It’s easy to be overwhelmed by choice in Melbourne – especially if you’re only in town for a day. An all-hours hub of culture, dining, fashion and fun, Melbourne’s jewels are often hidden from view. You won’t find them just strolling the streets - unless you know where to look.
An must-do for the one-day traveller is to base yourself somewhere central. Flinders Street is one of the city’s main arterials as well as home to the likes of ACMI, NGV Australia, and prime accommodation with access to the Yarra River, Arts Centre and beyond. Set yourself up here at the DoubleTree by Hilton – with prime views overlooking Flinders Street Station, the MCG and botanic gardens – and explore.
Take your pick of breakfast spot in the streets below your room, or take a 20-minute stroll to the CBD’s west side to Higher Ground. A lofty, light-filled space inside a former power station, it features 15-metre ceilings and an L-shaped mezzanine with a bird’s-eye view of the bustle below. The day menu, available until 3pm, is diverse and one of Melbourne’s most innovative – find steamed barramundi with kohlrabi noodles, and minced-lamb fry-up with miso eggplant and fried eggs, alongside more familiar fare like eggs on toast, barley porridge, and buffalo yoghurt with granola and honey.
It's not a trip to Melbourne without lining up for a perfectly flaky Lune pastry. These cult croissants inspire standing room only at Lune’s new CBD HQ, a bunker-like space accessed via Russell Street – five-minutes from Flinders Street. Take a book or pal to chat to and find out why there’s always a queue.
Flinders Lane, just around the corner from your hotel, is home to some of the best shopping in the city. Pick up a statement piece from Alpha60, Fame Agenda, Masons or Zambesi. Then, seek reprieve and regain your appetite with a sightsee along the water’s edge on Flinders Walk.
It’s here you’ll head to Arbory Bar and Eatery, a sprawling riverside venue next door to Flinders Street Station on the Yarra’s north bank. Named for the arbour created by the line of plane trees that stretch along the riverbank, it serves up burgers – among them southern fried chicken; crumbed mushroom and haloumi; and a vegan option – as well as smaller and larger plates. The drinks and wine list runs the gamut from “classic” to “adventurous”, and the venue’s waterside deck might be one of the most stunning spots in the city to sample them.
You don’t need to be a cinephile to appreciate the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), located in Federation Square. Dedicated to the moving image in all its forms – film, television, games and digital culture – ACMI regularly features an intiguing roster of exhibitions, screenings, workshops and talks.
Screen Worlds, ACMI’s free permanent exhibition, features a range of interactive displays including a games lab, Time Slice, where visitors can interact with the machines: recreate a special-effects video, styled on the bullet sequence in The Matrix, or use the Flipbook Machine to create and star in your own animation.
Pop back to your hotel and grab a drink at in-house bar Platform 270 – a namesake nod to its neighbouring Flinders Street Station. The industrial chic bar houses a huge range of local and international wines as well as a well-stocked bar. Nestle into a nook up the back near the open kitchen or pull up a stool near the front window and watch the street stroll by.
There’s no shortage of options for dinner here in the heart of Melbourne. Sunda is a popular eatery in Punch Lane by young chef Khanh Nguyen, who elevates Southeast Asian street cuisine to fine-dining.
Over on Russell Street Embla is Christian McCabe and chef Dave Verheul’s award-winning wine bar, serving up unfussy fare that relies on fire and fermentation for flavour (a half roast chicken; pine mushrooms with polenta; or swordfish and creamed greens). Upstairs is its younger sibling, Lesa, a slightly more sedate setting serving a fixed menu that takes diners on a journey that might start with veal tartare, rocket, summer tomatoes and saltbush, and finish with pickled blueberries, white asparagus, anise and lemon thyme.
Bar Americano is not your average bar. Occupying a tiny space at the end of Presgrave Place, it’s a venue of idiosyncrasies. There is no seating and a no-photo policy, set to preserve the privacy of fellow patrons. Americano accepts card payments only and the drinks list is made up entirely of classic cocktails, which change each week according to whim and season. Those cocktails are excellent, which explains why Americano has remained one of Melbourne’s favourite bars since it arrived on the scene in 2011.
Cocktails done, you’re well placed here in the city to venture into the Melbourne night, where a range of all-hours entertainment, drinks, eats and more awaits within its winding lanes. But if you’ve had your fill, a stroll back down Bourke Street past St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station will lead you right back to your hotel’s door for a cap on a day’s well spent.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Hilton Discover. Hilton Discover encourages travellers discover a destination like a local.