Help me have the best Melbourne break EVER.
August 26, 2012 11:46 PM   Subscribe

I'll have four days in Melbourne a couple of weeks from now. What should I do? I'll be alone, staying in the central city and hiring a bike. I'm interested in: scenic cycle routes, standup comedy, hanging out in pleasant places with a book, cheap but delicious ethnic food, contemporary theatre, massage and other spa-like pampering, outdoor markets, interesting bike shops, nice bars for a quiet solo drink, small music venues and artisan chocolate/baking/sweets. And anything else wonderful and uniquely Melbourne that you think someone with those sorts of interests might like. (Vintage shopping too, but I've already got lots of advice on that from this question) Melburnians, I am so desperately in need of a break. Please help me have the best weekend ever!
posted by embrangled to Travel & Transportation around Melbourne, Australia (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just in case you want to expand your bike-hire options: Melbourne's got a bike share program that's pretty cheap for short trips.

Rue Bebelons is basically the classic hipstery Melbourne alley bar/cafe.
posted by gingerest at 12:09 AM on August 27, 2012

The State Library right in the middle of town is lovely and worth a visit. You can go hang out in the reading room with your book. There's all kinds of little shops and cafes around that area too. Last time I was there I spent a happy afternoon wandering around and sampling the amazing coffee.
posted by shelleycat at 12:18 AM on August 27, 2012

Head to fato I Mano on Gertrude st for some baked goods. Check out the art shops and new designers while you are in the area. Get a coffee at birdman eating- or any of the cafes along there, really, they're all good. If its the afternoon you should go to Southpaw and have their beer of the week with their sweet potato tapas thing- all honey and nuts and goodness. Or have a wine at Gertrude st Enoteca. Or a cocktail at the Everleigh- it just won some award for them I think.

Anyway, that's one street and food covered!

Re: the book- fed square is nice- maybe down at riverland? It's a bar that is down the side of fed square looking over the yarra. Open during the day. Or the botanical gardens? You can walk there from the city. The fitzroy gardens on Victoria parade are very nice for sitting and relaxing if the weather is nice.

Last one: siglo and one floor down- the Supper Club- both on spring st, both really lovely places for a drink and a view.

I think they crap all over rue bebellons, which is just a student bar- cheap and grungy but nothing special. But I guess it depends on your tastes.

Have fun!
posted by jojobobo at 1:36 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry- fatto a Mano is the name of the bakery. And you get to this area via the 86 tram from Bourke st in the CBD.
posted by jojobobo at 1:52 AM on August 27, 2012

Anything I suggest will be probably be shouted down by the Melbournites because it's AT LEAST six months out of fashion, but I will mention that in Melbourne you can find Ethiopian food, which is nonexistent in Sydney.

If you're in the CBD, have a stickybeak at Cookie & the other various bars & things in the same building, if only to wonder at a bar development that isn't either a boozy beer barn or a Justin Hemmes style wonkfest.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:40 AM on August 27, 2012

(Note: I have lived in Melbourne for nearly a year and nearly all the time I've spent in the CBD has been at the city library, the movies, and Minotaur. I live in Brunswick West, which isn't nearly as hip as people seem to think - it's full of little old Greek ladies' houses and physiotherapist offices - so I don't know that much and if jojobobo has a better option than Rue Bebelons, go with her rec. On the other hand, if you feel the urge to listen to some folksy music and you're here on a Saturday Sunday at 5 PM, my local, the Union Hotel on Brunswick, is very mellow. 55 or 19 tram plus an 8-minute walk.)
posted by gingerest at 2:53 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

why not get a copy of The Age cheap eats guide? it has an app on Itunes I believe. I use it to explore various corners of the city
posted by sparkle55 at 5:22 AM on August 27, 2012

oops, i just read a few reviews about cheap eats on the itunes store and they weren't complimentary.
posted by sparkle55 at 5:35 AM on August 27, 2012

The Black Cat Bar in Brunswick Street, for chilling out with a book or chatting to strangers in the afternoon or early evening. There are any number of similar hangouts in that area; this is one that I like particularly.

The Esplanade Hotel (aka "The Espy") for a boozy night out listening to local rock bands and admiring the St Kilda wildlife.

