The Australian City Putting Europe to the Test
Guess what? You don’t need to jump on the next flight to Rome or Athens to fill your weekend with a touch of European ambience. All you need is 48 hours in Melbourne! Scrolling through your Instagram feed, it is easy to assume that everyone you know is chilling on the beach in Positano with an Aperol Spritz in hand, or swimming in the azure waters of Mykonos right now. But with the mercury dropping, it’s the perfect opportunity to grab your love, your gal pals, or take that long-awaited mother-daughter trip to trip to Melbourne for a food and culture fix.
With its labyrinthine charms, architecture, galleries, food, fashion, café culture, street art, and a plethora of rooftop bars, a weekend in this true metropolis never seems long enough.
Keep scrolling to see how I spent it.
After jumping in an Uber from Tullamarine, I'm granted an early check-in at the QT Melbourne. This Euro-style, industrial boutique hotel is located at the “Paris end” of the CBD and is the perfect base for the weekend.
The city is home to some well-known spas and after check in, I head straight over to the Chuan Spa at the Langham Hotel for some pampering.
After a soak in the Jacuzzi overlooking the Melbourne skyline, I try the luxurious new Collagen Booster anti-ageing facial, which includes an enzyme peel and a scalp and arm massage. I leave blissed out and ready for the weekend.
A visit to Chris Lucas’ Chin Chin is always a good idea. Arriving at 3 p.m. means no queue, but the Flinders Lane favourite is still buzzing and the '80s tunes are pumping.
It’s freezing outside and I’ve got nowhere to be, so go for the Feed Me option ($69.50 per person) and savour every dish the staff select, particularly the crispy barramundi and green apple salad, and the king salmon washed down with a glass of pinot—or two. Hello, food coma.
Views and Brews
As well as hidden laneways, Melbourne has a seemingly endless supply of high-altitude drinking spots. It would be rude not to join the well-dressed, after-work crowd, and finish the day upstairs at the packed Rooftop at QT for a cheeky cocktail and to watch the sun set over Melbourne’s skyline.
I see the breakfast queue before I actually see the Melbourne institution that is Cumulus Inc and decide to grab a takeaway coffee from a nearby hole-in-the-wall café while waiting for a table. It’s not long before being seated in the bustling industrial-style eatery and I’m tucking into Shakshouka—baked eggs with roasted eggplant and shanklish—and another flat white. When in Melbourne, right?
Walk breakfast off with a stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens, an idyllic haven in the heart of the city centre. The Van Gogh and the Seasons exhibition just so happens to be in its final days at the National Gallery of Victoria—the 19th most popular art gallery in the world—during my stay. Another win.
There’s no denying Melburnians have style in spades, so a little retail therapy is a must. The Emporium in the CBD offers eight levels of local and international brands, while the city’s laneways are littered with boutiques, such as Alpha60, Scanlan Theodore, and Incu Mens. For unique vintage finds and emerging designer pieces, the eclectic Fitzroy is just an easy stroll away.
Locals have been raving about one of the city’s hottest new venues, Kisume, a slick, three-level Japanese establishment on Flinders Lane. Reserve a cosy table on the ground floor, which houses a New York-style sushi bar and restaurant. Then work your way through the hot and cold menu, including sashimi, steamed king crab gyoza, and crispy Wagyu truffles. A cool, unpretentious take on traditional fine dining, the hype is justified.
After an afternoon nap on our dreamy gel-topped bed at QT (yes, they are that good) the debate arises whether to head to Naked in the Sky rooftop bar at Fitzroy, but instead stay local and opt for hidden gem, Goldilocks Bar. It’s hard to find—enter via a rambling old lift next to a Chinese takeaway on Swanston Street and climb some stairs—but you instantly feel at home on this charming, low-key open-air rooftop, which is packed with lively locals.
After another blissful sleep-in, I head to Higher Ground on Little Bourke Street. It’s 10 a.m. and the queue is already down the street, but this seriously impressive multi-level café-meets-restaurant, which is housed inside a converted heritage-listed 19th-century power station, is worth the wait.
Begrudgingly, I finish the last of brunch and head back to the airport—jeans a little tighter, bags a little heavier and a long list of places to try out next time we return to Melbourne. It’s the closest I'll get to Europe this year but am more than okay with that.
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