Last updated on February 8th, 2019 at 10:40 pm
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.
Now the great news. 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 areas of Melbourne.
If your stay is short, 2-3 days, then the CBD may be the best option, being easily connected to the airport and with plenty of restaurants options. For a longer stay I would probably suggest other areas, less busy and more with a “local” feeling.
You may also book your stay in two areas, few days in the CBD and the remaining part in another area of your choice (just to experience both)
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 😉 )
If you are after some photography then you may also check this great guide to photo in Melbourne with places to stay and visit to enhance your photography experience, some of them really unexpected.
If you are still planning what to do during your stay you may want to check this list of unusual sites and hidden gems to visit. For the events, new restaurants and parties I suggest to browse the website Broadsheet.com. It is also my reference 😉
If you will be visiting Sydney as well you may also check the guide to where to stay in Sydney.
Ok, let’s get deeper
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.
Melbourne is based on one of the most romantic type 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 the 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 train line and the trip to the CBD takes 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 others 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 😉
Indeed the public transportation is 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.
If you don’t have much spare time and you are just looking for a boutique hotel in Melbourne, maybe with some luxury too, then do not scroll any further. Read through the short list below. A link to the area is also provided, in this way you can quickly read what to expect from the neighbourhood and how to reach the major attractions.
My favourite options are
The center of the city is quite a wide area. It was originally planned as a rectangular chessboard made of streets and lanes on the long side and only streets on the short side.
Typically a street is followed by a lane with the same “little” name. For example, Collins Street is followed by Little Collins Street (this is actually a lane).
There is however an exception which is Flinders Street, followed by the Flinders Lane.
Swanston is the main street in the city. Only trams and bicycles are allowed in this section.
The most popular shopping area is on Bourke Street, between Elizabeth and Swanston street. This is a pedestrian area, with few trams passing by, however at a moderate speed.
Now, where to stay in Melbourne CBD?
It really depends what you are looking for. This map and description below gives more information about it:
You can decide on the place to stay in Melbourne based on your style and kind of trip.
If you ask me what is the best place to stay in Melbourne for nightlife I would probably say in the Center or East part of CBD. Keep in mind however that the trams in the CBD area are free, so you can roam around without worries.
From the east side you can also grab a 5mins taxi to Fitzroy, so plenty of possibilities.
I have a relationship of love and hate with the Central Business District.
Why do I love it?
Because I really enjoy the energy of the center.
The restaurants options are beyond any expectation, you can eat amazingly well with $10-$15 or increase your budget for the full experience in some outstanding restaurants. You can find any kind of cuisine, really! I could list most of the countries in the world.
Moreover, the bar selection is as wide, any style any type, from the tiny boutique one to the multilevel English pub. The rooftop are also a great option nowadays.
Good cafes were almost non existing in the CBD only few years ago. Now the choice is really wide.
I will list few of my favorites in the CBD attractions
There are so many events in the city center that you will hardly get bored. Not to speak about the arty options.
Why do I hate it?
Because it is really busy. I am probably a bit of a country boy I guess. Traffic is never stopping. For this reason it is better to be quite selective with the choice of your Melbourne CBD accommodation.
How many times I heard visitors saying that it was great to be in CBD however it was a bit noisy.
I guess this is the city life. In the few CBD hotels I list below you should not have this problem.
The city center is a great option, probably the best, for a short stay, 3-4 days, or for business of course. For a long stay I would probably look somewhere else, somewhere more relaxing (more areas to come, do not worry 😉 ).
If you are after art this is the place to be. To name a few places:
and so many more. If interested, I organised a post with Melbourne Hidden and unusual Gems that go beyond the usual suspects
Beside the boutique hotels in Melbourne that I already listed above I may suggest also these 4 options:
There are so many options that it is hard to start with one.
Oh well, it has to be Cookie, my old time favorite for the last 10+ years
I could go on with this list. This gives you just an idea of the wide choice you have. The website Broadsheet.com is always a good source of information for the latest opening and fashionable place to be.
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 winter time, unless you like that nostalgic walks along the beach and the pier looking for penguins (yes, they are still there).
Winter time 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.
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 splendor (the area from Grey street to St Kilda Junction has some new great food options)
I would say that winter can promise a relaxing stay, living as a local and not as a tourist. In one week you may end up meeting most of the cafes and restaurants owners which they will remember you when they see you in the streets around, believe you me.
In summer it is a different story all together of course. 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 these periods)
There are no resorts as such. Just few, usually small scale, hotels
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.
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 few hundred meters and you can find other spots with much less people.
You can 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 sometime 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 LOL
Obviously the Luna Park is another important attraction. It used to be free to enter however now you need to pay $2. This does not include 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 🙂 Maybe I should write a post just for that LOL
St Kilda has basically two areas where you can find great food, cafes and restaurants.
The first one is Acland Street. My favorites are:
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.
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 1am 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 I may suggest two hotels
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.
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 that hot summer days
The main attractions are the famous Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building, facing each other. A must visit in any trip to Melbourne.
The Centre for Contemporary Photography is also a must visit, especially if interested in photography
There are many tiny galleries in this area. You can easily google all of them. I highlight the Australian Galleries, one of my favorite 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.
Again a really wide choice. I do not really know where to start.
South Yarra is much more sophisticated than any other area I have mentioned in this post. Hard to find a hipster here LOL
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 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 🙂
I already recommended The Lyall Hotel and Spa in the Boutique hotels in Melbourne section and I do not hesitate to recommend it again.
Another choice is the Punthill South Yarra Grand, there is no bar or restaurant in the hotel, however, there are so many great options around that honestly I could not see the point to stay in the hotel to eat or drink.
The Adina Apartment Hotel is another option. Serviced apartments with all you need. Great choice for a long stay. Very close to Toorak Road and the South Yarra Station. The best position for some jogging along the river. From time to time they have amazing deals
Chapel Street 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
The Sacred Heart Mission Op Shop is another great place to pop by. You may find some incredible stuff at a fraction of a price. It’s a bit of hit and miss, and that’s part of the fun I guess.
This is a minimalist list, just, again, so many great options
….and honestly so many more. Just have a walk.
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
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.
Have a look at the Back Alley Sally’s for the cocktails in a jug and the daily specials (pizza at $6 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
Stef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.
Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry.
Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world.