Low crime rates, available healthcare, and quality education make Melbourne one of the most livable cities in the world. But comfort and safety aren't always synonymous with boring. With its funky, cuisine-driven, and laidback neighborhoods, Melbourne offers up an electric culture that is anything but snooze-worthy.
Whether it’s the retro streets of Fitzroy or the backpacker scene in St Kilda, we rounded up the top 10 neighborhoods to explore in Melbourne.
Melbourne Central Business District
Melbourne’s Central Business District is the main hub of the city. This is where you’ll find the financial district, Chinatown, markets, shopping, and universities all in one place. You can get around the CBD by riding the tram for free; otherwise, it’s totally walkable. Be sure to check out Melbourne’s iconic laneways and arcades, where you’ll find some of the best street art in the world. While you're in town, you should also carve out time to browse through the souvenir and food stalls of the impressively big Queen Victoria Market.
Richmond is home to sports and shopping. Here, you can catch an Australian Football League game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere. Prefer to shop? Bridge Road is great for it, whether you’re looking for a boutique clothing store or an antique shop. If you’re curious about the local brews, stop by Mountain Goat Brewery to sample its ales—and if you're there on a Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday, you can take a tour as well. While you’re in the neighborhood, catch a gig at Richmond’s Corner Hotel, a cool live music venue.
A 20-minute tram ride west of Melbourne CBD, Footscray is a melting pot of culture, well-known for its food and art. Of course, with various ethnicities all in one place, you’re going to have plenty of options for outstanding cuisine. Check out Footscray Market to get a whiff of all the spices and smells emanating from the stalls. If you’re having trouble settling on something to eat, try the Injera bread at Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant; it's an experience you won’t forget.
You know that kid in school who was never part of a clique but just radiated coolness by doing his own thing? That’s Fitzroy. It’s an alternative, retro, funky, hipster Melbourne neighborhood to the north of the CBD. There’s plenty of window shopping along Brunswick Street, where you’ll find vintage clothing stores, record shops, and used bookstores. When you get thirsty, walk up to the rooftop bar of Naked For Satan. You’ll get an incredible view of the city, plus killer cocktails. If you happen to be exploring Fitzroy on the weekend, stop by Rose Street Artists’ Market and browse through locally-made arts and crafts.
Looking for the beach? Head to St Kilda. A favorite among international travelers, this Melbourne neighborhood is home to the iconic Luna Park. When it’s a beautiful day outside, pack a picnic and head to the waterfront. It’s great for people-watching and working on your Australian tan. On Sundays, St Kilda hosts the St Kilda Esplanade Market, where you can meet local vendors and shop for souvenirs to take home. Acland Street is the main road to grab a bite, and La Roche makes a mean chicken parma. And you do not want to miss the sunset in St Kilda; as the orange sun drops over the horizon, fairy penguins waddle up the beach to find shelter for the night.
South Yarra is an entertaining neighborhood to visit during the day or night. During the day, take a walk around The Tan, which circles the Royal Botanical Gardens. If you’re visiting between November and March, Moonlight Cinemas features outdoor movies in the park. When it comes time for happy hour and dinner, head to Chapel Street. Leonard’s House of Love is an American-style, 1970s theme bar serving enormous burgers and creative cocktails. Chapel Street is also the place to go if you’re looking to experience Melbourne’s nightlife. Revolver Upstairs is a 24-hour nightclub where you can dance at all hours of the night.
Carlton borders Melbourne CBD to the north and mirrors a 1930s New York City Italian community. Lygon Street is home to heaps of Italian restaurants and bakeries—but if you can’t seem to settle on an Italian spot, go to Tiamo for a big bowl of pasta. Walk it off in Carlton Gardens, where you’ll find a little history in the Melbourne Museum. If you need a laugh, The Comics Lounge hosts top-notch comedians six nights a week.
A 25-minute train ride north of the city, Northcote is an underrated Melbourne neighborhood that deserves some love. It's where you’ll find food festivals, epic live music at Northcote Social Club, and a mix of shopping on High Street. If you make the journey to Northcote, grab a drink at Joe’s Shoe Store. It’s a converted wine bar and art gallery that’s one-of-a-kind. Then catch a movie at Palace Cinemas for old and new films in a retro-style theater.
Pronounced pur-ra-ran, this Melbourne neighborhood borders South Yarra and has its own distinct personality. Check out Prahran Market, which has been around since 1891. Here, you’ll find fruit, vegetables, artisanal bread and cheese stands, food stalls, cafés, and live jazz music. As you continue exploring the neighborhood, walk through Queen Victoria Gardens. It’s an open space with nicely manicured lawns and flowers. Be sure to stop by Chapel Off Chapel; previously a church, it has been converted into a music venue. It features cabaret, comedy, theatre, and dance performances.
Docklands is an inner-western Melbourne neighborhood that sits right on the waterfront. The first thing you should do is cruise along the Yarr River with Melbourne Tramboat, the world’s first floating tram. When it comes to shopping, District Docklands is where it’s at. On Sundays, check out the open-air market on the New Quay Promenade. While you’re in Docklands, hop on the Melbourne Star, one of the top 10 tallest observation wheels in the world.