Australia has always been high on my list. As a kid, I dreamed of snorkeling through the Great Barrier Reef, admiring Sydney's distinctive Opera House, and cuddling with koalas and kangaroos. (I'll admit, my childhood travel aspirations were heavily influenced by the latest Mary Kate and Ashley movies. I know I'm not the only one who went through that phase...)
Today I'm thrilled to feature Genevieve of The Wanderbug, who continuously inspires me to discover the real Australia. The more I read, the more I want to get to know this beautiful country. So without further ado, here's how to make the most out of 48 hours in Melbourne according to the lovely Genevieve!
Sydney and Melbourne have been rivals from the very beginning – In one corner, Sydney boasts the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge and one of the world’s best locations, with a CBD on the sparkling Sydney Harbour and the famous Bondi Beach.
Melbourne doesn’t have world-famous landmarks or the world’s most beautiful surroundings – hell, it doesn’t even have much sunshine most of the year, and that’s supposedly what Australia does best. So what makes it one of the world’s most popular cities, full of expats and interstate Aussies alike?
It may be Australia’s shopping, sporting, dining and cultural capital, but what do intangible qualities like culture, a “New York energy” and “European charm” translate into for the busy traveller?
You’ll want more than two days in Melbourne, but in just 48 hours it’s possible to get under the city’s skin and see exactly why many who move here never leave.
PS – Do a little research and book ahead for any major events. Melbourne is event city, with the likes of the Australian Open, the AFL, the Lion King, the ballet, the Melbourne Fashion Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, to name just a few tickets worth splurging on.
Start with brunch done a little differently at Breakfast Thieves in the trendy inner city suburb of Fitzroy or stick to pastries at De Clieu. Either way, make sure you order a coffee too – Melbourne is a city of coffee afficionados, so make like a local and order a flat white.
Use the caffeine hit to power around the boutiques on Fitzroy’s Smith Street and Gertrude Street. Cookbook collectors shouldn’t miss Books for Cooks, an absolute mecca of new and vintage cookbooks.
On your way back into town, stop by the beautiful Carlton Gardens and marvel at the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Listed Royal Exhibition Building. It’s one of the world’s last remaining exhibition buildings from the International Exhibition Movement from 1851-1914 and is still in use today, often hosting – you guessed it – exhibitions.
From one gorgeous building to another, head into the city and check out the iconic Flinders Street Station & see what is on in the adjacent Fed Square.
Head into the city this afternoon, for lunch in one of the many laneways off Flinders Lane. My favourites are Centre Place, Degraves St and Scott Alley, which are all close together and full of delicious eateries. I won’t tell you where exactly to eat – follow your nose, you can’t go wrong.
Hop across the river and take a stroll through pretty, tree-lined South Bank, before heading east to Melbourne’s shopping mecca.
Melbourne is Australia’s most stylish city, so catch a tram to Chapel St, the city’s most famous shopping street stretching through four suburbs! Start from the top in stylish South Yarra and browse Melbourne’s most glamorous boutiques like Le Louvre and those of Australian designers like Shakuhachi.
Work your way down to Prahran (pronounced Peh-raaaaan, don’t ask), where you can rummage for quirky treasures at the Chapel St Bazaar and fabulous vintage at Olga de Polga.
If you need a break from the hustle and bustle, take a coffee or a snack to the Princes or Grattan Gardens.
Still on Chapel Street, but one suburb south in Windsor, head to Polish restaurant Borsch, Vodka & Tears for drinks. They have more than 100 vodka varieties, and a seriously fun cocktail menu. The brave can try their cocktail flights for $14.95 – make sure to include a fruit-infused vodka, delicious!
A short walk down the street is Saigon Sally, a hip Vietnamese restaurant that will have your jaw dropping at every dish. The menu is designed for sharing, which is perfect because you’ll want to try a bit of everything! Make sure you book in advance, it’s one of the hottest tickets in town. On your way in, check out the colourful alleyway beside the restaurant – it’s a great photo op that sums up Melbourne’s unexpected street art perfectly!
If you’re not planning on dancing the night away, hop down to the bayside suburb of St Kilda for a walk by the water and under the bright lights of historic theme park, Luna Park. At the right time of year, you can take free guided walks down the pier to spot the shy fairy penguins.
Prefer partying over penguins? Bar hop for a few hours, at places like Mr Miyagi or Kid Boston, until it’s time to find a DJ.
When midnight rolls around, head to Boutique or The Emerson in Prahran. Note that there is a $20 cover charge for each place, so you might want to choose one or the other! If I had to choose one, I’d go with The Emerson for the better DJs.
Take it easy this morning with a lazy, long brunch at Kettle Black in South Melbourne. Be prepared for a potential 10-15 minute wait, because it can be very popular on a Sunday! Luckily, the food is definitely worth it – my favourite dish is the spectacular ricotta hotcake.
South Melbourne Market is known as Melbourne’s best market, with plenty of fresh produce, gourmet providors and pop ups from local designers. Shop, snack and stroll for the perfect lazy afternoon.
Plan ahead and book to see a show tonight – Melbourne has the reputation of being Australia’s most cultural city, and for good reason. There are always multiple entertainment offerings, whether you’re into the ballet, musicals, comedy or something totally different. If you can, try to see something in the gorgeous old Regent Theatre for some old world glamour in the city.
Before the show, head to Bomba for dinner. This popular tapas restaurant accepts bookings every day except Saturday, so either book in advance or arrive an hour early to put your name on the list. The hour or so wait is the perfect excuse to check out their cute rooftop bar upstairs and enjoy the city view with a glass of cava in hand.
End your evening with a drink at either the Eureka Tower in South Bank, or the Rialto Tower in the city. The Eureka is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, but has an $18 entry fee. If you’re on a budget, head up to the Rialto Tower instead & only pay for the price of your drink.
BIO: Genevieve is an Australian travel blogger, on a mission to have her cake and eat it - living a life full of travel, without quitting her job or the perks of a fixed life. After recently relocating from sunny Queensland to Melbourne, she’s been busy exploring her new city and hatching plans for weekend escapes into the diverse state of Victoria – watch this space. She shares her travel tips & stories on The Wanderbug, Instagram and Facebook.