452 St Kilda Rd., St. Kilda
Tucked out of the way in upscale St. Kilda, the Blackman is part of the Art Series hotel group. A unique concept—and a fun switch-up from the usual cream-and-taupe hotel interior—each Art Series property (there are three) is designed to fully embody its namesake Australian artist. Each hotel is fully kitted out with said artist’s work on the walls, art-themed libraries, and actual art supplies should you feel like turning to the paints to decompress. The Blackman is dedicated to the late Charles Blackman, celebrated for his dreamy Alice in Wonderland series; the vibe is swish downtown art gallery. Expect clashing prints, mixed-genre furniture, incredible views of Albert Park golf course and lake, and bicycles parked out the front for guests. Images courtesy of Mark Gambino.
234 Johnston St., Fitzroy
When a trio of chefs from top Melbourne restaurants like Attica and Rockwell & Sons go rogue and open their own joint, you get Bar Liberty, the restaurant-meets-wine-bar-meets-snack-spot that every neighborhood wishes it had. It’s the kind of place where you can pitch up alone, slide into a seat at the bar, taste a glass of something new and nibble on some perfectly sour sourdough with a pat of cultured butter. But a full dinner or at least a couple of plates to share here is so worth it—we had prawns charred over smoky coals and flecked with preserved corn, and the tastiest macadamia and honey tart to finish. (For those partial to an aperitif, try the locally distilled Okar, which tastes like Aperol’s antipodean cousin.)
Viktoria & Woods
013/287 Lonsdale St., CBD
A chunky, made-in-Australia merino knit sweater and stretchy, wide-legged pants are pretty much the dream outfit for sitting and snoozing through the inevitable long-haul flight home. Margie Woods and Lisa Reynolds founded this brand making ethically manufactured knitwear and have since expanded the boutique edit to include leather slides, belts, and delicate Linden Cook jewelry.
Queen Victoria Market
Queen St., CBD
One fast way to get to know a new city is through local markets. Queen Victoria Market has been feeding Melburnians since 1878, and these days, there is no space in the city that celebrates the city’s diverse culture better. Make a beeline for the Greek food purveyors—Melbourne has a massive Greek population—for souvlaki (colloquially referred to as “souvas”) and fork-tender chicken gyros. From there, amble from stall to stall and taste the local honey, cheese, and exotic fruits. For a closer look—and complimentary nibbles—take a food tour.
Hosier Ln., CBD
Melbourne has a New York City–style grit to it, and with that comes a thriving art scene. The city is saturated with galleries, creative collectives, and graffiti. Hosier Lane is an iconic stretch of mural in the East End. Like all great art sites that speak to a city’s identity, Hosier Lane is a meeting place and a hangout spot for the locals as much for out-of-towners. Wander the lanes at your own pace or take a tour for a more in-depth dive into what makes Melburnian artists tick.
National Gallery of Victoria
180 St. Kilda Rd., St. Kilda
NGV is actually two galleries (the walk is short, promise!) that divide the substantial art collection into Australian and International exhibits. Both are worth a visit for the permanent collections alone (which includes incredible indigenous art and textiles, French impressionist works, and modern sculpture and design), but it’s the roster of exhibits that makes the gallery a cultural forerunner. Currently on: a dive into the intersections between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and for the kiddos, an immersive play experience around Kaws-designed toy characters that look like a 2020 iteration of the Smurfs. For a casual refuel, the Gallery Kitchen brews excellent coffee, but for a proper sit-down, lunch at the fancy Garden Restaurant is the spot.
380 Lygon St., Carlton
On nights when only dinner and a movie will do, hit up Cinema Nova. The independent theater skews indie in its screening choices as much as possible, but Hollywood’s latest and greatest are regularly screened, too. Cinema Nova amps up the usual movie experience with plush, extra-roomy velvet seats to curl up in, a stellar wine list to sip on, and a gorgeous dining terrace with epic cheese boards to fuel the post-movie digest.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Birdwood Ave., South Yarra
Ninety-four acres of lawns, lakes, and native botanicals in the middle of a sprawling metropolis—sounds like a date to us. Transformed from swampy landmass to manicured flower beds in 1846, the gardens act as a community hub for locals and visitors alike. There are tours themed around plants and birds, boating on the lake (perfect for kids), forest bathing, and even projector movie nights on regular rotation.
181 Gertrude St., Fitzroy
Mud is synonymous with Australian ceramics. The pieces are made by potter Shelley Simpson in her Sydney studio, but a browse around the Fitzroy store is an exercise in sensory pleasure. Some pieces have a pebble-like texture, and others are smooth. All come in exquisite pastel shades, and best of all, the entire collection is dishwasher- and oven-safe.
No Order Market
193/187 Elizabeth St., CBD
This is the spot for international labels that can be tough to find in laid-back Melbourne. More of a fashion and design hub than a store, there are three shops within the industrial CBD space—Baserange (French basics), Shifting Worlds (designer womenswear, perfumes, and books) and Suku Home (artisan homewares and textiles). We make a beeline for the frilly Shrimps dresses, Maryam Nassir Zadeh slides, and gorgeous incense to burn back home.