Where to stay in Melbourne – Best areas for families, couples and fun. And what to avoid
You may already know that Melbourne has been the most livable city for the last few years in a row.
Visiting this amazing city is a must, once in Australia. Where to stay in Melbourne is the most important question you should however have.
Because you are going to experience the city in a completely different way based on the area of Melbourne you decide to stay.
The centre of the city has most of the attractions and famous restaurants. A great area to stay.
However, if you are more into a boutique hotel or a local experience then keep exploring the other neighbourhood of Melbourne.
Without further ado, let’s get into it
In this article you will see
- 1 Best areas to stay in Melbourne – in a nutshell
- 2 Where to stay in Melbourne for shopping and on budget
- 3 Where to stay in Melbourne with family and kids
- 4 Where to stay in Melbourne for nightlife
- 5 Best unusual area to stay in Melbourne
- 6 Transportation in Melbourne
You can read also
- Places to visit in Melbourne, including a few secret locations
- Things to do in Melbourne in winter
- Best places for photography in Melbourne
- Photography workshops in Melbourne
- Where to stay in the Great Ocean Road
- Gallery of the best photos of Melbourne and Australia
Another tip. Book well in advance. Hotels in Melbourne tend to get full quite quickly, there is always an event or a festival (that is why I live here by the way 😉 ). In most of the cases, you can cancel your booking free of charge
Best areas to stay in Melbourne – in a nutshell
Here below I organised the five macro areas where I would recommend to find a place to stay in Melbourne.
Footscray is the unusual and unheard suggestion, probably for a second or third visit.
- Where to stay in Melbourne with family: in summer I highly suggest staying in St Kilda with kids. You can visit the city during the day and you can spend some time also at the beach. A win-win for everyone. The free Adventure Park in St Kilda is also a great attraction as well as the Luna Park. In winter South Yarra work great if you want a more relaxing stay close to the beautiful parks, including the Botanical Garden
- Where to stay in Melbourne cheap: you will find the cheapest accommodations in the CBD, especially in winter. In summer, however, I would suggest more staying in St Kilda. It may cost a couple of dollars more but you will have a nice beach vibe around, especially on the Thursday night market with live music and street food.
- Best place to stay in Melbourne for shopping: the CBD is the place to be with the many many many shopping centres. Start from the Bourke Street shopping area, move to Melbourne Central and get lost.
- Where to stay in Melbourne with toddlers: South Yarra is the ultimate destination for a relaxing and calm stay. You have so many parks around. And you can have a walk to Chapel Street for some shopping or take a 7 minutes train to the CBD
- Best area for backpackers: Both the CBD and St Kilda have hostels around. In summer St Kilda is the favourite destination for backpackers.
- Best place to stay for nightlife: if you are travelling with an old guide you may still read of St Kilda as the party and live music place to be. It’s not anymore the case. Nowadays Fitzroy is the real nightlife destination, especially with youngsters. CBD is a good alternative
- Where to stay in Melbourne CBD: the CBD is organised in 5 distinct areas and they all different in vibe, cafes, restaurants and bars you can find. Some streets are quite noisy, others much less. You can read more on my guide to the Melbourne CBD.
- Best place to stay as a tourist: the CBD should be your neighbourhood if you are interested in the overall experience of Melbourne. The city has plenty to offer and it’s also the hub of the tram network, so easy to go around and experience other areas
- Where to stay in Melbourne for a weekend or 2/3 days: with such a short stay I would suggest staying in the CBD. Most of the museum and galleries are there. If you are after some time at the beach, catch the 19 tram and you will be in St Kilda in 20 minutes.
- Unusual area to stay in Melbourne: Footscray is the new arty neighbourhood, the unusual destination I would suggest to someone already experienced with Melbourne. Footscray is next to one of the most beautiful park, with a growing live music ambience and the most popular Asian fruit and vegetable market.
- Best place to stay for Australian Open Tennis: the tennis area is next to the CBD, you can either walk there or take the short tram ride. Being in January, the hottest month of the year, you can also think to stay in St Kilda Beach and take the direct bus #246 (20 minutes) to the courts.
