Want to drink coffee, sip martinis, frequent the best eateries and shop like a true local? Melburnian Belinda Jackson shows you how to pack it all into a three-day extravaganza.
Sure, Melbourne's got Vespas parked outside sidewalk cafes and your tailored winter coat will always get a workout here, but this town is no poor man's Europe. The star of the south is home to the world's best baristas, quality late-night dining and truly great shoe shopping, without wowsery curfews, iced pavements or a $1000 airfare. This season, expect great coups in the art exhibition world, affordable eats from the brightest chefs and gorgeous indie fashion.
Good morning, Melbourne! Swan down the Paris end of town where Euro-fash Doc Martin's fires up the espresso machine at 7.30am (86 Collins St, see collinsquarter.com) so you're ready for Melbourne's power block of shopping, from Bourke Street Mall to Lonsdale St. Sparkly new Emporium leads into the made-over Strand Melbourne Arcade and onto Melbourne's GPO, home of Australia's first H&M. The antidote for all this gorgeousness is the Grand Trailer Park Taverna. Pull up a caravan and order the Chunk Double-Double with a boozy milkshake (87 Bourke St, see grandtrailerpark.com.au) then say hi to Casey Jenkins (she of Vagina Knitting), waiting in the Dark Horse Experiment artist studios to do whatever you want. The rules: she doesn't leave the gallery "and you have to leave her body the way you found it" (110 Franklin St, see darkhorseexperiment.com) Need a drink? Wander down Melbourne's Chinatown, push open a nondescript door and tell the guys in Union Electric Bar you'd like a West Winds gin and fresh apple juice, please (13 Heffernan La). Now snag an upstairs booth in new Magic Mountain Saloon, of Cookie pedigree. Oooh, that Thai is spicy. Pair with a Tom Thumb mocktail or espresso martini with cold-pour coffee (62 Lt Collins St, see magicmountainsaloon.com.au).
Possibly Australia's first cereal restaurant, Cereal Anytime pops up in Richmond's Swan Street Chamber of Commerce alongside the fine teas of Storm in a Teacup (214 Swan St, Richmond) but if it's cookin' you're lookin' for, mosey down to social enterprise Feast of Merit for shakshuka and a warm glow (117 Swan St, Richmond, see feastofmerit.com). Follow with a lazy 2.25km parklands stroll to the treasures of the Forbidden City's Palace Museum in The Golden Age of China Qianlong Emperor, 1736–1795 (180 St Kilda Road, see ngv.vic.gov.au) then explore St Kilda's most happening pocket, 56-72 Acland St: eke out a rum-and-tapas lunch in The Nelson, real Peruvian in Buena Vista Peruvian Kitchen, inhale manchego and leek croquetas at Lona Pintxos Bar or call for shisha and Middle Eastern mezze in 40 Thieves & Co. Crush the calories on a City Sights Kayak guided tour down the Yarra, good with kids from eight years ($78pp, see urbanadventures.com) Now you can indulge at the effortlessly French L'Hotel Gitan. Do oysters and champagne, do the Cape Grim porterhouse (see lhotelgitan.com.au). Wind down with Australia's best cocktails at oddball Bar Exuberante. Expect typos on the menu, expect a knock-back if its 14 seats are already occupied (438 Church Street, Richmond, see facebook.com/BarExuberante).
Savour the flavour of a bagel that's taken a New Jersey local two days to create at 5 and Dime Bagels (16 Katherine Pl, City, 5dimebagel.com.au) or experience true coffee geekery at First Pour cafe, home to Victoria's 2015 barista champ, Craig Simon (26 Bond St, Abbotsford). Blow the city for a breath of country air at Heide Museum of Modern Art. Explore the contemporary collections and sculpture gardens with a Cafe Vue lunch box by super-chef Shannon Bennett (7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen, heide.com.au). On the way back into town, take a quick prance into Lupa to flick the racks for local indie fashion designers (77 Smith St, Fitzroy, lupa.com.au) Nicely timed, you'll make happy hour and a gin high tea at new G&Tea (100 Kerr St, Fitzroy, gandtea.com.au) Don't go overboard: you've got dinner booked in at Fatto Cantina, beloved for its late-night Sicilian dining and city views from the terrace. Finish with a stroll across the river on the love-locked Yarra footbridge and back into the city's heart.
FIVE MORE MELBOURNE MUST-DOs
1. Taste authentic Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Greek cuisines on a Footscray food tour with expert Alan Campion, $110, see melbournefoodtours.com.
2. Stretch with the locals at hip hop yoga in South Yarra (yoga213.com.au). If you don't dig downward dog to Snoop Dogg, slap on the bling and shimmy round The Tan, 3.8km around the Botanic Gardens.
3. Go anti-establishment in Northcote at the new Estelle Bistro. Chef Scott Pickett tips the Cantabrian anchovies with romesco, with a Clarence House pinot blanc (243 High Street, Northcote, estellebistro.com)
4. The Monash Gallery of Art was designed by starchitect Harry Seidler and shows 2000 works of Australian photography, see www.mga.org.au.
5. Do the Signature Kitya Karnu scrub, massage, cleanse and river stone ritual in the Aurora Spa (The Prince hotel, St Kilda, see aurorasparetreat.com.au)
Virgin Australia, Qantas, Tigerair and Jetstar have many flights between the two capitals. Compare fares with skyscanner.com.
New city digs include Coppersmith (South Melbourne, see coppersmithhotel.com.au), Doubletree Hilton (city, see melbourne.doubletree.com), Larwill Studio (Parkville, see artserieshotels.com.au), Mantra City Central (city, see mantra.com.au) and Jasper Hotel (city, see jasperhotel.com.au,)