Thanks to its vibrant multiculturalism, Melbourne is blessed with an enormous variety of mouth-watering culinary choices. No matter your budget, it’s easy to find good quality food almost anywhere in the city.
In the CBD, students flock to the many Chinese, Malaysian, Korean, Indian and Vietnamese budget eateries scattered along Swanston St, Elizabeth St, Russell St and, of course, the historic Chinatown area in Little Bourke St.
For a hearty pub meal, just wander through any of Melbourne’s inner suburbs where you’ll find lots of great bars and pubs serving up classic Australian pub fare such as fish ’n’ chips and parmigiana. Many of these venues also feature live music, so you may even find yourself being serenaded as you eat.
However, if you’re looking for a party, you’ll be more than satisfied with the options here. The nightlife scene in Melbourne takes itself seriously and is truly the envy of other Australian cities.
Cocktails are an art in Melbourne, with such specialist bars as The Croft Institute and Cookie, which are worth a visit. It’s best to talk to the locals about where the best bars are, as some of them are on rooftops, hidden down alleyways and in other unassuming places. There is also a vast range of microbreweries and beer gardens across the city.
For cheap eats, nothing beats Chinatown in Little Bourke Street. There’s a multitude of super cheap Chinese dumpling eateries here, and if you have money to spend you can find one of Melbourne’s most reputable (and expensive) restaurants in this area, the famous Flower Drum. Swanston Street and upper Elizabeth Street are also hubs of cheap Asian cuisine.
If you love your nightclubs and intimate cocktail bars, the CBD is the place to be. Just walk down the right city laneways and you’re sure to find some hidden gem (remember that sometimes they can be very well hidden – many bars don’t even have signs on their doors).
The inner northern suburbs are where to go for trendy cafés, chic restaurants and cool pubs where you can have a meal and listen to a live band at the same time. You’ll find cheap and tasty Middle Eastern food in Sydney Road, Brunswick; a plethora of Italian restaurants in Lygon Street, Carlton; and a mix of everything in Fitzroy and Collingwood.
Melbourne’s northern suburbs are packed with the venues that give the city its enviable reputation as Australia’s live music capital. High Street in Northcote boasts four or five of Melbourne’s best music venues, all within 500 metres of each other; Collingwood and Fitzroy are also home to an enormous number of great bars and pubs. The number 86 tram will take you from the CBD through all these suburbs and deliver you in High St in under half an hour.
The South Melbourne Market is famous for its giant dim-sims, and further south in St Kilda you’ll find cake shops (on Acland St) to satisfy every craving. The southern suburbs tend to be a bit pricier than the west or the north, but even here there are bargains to be had.
St Kilda is the place to go for nightlife south of the CBD. Acland Street in St Kilda boasts numerous bars and clubs that are especially popular with the backpacking community. Closer to the city, Southbank is packed with posh bars and clubs.
Victoria Street in Richmond is the best place to find cheap eats in Melbourne’s east. The street is brimming with Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants, mostly with low or medium-range prices.
Richmond is home to some great bars and pubs. Further south, you’ll find a vibrant nightclub scene in Chapel Street, which runs through student-infested Prahran and upmarket South Yarra.
Footscray is heaven for fans of cheap Asian and African cuisines. Not only will you find a multitude of restaurants here, but there are also a couple of fantastic fresh fruit and vegetable markets where you can buy all sorts of exotic and delicious ingredients to take home.
Although the western suburbs aren’t known for their nightlife, you can still find some great bars and pubs in Flemington, Moonie Ponds and Yarraville. Further in towards the city, West Melbourne also features a few hidden gems around the Queen Victoria Market.