours in Melbourne with Charlie Lee of Working Girl Press

by Stephanie

24 Hours in Melbourne City Guide

Today’s 24 Hours in Melbourne, Australia City Guide comes to us from Charlie Lee, the blogger behind Working Girl Press. Although she was born in Malaysia, Charlie has come to call Melbourne home and makes it a point to go back as often as she can. When she’s not visiting with family and friends, she can be found roaming the bustling city, stopping at cafes, shops and the local attractions along the way. Today she shares her ideal 24 hours in the city of Melbourne! Thanks for a great guide, Charlie. –Stephanie

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

Read the full guide after the jump…

My family emigrated from Malaysia to Australia when I was 5, and there I spent the next 16 years of my life. And although I split my time nowadays between New York and London, I still call Melbourne home. I head home once a year to see my family – that’s mum and dad, my sister and her husband and their three boys (all aged under 6!). When I’m there, I try to cram in all that Melbourne has to offer. Come join me for a perfect Sunday in my home town!

8 am: Wake up early and head to the Camberwell Market. You’ll find that all the residents of the Eastern suburbs have come to join you, making this one of the busiest places in Melbourne. My mum loves it. She has a system to steer you through the 370 stalls of vintage clothes, jewelry, antiques and garage sales, and not miss a single one. I pick up an old aboriginal clap stick and a stack of 2012 Australian interiors magazines – good for the flight back.

10 am: We stop for brunch at the Hush Hush Cafe. They make good smoothies, and you will have the first (of many) great Melbourne coffees. Design*Sponge readers should know that Melbourne is famous for having the best coffee in the world. To have brunch like a true Melbournian, we can read our local newspaper, The Age, and talk about property prices.

11 am: From the Camberwell market, we’ll take a tram to the inner-city neighborhood, Fitzroy.

11:30 am: We’re in Fitzroy to shop and eat. We’ll hit Magnation, a magazine shop hidden above the Brunswick Street bookstore. I love magazines, so I love everything about this place. Magnation has grown to five stores since their start in 2006, proving that hard copy is not dead. The trick, it seems, is to provide a brilliantly curated selection, with titles like Kinfolk, Treadlie and Apartemento

Next stop is Wilkins and Kent, who have a particularly “Melbourne” selection of homewares, like the tea towel with a picture of Pellegrini’s espresso bar that I buy.

Turning onto Gertrude Street, we go to Mud Australia. They make dinnerware that’s matte on the outside and glazed on the inside. I love it and need a set of 12 mugs, but at $44 each, I’ll have to think about it.

1 pm: We take a break for lunch at the Gertrude Street Enoteca and start the evening early with white wine, oysters, prosciutto and parmesan. I start to think that life is good in Melbourne and maybe I could move back… 

2:30 pm: We head back into the city, through the Carlton Gardens, where you can see 130 years of Melbourne architecture in one place. On one side of the path there’s the sweeping modern architecture of the Melbourne Museum. On the other side, you’ll see the 130-year-old Royal Exhibition Building, which housed the first opening of our parliament at the turn of the century.

3 pm: In the city, we squeeze in a quick espresso at Pellegrinis (of tea towel fame). Back in the 1950s it brought real coffee to Melbournians. That must have been a shock. Even now, the strength of their coffee is really something.

3:30 pm: Melbourne is the home of Australian Rules Football, and we’re going to watch a game. My husband joins us, and gets us tickets to the member’s reserve at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. (They play football there as well as cricket).

The Melbourne Cricket Ground sounds quaint but isn’t – it seats 100,000 people. To put that into perspective, Giants Stadium seats 80,000, and NYC has at least 3 times the population of Melbourne. We love our sports. After a few drinks, my husband decides that we’ll name our first child Gary Ablett Jr. Jr.

6 pm: Post-game dinner at Papa Rich, a Malaysian chain restaurant in the city. I like this place because it’s interesting to see an Asian chain restaurant doing well in a western country – it’s usually the other way around. And, during my last visit, my parents took me there no fewer than four times! Listen people – the food is good.

I like the laksa, and you should try it, too. The coconut curry broth is spicy and not too sweet. Drop in some noodles, mussels, prawns and chewy tofu skins, and you have the perfect meal. And did you say your mouth is on fire? Well then, you can wash it down with an organic soya bean drink. Delicious!

