Feature: Best places to be and be seen in...Melbourne

Thursday, 17 March 2013 4:30 PM

So, third week of features on stylish city breaks around the globe and this week we’re venturing down under to explore what the Ozzies can teach us about glamorous partying, retro-shopping and fashionable designs. A whole lot we suspect! Just think vintage boutiques, provocative art and underground clubs.

True, true…Sydney may be Australia’s top city and it may grab most of the headlines but Melbourne is just as rewarding if you can crack the puzzle to its sophisticated charms. And Melbourne has always had the reputation for being the coolest of the two cities. None of this comes as a surprise to us though. The city’s diverse and bohemian lifestyle mixed with a vibrant underground scene and cutting-edge arts and culture make Melbourne a real contender as one of the world’s top places to be and be seen. So, don’t be surprised if this feature turns out to be a tour of funky neighbourhoods, trendy bars and bohemian-chic boutiques. You don’t mind do you?!

One thing is for certain, first-timers to the city seeking galleries, quirky bars and alternative shops will not be disappointed! But you have to look for these hidden gems though. Small boutiques and hip bars that are on par with anything Manhattan has to offer are often stashed down newspaper-strewn alleyways.

Shop till you drop
Snapping up vintage knick-knacks is hard to resist when you’re in a city that is booming with retro-boutiques, funky stores and upscale second-hand shops. And if you’re serious about your vintage buys, Gigi a la Maison specialises in vintage French home-ware. Trash on Bay is a den of ‘old Hollywood glamour and reinvented treasures’ in the Port Melbourne area that specialises in vintage hats, luggage and china (let’s face it, you might actually need some extra luggage after shopping your way through the streets of Melbourne!). Empire Vintage in chichi Albert Park is filled with unique fabrics, furniture and ornaments. For original vintage French posters, from 1920s Champagne ads to 1940s Air France posters, Galerie Montmartre is the place to visit.

If you still haven’t had enough of Melbourne shopping, but feel like exploring something that doesn’t shout ‘retro’, head to Chapel Street in Toorak, which is an antipodean version of London’s King’s Road with lots of designer labels and luxury brands. Downtown, Flinders Lane and Little Collins Street are good for cutting-edge, individualistic clothes, while Church Street in Richmond/Brunswick and Gertrude Street in Fitzroy are definitely worth a mooch for a range of shops, from eclectic design and fashion to toys, books and art.

Before you hit the nearest dance floor wearing some of your new-bought garments, why not test some of Melbourne’s best cuisine (everyone’s got to eat right?!). And if you want to put on your glad rags and slap the meal on your credit card, think of Pearl. Boasting a stylish location, decor and waiting staff, it is popular with the ladies who lunch. Make sure you leave room for puddings though, such as taro dumplings with white chocolate ice cream, vanilla custard and gold leaf. Bon appetit!

Party Ozzy style
When it comes to style, it’s not just Melbourne’s shops that ooze glamour; its bars are pretty cool too. There are many hits on the Deck of Secrets list, which include Double Happiness, marked simply by Chinese characters painted above the door, The Toff in Town, which is hidden on the third floor of an office block with completely private railway car boots and 1806, which features a list of hundreds of cocktails. Cheers! The choice is enough to make you feel giddy, but the Old Fashioned, a blend of whisky, sugar and bitters, sounds like the perfect way to end your tour of stylish Melbourne, right?!

But if you’re not ready leave yet, Melbourne still has a number of party-tricks up its sleeve. Although watching the sun sink with a few beachside cocktails or a pot of Carlton beer in St Kilda is pretty hard to beat, the faux-grunge Vineyard is definitely worth a visit, especially for bar staff and people-watching! And there’s still fun to be had at Meyers Place, which is a hip hole in the wall. To finish off the night once and for all, head to the very cool St Jerome's in Caledonian Lane, which looks like a caff from the front but out back opens up onto a tarpaulin-covered lane where tunes are spun and night owls lounge on sofas.

