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Melbourne: A local’s guide to the CBD

Find cheap flights to Melbourne and experience the city like a local with our guide to Melbourne and to the stylish, arty CBD.

What to do in the CBD

Get lost down laneways

Melbourne’s laneways deserve a streetart guide unto themselves! Some are better explored by day – Hosier Lane is an unconventional art gallery alley littered with street art, Hardware Lane and Degraves are known for cutesy cafes. Tattersalls Lane just off Chinatown puts its best face forward at night. Lit by a string of fairy lights, the narrow street is great for cheap eats and gritty bars. But the best strategy by far is to lose the map and have a wander – even the more unassuming streets may surprise you! For instance, Sutherland Street looks quiet from the outset but is home to the legendary Shortstop Donuts.

Visit the National Gallery of Victoria

Who hasn’t visited an art gallery or museum and briefly fantasised about wandering the exhibitions after-hours? Thanks to Friday Nights at the NGV, you can do just that – the gallery is open till late with the welcome additions of different live bands each week and a well stocked bar.

Shop till you drop

For shoppers with a discerning eye, Flinders Lane is the very height of Australian fashion and design. You’ll find Aesop right beside eclectic menswear store Incu, cult brand Et Al and Alpha 60 in classic monochromatic shades – you are in Melbourne after all.

Venture down a more traditional route at the Block Arcade. The charming 19th century shopping arcade houses Gewürtzhaus, spice vendor extraordinaire stocked with obscure salt varieties you never knew you needed. Flashier shopping can be found down Bourke Street Mall, the recently refurbished GPO or Emporium.

Footy at the MCG

Melbourne plays host to a rotating calendar of world class sporting events – the Australian Open included. But nothing can beat AFL season and heading over to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a game… literally just any game. The atmosphere in the 100,024 seater stadium is electric! Barracking for your team alongside thousands of others decked out in scarves and beanies on a Saturday afternoon is a winter must-do.

Where to find the best coffee in the CBD

The best coffee in Melbourne… now that’s a big call! Brother Baba Budan along Little Bourke is a city favourite – it’s always hectic but the coffee is amazing. Sensory Lab is perfect for hardcore coffee connoisseurs – baristas in lab coats offer tasting sessions and brewing lessons. And of course, there’s Market Lane. Does the slogan “we make coffee for the city that loves to drink it” sound familiar to you? That’s them! Brave the crowds for the ultimate Melbourne brew.

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Where to find the best eats in the CBD

Cafes

Brunch in Melbourne is an art form, and you’ll find some of the best places for cafe hopping right in the CBD! For a novelty breakfast, head to Hash Specialty Coffee on Hardware Lane (try their signature hot chocolate served with a mountain of fairy floss) or dial in to Operator25, housed in an former telephone exchange building.
For brunch fare that is all class, try Higher Ground. The exposed brick and marble industrial space serves up legendary hotcakes and bircher muesli. But if all you’re after is a good ol’ New York style bagel, Manchester Press is the place to be.

Restaurants

If you haven’t queued up for one the of super-hot, no-booking restaurants on Flinders Lane, have you really eaten out in Melbourne? Chin Chin and Lucy Liu offers the best in pan-Asian dining, with a great intersection of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese flavours. If you’re partial to tacos and tostadas, Mamasita is all the range when it comes to Mexican share plates. Carb lovers will have to drop by Tipo 00 – the restaurant plates up some of the best pasta in Melbourne.

There are also plenty of dining options in Chinatown that’ll go easy on your wallet. Devour more than your fair share of dumplings and wash it down with some BYO wine at Shanghai Dumpling House.

Where to find the best bars in Melbourne CBD

Nothing says Melbourne like a hidden bar. And the award winning Eau De Vie is the real OG of speakeasies. After you make your way past the secret entrance (marked by an old street lamp), you’ll enter a Great Gatsby time warp with opulent cocktails, plush booths and rickety jazz music. If you’re less about cocktails and all for whisky-swilling, visit their sister bar, Boilermaker House.

Union Electric may be tricky to find, but follow the Latin-jazz tunes down Heffernan Lane and you’ll be alright. Fresh fruits and rum reign supreme at this laid back venue. Or try Whitehart, a carpark turned double-storey shipping container bar. Drinks are excellent, and every week features a new food truck.

Done with hole-in-the-wall boozing? Arbory is Melbourne’s longest bar, stretching along the banks of the Yarra River. Talk about views!

Melbourne CBD Accommodation

The original Melbourne boutique hotel, The Adelphi is a 34-room property much beloved for its candy-inspired decor, turn down macarons and rooftop pool. Jutting out over the street below, swimmers can teeter on the edge for a low-key thrill.

The brand new five star QT Hotel is a masterclass in sleek-chic, located in the heart of the CBD. A major perk is its glamorous 11th floor rooftop bar, perfect for a sunset cocktail session.

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Transport in Melbourne CBD

How to get to the city from the airport

From Tullamarine, the easiest way to get to the city is jump on the Skybus. It takes 20 minutes to get to Southern Cross Station and a one way ticket will costs $19. If there’s a few of you, taxis take roughly the same time to get to the city, just triple the price. Car hire is also a good option if you have a couple day trips in the works!

If arriving at Avalon airport, the Skybus also offers the Avalon City Express running transfers to Melbourne CBD for $22. The journey time is an hour long.

How to get around the city

Melbourne’s grid layout makes it a breeze to navigate – even if you have no sense of direction! Most things are within walking distance, but given that the CBD is a free tram zone, weary travellers can easily put their feet up riding the tram from one end of the city to the other at zero cost.

If you plan to venture outside of the city, it’s always a good idea to purchase a myki travel card, available from any outlet with the myki logo.

Melbourne CBD Map – click to expand the map so you can zoom in on the must-visit destinations in this article!

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