The West

Discovering Melbourne s secrets
Federation Square book market

Melbourne's inner-city neighbourhoods are where the Victorian capital's varied character and identity can really be discovered. Melbourne's CBD has many attractions of course - Queen Victoria Market, Degraves Street and the impressive street art to name a few. But step outside of the city confines and you'll find idiosyncratic areas that are historic yet up to date, established yet ever changing.


Stretching for 2km through three suburbs, Chapel Street is like a self-contained city in itself.

The South Yarra end has an air of prestige and is lined with designer shops, upper-end high street stores and luxury hotels.

Here you'll find the Art Series Olsen hotel, which displays the work of artist John Olsen in every room, and the well-established The Como hotel.

Spoonbill Restaurant, which is part of The Olsen, is inspired by the Australian artist's time in Europe.

Its varied, safe menu will appeal to most tastes and satisfy most appetites.

The perfectly cooked tempura soft-shell crab was particularly memorable.

As well as high-street chains and well-known designers, Chapel Street has many unusual shops you won't find elsewhere. BlackBook Tees stocks fashionable T-shirts and caps made by independent designer labels from all over the world.

But after an hour or so of shopping, it's time for coffee, especially in Melbourne.

There is no shortage of cafes and it's fun to track down the locals' favourites, just to make sure you're getting the best roast possible.

Coffee Darling, slightly off the beaten track in Darling Street off Toorak Road, is a bright and friendly place, loved by South Yarra locals.

It serves good coffee and a decent late breakfast - try the herb-marinated mushrooms.

A Melburnian recommended Found off Chapel, a small cafe tucked at the end of a small strip of market stalls.

It's more like a coffee hatch, with some garden benches in front of it. But this low-key, simple place churns out the best coffee I have tasted.

Its menu is small, simple but innovative. The scrambled eggs with vegetables and chilli were delicious.

As you wander south into Prahran and Windsor, Chapel Street becomes more grungy and a hipster hangout.

Vintage op shops, comic stores, burger joints, small bars and more cafes replace the designer shops and luxury hotels.

Yellow Bird has long been a favoured Chapel Street haunt for its good coffee and great vibe.

With every outside table full, Yellow Bird is as popular as ever for breakfast, an afternoon beer, a snack and music.

If the length of Chapel Street seems too daunting to do on foot, the No. 78 tram can take you from Richmond along the length of Chapel St to St Kilda.

But then of course, you'd miss out on much of this unique street and its atmosphere.


Just east of the city, Richmond is an intriguing mix of different cultures, quirky shops, unusual bars and beautiful, even if often fading, Victorian architecture.

The suburb is a stone's throw from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

With its 100,000-plus capacity, an AFL game at the G is a great experience even if you're not a footy fan.

Aussie Rules is more than just a game for most Victorians, as the atmosphere of a Friday night at the MCG shows.

Swan Street and Bridge Road are the two main thoroughfares in Richmond and are lined with shops, bars, restaurants and live music venues.

A great little haunt is The Collection, in Bridge Road, a small bar serving up southern American food and drinks.

With its dark wood interior, The Collection has a cosy, speakeasy atmosphere.

It's perfect for a pre-game cocktail, not only for its $10 happy hour from 4pm to 7pm but also for delicious offerings including cucumber gimlet and Kentucky Buck.

The unusual and reasonably priced bar snacks are Cajun- influenced, such as popcorn shrimp and jalapeno poppers.

Bridge Road is also home to one of the most amusing shop windows you'll see.

Kigu Zoo is a quirky shop dedicated to selling the biggest range of onesies (an all-in-one jumpsuit mainly modelled on animals) in Australia and New Zealand.

Victoria Street in North Richmond is the centre of Melbourne's Vietnamese community.

The atmosphere is frenetic and fun as people mill about the various pho shops and Asian supermarkets.


If Melbourne's best-known coastal suburb had to be compared to one in Perth, it would have to be Fremantle. St Kilda is an arty den of creativity and eclectic culture.

It attracts backpackers, hippies, musos and all kinds of artists.

There is an air reminiscent of Brighton in the UK, with its grand old buildings along the Esplanade and a strong gay community.

The Melbourne Gay Pride Parade is held in St Kilda every year.

Much of St Kilda remains characterfully rundown, apart from the impressive gentrification of the St Kilda Sea Baths.

The baths, which date back to the late 1800s, have been rebuilt many times and are now a complex of swimming pool, gym, spa, bars and restaurants.

The Esplanade Hotel is a Melbourne institution, a huge beachfront pub that is also Australia's longest-running music venue.

Acland and Fitzroy streets are lined with bakeries, shops, bars and restaurants.

Big Mouth is an Art Deco-styled bar and restaurant in Acland Street which is perfect for some St Kilda people-watching.


North of the city, Fitzroy has the reputation as Melbourne's bohemian and artistic hub.

Brunswick Street is the main drag through this neighbourhood, although there is plenty happening off this well-beaten track.

Fashion and art are pervasive through Fitzroy, spanning vintage shops to Melbourne designers.

Designer jeans brand Nobody Denim has its spiritual home in Fitzroy and its shop on Brunswick Street.

It regularly has warehouse sales, where you can get a really good bargain.

Every weekend the Rose Street artists' market gives up-and- coming creative souls a platform and an audience for their handmade wares.

The market has been going for 10 years selling fashion, accessories, artwork, jewellery and photography and now also has a diner and rooftop bar.

Another great find was Scally and Trombone, a wonderful little shop on Brunswick Street that has a dazzling eclectic range of jewellery and accessories.

This is Melbourne, so of course like everywhere, Fitzroy is also about eating, drinking and music.

There are many different pubs and hotels in beautiful, character-filled buildings, such as the Perseverance Hotel and The Evelyn, a live music venue and bar.

The Napier Hotel, in Napier Street close to Brunswick Street, is a good choice if you're after a cosy real pub atmosphere and decent pub grub.

Even Fremantle brewery Little Creatures has got itself into Fitzroy, opening a pub and dining hall on Brunswick Street as well as a brewery in Geelong.

The West Australian

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