Discover Cool and Quirky Melbourne

By Angie Soares A long time Melbourne local who is an expert on the interesting little hidden gems this city has to offer.

Edited by Elodi Troskie

You may have heard Melbourne described as the “most liveable city in the world”. Thanks to its affordability, efficient public transport, good healthcare system, diverse culinary scene and abundance of cool, touristy things to do, Melbourne really is a dream city. But don’t let this fool you into thinking this safe haven city doesn’t have anything out of the ordinary to offer! Melbourne is full of interesting little hidden gems that you’ll need to go off the beaten tourist path to find. Here are some of my favourite cool and quirky hideaways in Melbourne.

Transport: Getting Around Has Never Been Easier

First things first: getting around the city. Melbourne is one of the easiest cities to discover, mostly due to its very accessible public transport system. The city has free trams running in the CBD area, so you can use this service to move around the inner city at no cost at all. When you leave the Free Tram Zone, you’ll need to purchase a myki pass, which you can top up and use on all trains, trams and buses in Melbourne. For some, using trains and trams to get by might not be anything out of the ordinary, but if you live in a country that doesn’t have these transport systems in place, hopping on a tram will be an interesting experience. Using public transport might save you some time, but if the weather permits it, it’s recommended to explore the city on foot. Melbourne isn’t a very big city and you can easily walk around the entire city in one day. If your goal is to discover cool and quirky Melbourne, it’ll be much more of an adventure to take on the city on foot!

Brunch: Avocados, Cats and Coffee

Melbourne is the millennial’s playground. Not only is this city fanatically obsessed with avocados, but the locals also take brunch very seriously. The best place to go in Melbourne for a hipster, avo-inspired brunch is in Degraves Street, a skinny little lane where you’ll find a selection of quirky eateries, coffeeshops, boutiques and art galleries. For the coffee lovers, Degraves Street is the ideal place to start exploring the incredible coffee Melbourne has to offer. Ever had coffee in an avocado? In Melbourne you will! Stop by Degraves Espresso for your late morning caffeine fix while feeling like you’re actually sitting in a street side café in Paris. Legend has it the strong coffee of Degraves Espresso is to blame for the entire street’s ever buzzing atmosphere. Why not try it out yourself? Another unusual coffee spot is at the Cat Café in Guilford Lane, where you can enjoy your cappuccino while petting a friendly inhouse Australian cat.

Historical Buildings and Sights: Learning About Melbourne’s History

If you hear the word “history”, what probably comes to mind is a boring walking tour filled with un-interesting facts. But I promise this won’t be the case in Melbourne! If you’re interested in learning about the city’s own history, head to the State Library of Victoria, an impressive 19th century building with some of the most beautiful and intricate interior in all of Melbourne. The building has six floors, of which only the main floor is actually used for library purposes. The rest of the floor are dedicated to artwork, exhibitions and informative material about the history of Melbourne. An interesting historical monument is the Shrine of Remembrance, the National War Memorial of Victoria, dedicated to those who served in World War l. The shrine is located in Birdwood Avenue and St Kilda Road. Another architectural must-see is the St Patrick’s Cathedral, the tallest and largest church in all of Australia. The cathedral is located on Eastern Hill and was built in stages between 1858 and 1940. Apart from still serving as a place of prayer and worship, there is now also a shop with a variety of souvenirs and handcrafted items.

Markets and Festivals: Always Keeping the Party Going

You can count on Melbourne to never leave you high and dry. The nightlife is never quiet, there is always some sort of event happening in the city (keep your eye on social media to stay in the loop) and the popular markets during evenings and over weekends will keep you entertained. My favourite market in Melbourne is the Queen Victoria Market (year round). A few other really cool markets are the Night Noodle Market in Birrarung Marr (March to November) and Welcome to Thornbury, a bar and food truck park in High Street. I always tell people: when in doubt, go to Federation Square to see what’s going on there. This is located on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD and is a very popular venue for any kind of concert or exhibition. This place is buzzing at night, with food trucks, live music, art shows and more. Without fail, Federation Square blesses the city with a cultural festival every weekend. That’s right – every single weekend. The square become even more popular in summer, especially during January, when the Australian Open takes the city by storm.

Cool Neighbourhoods in Melbourne: Where All the Cool Kids Go

The Northern Suburbs of Melbourne is the city’s hipster area. The Fitzroy Area, specifically, is where all the indie kids go for their avocado-cappuccinos, so if you’re looking for that perfect Instagram coffee shot, you know where to go. The Carlton Area harbours many hidden gems and quite a few really good bars, so this district is definitely worth exploring. If you’re willing to dig a little deeper in your wallet, head over to Prahran – a slightly more expensive area with trendy, high end stores. This is where you want to go if you’re looking for organic restaurants and businesses focused on sustainable living.

Interesting Bars: Raising the Bar on Evening Drinks

In summer, rooftop bars are the locals’ favourite hangout spot for drinks after work. Naked in the Sky is a popular rooftop bar in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Area, offering a magnificent view of the CBD skyline. Madame Brussels is a fun and quirky bar located in central Melbourne. Decorated like a garden party, the interior reminds one of Alice in Wonderland. Feeling like you’re sitting in a fairy tale garden while overlooking the city’s skyline, you’ll have the best of both worlds. Another cool nightcap location is The Croft Institute, almost hidden away in an alleyway in Chinatown. The bar is designed around an old science lab and the theme continues in the interior and cocktails. Definitely not your average street side bar!

Quirky Shops: Melbourne’s Weird and Wonderful Souvenirs

Harry Potter fans rejoice: Melbourne has everything you need! At least The Store of Requirement does. The Store of Requirement is a wizard inspired shop selling a wide selection of licensed Harry Potter merchandise and collectibles, such as wands, clothing, accessories and other memorabilia. A must-visit for everyone still waiting on their Hogwarts-letters. The Chapel Street Bazaar is an enormous vintage store in Prahran selling anything from furniture and old records to clothing and jewellery – basically anything weird and vintage. You’ll need some time to explore the entirety of Chapel Street Bazaar, but you’ll definitely be in in for a vintage surprise or three.

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