Feature: Best places to be and be seen in...Melbourne

Thursday, 17 March 2013 4:30 PM

So, third week of features on stylish city breaks around the globe and this week we’re venturing down under to explore what the Ozzies can teach us about glamorous partying, retro-shopping and fashionable designs. A whole lot we suspect! Just think vintage boutiques, provocative art and underground clubs.

True, true…Sydney may be Australia’s top city and it may grab most of the headlines but Melbourne is just as rewarding if you can crack the puzzle to its sophisticated charms. And Melbourne has always had the reputation for being the coolest of the two cities. None of this comes as a surprise to us though. The city’s diverse and bohemian lifestyle mixed with a vibrant underground scene and cutting-edge arts and culture make Melbourne a real contender as one of the world’s top places to be and be seen. So, don’t be surprised if this feature turns out to be a tour of funky neighbourhoods, trendy bars and bohemian-chic boutiques. You don’t mind do you?!

One thing is for certain, first-timers to the city seeking galleries, quirky bars and alternative shops will not be disappointed! But you have to look for these hidden gems though. Small boutiques and hip bars that are on par with anything Manhattan has to offer are often stashed down newspaper-strewn alleyways.

Shop till you drop
Snapping up vintage knick-knacks is hard to resist when you’re in a city that is booming with retro-boutiques, funky stores and upscale second-hand shops. And if you’re serious about your vintage buys, Gigi a la Maison specialises in vintage French home-ware. Trash on Bay is a den of ‘old Hollywood glamour and reinvented treasures’ in the Port Melbourne area that specialises in vintage hats, luggage and china (let’s face it, you might actually need some extra luggage after shopping your way through the streets of Melbourne!). Empire Vintage in chichi Albert Park is filled with unique fabrics, furniture and ornaments. For original vintage French posters, from 1920s Champagne ads to 1940s Air France posters, Galerie Montmartre is the place to visit.

If you still haven’t had enough of Melbourne shopping, but feel like exploring something that doesn’t shout ‘retro’, head to Chapel Street in Toorak, which is an antipodean version of London’s King’s Road with lots of designer labels and luxury brands. Downtown, Flinders Lane and Little Collins Street are good for cutting-edge, individualistic clothes, while Church Street in Richmond/Brunswick and Gertrude Street in Fitzroy are definitely worth a mooch for a range of shops, from eclectic design and fashion to toys, books and art.

Before you hit the nearest dance floor wearing some of your new-bought garments, why not test some of Melbourne’s best cuisine (everyone’s got to eat right?!). And if you want to put on your glad rags and slap the meal on your credit card, think of Pearl. Boasting a stylish location, decor and waiting staff, it is popular with the ladies who lunch. Make sure you leave room for puddings though, such as taro dumplings with white chocolate ice cream, vanilla custard and gold leaf. Bon appetit!

Party Ozzy style
When it comes to style, it’s not just Melbourne’s shops that ooze glamour; its bars are pretty cool too. There are many hits on the Deck of Secrets list, which include Double Happiness, marked simply by Chinese characters painted above the door, The Toff in Town, which is hidden on the third floor of an office block with completely private railway car boots and 1806, which features a list of hundreds of cocktails. Cheers! The choice is enough to make you feel giddy, but the Old Fashioned, a blend of whisky, sugar and bitters, sounds like the perfect way to end your tour of stylish Melbourne, right?!

But if you’re not ready leave yet, Melbourne still has a number of party-tricks up its sleeve. Although watching the sun sink with a few beachside cocktails or a pot of Carlton beer in St Kilda is pretty hard to beat, the faux-grunge Vineyard is definitely worth a visit, especially for bar staff and people-watching! And there’s still fun to be had at Meyers Place, which is a hip hole in the wall. To finish off the night once and for all, head to the very cool St Jerome's in Caledonian Lane, which looks like a caff from the front but out back opens up onto a tarpaulin-covered lane where tunes are spun and night owls lounge on sofas.

Stay in style
Since you’re in Melbourne to discover places frequently visited by the elite, where else would you stay but The Cullen hotel, which opened in November 2011 and is named after bad boy Australian artist Adam Cullen, in the Prahan suburb. Cullen’s paintings and installations are everywhere, and any guests unfamiliar with his work can take a tour with the hotel’s resident curator.

If it’s romance you’re after, we’ve got one last suggestion up our sleeve. Forget Neighbours, Melbourne, like Kylie, has moved on and sleeked up. Tuck yourself away at the Lyall boutique hotel. In South Yarra, one of Melbourne’s swankiest precincts, home to the rich and famous, and just a designer label stagger from high-end shops and dining around Chapel Street, the Lyall has tasteful art-clad walls, a spa, bistro and champagne bar. And since you’re already there why not take your lover out to the Kitten Club, the place for retro lovers with a yen for powder rooms and a Sinatra fixation. A red quilted Love Lounge hides behind a beaded curtain where the clubs Bunny Girl cocktails a martini glass of lychee and vodka shaken with rose essence go down well with the slinky vibe.

Ready to meet the who’s who of Melbourne?

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