From an art gallery hidden in a car park to quite possibly the world's smallest (and most awesome) bar, Melbourne, an obligatory stop-off on any antipodean adventure, is brimming with distinctive cultural experiences. Grab a tram pass and work up a serious appetite if you want to make the most of a weekend in this forward-thinking Australian city.
8:00 am. Awake at the Cullen Hotel in Prahan, a residence dedicated to the work of Australian contemporary artist Adam Cullen. Head in search of Melbourne's much-lauded coffee spots. First stop: Brother Baba Budan, a tiny café situated on one of the cobbled alleyways of the city's center, which is decorated with clusters of wooden chairs hanging from the ceiling. Go local with a flat white (the Aussie café au lait).
9:00 am. Breakfast at Cumulus Inc. on Flinders Lane (try the bircher muesli and sardines on toast), followed by a perusal of some of the city's best boutiques, housed in beautiful Victorian shopping arcades (Alice Euphemia, Marais), laneways (Christine, Assin, Choiodo), the GPO building (Fat, Acne, Gorman), and onetime communist headquarters Curtin House (Pet Shop Girls, Someday, PAM).
12:00 pm. Meet up with curator Jane O'Neill, who runs Art Aficionado Tours, at Pellegrini's Espresso Bar (one of the oldest coffee shops in the city) just off Crossley Street, home to a charming Georgian town house that hits all spots with a bookshop, Lucy Folk accessories, and café-bar Von Haus on the ground floor, and contemporary art space Sarah Scout Presents upstairs. Next door at Gallery Funaki, the work of local and international jewelry makers can be discovered inside the myriad drawers that fill the space. Visit independent galleries including Utopian Slumps, Murray White, and--tucked away in the back
of a car park--Neon Parc.
2:00 pm. Hop on the tram to beachside neighborhood St. Kilda for a mind-blowing lunch at Golden Fields. Share small plates (ocean trout with fennel, lemon, and mirin; lobster roll; peanut butter parfait) as you sit mesmerized by the surgical precision of chefs preparing dishes behind the white marble bar. Take an after-lunch stroll along the palm-tree-lined promenade, then stop into the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts to check out the annual open-submission Postcard show featuring work by everyone from Tracey Emin to schoolkids.
7:00 pm. Walk through Federation Square before dinner at cavernous and jam-packed Southeast Asian restaurant Chin Chin. If unable to decide between kingfish sashimi, suckling pig, and massaman curry, select the "feed me" option--a surprise procession of seven of the kitchen's best dishes.
9:00 pm. Catch a show at The Forum, a glorious 1920s theater that has hosted everyone from The xx to Bon Iver.
11:00 pm. Head upstairs through the unmarked doors of Melbourne Supper Club on Spring Street to rooftop bar Siglo. Enjoy the view of Parliament House and a glass of rosé.
12:00 am. Stop by underground drinking-dancing den (and late-night gourmet burger joint) Strange Wolf. Take a spin under the mirror ball before calling it a night.
10:00 am. Another day, another write-home-about coffee at My Legendary Girlfriend, followed by a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens.
1:00 pm. Venture to Acland Street, which is lined with continental bakeries. Resist the urge for a "cake crawl" (a popular weekend activity here), and instead follow the tattooed and vintage-clad kids to Brunswick Street institution Vegie Bar to tuck into vegan polenta stacks and an apple crumble.
3:00 pm. Walk to Fitzroy and discover vintage stores (Moustache), design shops (Third Drawer Down, Ganim's Store), more next-level coffee joints (Slowpoke, Argos Loves Company), and a delightful hair salon-cum-ceramic gallery (Miss Gertrude). Refresh with a pint at Little Creatures bar and brewery.
7:00 pm. Dinner at produce-driven St. Jude's Cellars, a former garage transformed with whitewashed brick walls and climbing plants. Linger over the Mediterranean flavors and local wines while planning the evening's barhopping expedition.
9:00 pm. Melbourne has one of the most eclectic and dynamic bar scenes in the world, with many institutions hidden in laneways, behind unmarked doors, and in basements. Start at The Toff in Town, on the second floor of Curtin House, with a train car as its centerpiece. Next, another rooftop at Madame Brussels. Order a Pimm's punch and get into the parlor-room vibe, complete with grass-covered terrace and waitresses in tennis dresses.
12:00 am. Things get even more intimate at newcomer Bar Americano, a Lilliputian drinking spot up a cobblestone hill with just enough standing room for 10 (and only three seats at the bar). A bartender rustles up a late-night snack of fancy tinned fish, meat, and cheese while patrons sip Amaro and espresso.
1:00 am. The final leg of the tour-de-bar takes place in the awesome Bar Ampere, tucked in a courtyard that smells vaguely of garbage, at the rear entrance to equally awesome sister bar Gin Palace. Bartenders practically dare drinkers to challenge their mixology skills. Settle for a taste of home with a couple of old-fashioneds before rounding out the night with the post-gig band scene at Cherry Bar, hidden (of course) down graffitied AC-DC Lane.
YOUR MELBOURNE CHEAT SHEET:
SLEEP: Cullen Hotel, 164 Commercial Road, Prahran
EAT: Brother Baba Budan, 359 Little Bourke Street Cumulus Inc, 45 Flinders Lane Pellegrini's Espresso Bar, 66 Bourke Street Chin Chin, 125 Flinders Lane, My Legendary Girlfriend, 157 Domain Road South Yarra Vegie Bar, 380 Brunswick Street Slowpoke, 157 Brunswick Street Argos Loves Company, 149 Brunswick Street St. Jude's Cellars, 389 Brunswick Street
DRINK: Von Haus, 1A Crossley Street Strange Wolf, Strachan Lane Siglo, 2nd/161 Spring Street Little Creatures, 222 Brunswick Street The Toff in Town, 2/252 Swanston Street Madame Brussels, 63/59 Bourke Street Bar Americano, 20 Presgrave Place Bar Ampere, 16 Russell Place Gin Palace, 10 Russell Place Cherry Bar, 103 Flinders Lane
SHOP: Alice Euphemia, 37 Swanston Street Marais, 314 Little Collins Street Christine, 181 Flinders Lane Assin, 138 Little Collins Street Chiodo, 114 Russell Street Fat, Russell Place Acne, 338 Bourke Street Gorman, 235 Brunswick Street Pet Shop Girls, 252 Swanston Street Someday, 252 Swanston Street PAM, 31 Dover Street Lucy Folk, 1a Crossley street Moustache Vintage, 124 Gertrude Street Third Drawer Down, 93 George Street Ganim's Store, 61 Brunswick Street
SEE: Sarah Scout, 1a Crossley Street Gallery Funaki, 4 Crossley Street Utopian Slumps, 33 Guildford Lane Murray White Room, Sargood Lane Neon Park, 53 Bourke Street Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, 26 Acland Street Miss Gertrude, 150 Gertrude Street The Forum Theatre, 154 Flinders Street