- Best areas with a car: the CBD is very chaotic and parking is expensive. Usually, the accommodations in Fitzroy or South Yarra provide parking too and they are both great options.
- Where to stay in Melbourne on New Year Eve: the biggest party area is in the CBD. The main streets are closed to the traffic and it all becomes a big part with fireworks at 9pm for the small children and at 00:00 for everyone. Such a great un
- Best place to stay for the F1 Grand Prix: the south side of the circuit is in St Kilda, probably the best spot to stay. The north side is reachable by tram from the CBD. Both areas are good. St Kilda has more action and drinks after the tests and the race. There is more F1 vibe. The Art Series – The Blackman is a lovely boutique hotel on the St.Kilda road, right between St Kilda and the CBD, next to both Albert Park with the F1 circuit. You can see the race even from your balcony
- Where to stay for a month: unless you have a good reason to stay in the CBD (close to the office, for example), I would personally suggest staying in Fitzroy for a local experience, South Yarra for a more relaxing stay or St Kilda for some beach time.
- Best place to stay near Melbourne: Geelong is a nice city with a new nightlife area and a good beach with a public pool. It’s also located 20km from the Great Ocean Road and the great surfing beaches.
- The coziest accommodation with rooftop: the Ovolo Laneways Hotel is a little gem in a small lane of the CBD, right in the Paris end of the city, next to the Parliament House and one of my beloved restaurants, Longrain. The rooms are carefully furnished and they all come with some unique features as Apple TV, black-out curtains, wi-fi and a complimentary minibar. My suggestion here is to get a room with the rooftop (see photos here) for an experience to remember for many years to come. The Ovolo hotel has been rated as one of the best value places to stay in the city.
- Can you suggest an arty hotel in CBD: the Hotel Lindrum is probably one of the most iconic hotels in Melbourne. The facade is so classy and the rooms so spacious and boutique (see photos here). The breakfast is the highlight, recognized as one of the best in the city. The location is also great, still in the CBD however so close to the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens. A great touch is the full-size pool table, so old style, I love it.
- Can you suggest a relaxed boutique hotel: the Lyall Hotel and Spa is the perfect place to be if you are after a more relaxed experience. Why? Because both the building (only 3 floors) and the rooms are so boutique and classy (see photos here). Then you add the Spa section, the perfect place to de-stress and ease off. Location is great, right in the middle of the South Yarra village and Chapel Street (the place to be for some shopping). The Lyall is also very close to the train station, for a ten minutes ride to the CBD.
- Do you want to go straight to your hotel? Pre-order an airport transfer that will wait for you directly at the airport. So easy.
Where to stay in Melbourne for shopping and on budget
Melbourne is the shopping capital of Australia and you will not be disappointed.
There are amazing multilevel shopping centres like Melbourne Central as well as more open-air places like the Bourke Street Shopping Area.
Without any doubt, the CBD is the place to be.
South Yarra also offers good options with Chapel Street, especially for the good selection of clothes shops, however, the variety offered by the CBD is just outstanding.
The CBD is not such a small area though and you need to be selective on which side you book your stay.
Melbourne CBD (shopping, cheap, attractions and good nightlife)
The Melbourne CBD has the lot.
As just said, it is an unbeatable area for shopping, you will need a week to visit all the shops, retailers and outlets.
It’s one of the cheapest areas to book your accommodation with a few hostels offering great value for money.
You will have a great choice of attractions: museums, galleries, cafes, graffiti, street art, and so much more.
The CBD is renowned for its great nightlife with many bars, pubs, live music venues and the famous rooftops.
There are a few drawbacks, however.
It’s noisy, there is a constant traffic and a few streets are very busy at night.
In this respect, I would not suggest the CBD if travelling with small kids, unless you carefully select the street of your accommodation.
There are almost no green areas, although you are a short walk away from the Botanical and the Fitzroy Gardens.
For more information, I wrote a full guide on the top areas to stay in the CBD, with a map that will help you to select the best place to stay.
