Melbourne and its charming neighborhoods have oft been recognized as one of the most livable cities in the world. The city offers top-notch quality of life plus a diverse dining and cultural scene. With a growing number of nonstop flights to the Victorian capital (Qantas now flies nonstop to Dallas/Fort Worth and United flies to Los Angeles and San Francisco), and new hotels popping up, it is helping to make this a worthy destination of the most luxury-seeking travelers.
While the CBD (Central Business District) is perhaps the most popular spot to stay, there are plenty of other neighborhoods worth visiting. Luckily, you can travel from this central part of town to other areas of the city via the city’s tram network, which features a mix of vintage and modern train cars. There is a free tram zone surrounding the CBD making it even easier for tourists to get around. Famous for its laneways, small side streets and covered shopping arcades, there is so much to explore downtown.
In the CBD, there are many popular hotels within major downtown landmarks like Flinders Street Station and Federation Square (the Westin and Grand Hyatt are two favorites). Across the river, the Langham and Crown Towers Melbourne also draw attention. Near Flagstaff Gardens (notable for its beautiful pathways and flowering trees) is the recently opened Courtyard Melbourne Flagstaff Gardens that has exceptional skyline views.
Whether you choose to stay within the CBD or want to explore further, here are five interesting areas of the city worth visiting on your next trip and some interesting places to stay in some of them.
It’s the local university that helped to make this neighborhood so famous for its coffee. Back in the 1950s, Carlton’s University Café brought the first European coffee machine to the country permanently cementing the nation’s tremendous focus on coffee (now on par with the likes of caffeine-focused Finland; it’s not just Italy and France, ya know).
Around here, you’ll find plenty of college students with their books and tablets in tow sipping coffee or relaxing on the grass of the many parks. This is also the neighborhood with Lygon Street, which is now known as Melbourne’s Little Italy. You’ll find some of the best Italian food here. Australia’s second largest city has the second largest population of Lebanese and Greek people outside of their home countries, too. All over the city, you will also discover restaurants serving these cuisines.
A contemporary, but somewhat gritty, neighborhood, Collingwood has great history and character. It was once a working-class area, but now has become more gentrified with pubs, bakeries, wine bars and live music venues. It’s not the most touristic of areas, but it is certainly a very Melbourne-centric neighborhood. Expect colorful grafitti, cool-kid design and fashionable locals that make this the kind of place you will want to get out and explore no matter where in the city you are staying. This is a great place to spend time for a change of pace after a day of visiting museums and art galleries in the CBD.
South Yarra neighborhood
If you want to get out of the city’s corporate bustle, head to South Yarra famous for its cafes, eclectic shops and bars. There’s an indie vibe to this part of town that is perfect for an afternoon stroll or walkabout. Prahran Market is a particular favorite for its delis and food vendors. In South Yarra, there are plenty of antiques and vintage clothing stores where you can nab a good deal.
This is also where you’ll find the Royal Botanic Garden for an afternoon stroll on a nice day. Elegant homes and art deco buildings fill the residential neighborhoods here. The Como Melbourne, part of Accor’s MGallery by Sofitel brand, is a great home base. In between South Yarra and the Docklands is the new AC Hotel Melbourne Southbank. In its namesake Southbank neighborhood, this is another high-rise option that has exceptional CBD skyline views.
This up-and-coming area of town was just hitting its high point before Covid struck. One of its biggest landmarks, the Melbourne Eye observation wheel, was visible from around town, but has since fallen victim to the pandemic. Now, the area is working to build its own status although for now it remains safe, clean, residential and a great alternative to downtown prices.
That does not mean that the Docklands should still not be on your list of places to visit. It’s a quiet, waterfront area of easy places to stroll, bike, dine and play without the hubbub of commercial traffic. Even better, it is within the free tram zone, which makes it the ideal place to stay if you don’t want to pay downtown prices or deal with the busy bustle.
Among the newest hotel openings is the Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands. It joins sibling Four Points by Sheraton across the street. Both are two of the best-positioned properties next to the tram station. It’s the fastest way to head into central Melbourne via free public transport. The walk is also a lovely 15-minute stroll along the waterfront and Yarra River. The Docklands Public Art Walk features large-scale sculptures that give the area its character.
The Marriott’s rooftop infinity pool overlooks the city and Port Phillip Bay, and its panoramic Sunset House craft cocktail lounge serves a variety of tasty libations and light bites.
St Kilda neighborhood
This popular spot is one of the neighborhoods known for nightlife, bars and coffee shops, and it is an entertaining place to stroll any time of day. Located along the shore, it has beautiful beaches. There’s also a popular amusement park, botanical gardens, shopping markets and several museums. All in all, it’s worth getting out and exploring this part of town. The colorful Victorian houses along the beach are perfect for snapping photos, too.
No matter where you go in town, there is always something new to explore. This sampler of five neighborhoods is just the beginning, and you’ll soon discover that Melbourne is a city worth returning to over and over.