A Guide to what to do and see in Inner City Melbourne
Planning a Melbourne visit? We encourage you to get outside the CBD (Central Business District or downtown area) and explore inner-city Melbourne. This is the area within about 5 kilometers of Melbourne CBD and it has some great little hidden gems which many visitors miss. In this post we introduce you to these great neighborhoods and share some of our insider tips to help you make the most of your visit to Melbourne.
The trams run to all of these neighborhoods and are a great way to get around, there really is no need to drive in inner city Melbourne. If you are looking for a great place to stay, one of these neighborhoods could be ideal. The personalities of all of them differ a bit, there is something for everyone.
South of the city is colorful St.Kilda. Loaded with personality, St. Kilda can be a great place to people watch. St. Kilda beach is Melbourne’s version of Venice Beach. Some things to do and see:
- St. Kilda is home to Luna Park. Operating at the same location for over 100 years, this amusement park is a classic. The wooden Scenic Railway Roller Coaster runs around the outside of the entire Park. This coaster is the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world and the only one of its kind with a standing brakeman in control aboard its moving carriages. It is a classic in every sense of the word!
- Looking to relax? Check out the St. Kilda Sea Baths. Fully redeveloped and re-opened in 2002 there is 25 metre seawater pool, hydrotherapy and steam room facilities, and a lounge offering great views over Port Phillip Bay. Spa Dreamtime is a full service day spa located at the St. Kilda Sea Baths. Salt water is well renowned for its healing properties helping to relieve muscle soreness, skin aliments and restore your energy and well being. If you need to relax after a long day of sightseeing look no further.
- St. Kilda Beach a great place for a walk or a jog with a great path running about 4 kilometers starting just near Luna Park and ending at the Esplanade.
- Great people watching along the foreshore.
- If you want to try kite surfing or stand up paddle boarding (or just watch), St Kilda Beach is the place.
- Looking for a great place to eat? Stroll along Fitzroy Street and Acland Street you are sure to find something to match your taste and budget. Acland Street is also known for its European cake shops (one of the many benefits of a large number of European immigrants) and it is a great place for dessert or an afternoon break.
- The Esplanade Market, one of Melbourne’s largest arts market running since 1970. Held every Sunday it is a great place to buy a unique gift or souvenir.
- The Palais Theatre can be a great place to see live music, check out what is on.
Try the Lau Family Kitchen on Acland Street. The Lau’s were the family behind Melbourne’s highly rated, award winning Flower Drum Restaurant in the CBD. When they sold the Flower Drum, this more casual restaurant is their new venue. The food is fantastic.
Melbourne meets Seattle. Grunge, tattoos, and creativity all combined with a genuine sense of community. Fitzroy is a great place to explore. What to look for:
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- Some of Melbourne’s best up and coming designers can be found on Gertrude Street.
- Lots of funky coffee shops, eclectic eateries and groovy cocktail bars can be found here. If you are vegetarian you have tons of eating options here. Brunswick Street is worth a leisurely stroll to check out the shops and restaurants. Some places to try
- Little Creatures Beer Hall on Brunswick St.
- Industry Beans– (Gertrude Street) one of the best coffee roasters in Melbourne
- Birdman Eating (Gertrude Street) a great place to try one of Melbourne’s infamous breakfasts!
- Crumpler – makes great bags for urban living including messenger bags and camera bags. It is one of Victoria’s international business success stories.
- The Vegie Bar Even if you aren’t a vegetarian the food here is great. A healthy option and their menu has a lot of creativity. You won’t find the same old same old here.
- On the weekend, visit the Rose Street Artist Market. You can find out more about Melbourne’s markets here.
Try the Panama Dining Room . A great place for a game of pool, a drink while watching the great view towards the Dandenongs, a great meal and they make one of the best Blood Mary’s in Melbourne.
Collingwood is a relatively small neighborhood in terms of population but it has some great things to do, especially if you like food or have kids!
- Smith Street– at the North end of Smith Street there are a ton of retail outlets. If you are looking for some cheap shopping try here. Lots of sporting and outdoor clothing companies have their outlet stores here.
- Johnston Street has a lot of furniture and homeware shops featuring handmade goods. Some of the furniture here is really nice. It can be quite expensive but it is still worth a look.
- Victoria Park: Collingwood is home the Collingwood Magpies one of the oldest and most popular AFL (Australian Rules Football League a.k.a. footy in Australia) clubs in Melbourne. They now play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) but their original suburban ground is still in Collingwood and is now a park open to the public. Great for an evening walk, a jog or to learn more about the AFL.
The Collingwood Children’s Farm is a great place to visit if you have kids. It is an education center to teach city kids about the farm including farm animals and growing vegetables. On the 2nd Saturday of every month, a Farmer’s market is held here. This is one of the best farmer’s markets in all of Australia and has indeed taken first prize more than once. And don’t forget the Farm Cafe, one of the best breakfasts you’ll find anywhere! (A great place to try the Avocado Smash!)
