Medium- and high-rise towers are slowly transforming every part of inner Melbourne, but South Yarra's skyline has leapt up with particular vigour in the past decade. The block bounded by Yarra Street, Toorak Road and Chapel Street feels almost like an extension of the CBD, with the energy to match.

Elsewhere the wide, leafy streets are lined with historic mansions and terraces, including the publicly owned Como House. These quieter residential areas, such as Domain Road, are some of the most coveted and expensive in Melbourne.

Most of South Yarra’s cafes are concentrated around the new towers. During the week, they’re busy with workers from nearby advertising agencies, creative studios and the big Network 10 building.

On weekends, a similar crowd swaps the business shirts for activewear before taking to brunch. The exercise itself isn’t for everyone, but Faulkner Park and the nearby Tan track are reliably busy with walkers and runners.

Prahran Market – actually located in South Yarra – is another big drawcard in the area. With regular appearances by celebrity chefs and a growing coterie of organic traders, it’s made a name for itself as the upmarket market. This, and Chapel Street’s good mix of apparel stores, such as Gorman and LIFEwithBIRD, keep the area humming all day.

On Friday and Saturday nights, this wholesome routine of exercise, brunch and shopping feels like a distant dream. Traffic is reliably banked solid on Chapel Street with drivers doing “Chap Laps”; packs of revellers roam from bar to bar; and fast-food joints do a roaring trade.

Restaurants

Omnia

Restaurant

Sink into a tan leather booth for elevated European fare from a former Vue de Monde and Matilda chef, and botanical-inspired cocktails by 2018’s World Class Bartender of the Year. But this elegant diner isn’t sticking around forever.

Cucinetta

Restaurant

Intimate and communal, like a real Italian restaurant should be.

Leo's by the Slice

Restaurant

No-bookings pizzeria with late night slices in front, a dark and moody cocktail bar out back.

Tivoli Road Bakery

Restaurant

Sourdough, spelt, multigrain, and soy and linseed are among the bready delights at this respected outfit.

Entrecôte South Yarra

Restaurant

A solid trad-French concept where steak and fries are the stars.

A25 Pizzeria

Restaurant

Affordable, sexy pizza.

Cafes

Cantina Carolina

Cafe

A Toorak Road spot serving breakfast carbonara, coffee-cured kingfish and house-made Italian doughnuts filled with vanilla custard.

Abacus Bar & Kitchen

Cafe

An all-day eatery worth visiting for the interior alone.

Ned’s Bake

Cafe

This is much more than a bakery.

Little Green

Cafe

Enter for vegan cheesymite jaffles and Pina Colada smoothies.

The Final Step

Cafe

A tiny, friendly coffee shop with a charitable streak.

Bayano the Rebel

Cafe

Vegan food and superb coffee from the team at Monk Bodhi Dharma and Admiral Cheng-Ho.

Bars

Talk to Me

Bar

Rockstar impulses and Sydney hospo sensibility collide at this bar/music venue.

Tetto di Carolina

Bar

Nab a spot on the terrazzo-tiled terrace for grown-up Espresso Martinis and an Italian homage to the KFC Zinger burger. All from the man behind Il Bacaro, Sarti and Bar Carolina.

Leonard’s House of Love

Bar

Casual bar vibes meet professional house party.

Shadowboxer Bar & Kitchen

Bar

A trio of hospitality lifers is behind this smart wine bar, which is equally good for snacking as a full, sit-down dinner.

Zhou Zhou

Bar

David Zhou’s eponymous Zhou Zhou is a lounge above Oriental Tea House.

South Press Wine House

Bar

Sink into a leather banquette and choose from 20 wines by the glass.

Shops

Le Louvre

Shop

One of Melbourne's longest-running womenswear retailers is still setting trends after almost 100 years in operation.

Q le Baker

Shop

French-born baker Quentin Berthonneau has trained at Vue de Monde and Chez Dre, and wants good bread to be as accessible as good coffee in Melbourne.

Alannah Hill

Shop

Alannah Hill - both the lady and the label - embodies all things feminine, romantic and youthful.

LuxBite

Shop

Gourmet macarons and cakes in shocking flavours.

Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio

Shop

Where science meets sweetness.

Sweet Greek

Shop

A little slice of Greece in the Prahran Market.