Where to stay in Melbourne with family and kids
The CBD could be an option, however, you should be selective on the streets and for this reason, I suggest reading the guide I wrote on the top areas to stay in the CBD.
For a nice relaxing stay, I highly suggest South Yarra, especially if travelling with toddlers and babies.
You will be 7 minutes by train to the CBD, however, miles away from the chaotic centre.
In summer St Kilda may work actually better because you could mix the attractions with some beach time, especially in those hot days.
St Kilda (beach)
St Kilda has been forever the beach area of Melbourne, the place to be during the hot days of summer.
Let’s be straight here.
I live in St Kilda however I would not recommend it in wintertime unless you like that nostalgic walks along the beach and the pier looking for penguins (yes, they are still there).
Wintertime is a bit empty and dead, super quiet too which makes it the perfect place to be if you are after a relaxed time of course.
Summer is obviously very different.
St Kilda becomes the place to be, especially with the hot nights when you see people at the beach till midnight, swimming and having fun.
It can be extremely busy, especially during the top events as the St Kilda Festival and the Melbourne Formula 1 weekend (expect prices to climb up, bookings are one year in advance for those periods)
St Kilda is very well connected to the city.
The tram #96 in 10-15minutes will take you to Southern Cross station and the tram #16 will take you to Federation Square in 15-20 minutes.
The bus #246 is another fantastic and direct option to travel to Richmond, Fitzroy and the Australian Open of Tennis.
St Kilda has two hearts, Acland street, more lively with plenty of cafes and restaurants options, and Fitzroy street, once the center of St Kilda and today trying make it back to the old splendour (the area from Grey street to St Kilda Junction is the best)
There are not as many accommodation options in St Kilda as in the CBD area. They are mostly concentrated around Fitzroy Street and the Esplanade.
The Rydges St Kilda Hotel is right in the heart of Fitzroy Street.
Rooms are spacious and Arty (see photos here)
Location is perfect and next to the beach, cafes and restaurants and just walking distance to The Espy, the best pub in St Kilda.
The Crest on Park is a newly refurbished accommodation just one block from the beach and in one of the quietest places in St Kilda. It is ideal for families thanks to the available space (up to 2 bedrooms) and the handy small kitchenette (see photos here)
The Tolarno Hotel is the quirky boutique alternative. This is my favourite hotel in the area.
The bar has jam sessions after 4pm on weekends and you are meters away from the beach and from the tram to the city (both #96 and #16).
From time to time Tolarno has some amazing deals which you can’t say no
Major attraction in St Kilda
St Kilda’s main attraction is obviously the beach, the busiest in Victoria during a hot day.
But just walk up or down the beach a few hundred meters and you can find other spots with much fewer people.
You can also spot penguins at the end of the pier.
Just walk down to the bottom end and go behind the small cafe/restaurant.
You will see a small wood platform on your right side. Penguins tend to hide between the rocks there.
At sunset, you can sometimes see them coming out from the water (if there are not many people around).
On Sunday you can experience the ever-popular St Kilda market. I live meters from there however I never get tired to visit it.
The O’Donnell Gardens host the great Thursday night market in summer. Street food, live music and fire dancers….all for free, well not the food 😀
Obviously the Luna Park is another important attraction. It used to be free to enter however now there is a small entrance fee if you do not want to do any run.
The Veg Out St Kilda Farmers’ Market is on every first Saturday of the month. It’s all organic food and drinks.
Another place I suggest to visit is the Botanical Garden, so quiet and peaceful (free to enter)
I will update this list with more as it comes in my mind 🙂
Restaurants and bars around
St Kilda has basically two areas where you can find great food, cafes and restaurants.
