Melbourne isn’t the most attractive city ever. It’s not a place that you’d fall in love with at first sight. Here there isn’t a world famous Opera House to catch everyone’s attention like in Sydney, its Australian rival, and there is no way that the architecture of Federation Square, good as it is, could ever challenge the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge. What makes this city so special and so enjoyable to live in isn’t its beauty, but its many different suburbs, the countless events or festivals and its incredible night life. It hasn’t been ranked most liveable city in the world since 7 years in a row by The Economist for no reason!
This article intends to make you discover some of my favourite places in Melbourne, not as famous as their touristic cousins but definitely worth a visit. Don’t forget to visit my gallery as well here!
1. If you like street art: don’t miss ACDC Lane
Have you often been told when you were a kid to watch out where you were walking? In Melbourne you need to forget that advice and keep looking up all the time: anywhere around the city, you might run into a huge mural.
The most famous place for street art is of course Hosier Lane, just next to Federation Square. An exceptional small street with bright colours and always renewed paintings, but also packed with tourists and selfie sticks. It might be long before you can take your own photos! But did you know that only a few minutes’ walk away there is another street a little bit smaller but just as spectacular?
From Hosier Lane, walk in the direction of Flinders Lane and turn to the right; between Russell and Exhibition Street, you’ll find ACDC Lane. Yes, it’s really the official name, since 2004 as a tribute to the famous Australian band! No tourists here, but a wall entirely full of paintings that are also regularly refreshed. The picture above and the one below have been taken at the exact same spot within a few months!
It’s also here that you’ll find my 2 favourite pieces of arts of Melbourne: keep your eyes wide open and you’ll be amazed by these two giant and beautiful frescoes.
2. For sport addicts: go to Albert Park
Melbourne is THE sports’ city. You’ll be spoilt for choice, both for practicing and watching: surf on its beaches, the Australian Open tennis tournament or also the many events held at the huge MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground, one of the biggest stadiums in the world) including the very popular Grand Final of the “footy” season (Australian football, a very spectacular sport that you need to watch at least once!). No excuses, if you want to become a true Melbournian, you’ll need to put your running shoes on and sweat a little bit!
If like me you don’t really like the atmosphere of fitness rooms, the best place to go is Albert Park, in the South of Melbourne. Every year, another main sports event happens here: the Formula 1 Grand Prix, traditionally the first of the season. The track is a normal road where anyone can drive during the rest of the year, but speed limit is 50km/h; don’t try to be as fast as Lewis Hamilton…
Apart from the track, the park itself is the perfect place for any kind of athletes, from beginners to sport addicts. The loop around the lake (more or less 5km) is perfect for bikes or runners (every Saturday morning, free group runs are organised: more information here). The many cricket or footy fields are completely free, rowers often train on the lake and you can also find a golf course, a huge pool (with an artificial surfing zone, the “flow rider”) and a stadium for soccer games and athletics competitions (the great Usain Bolt himself ran here in February 2017).
If this is still not enough to persuade you to visit Albert Park and if sport is definitely not for you, there are many beautiful swans living on the lake and the view over Melbourne CBD is one of my favourites. Convinced yet?
3. The best market in town: South Melbourne Market
You probably know the Queen Victoria Market, one of the most popular places to visit in Melbourne, mostly because of its crowded night market every Wednesday evening during summer. But do you know the South Melbourne Market? It’s very easy to get there. Just take the tram number 96 from the CBD and get off at the South Melbourne stop. Other solution: the market has its own parking (2 hours free on market days)… but it’s often full.
It is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 8am until 4pm (5pm on Friday). Some food places on the Cecil Street side are even open during other days or different hours during the week. Finally there’s also a night market during summer; next one starts in January 2018. That’s all you need to know about the practical details.
The market by itself is smaller than the Queen Victoria Market but I found it more authentic and welcoming and because of that I like it more than its cousin from North Melbourne. You can find everything here: fruits and vegetables, fresh products, cheese, meat, and countless shops with clothes, decoration or pretty much anything you could think about. The building is also very nice with its brick walls and some great paintings. Finally, you can also find many different small restaurants all around, from paella to dumplings or a French bakery and many more. As it’s close to Albert Park you might even go there after a training session; a sweet reward after all that sweat… Don’t miss the excellent cupcakes from Joy Cupcakes in one of the inside lanes (many different choices including gluten free and vegan options); healthier but quite as good, you can also try the great smoothies from Happy Place – Lola Berry on Cecil Street. You won’t regret it!
4. One day at the beach: the multicoloured beach houses of Brighton Beach
Ok it’s probably not the most hidden place on this list, but if your beach knowledge of Melbourne doesn’t go further than St Kilda, you really need to go to Brighton Beach.
It became famous because of its many colourful beach houses directly on the sand, very popular for selfies (especially the “Australia” cabin that you can’t miss). You can see the Melbourne skyline in the distance and even if the place is popular, it’s still way less crowded than St Kilda on a sunny day. Need another argument? Being further away from the city center, the quality of the water is much better there. Good to know before diving in! Sounds like the perfect place to enjoy some sunbathing right?
5. Enjoying a cocktail in a hidden bar: Jungle Boy on Chapel Street
Melbourne is full of many amazing bars, with terraces next to the Yarra River, the CBD clubs for party nights and also the rooftop bars, perfect to enjoy a drink above the busy streets. But the best part? The many secret bars everywhere around the city. Impossible to visit Melbourne without going to at least one! Their owners got a lot of imagination to hide themselves from the “muggles” so it’s really not easy to find them. Here’s a little tip for you…
Rendezvous at Windsor Station on Chapel Street, on the Sandringham train line. A few steps ahead, on the other side of the road, look out for the blue lights of Boston Sub, a perfectly normal looking sandwich shop. But look closer: don’t you have the feeling that many people are going in and hardly anybody’s coming out again with a sandwich in their hands? I won’t say anything else, I don’t want to spoil your pleasure and surprise of the first moment you’ll get into the bar! I’m sure you’re smart enough to find your way easily to the Jungle Boy and its crazy decoration.
Once inside, you’ll feel as though you were in a different world. Brick wall, tropical plants and comfy couches… But the best thing about this place are its delicious and gorgeous cocktails, including my personal favourite: the Zombie. Why this name? Because if you drink too much of it, that’s how you’ll feel the next morning… and it’s not just a legend, trust my experience! Do you feel brave enough to give it a try?
I hope this article might have helped you discover different aspects of this incredible city. The list could be much longer and it would probably take a lifetime to go everywhere, but if you have any other suggestions of hidden places in and around Melbourne, please share them in the comments!
Thank you and enjoy exploring!