Richmond was once the center of Melbourne’s tanneries and home to beer brewing. It is a rather large suburb and it has something for everyone.
- Bordered on the West by the Yarra River, it is home to many local rowing clubs and you can watch the rowers in the evening on the river as you walk or bike along the bike path.
- Swan Street and Bridge Road is home to some fantastic shops and cafes.
- Church Street has everything you could ever want for the home just walk South from Swan Street.
- Richmond provides easy access to the MCG, CBD and Tennis Centre. So if you are coming for a sporting event it is a great place to stay.
- Victoria Street is the heart of Melbourne’s Vietnamese community and there is a wide selection of restaurants and Asian grocery stores here. If you need any Asian ingredient you can find it somewhere on Victoria Street.
Mountain Goat Brewery, one of Melbourne’s most successful craft brewers is located in Richmond on the corner of North and Clark Streets. It is open to the public for drinks and tours Wednesday and Friday from 5 pm.
Carlton is one of Melbourne’s oldest neighborhoods and home to Lygon Street, Melbourne’s version of Little Italy. If you want good Italian food, try Lygon Street you are sure to find something to please every taste and budget. Wood fired pizzas, homemade pasta and traditional gelato are all here.
- Carlton provides easy access to Melbourne’s universities including University of Melbourne (the campus is lovely) and RMIT.
- It is close to Queen Victoria Market and provides easy access to Etihad Stadium if you want to go to a sporting event.
- The Carlton Gardens contain The Melbourne Museum and the UNESCO World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Buildings from the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, the forerunner to today’s EXPO (the most recent of which was held in Milan, Italy.)
The University Cafe at 257 Lygon St. is an oldie but a goodie. Opened in 1952, it is the oldest cafe on Lygon Street. Go hungry the portions are on the large side.
Just east of the city, you will find East Melbourne, one of Melbourne’s nicest neighborhoods. Home to some beautiful historic mansions, there is a historic walk through this area. Getting to East Melbourne from the city is a pleasant stroll through the Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens.
- You can obtain a map for the Elegant Enclaves historic walk and other Melbourne Walks online.
- East Melbourne has a lot of medical suites and hospitals, but it also provides some great accommodation options close to the city, the MCG and the Tennis Centre. If you are in town for a sporting event, you can’t get any closer to the action.
Tribeca is a retail/residential complex in the old Victoria Brewery site. Try Cohen’s Cellars Wine Bars. Bec the owner is very friendly. You will feel welcome the moment you walk in.
Lots of locals are regulars and sitting at the bar you are sure to strike up a conversation. There is a wide selection of wines by the glass, boutique beers and nibbles on offer. If you are looking for dinner, it is a well worn path to buy a bottle of wine from Cohen’s and walk across Victoria Parade to Indian Tukka where you can BYO your favorite wine and enjoy some great Indian food. Tribeca also has serviced apartments for rent within the complex.
Accommodation Options in Melbourne’s Inner City
The inner city has a wide range of accommodation options. If you want to stay in one of the areas, we recommend Booking.com or AirBnB. Both provide a wide range of options, to narrow the selection put in the actual neighborhood name in your search, i.e. Richmond rather than Melbourne. If you have never used AirBnB, it is more than a couch surfing, share accommodation site. You can find apartments as well. Just filter you search by “entire house/apartment” to find self-contained accommodation options, as shown in the picture below. If you have not used the site and would like to try it, here is a $28 AUD off coupon for your first stay. We use AirBnB a lot when we travel. If you have any questions about using it leave a comment below and we are happy to assist you.
Getting Around Using the Trams
Public transport, trams, trains and buses included, do not use cash, you need to buy a Myki Card. You can buy a Visitor Value Pack version of the Myki card and it also provides discounts for some popular Melbourne museums and attractions. This also means you don’t need to worry about how much the fare costs, the card will work it out for you and charge you the cheapest, i.e. one trip or daily based on your usage. The Visiting Melbourne page of the PTV site explains the system. The journey planner and/or app can help you find the right tram or train for your route.
If you are planning a Melbourne visit you might find these posts helpful as well:
- Spotlight on Marvelous Melbourne world best for sport?
- 5 Insider Tips for Enjoying Fantastic Food in Melbourne
- A guide to fabulous Melbourne markets
- 11 of Melbourne’s best food shops and cooking classes
And here are some posts about popular Melbourne food with recipes:
- Healthy Avocado Smash
- Butternut Squash and Quinoa Soup
- Gourmet Cheese Platter
- Home-made Muesli, Yogurt and Rhubarb
And please, if you found this post helpful, share it with your friends and social media networks.