Along the waterfront at St Kilda there are scale models of the sun and the planets arranged in scale distance from each other, relative to the sizes of the models. Makes for a nice jog. ("I just ran all the way to Pluto and back!") You might have to look for a while to find the first one, but once you know what you're looking for you'll find the rest easily. The sun is at the eastern end of the beach, from memory.

Chinatown is extensive and full of interesting shops and restaurants.

In the couple of years since the relaxing of various licensing laws, an ecosystem of fascinating little bars and cafes have sprung up in the laneways of the inner city. For instance as you walk down Flinders St from the station, look into the laneways on your right. There are more, that's just a start.
posted by illongruci at 8:37 AM on August 27, 2012

The new good food guide comes out soon (today)? But instead of buying it grab a copy of The Age or get online and read the article with a list of best ofs. Bar Lourihna gets best bar to go solo (there are a couple of others in the non-CBD too). I'd link but I'm reading off the app.
posted by jojobobo at 2:00 PM on August 27, 2012

For cycling, if bikes are allowed in the Botanical Gardens (best you confirm this; I've only ever done it on foot) then you can make it most of the way from the CBD to South Yarra through the gardens, going along the river for a bit at the beginning, then you find yourself at the top of Chapel St Prahran. This South Yarra end is basically all higher-end fashion boutiques, but head on to the (southern) Windsor end for something more like Newtown or Glebe.

Prahran markets are about halfway down, off a side street; basically a foodie market where you might find baked goods or chocolates. Queen Vic Markets in town are nearly as good as Adelaide's awesome Central Market for delicatessen goodies. The night market on Wednesdays is fun with a range of hawker food & live music but it doesn't start until November, sadly for you.

+1 for the Black Cat, one of those Melbourne style places that feels like a cafe, only they also sell booze. Bring your Camus & black turtleneck.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:33 PM on August 27, 2012

Completely forgot: St Kilda has a whole bunch of fantastic old school continental (Jewish?) cake shops, on Acland St.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:43 PM on August 27, 2012

Bikes are not allowed in the Botanical Gardens.

Scenic bike riding close to the city - the Yarra River Trail is the no-brainer rec, head north, not southeast. The best way to get on to it is probably to ride east on Gipps Street out of Collingwood - the street terminates at the trail.

For sweets try the crepes at Roule Galette off Flinders Lane or Waffle On on Degraves Street. Both places run by genuine French folk (possibly rude!), in case you're a Francophile.

I'll assume you're not a coffee afficionado since you didn't mention it, but if you are I highly recommend Proud Mary in Collingwood, or Seven Seeds in Carlton. Warning - both are very busy during peak cafe hours, for good reason.

Here's a two-birds with one stone - Little Mule Cafe in the CBD makes and sells custom bicycles and sells unusual bike bits, and is a typical Melbourne laneway cafe with pretty good food and very good coffee.

Also I'm a big fan of the laneway art in Melbourne. The most famous laneway is Hosier Lane in the CBD but that's isolated and in my opinion it's even better in Fitzroy and surrounds - wandering the side streets off Brunswick and Smith streets. You'll also find it off Chapel Street in South Yarra and many other random places. While you're in the area the upstairs bar at The Fitz in Fitzroy seemed like a good place to read and booze simultaneously (during the day).

Music venues - The Caravan Club in Oakleigh (25-30 mins by train) is an old RSL and gets some high quality acts considering its size. Northcote Social club is another good one. Both of them are on the larger side of small, as opposed to rooms for less than 100.
posted by kgbrion at 10:05 PM on August 27, 2012

Thanks everyone, so many great ideas. For subsequent readers, I should note that Tourism Victoria's has an iPhone app called 'Play Melbourne', and it's pretty much the best thing ever.

gingerest - I might try the bike share scheme just to see what it's like, but at the moment my plan is to hire a bike from The Humble Vintage so I can pedal all day.

kgbrion - I am, sadly, caffeine free these days. But if you know of a cafe where the decaffeinated coffee is delicious and the barista won't scowl at me for ordering it, I'm there.
posted by embrangled at 6:22 PM on August 28, 2012

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