The first one is Acland Street. My favourites are:
- Chinta Ria Soul: best Malaysian in the city I think. It’s always quite busy. I suggest a BYO if you want to save some money
- Rococo: international and Italian cuisine. Probably the most popular restaurant in St Kilda
- La Roche: for the best Parma (everything else is ok). Wednesday is Parma day, think a massive size you can easily eat in two people
- Claypots Seafood Bar: only fresh fish. The size depends on the catch of the day and you may need to share. Even better is the bar area that has live music every night and an interesting mature crowd
- Village Belle Hotel: rebuilt and refreshed in 2017 this pub is now one of the trendiest of Melbourne. There is a disco area on the first floor. Highly suggested for the young crowd
- Vineyard Restaurant: the most iconic bar of St Kilda with live music every second night
- 95 Espresso Bar: my favourite cafe in Acland street
There many more options, however, the list above is a great start 🙂
The second area is in Fitzroy Street, mainly between Grey Street and St Kilda Junction.
- Freddie Wimpoles is my favourite pub, in the beautiful George building
- Cafe Banff, a super cozy cafe open till late. Monday and Tuesday are pizza night ($7-10, small size however quite tasty). Very relaxing especially in the winter with the fireplace.
- Fitzrovia, great for breakfast
- Milk the Cow Licensed Fromagerie, awesome selection of cheese and wide wine list. Perfect for an afternoon drink
South Yarra (relaxing, parks, boutique stay)
South Yarra is much more sophisticated than any other area I have mentioned in this post.
The busiest part is around Chapel Street, so famous for its shopping.
You can easily spend a full day walking along the street. Such a great choice
The other popular area is Toorak Road, around the South Yarra station.
Access to the city is quick and easy. Just a few train stops from one of the three stations along Chapel Street and Toorak Road, no worries.
The Royal Botanic Gardens (free to enter) is probably the main attraction of South Yarra, beside the shopping 🙂
If you are after a boutique and lux stay then you should book at SoYa Apartment Hotel.
The interior is so arty (see photos here) and perfect for both couples (1-BR) and families (2-BR)
A great value choice for families is the Punthill South Yarra Grand with apartments that can host up to 7 people.
The accommodations are very spacious and with a nice modern style (see photos here)
Location is perfect, close to everything, including the station for the train to the CBD
The soul of South Yarra is in Chapel Street which has grown so much in the last 10 years. Almost unbelievable.
Nowadays shops, restaurants and cafes, are just never-ending. The choice is so wide that it is almost overwhelming.
The Como Cinema is a great option for a quieter night. Usually, they have European movies.
The Prahran market should not be missed, especially on Saturday around 4:30-5pm with few shops starting an auction of the last remaining food
The Chapel Street Bazaar is the quirkiest place you can find in Melbourne. A huge area with lots of memorabilia, over a century old sometime
South Yarra food options
This is a minimalist list, just, again, so many great options
- The Botanical: come here just for the wine selection (so wide!!). The food is to die for, really. Facing the botanical garden, it can be very busy on a sunny day
- Juicy Dumplings: I love this place. An old lady is making fresh dumplings right at the door, based on the orders she receives. It can’t get better than that. Ops, I was forgetting, it’s also great value
- The Bridie O’Reilly’s is an interesting pub in a chapel, great for a beer, or two
- St Edmonds, probably my favourite cafe in the area, with a nice backyard for the warm days
- Tusk: a bit cafe, a bit bar, a bit restaurant. In a sort of small square. Lovely on a warm day.
- Back Bar: for a late-night drink. Very quirk bar on the first floor. It can be great fun
- Parlour Diner: if you are after a good burger, American style
….and honestly so many more. Just have a walk.
Where to stay in Melbourne for nightlife
CBD does offer a lot for clubbing and nightlife, however, Fitzroy is more grunge, underground and mostly with locals.
It’s such great fun area to spend the night with so many live music options.
Fitzroy (hipster and great pubs scene)
Fitzroy is the hipster area of Melbourne. It has a great young crowd with probably the highest concentration of cafes in Australia.
Staying in Fitzroy will give you more of a local experience.
It is about the cafe culture, the food culture and ultimately the great pub scene, till 1-2am when most of the places close down.
There are lots of galleries and hipster shops, you will hardly get bored there.
It’s so interesting to just walk along Smith Street or Gertrude Street
Trams will take you to the city in 5-10 minutes
In this area, there are not as many available accommodations, unfortunately.
