Establishment neighborhood
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 Lane
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.
Albert Coates Ln., CBD
Incu’s sole Melbourne store is for the guys. Expect an international mix of clothing and apparel, including Common Projects sneakers, Comme des Garçons tees, and Acne Studios sweaters. Sydney is home to the womenswear store, but if you cannot handle the thought of leaving Australia without that Ganni slip dress that’s sold out at home or the adorable crochet Suryo bucket bag exclusive to the store, fear not. You can order whatever you like online for next-day delivery to your hotel room.
18 Punch Ln., CBD
Word of chef Khahn Nguyen’s Vietnamese-Malaysian mashup has spread quickly through Melbourne; for us, for whom any vegetable-forward dish showered in fresh herbs and unidentifiable, crispy, crunchy things is catnip, it was a siren call. Nguyen cut his teeth in Sydney’s most-celebrated kitchens—including a stint at Noma’s Sydney pop—but the Sunda menu is all him. Flaky roti (you need to ask for it, and you should) is ready to dip in a curry sauce spiked with Vegemite. Fresh slivers of scallop are stuffed in betel leaves with salty cucumbers for zing and crunch. Prepare to knock elbows with your neighbor at the bar seats, but the closely packed crowd just adds to the exuberant conviviality of the place, and the loud chatter and clinking glasses warm the otherwise-industrial space right up.
Juliet Melbourne
37/41 Little Bourke St., CBD
Hidden down a flight of steps, illuminated by a pink neon sign in lacy script, Juliet serves gooey, melty, cheesy things with small-batch Yarra Valley Chardonnays made by female winemakers. On Thursdays, there’s live jazz, which we love with rock oysters doused in mignonette and slurped in front of the burning fire. The most indulgent item on the menu is without question the raclette, which is brought to the table already half-melted and scraped into your pickles or German potatoes right then and there.
Cherry Bar
68 Little Collins St., CBD
“A dive bar so cool it refused to allow an extremely famous pop star to hold an after-party here” is one local friend’s description of Cherry Bar. The late-night institution recently moved to a new address, one that comes with a twenty-four-hour license. Frequent rock-and-roll gigs, blues every Sunday evening, and soul on Thursdays make up the regular schedule, but if you’re in the vicinity of Little Collins and hunting for a witching-hour tipple and a boisterous crowd, this is the spot.
Bodega Underground
55 Little Bourke St., CBD
We come to Bodega Underground for salty, eye-watering, limy margaritas; excellent fall-apart-tender pork tacos with just enough heat; fried tortilla chips; and a celebratory vibe under low ceilings papered with posters and strung with twinkling lights. That vibey lighting paired with scarlet walls gives the taqueria a moody, stay-all-night glow that will have you reaching for the “agave bible” (featuring close to a hundred varieties of tequila and mezcal) for another round.
San Telmo
14 Meyers Pl., CBD
Named for Buenos Aires’s artsy barrio, San Telmo, it’s no surprise that this upscale, leather-banquettes-and-monogrammed-glasses-spot specializes in steak. Argentinians lean toward a dark, crusty char on their meat, and San Telmo’s authentic parilla (metal grill) does not disappoint. All the cuts served here are pasture-raised on an Australian farm, and while an order of solomillo (dry-aged, bone-in sirloin) is definitely recommended, vegetarian diners have plenty to choose from: The potatoes drizzled in salsa and fried capers, the charred carrots with goat curd and hazelnuts, and the polenta are some of the tastiest items on the menu. If it’s a glass of wine and nibble of something at the bar you’re after, take a seat and sip a Malbec straight from Mendoza and snack on flaky empanadas.