Consistently named among the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne is full of charming cafés, vibrant ethnic enclaves and landscaped parklands. Here we unearth where to stay in Melbourne.
The most obvious areas with a concentration of accommodation are the CBD and the adjoining suburbs of North Melbourne, Carlton, East Melbourne and Richmond. Some of the cheap accommodation areas on the fringes of the city are fairly dead at night, though they’re within easy reach of the action. To the south of the city, South Yarra, Windsor and St Kilda are handy for both the city centre and the beach, and with lots of good eating options. St Kilda is very lively, if a bit rough around the edges, with a few hostels and a number of motels and apartments.
Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) presents a spectacular modern sky-line; what you’ll notice from close up, however, are the florid 19th-century facades, grandiose survivors of the great days of the gold rush and after. At the centre of the CBD, trams jolt through the busy Bourke Street Mall. A stone’s throw from these central thoroughfares, narrow lanes, squares and arcades with vibrant street art, hole-in-the-wall cafés, small restaurants, shops and boutiques add a cosy and intimate feel to the city.
The most exclusive hotels are found in the CBD, particularly around Collins St and the leisure precincts of Southgate and the Crown Casino, and there’s a collection of revamped hotels around southern Cross Station.
Best for old-fashioned service: Langham
A modern hotel minutes from Fed Square, with dazzling CBD views but old-fashioned service, with the benefits of a health club, spa and sauna.
Best for business travellers: Brady Hotel Central Melbourne
Offers 146 modern apartments and guest rooms located on the vibrant northern edge of the CBD. Facilities include a gym, business centre, swimming pool and sauna, as well as a laundry service.
It’s in Melbourne’s inner suburbs that you’ll really get a feel for what life in this city is all about. Café society finds its home to the north among the alternative galleries and secondhand shops of Fitzroy, while the Italian cafés on Lygon Street in nearby Carlton fuelled the Beat Generation with espresso, though these days boutiques far outnumber bookshops.
Best for central location: Carlton Lygon Lodge
Good motel in central Carlton with 60 attractive rooms, most with small kitchenette and balcony. Free off-street parking.
Best for historic hostel charm: The Nunnery
Attractive Fitzroy hostel in a former convent and an 1860s two-storey house, with Brunswick St cafés and Melbourne Museum close by. The building retains original stained-glass windows and a grand staircase. There’s a range of budget dorms and doubles, and a cosy TV lounge, courtyard and a kitchen.
Grungy Richmond, neighboured by East Melbourne, has both Vietnamese and Greek enclaves, and is home to a number of good Middle Eastern restaurants. It also has a diverse music scene in its many pubs. Richmond’s epicentre, Victoria Street, is lined with greengrocers, fishmongers and pho restaurants. Running parallel further south, Bridge Road is a bargain-shopper’s paradise.
Best for heritage elegance: Magnolia Court Boutique Hotel
Elegant Victorian-era hotel in a quiet street in East Melbourne, within walking distance of the CBD. Some rooms come with kitchenette, sitting room or balcony, and are set across two older, lovingly restored buildings and a newer motel section.
Best for riverside views: Amora Hotel Riverwalk
Close to the city, but a world away when you are looking at the peaceful rustic setting of the Yarra River from the river-view rooms.
South of the river, the suburbs of South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor are home to the city’s biggest shopping area, both grungy and upmarket. The main drag, Chapel Street, spans the three suburbs. It provides an extensive range of retail, eating and dining options – from expensive fashion designers and exclusive restaurants to secondhand charity stores and late-night snack haunts.
Best for visitors with stars in their eyes: The Como Melbourne
Stylish hotel in South Yarra that often plays host to visiting celebs and business-people. All 111 rooms are spacious, many with full kitchens and the usual facilities. The gigantic bathtubs come with a complimentary companion – the hotel’s signature rubber duck.
Best for bougie backpackers: Claremont Guest House
Restored 1886 Victorian guesthouse in the heart of South Yara. Over 70 bright, airy dorms and private rooms with renovated shared bathrooms. Spotless facilities with super-friendly and helpful staff, laundry facilities, free wi-fi and breakfast included. More “flashpacker” than backpacker.
If it’s the bay you’re heading for, then St Kilda is the obvious destination. The former seaside resort has an air of shabby gentility, which enhances its current paradoxical reputation as a sophisticated yet seedy suburb with raging nightlife. On weekend nights, these and others throughout St Kilda are filled to overflowing with a style-conscious but fun crowd – something you may want to consider when deciding where to stay in Melbourne.
Best all-rounder: Base
This funky hostel, rated one of the best in Australia, is slick and well managed. There are plenty of communal areas including a bar, kitchen and common room, and all rooms are en-suite. For a few dollars more, there’s a girls-only Sanctuary floor, which provides free champagne in the evening and rents out hair straighteners.
Best for fabulous extras: The Prince
This boutique hostel housed within The Prince complex is one of St Kilda’s trendiest places to lay your head. Minimalist bedrooms include huge TVs with cable and Bose sound systems, while bathrooms are stocked with deluxe MALIN+GOETZ skin products. Other facilities include a day-spa and relaxation centre, the elegant Circa restaurant, The Prince Public Bar and a club/band room.
Top image: Melbourne cityscape © Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock
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