Melbourne Staycation: where to eat, stay, play and shop
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Melbourne Staycation: where to eat, stay, play and shop

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Aisha Hillary, founder of lifestyle brand Hills & West shares her favourite hot spots for a Melbourne staycation.

Need inspiration for your Melbourne staycation? I absolutely loved my two years living in this fabulous city and frequently return to visit our friends, creative collaborators and all the wonderful food destinations including old favourites and new joiners. If you plan to visit this glorious cosmopolitan city soon or even if you’re a local, this list is sure to have a few spots to ignite your interest and exploring passions.

EAT

So, rumour has it that Melbourne has the largest Greek population after Athens, so you can imagine how good the food would be. We have two recommendations for you.

The classic (of course) being Satalacties. This traditional restaurant is known in Melbourne for being one of the original Greek establishments, making its mark since 1978. All food is shared like it should be – meat, potatoes, stuffed capsicum, rice, dips, bread (don’t get us started as we won’t be able to stop)! It’s a must! You can even get an on-the-go wrap if you hate to share like us ;). It’s a real Greek feast!

Another Melbourne establishment for Greek food is The Press Club. Not only do they have revolutionary food, but a great atmosphere. Their dinning interior oozes (not Ouzo… although you can get one if you like 🙂 decadence, soft lighting and is perfect for that intimate night out or some fun with friends.

“Our ever evolving menu strives to push boundaries, combining old-world ingredients with new techniques for a dining experience unlike any other.”

Who doesn’t love a good classic pub to end a busy day, we have a local favourite for you. The Prince Alfred Hotel is well known for their open courtyard and sunny spots where you can enjoy en evening or try their $12 Bloody Mary’s!

If you are looking for a pub with old school charm and that has maintained its historic integrity, topped with some good Guinness, then the Cricketers Bar, part of the stunning 1883 Hotel Windsor, is a cosy, welcoming space with an English-Australian gastropub menu, a selection of tap and craft beers. Venture to the bathroom and take a walk around this hotel steeped in historic detail and grandeur.

The hotel also has an award-winning, one-hat restaurant just five minutes away. Called Sunda _, it serves modern South-East Asian dining by Executive Chef, Khanh Nguyen.

If you love your Italian food you must wander Lygon Street Italian Precinct, AKA Little Italy. It’s a gorgeous leafy street running through several Melbournian suburbs, with rich café culture. What’s just as good as their food is their coffee – we all know the Italians love their coffee! You’ll find world-class Italian dining here, as well as Italian produce and culture stores, the beautiful Lygon Buildings (built in 1888), and shopping boutiques.

STAY

Melbourne CBD (Central Business District): Great if you are looking for city vibes. Trams make it super easy to get everywhere, close to museums, theatres, nightlife and of course shopping.

St Kilda: Want to be close to the beach and away from the rush? St Kilda is a lot more laid back! Still only 20min train from the city too. You are greeted by the Lunar Park smile and can enjoy the many delicious cafes, a walk in the botanical gardens, have a beach walk and the pier to watch the fisherman waiting for their daily catches.

Fitzroy: For the hipsters (this was our local area as we lived in Abbotsford). Plenty of cafes, London like pubs, craft breweries and some delicious fine dining too. Great for shopping, especially vintage and great interior shops too! Only 20 mins from the city too.

South Yarra and Prahran: (to pronounce it properly – Pur-ra-ran) For boutique hotels and shopping, lots of it. There is also a great nightlife scene if that is what you are after.

An up and comer – Footscray: For something different, next to one of Melbourne’s most beautiful parks. With a growing live music scene and a popular Asian fruit and vegetable markets.

Following are some of the more interesting hotels to experience when in Melbourne.

Let’s start with our favourite, The QT with its wonderfully designed, eccentric and quirky accessories, right in the high-end fashion district. It’s an absolute experience from the reception through to the rooms, the restaurants (Pascale – nom nom) and rooftop bar. We love it and a favourite is a digital art in the lifts and the large collection of gins. Are we giving away too much 😉

Another one for the arty is The Cullen in the centre of the CBD, just around the corner from the local markets. The hotel is inspired by the works of Adam Cullen, which you will find sprinkled around the hotel.

If you’re for a good time, not a long time and you want to experience Casino accommodation, restaurants and shops, then try The Crown Towers. With views that will keep you mesmerised all night, the plush rooms and facilities ensure you have everything at your fingertips. The swimming pool and spa are also a must to relax and chill. Check out downstairs at The Den for a cheeky cocktail too.

So we said a little bit quirky, well try this Forest and Heaven Themed Apartment.