Stay in style
Since you’re in Melbourne to discover places frequently visited by the elite, where else would you stay but The Cullen hotel, which opened in November 2011 and is named after bad boy Australian artist Adam Cullen, in the Prahan suburb. Cullen’s paintings and installations are everywhere, and any guests unfamiliar with his work can take a tour with the hotel’s resident curator.

If it’s romance you’re after, we’ve got one last suggestion up our sleeve. Forget Neighbours, Melbourne, like Kylie, has moved on and sleeked up. Tuck yourself away at the Lyall boutique hotel. In South Yarra, one of Melbourne’s swankiest precincts, home to the rich and famous, and just a designer label stagger from high-end shops and dining around Chapel Street, the Lyall has tasteful art-clad walls, a spa, bistro and champagne bar. And since you’re already there why not take your lover out to the Kitten Club, the place for retro lovers with a yen for powder rooms and a Sinatra fixation. A red quilted Love Lounge hides behind a beaded curtain where the clubs Bunny Girl cocktails a martini glass of lychee and vodka shaken with rose essence go down well with the slinky vibe.

Ready to meet the who’s who of Melbourne?
 

High-end holiday in Hong Kong

Feature: Best places to be and be seen in...Hong Kong

Second week of our series of features on the hippest and trendiest places to be seen if you're a somebody (or if you just want to mingle with the jet-set!), and this week we're off to Hong Kong for a whirlwind tour of high-end shopping and partying.

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Feature: Best places to be and be seen in...Sydney

Sydney is sophisticated, sexy and stylish yet at the same time its relaxed, chilled and gives off that typically laidback Australian vibe. It’s a city where the rich and famous, surfers and beach bums seem to fuse together seamlessly.

Head to Berlin for a party

Feature: Best places to be and be seen in...Berlin

Where are the best places to be and be seen on your next city break? Because we love fashion, trendy bars, underground clubs and stylish restaurants, we simply had to find out. This week, we head to Berlin, Germany's capital of cool!

Singapore's famed shopping district

Feature: Best places to be and be seen in ... Singapore

Singapura , the City of Lions: an old British colony and one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. Unusual for the south-east Asian landmass, this hi-tech metropolis at the end of the Malaysian peninsula is as wealthy as it gets.

Sun, sea, sand and a party in Miami

Feature: Best places to be and be seen in...Miami

Mmm...Miami! A certain song does spring to mind when you think about Miami, doesn't it?! It's the fourth week of special features on chic places to hang out when on a city break in some of the world's most exciting cities. This week we're off to Miami.

Party city extraordinaire

Feature: Best places to be and be seen in...Istanbul

Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia, has a population of 13 million and manages to be both lavishly ancient and vibrantly modern. But where do you go if you want to see and be seen in this restless, dynamic city? We've found out!

Bangkok's Rama IX Bridge

Feature: Best places to be and be seen in ... Bangkok

Known locally as Krung Thep, Bangkok is many things: a city of decadence, concrete, ancient customs and some of the most indulgent shopping anywhere in the world. Markedly different from the rest of Thailand, the capital is a vast, sprawling city

Inspired by flowers?

Feature: Life in colour! Best flower-inspired holidays

Ahh...flowers! For those of us who can't get enough of these colourful plants, the thought of spending a holiday visiting flower festivals, flower shows and flower markets is almost too good to be true. But there are plenty of events to choose from.

ASPIRE

Sign up to aspireholidays.co.uk's ASPIRE.

Subject to terms of use and privacy policy

Feature: Cafayate - the new place for Argentinean wine tours

Vineyard in Cafayate, Argentina

Surrounded by crumbling red mountains and giant towering cacti, seems an unlikely scene to host an array of vineyards, producing some of Argentina’s best wines, yet this exactly where I have come to go wine tasting – in the small town of Cafayate.

Best honeymoon hotels: Langdon Hall, Canada

Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa

This elegant country house hotel and spa transports you to another time and place, where afternoon tea is served in the conservatory overlooking the Cloister Garden, flames crackle in the grates of magnificent fireplaces and suites are filled with fine antiques.