Melbourne is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and visiting certain suburbs often leads to discovering its migrant history as well their beliefs and culinary talent. Melbourne might not be as glitzy as other destinations but as the cultural center of Australia, one could easily spend a few months, joining the locals in their laid back, food conscious, coffee addicted, sports crazy lifestyle.
The Central Business District
At first glance the CBD might look a little sterile, but those who venture down the many alleyways and hidden nooks will discover a treasure trove of interesting spaces. Boutique stores, artists hubs, unmarked bars, and comfy little restaurants are just some of the things on offer, away from the crowds. The "Paris end" of town, at the top of Collins street, has many grand buildings including the majestic Windsor Hotel, and is the home to major fashion brands. Chinatown on little Bourke st, is one of the oldest in the world, and is lined with cheap dumpling houses and Peking duck stores. Nearby the David Jones and Myer stores offer a huge range of clothing and accessories, as does the budget friendly Queen Victoria Market. Near the picturesque Flinders St Station is Federation Square, the unofficial center of the city, which plays hosts to festivals and exhibits throughout the year. On the CBD's eastern border the Fitzroy Gardens are an ideal respite, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground is just moments further.
In the last ten years Southbank has become Melbourne's entertainment hub due to the huge and glitzy Crown Entertainment Complex. Whether you love it or hate it (many do both) it's hard not to be impressed with its non-stop action including bars, nightclubs, cinemas, world renowned restaurants and of course, the casino that never sleeps. For something a little more tranquil, the Melbourne Aquarium has thousands of creatures and the Victorian Arts Center is close by for those that crave some higher art.
Prahran & South Yarra
Bring your wallet, especially on Chapel St which is lined with designer boutique clothing stores and is full of Melbourne's beautiful set. The area also has many nightclubs though a common occurrence when the sun goes down is to get into a "doof doof" car and circle the streets for hours, advertising mobile numbers on "for sale" signs attached to back windows. The Commercial Rd area is a popular gay district with many bars and nightclubs.
St Kilda is a backpacker favorite due to its bay-side location, but in all fairness, the beach is average at best. What really attracts is the sidewalk culture of cafes, pubs and cheap food on Acland and Fitzroy Streets. It is also a prostitution hub, though this mostly occurs down backstreets. The Esplanade Hotel is one of the country's best live music venues, and Luna Park is a historic funfair that is still popular with new generations of children. The weekend craft market is also worth a visit.
This newly developed area has yet to win over the Melbourne public so it may seem quite dead, except for when the footy is on at the Etihad Stadium, when thousands suddenly swarm to it. With improving transport connections, and array of new restaurants being built, especially on the World Trade Center district, the area does show promise. The jury is still out on this one.
As the chosen suburb for thousands of Italian immigrants last century, Carlton is the home of Melbourne's Mediterranean cuisine. Most can be found on Lygon st, with its delicatessens, gelati shops and old school pasta places dotted amongst elegant terrace houses. The suburb also has a very active student scene with the state's most prestigious university, University of Melbourne located here. This means that during semester cafes, pub and parklands will be buzzing with life. It also means cheap Asian fare is available, mostly on Swanston St. The Carlton Gardens sits next to the Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum which are all worthy of a visit.
Fitzroy & Collingwood
These two working class suburbs have emerged in recent times to become the bohemian center of Melbourne. With their array of classic back street pubs, trendy bars, cosmopolitan restaurants, and live music haunts, the area is incredibly popular with those that like to socialize. Shopping is also a highlight as while Fitzroy has many designer clothing stores, Collingwood has an excellent array of direct to the public shopping warehouses and vintage clothing shops. It is also the unofficial Lesbian hub with a few great pubs, that cater to all people. The Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy is a great place to see some greenery and have a picnic. Take note: Collingwood Football Club is the most popular (and hated) in the country.
This suburb resembles a picturesque English seaside town with its grand buildings, quaint port and slow pace. At weekends many tourists take the ferry from Southbank for a day (train is also available), undoubtedly enjoying fresh oysters from the pier at lunchtime.
This suburb is extremely diverse with a multitude of cultures. Victoria Street is known as "Little Saigon" with its many Vietnamese Pho (soup) stores and duck restaurants. Bridge Rd is a shopping hotspot with factory outlets dotted with a few boutique stores along the way. Swan St and surrounds has some great pubs, due to its close proximity to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Main Yarra Trail Bike Path also borders the suburb.