This place will knock your socks off, smack bang in the middle of the CBD, a three minute walk from Degraves St (don’t forget to go down to the train station and get an AMAZING coffee from Cup Of Truth) and six from Hardware Lane (a.k.a easy access to eateries like The French Saloon). The bedroom is a fluffy celestial-looking sanctuary and the living room, bathroom and dining room will make you feel like you walked into a tropical rainforest; complete with log chairs, walls covered in ivy and grass carpet. Do we need to say more…

Notel Melbourne, you say WHAT? Situated on a building rooftop are 1970s chrome airstream caravans with breathtaking city line views, if you are looking for a new experience, this is a must.

And the hotels keep coming… as you know we always love trying something different. In the heart of Flinders Lane and near all the quirky hot spots Adelphi Hotel, with its quirky designs and rooftop pool, you should throw this one in the mix.

Now for something a little more classic Coppersmith Hotel in the quaint south of Melbourne, only 15mins from the CBD, spend time in the bistro downstairs and chat with the locals. Oh, and of course their fabulous rooftop in the evening is truly an atmosphere to be amongst.

Melbourne really loves their rooftops, both in summer and winter. Just one thing that makes this city so wonderful.

PLAY

If you’re in Melbourne during March and September check out the Antipodes Festival or the Greek Film Festival.

If you’re like us and love a good art gallery there are plenty plenty plenty of galleries and studios to be absorbed. Small, large, Indigenous, contemporary and even international, they’ve got it here!

Looking for something that’s out of the city buzz and will take you back in time? You must visit Melbourne’s famous Sun Theatre, dating back to 1938 with a single screen and 1050 outdoor seats. We also adore that classic Art Deco architecture. Keep your eye out for film festivals, movie marathons and special events, there’s always something interesting on the calendar. Even enjoy a beverage outside in the sun, who said you can’t sunbake and watch a movie at the same time?!

Looking for some of that well-known live music Melbourne is known for? There are too many places we could recommend depending on your genre, so we’ll throw some well-deserved spots are you.

Hotel Esplanade just recently got renovated and has three different levels for you to choose from, even some comedy nights too!

Corner Hotel is always playing gigs that are sold out, so scope them out and be quick! They also have a fantastic rooftop which gorgeous city views.

The Workers Club. There might be a long line out front but we guarantee local favourite is worth it. It will definitely provide a good vibe of live music and classic pub food.

Markets

Want to check out some classic markets in Melbourne for hunt for your old, new, vintage and fresh well you can’t miss then Sunday Camberwell Markets, got to get around those hot doughnuts too to keep you warm!

Queen Victoria Markets have so much to offer and explore. The Market is open five days a week – Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Officially opened on 20 March 1878, the Market has been serving the people of Melbourne for more than 140 years. Recently been added to the National Heritage List, it if also know affectionately as ‘Vic Market’ or ‘Queen Vic’, spread over two city blocks, it’s a vibrant and bustling inner-city Market where you can shop at over 600 small businesses for everything from Australian fruit and vegetables, local and imported gourmet foods, clothing and souvenirs.

If you are in Melbourne on a Wednesday between the 5th of June and 28th of August, hit the Queen Vic night markets with tasty street food, roaring fires, speciality shopping, quirky entertainers and deliciously spiced mulled wine. Wander the Market sheds and delight in the smells, sounds and tastes of winter, then top off the feasting and shopping with a boogie at the silent disco or enjoy life, local entertainment. An absolute treat!

Looking to save some cash and just relax? Well, we loved just having a picnic in the sun with some cheese, a rug and a good book. Melbourne Sky Park is known for its industrial little hub and local space worth checking out.

We love a good walk in an unknown place and highly recommend the Kokoda Trail Memorial Walk, which will only take you about 1.5 hrs. We’ll be honest, it’s not a light walk in the park but definitely memorable. So grab a walking buddy and a bottle of water then be on your way!

Oh, and this one a must must must Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden, now that’s a walk you won’t forget. This rainforest looks like something from a fairytale! Picturesque lakes and a quaint boathouse swallowed up by greenery all around you.

Want to get REALLY TOURISTY…. then Eureka Tower shows you a 360-degree view of the Melbourne skyline accompanied by a meal or degustation of 5 or 7 courses.

SHOP

Melbourne is of course known for its world-class shopping, so don’t worry you’ll shop till you drop.

Chapel Street is, of course, is a must for all your well-known designers, locals and fab finds.

If you’re looking for some great outlet deals check out Bridge Road in Richmond, you’ll find the best prices for everything you need.

If you love vintage and one of a kind purchases, take our advice and scope out Fitzroy shops.

The Block Arcade is an iconic heritage shopping hall, with your classic leathers, jewellery and many other boutique stores, boasting the quirky Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery, Hopetoun tearooms and Haigh’s chocolates.

Of course, you can go for your typical Westfield in the CBD, but add that last to your list as you are sure to find something special in some of the above recommendations.

Follow Aisha Hillary on https://www.hillsandwest.com

Ole Henriksen

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