Routinely praised for its creative culture and culinary scene, Melbourne is a place of indulgence—whether its art, food, cocktails, coffee or style. Visitors can explore the city through its labyrinthian laneways, discovering hidden gems and beloved icons along the way.
Lancemore Crossley St
The recently opened 113-room Lancemore Crossley St, designed by Melbourne’s Carr studio, is a chic retreat just steps from the city center. Modern and minimal, there are splashes of color and character throughout the hotel—most notably the massive, “fallen” chandelier in the lobby. There’s a rooftop to take in city views, as well as a gym and lobby bar, and the overall vibe is sophisticated without being stuffy.
Right in the middle of the city, QT Melbourne is bustling and playful (with eclectic art, neon lights and talking elevators), but the rooms provide a true sanctuary. Housed in a building that used to be a cinema, the 188-room hotel boasts a rooftop bar, a restaurant, coffee shop—and second bar that specializes in Japanese and Korean drinks and street food.
An instant classic when it opened in late 2015, Embla is a rustic but polished spot that focuses on natural wine and uncomplicated but elevated modern Australian cuisine. Knowledgeable, friendly staff makes the extensive wine list approachable (with local and international options available) and the menu of mostly small dishes lends itself to a casual, sharing dining experience.
The second venue owned by Nornie Bero—who is from the Komet People of Mer Island in the Torres Strait—Big Esso is a recent addition to the city’s Federation Square. Take a seat at one of the communal tables and order from the menu that focuses on native ingredients and Indigenous food. Highlights include saltbush or pumpkin damper and charred king prawns with spiced sea succulents. Drinks are all Australian, many from Indigenous-owned businesses and enterprises.
Laidback and cool but elegant, Bar Liberty possesses all the elements of a classic contemporary Melbourne bar, but that doesn’t make it any less special. Located on Fitzroy’s Johnston St, it’s the spot for a quick cocktail (or delicious mocktail) or a long, boozy dinner. The impressively long wine list focuses on low-intervention bottles from all over the world, and the food ranges from snacks to larger dishes—there are great options for vegetarians too.
The Supper Club
A cherished icon, The Supper Club opened in 1998 and sits between two other legendary Melbourne venues: the City Wine Shop and The European. Behind massive doors, guests will find wood-paneled walls, chesterfield couches and glowing lamps—and an extensive list of Australian wines as well as Champagnes, cocktails, cognacs, ports and rare single malts. Open until 4AM on weeknights and 6AM on weekends, this is a late-night spot (where the kitchen is always open) that embraces old-school glamor and indulgence.
Heide Museum of Art
Located in Bulleen— a 20-minute drive from the city—Heide is an 16-acre institution comprising three museums, a sculpture park and vast gardens. Its rich backstory begins in 1934, when arts benefactors John and Sunday Reed purchased the land and small home, founding a kind of retreat where young modernist artists gathered. The number of buildings (some architectural treasures themselves) increased, and eventually Heide became an official museum. An exceptional cultural landmark, Heide has always centered on celebrating and championing Australian art.
On Swanson St, the heritage-listed Nicholas Building (built in 1926) comprises stores and studios belonging to a community of artists, designers and creatives of all kinds of disciplines. Visitors can walk its tiled corridors and find everything from coffee shops to milliners, tarot readers, galleries and fashion galore—be sure to browse at Sticky Institute, Blindside Gallery and World of Books. There are frequent open house evenings too, when the public can traipse the 10-floor building seeing inside these diverse and enchanting studios.
A quick tram ride from the city center, Brunswick is an ever-evolving inner-city suburb that’s well worth exploring. Shop at Mr Kitly, Clothing The Gaps and Hope St Space; enjoy a drink and a snack at Waxflower or Bar Romantica; or have a beer at a classic pub like the Retreat Hotel.
A little over an hour from the city, the coast and hinterland of the Mornington Peninsula provides everything needed for a quick getaway. The region is home to numerous wineries (we suggest visiting Jackalope), as well as hot springs, day spas, seaside towns, and bushland and national parks that beg to be explored.