Melbourne rewards those who look beneath its surface. The city’s charms become apparent as you wander its laneways and sit in its cafes, talking to locals and exploring its art and culture.
Happily, this also means that Melbourne is not a city where you need to spend a fortune to have a good time – if, of course, you know where to look. And we’ve got the lowdown on exactly that: where to find a whole heap of things to do during your week in Australia’s cultural capital, and still have a weighty wallet in your pocket when you leave.
The aptly named Melbourne Central YHA is like a hotel (in it has private rooms) but with character. Located on Flinders Street, there’s a tram stop out front and it’s also a stroll from world-renowned landmark Flinders Street Station, which can get you to pretty much anywhere you need to go. Inside there's a bar and cafe – ideal for a morning coffee or an evening Espresso Martini – that hosts local musicians most nights, and the rooftop is perfect for taking in the sunset over the city. There’s also the option of shared rooms if travelling in a group or keen to meet people while saving some cash.
The Charles Weston
This old-school pub has the kind of rambling facade you often walk past – in this instance, on the way to doing your shopping at Brunswick’s Barkly Square – without realising there’s a special universe hidden inside. In this instance, a throwback to simpler times, of ramshackle paintings, creaky stairs, a sprawling beer garden, and specials like $12 burgers on Tuesdays, $12 pies on Wednesdays and $12 parmas on Thursdays. And on Fridays you “pay the time” for pints of beer between 6pm and 9pm.
Leonard’s House of Love
Nick Stanton’s South Yarra outpost is a ’70s-inspired log cabin and bar, replete with lounge room, pool table, log stools, a double-sided stone fireplace, timber-panelled walls and a picket fence outside. There are $10 eggplant tenders and mushroom burgers every day, and on weekdays between 12pm and 4pm there’s a lunch special consisting of a burger, tenders, fries and a drink for $20. During the weekday happy hour (from 4pm to 6pm) you can knock back jugs of Coopers Pale Ale for $15.
The recipe for good times at this cosy North Fitzroy den is simple: open only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and have $9 pastas and $9 Negronis form the core of your menu. Every weekend a new menu of seven dishes is revealed, scrawled on a page tacked to the wall. Nothing costs more than $14, and the following week they start fresh. But there’ll always be those nine-buck pastas and Negronis.
Rising from the ashes of the Punters Club in the early 2000s, this multi-level corner pub on Brunswick Street quickly became infamous for its super cheap but incredibly good $4 pizzas. A fire in early 2018 saw it close its doors for an entire year, leaving the fiscally scant to find sustenance elsewhere. So the first question ahead of its reopening this May was: would the $4 pizzas be back? They are, and they taste better than ever. Rope in some mates and pair with a jug of sangria or Pimms Cup for $30.
Northcote Social Club
This iconic Melbourne bandroom is always going to be a destination – especially for its weekly Monday Night Mass, a showcase of some of the city’s best underground music options. As well as free music, there are $15 parmas and $15 jugs of Carlton Draught for your troubles.
On Wellington Street in Collingwood, rockabilly/Americana-themed pub The Gem runs $7 pints and $1 wings during a generous happy “hour” that stretches from 4pm to 7pm, Tuesday to Friday. Back it up on Tuesdays with the $16 steak night, and for vegetarians there’s a $14 deluxe eggplant burger with ranch dressing, iceberg lettuce and pickles available any night of the week.
Its hard to beat the Grace on a Friday afternoon, especially if the sun’s out and shining on the outdoor seating section on the corner of Smith and Peel Streets in Collingwood. Sit there enjoying the pub’s $3.50 pots and $7 pints and watch the world walk by.
If you’re less into beer and more into cocktails, base yourself in St Kilda at this Latin American tapas bar, which happens to have an extensive cocktail menu (and 49 varieties of tequila). There’s a two-for-one deal from 4pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday.
If you want to catch a movie, head to art-house institution Cinema Nova, which does discount tickets every Monday ($7 before 4pm, $10 after).
Or, if you’re after a cinematic experience a bit more adventurous than just sitting in a theatre, get a crew together and drive up to the Coburg Drive-In, which has a group special for $45 on Tuesdays.
There’s also the Queen Vic Winter Night Market running until August 28, where you can drink spiced mulled wine, eat American-style barbeque, and shop for second-hand books and records.
And if you’re in the CBD, jump on the free tram to Melbourne University for one of its free lectures that happen all year round.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with YHA Australia. YHA Australia helps you explore more of Australia without breaking the bank. Plan a trip to Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane and book a stay at YHA Australia right in the middle of the city.