The Melbourne Metropole Central in Brunswick Street has big rooms and a great location, close to so many bars and restaurants.
It is also walking distance to the city.
The premise includes a nice swimming pool, useful in summer (see photos here).
The Quest Royal Gardens in 8 Royal Lane is next door to the Melbourne Museum, the CBD and the famous Fitzroy restaurants.
The rooms can be a bit dated however they are very spacious. Great service from start to end.
There is also a small swimming pool for those hot summer days
Attraction and shopping in Fitzroy
The main attractions are the famous Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building, facing each other. A must visit on any trip to Melbourne.
The Centre for Contemporary Photography is also a must-visit, especially if interested in photography.
There are also many tiny galleries in this area. You can easily google all of them.
I highlight the Australian Galleries, one of my favourites in Fitzroy (actually it is located in the nearby Collingwood)
The shopping areas I like the most are along Gertrude Street and Smith Street.
Johnston Street has also some great contemporary furniture shops.
Restaurants and bars around
Again a really wide choice. I do not really know where to start.
- Cutler & Co, modern Australian cuisine in an industrial designed cafe/restaurant.
- The Workers Club, hipster pub with great live music in the back band-room.
- Ladro Gertrude, Italian pizza and pasta with interesting, and sometimes unusual, ingredients
- Trippy Taco, for some quick and inexpensive tacos
- Addict Food And Coffee, my favourite cafe in the area. The pulled pork is to die for
- Naked For Satan, tapas style with an amazing rooftop and young crowd
- Blackcat, for an easy and cosy afternoon drink. My only problem with this place is that I always end up staying till late at night, after many, too many, drinks LOL
- Proud Mary, great cafe, however always so busy. The waiting list can be long on the weekend
Best unusual area to stay in Melbourne
Footscray (the cosmopolitan area)
Footscray has changed so much in the last ten years. From suburb to alternative and trendy area.
Lots of new cafes and restaurants, with many options of African food, otherwise rare in other parts of Melbourne.
I reckon the Footscray Market has the widest and cheapest fruits and vegetables available in Melbourne.
If you can, try to rent a bike and ride along the Maribyrnong River, in the Footscray Park. Beautiful down there.
Footscray is just a few minutes to the CBD by train
Footscray Park and other attractions
The park is most definitely a great place to spend a day.
Also, I suggest an early morning at the market, such a great vibe.
The Community Arts Centre should be on the bucket list as well.
You can attend theatrical plays and movies. Great shows too.
Cocktails and live music
Have a look at the Back Alley Sally’s for the cocktails in a jug and the daily specials (pizza at $8 on Thursday).
Littlefoot Bar is another cocktail bar with live music on the weekend
For a coffee head to the Rudimentary. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating, making it ideal on a warm day
Transportation in Melbourne
Melbourne is based on one of the most romantic types of transportation, trams.
The network is quite wide however it is mostly city-centric, with no rings to go around the CBD.
This means that you will most probably need to go across the city for any trip.
This may not be necessary if there is a bus line that covers your trip.
Another factor to keep in mind is that trams and buses usually share the road with cars, which means they have to queue behind cars.
There are few exceptions to this rule, especially in business hours when some lanes become dedicated to public transportation.
Also, all of the trams going to St Kilda have a dedicated line and the #96 is actually a light train, making a trip to CBD and easy 15 minutes stroll.
The train network is unfortunately not as big.
Footscray and South Yarra are both connected by the train line and the trip to the CBD takes only 5-10 minutes.
The city is ticketless.
You need to buy a card, called Myki, and load the amount you need for your stay.
You can buy and load a card at any convenience store.
You can refund the card only at the Southern Cross Station and few other Myki outlets (more information here on the process)
You can plan your trip on the Public Transport Victoria (PTV) site. Just add the from and to fields and you get the full itinerary 😉
The tram in the CBD area is free of charge.
The public transportation may be not as quick as in other European capitals however it is so romantic and ideal for any visitor of Melbourne.
You may want to download the handy PTV app before visiting the city.
It gives real-time information on trams based on the closest stops to you.