A hipster guide to Melbourne
The food may be organic in Hobart and the skateboards and overalls may be out in force in Sydney and Byron Bay, but if one city had to be named king of hipster-ville in Australia, the crown would go to Melbourne. Where skinny jeans are the mainstream, bicycles are the transportation of choice and bands you’ve probably never heard of play sold-out shows at indie clubs that are impossible to find. At each turn and down every laneway, there’s no shortage of cafes or bars for the vintage wearing, backpack-toting folk to get their caffeine (organic beans, please) or mason jar cocktail fix. With only three days to spare, I was determined to get a taste of the areas and neighbourhood gems that make up the hipster heaven that is Melbourne.
For an arty stay in Melbourne, hit one of the city’s unique Art Series hotels, The Blackman. Combining whimsy and style with a subtle Alice in Wonderland theme, the boutique hotel showcases the celebrated artworks of one of Australia’s great artists, Charles Blackman. You can even arrange a tour with the in-house curator if art is your thing and you want to learn more about this talented dude.
The Deluxe Studio Suite Balcony has stunning Melbourne and St Kilda Road views out of the floor-to-ceiling windows, a well-stocked mini bar, kitchenette and art library. The real highlight though was the Art Series signature bed – it was like sleeping on a cloud. You can even make one of these bad boys your own. #heaven! In true Melbourne style the Blackman is also home to Fleur Depot de Pain - a cute French patisserie cafe, Classico - an intimate restaurant serving up drool-worthy Italian dishes, and a state-of-the-art gym (to work off all of the foods). Guests can also hire bicycles or scooters to explore the area and nearby Albert Park.
With only a few days to spare, the one neighbourhood I wanted to check out was Melbourne’s own epicentre of grunge and alternative, Fitzroy. An easy tram ride from Bourke Street, the inner-city suburb centres around Brunswick Street, Smith Street and Gertrude Street. Full of character, all three are well worth a stroll down to experience an eclectic blend of restaurants, bars, boutiques, vintage stores and unrivalled music venues (also extending into Collingwood). The area is absolutely chockers on the weekend which makes for excellent people watching while sipping on a dirty vanilla soy chai from the comfort of a cafe’s velvet couch.
Brunch (best meal of the day, amiright?) at the super adorbs Breakfast Thieves, tucked away on leafy Gore Street.
A visit to the Rose Street Artist’s Markets for the latest wares from local designers and artists (weekends only).
Gelati from N2 Extreme Gelati – witness a billow of that legendary liquid nitrogen smoke made famous by our favourite chef, Heston, and voila, a cup of silky smooth gelati is yours for the eating. The menu changes each week with some crazy concoctions too – spam and mustard anyone?
Pinxtos and infused vodka from Naked for Satan – choose your poison from infused pineapple to salted caramel Absolut vodka, and your pinxtos (bite sized tapas) from the bar. Once you’re full, the pintxos toothpicks are counted to tally the bill. Be sure to check out the open-air terrace bar, Naked in the Sky, the perfect spot for an afternoon drinking session.
Head south: A hipster guide to Hobart
Head north: A hipster guide to Byron Bay
Sure Bourke Street Mall is full of ‘mainstream’ fashion chains and the change room lines at Zara are never ending but the city is home to museums, galleries and the laneways too. Degraves Street and Hardware Lane are the most famous (and busy!! Try getting a table at Hardware Societe on the weekend) but my fave would have to be tiny Central Lane with its hole-in-the-wall cafes and graffiti facade. With dive bars and speciality restaurants dotted all over the city, there really is something for everyone.
Bowery to Williamsburg – a relative newcomer to the lunch scene, this joint is tucked away down Oliver Lane and is modelled on a New York subway station. The cafe features American style sandwiches all served with pretzels, pickles and your choice of a side dish. You cannot come here without trying their famous peanut butter hot chocolate.
Chin Chin – a fun, edgy restaurant space serving up modern Asian street food. This place is all kinds of cool and completely Instagram-worthy. With a no-booking policy, bide your time (there will always be a wait) by trying the cocktails at their bar, Go Go.
Touche Hombre – exposed brick walls and neon signs feature at this laidback Mexican restaurant. Enjoy the early 2000s rap blasting from the resident DJ while you’re feasting on pulled pork quesadillas and sipping on tequila cocktails through vanilla scented straws. What fun!
If only I could’ve visited all of the bars... Maybe next time. All in the name of research, of course.
Where to drink:
Ferdydurke – in the unassuming Tattersalls Lane, scale the steep steps up to this dark and funky space and order a shot of Patron. While you’re at it, grab a hot dog or two and enjoy the light show screened on the outside brick walls.
Section 8 – brought to you by the Ferdyduke crew, this container bar makes you feel like you’re at a neighbourhood block party in a back street parking lot of Brooklyn. Collect ten hipster points on your way out.
The Lucky Coq A Chapel Street institution, this place has been around for years. It’s got a mixed crowd, fun music, infused vodka and cheap pizza nights. Need I say more?
The Carlton– in no way affiliated with the AFL team, this multi-level space in the heart of the city attracts a diverse crowd. The right mix of sexy and grungy, enjoy the eclectic tunes and cocktails among the beautiful people and taxidermy peacocks, birds and giraffe!
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