8 pm: After dinner, we go to the Botanical Gardens to see moonlight cinema. Every summer they show the latest films as well as classics on a grassy hill overlooking Melbourne. The atmosphere is a real celebration of summer in the city. I just hope one of us remembered the mosquito repellent.

10 pm: After the movie, we’ll head to Eau De Vie, a cocktail bar down a dark laneway in the city. In the last 10 years in Melbourne, you cannot be sure you’re at a good bar unless you have upset some trash cans to get there. I’ll have a champagne cocktail with sherbet around the rim, after which I’ll be very drunk.

11 pm: We wander around for a long time until we find the alley down which lies Double-Happiness. It’s a cozy bar with the kitschy décor of communist China. The night ends here, with one last drink. Goodnight.

Other notes:

If you make the trip to Australia, then get the book In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Read it on the plane ride over. Be prepared to laugh so hard you start to cry.

Now, there’s a lot that I missed, and here are a few notable things:

Here are three (of many) great Melbourne restaurants, from expensive to cheap: Rosetta (very pretty and on the Yarra river), Movida (everyone’s favorite place for Spanish tapas) and I love Pho (best for cheap, addictive Vietnamese noodle soup).

Walking along the Yarra River, which runs along the city. It’s packed with restaurants and our local casino.

Some great areas near the city and by the ocean, like St Kilda and Port Melbourne, which have unique restaurants and shops.

Queen Victoria market, a big, busy green market on the edge of the city

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  • I’ve been doing loads of flying stops to Melbourne (from Perth or the USA, depending on where I’ve been over the last few years), and this does look hilariously like my trips. Never been to Camberwell Markets though, and not into footy. And Coconut House instead of Papa Rich.

    I usually cram in a visit to Craft Victoria (now just called Craft, but that’s impossible to google) and Pieces of Eight too.

  • i miss my melbourne. it’s a great city, amazing coffee, excellent art, design, craft, architecture plus shopping, food and sport! and beaches :)

  • Lived there forty years ago for two years. Absolutely wonderful city and the friendliest people and last but not least, incredible food. Visited during the millennium celebrations and found many changes but Australians are able to hold on to the architecture which makes Melbourne so outstanding.

  • So exciting to see my post here on Design*Sponge! Melbourne is a great city. I miss my family the most, and the coffee maybe second. I did day trip to Denver yesterday and really need a good Melbourne coffee right now.

  • I love the coffee at Pellegrinis, I used to go there all the time. If you go to Melbourne you have to go to Lygon St,. and St Kilda as well.

  • God I miss Melbourne. Only been there once but I fell in love when I first arrived. Can’t wait to go back, but just to go to the other side of the country isn’t easy for me these days…

  • All great tips however I’d just like to point out that we’re Melburnians and not Melbournians.

    Repeat after me: I visited Melb-burn (or for that true Melbs pronunciation: Melb’n) and I just know those southerners would laugh if I called it Mel-born. Those pesky Melburnians changing up the language… ah, when in Rome!

  • This write up made me so nostalgic. I miss Melbourne too. As well as that ridiculously strong coffee. Don’t forget Curtin House: Rooftop bar and Cookie (Yum!).

  • Yes to all the extra places mentioned in the comments here, especially Coconut House. Papa Rich is a chain, I still eat there but it’s good to know. I don’t eat meat but I hear Gami Chicken (Korean) is the go. And the endless amount of very good bars and cafes. A trip to the cafes and little restaurants of Smith St would go well.

    A visit to the MCG is a pretty questionable inclusion… WTF why?

  • Ok I also need to get a plug in for Brunswick/ Brunswick East – Monkhouse and Mr Kitly for clothing and homewares, East Elevation for food, Padre for coffee.

    over and out…

  • Excellent list, similar to my own dream day at home in Melbourne. One thing, though — I’d skip the footy and keep walking down Gertrude Street, then take the 86 tram north to High Street in Northcote!

  • Also need to go west of Melbourne to yarraville, seddon & footscray
    Shops like Sedonia, cafe gorilla espresso & the sun cinema

  • Williamstown has melbournes most beautiful shop. It’s called Love It gifts and Homewares

  • I went to Australia for 10 weeks from England around 2008 first touched down in Adelaide South ,then on to Elizabeth South i visited Melbourne for one week what big Markets there i got lost instead of catching Bendy Bus i walked to Nephews Hotel but had to stop near Big Childrens Hospital a Burger Bar next door to ask the way Australia very nice place anyone who is Young its highly recommended have a nice day and thank you for a nice Welcome ,Gordon ,