Australia might be better known for its sunburnt croc hunters than its vibrant art scene, but it’s not all shrimp on the barbie in the Land Down Under. Melbourne, Oz’s second-largest city, prides itself on its Euro-style appreciation of art and culture. Melbin (as the locals pronounce it) is home to a series of laneways (narrow, cobblestone paths between wide city blocks) brimming with cafes, galleries, boutiques, street art, and a network of not-so-secret bars.
The city’s action is concentrated slightly inland in the Central Business District, with shopping hotbed Fitzroy to the north, a casino and arts centre in Southbank, and hip beachside village St. Kilda further south.
For simple, modern lodging on the outskirts of the bustling CBD, book Pensione Hotel (16 Spencer Street; +61-3-9621-3333). If you’re after a little more flash, Adelphi Hotel (187 Flinders Lane; +61-3-8080-8888) has bold colors, a swanky spa, and a rooftop pool that hangs over the street. To escape the suits in the city, head to The Prince (2 Acland Street; +61 3 9536 1111), an earthy boutique in St. Kilda with sunny rooms, botanical toiletries, and rattan touches.
Established designers make their home on Chapel Street, but Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is the place for affordable fashion from up-and-coming locals and carefully curated vintage. Hunter Gatherer (274 Brunswick Street) stocks secondhand clothes for men and women. Currency (246 Brunswick Street) carries plenty of cute secondhand frocks, and Clear It Factory Outlet (188 Brunswick Street) features local designer Alannah Hill’s romantic, retro-chic creations at steep discounts. Pair them with a bespoke Cailin Alainn fascinator from Mazi (203 Brunswick Street) for a complete period look.
Not content to confine art to a gallery, Design a Space (20 Manchester Lane) carries more than 70 Aussie designers in its expansive digs. Every year, the city commissions graffiti artists to adorn laneway walls with spray paint, stencil, and paper. Wander Hosier, Union, and Caledonian Lanes in the CBD to see the best pieces. If you’re lucky, you might spot a Banksy, though the works from his 2003 visit are quickly disappearing from the ever-changing walls.
While unmarked entryways might suffice for off-the-radar bars in New York, Melbourne makes you work for your speakeasies. Finding any of the city’s unadvertised watering holes takes effort — trekking down dark alleyways, past dumpsters and street rats. The Croft Institute (21-25 Croft Alley) is the most elaborately themed, with old-timey lab equipment and a gurney in the bathroom. But the car park-turned-open-air bar at Section 8 (27-29 Tattersalls Lane) is more crowd-friendly. A classier set frequents Murmur (17 Warburton Lane), which feels like a warm, cozy lodge.
Crikey, have a go at that.
While You’re Down There:
+ DailyCandy Goes to New Zealand
Photos: Getty Images; reinn / Flickr; Courtesy of The Prince; Courtesy of Hunter Gatherer; Jean Bentley; Courtesy of Section 8