Design Destination: Melbourne

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A complete travel guide to Melbourne, your next design destination.

The cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne was voted “the world’s most livable city” by The Economist. Not once or twice, but seven years in a row. Cooler than the average metropolis, the city is perfect for those who wish to experience the urban/coastal Aussie lifestyle. Here you can stumble upon Art Deco-style buildings that remind of NYC, vibrant street art, an early 19th-century open market, a sandy beach, and a forest in a museum. Yes, you read that last part correctly. And this is only scratching the surface. In this travel guide to Melbourne you can find some of the city’s best restaurants, popular bars located off-the-beaten path, rooftop gin gardens, history-rich hotels, specialty coffee shops, the most popular moving image museum in the world, and more. Read on to find out why you should visit Melbourne, aka one of the most beloved Australian cities.

Stay

Originally a winery, the Mitchelton estate has a fascinating history. Apart from its name, that pays homage to explorer Major Thomas Mitchell who discovered the site in 1836, the property also features buildings drawn by the iconic architect Robin Boyd CBE and completed after his death by celebrated architect Ted Ashton. The Ryan family acquired the estate in 2011 and opened a boutique hotel on the premises in 2018. Sophisticated and elegant, the hotel’s refined interior design complements the bucolic setting. Marble, rich brown leather seating, wooden floors, and soft linen combine in a tasteful blend. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame vineyard views to make a stay at Mitchelton Hotel as relaxing as possible. There’s also a spa here along with a fantastic restaurant, art gallery, and – wait for it – a Ministry of Chocolate.

Located in the southern side of the city, a few minutes away from the CBD, the Coppersmith Hotel aims to provide a ‘home away from home’ to tourists. A stylish home with an impeccable design, that is. Inspired by Nordic design principles, the rooms are bright and elegant, with neutral colors and furniture from award-winning Australian designers. Apart from the welcome free WiFi, guests can also use the coffee machines in their rooms to start their day on the right foot. The restaurant has a European-inspired menu, while the rooftop bar offers the perfect opportunity to relax with a cocktail in hand and admire the sunset.

Foodies should look no further than Adelphi Hotel in the iconic Flinders Lane. Why? Well, this is the first “dessert” hotel in the world. So we had to include it in our travel guide to Melbourne. It features a quirky and chic design that draws inspiration from sweet treats, with bold colors and fun details making the interior look even brighter. Plus, all of the rooms have their own candy jars. Guests can indulge their senses in the Om Nom Kitchen restaurant, run by celebrated head chef Jo Ward. One of the highlights of a stay at Adelphi Hotel is the rooftop cantilevered pool with a glass bottom. An ideal way to add a summery feel to your trip.

Eat

Melbourne is well-known for its restaurant scene, so you’ll have plenty of choices if you want to eat like royalty during your visit. We have to start with a restaurant after our own hearts, Ciao Cielo. The menu provides a modern twist on traditional Italian cuisine, with some creative takes on beloved classics that celebrate the original flavors. A great place where you can enjoy good food, the restaurant also has a gorgeous decor. The heritage-listed, former courthouse building features natural sandstone walls and wooden floors, with blue leather seating adding contrast and modern style to the rustic setting.

Acquired by the Angele family in 1991, Brunetti quickly transformed into one of the most beloved bakeries and cafes in the city. The increasing popularity of the original Roman-style pasticceria led to the opening of more locations in Melbourne, including restaurants. Located in Flinders Lane, the Brunetti restaurant has a ‘50s-’60s Italian design-inspired decor. The menu includes something for everyone, from traditional dishes and pizza to the delicious cakes and gelato.

If you fancy a more sophisticated evening, looking for a special place for a date night, or are tired of cookie-cutter restaurants, go to Lûmé. This fine-dining restaurant from our travel guide to Melbourne dares to do things differently. This includes the innovative menu, the bold and creative cocktails, and the modern decor. Designed to take diners on a memorable sensory experience, the experimental menu features beautifully presented dishes you’ll want to put on Instagram.

Renowned Chef Andrew McConnell opened Cutler & Co. in 2009. Nine years later, the restaurant is as popular as ever. Offering a fine-dining experience but in a laid-back atmosphere, this place is ideal for brunch or dinner with friends. The bistro-style menu will introduce you to Australian cuisine, while the extensive wine list will also take you on a trip around the country’s vineyards.

Love Japanese food? Then Ishizuka should be at the top of your list. This is a quintessential Japanese restaurant, with a minimalist decor, limited space of only 16 seats, and a menu that pays homage to Japan’s cuisine in a delicious way. The menu celebrates the 600-year-old Kaiseki culinary art tradition, with the haute cuisine dishes changing frequently to offer diners a chance to try something new on every visit. For Asian fusion cuisine with a fun vibe, stop by Supernormal. The popular restaurant is usually busy, despite the generous seating options, which tells you everything you need to know about the Pan-Asian menu. The raw bar serves oysters and seafood on ice, with other dishes including dumplings, Wagyu steak, and many options meant to be shared with a few friends.

Modern Italian and Mediterranean food in a friendly atmosphere? That sounds perfect to us. Osteria Ilaria’s menu delights with tasty appetizers and rustic options as well as pasta dishes and inspired recipes. The drinks menu is particularly impressive here, with everything from creative cocktails to wine, vermouth, and craft beers from all over the world. At Pentolina, the focus is on pasta. Made fresh in-house, the dishes take you on a journey through Italy and make you feel like home. Even if you’re not Italian. The restaurant’s design by the Biasol studio brings stylish Rome to Melbourne: terrazzo floors, rose marble that reminds of granite, burgundy leather, and bronze accents.

Savor

Entering Piccolina Gelateria you’ll be transported back in time. The charming decor draws inspiration from the look and feel of a traditional gelateria from southern Italy circa the 1950s, enhanced with modern touches. Apart from the terrazzo floor, the interior also features bright green tiles, exposed brick walls, and a stone arch. The 100% natural gelato is made daily in-house according to old family recipes, with various flavors to choose from.

The team behind Lune Croissanterie is completely dedicated to the art of making the perfect croissant. While the menu includes French croissants made over a period of three days as well as the classic Pain au Chocolat, it also features bolder creations. These include both sweet and savory options. Safe to say, you’ll never look at a croissant the same way again.

Brunch

Refuel for the rest of the day – or start the day late, we’re not judging – with a stop at Industry Beans. The menu is fresh, seasonal, and vibrant. You can order lighter options (a fruit sashimi?) or more substantial dishes (maybe a coffee braised short rib?)  and pair them with a cup of specialty coffee sourced from family-owned, small-scale growers. The Kettle Black offers a sophisticated take on brunch, but in a relaxed ambience. The stylish interior complements original Victorian details with contemporary touches in a bright space. At Babajan you can indulge in some Turkish and Middle Eastern-style food before exploring the equally vibrant Carlton North neighborhood.

Have a Stiff One

Bad Frankie’s name refers to the infamous John Franklin, the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land who outlawed small pot stills in the early 19th Century. The law remained in effect for 150 years, keeping Australia well behind other countries when it came to alcohol production. Bad Frankie aims to bring an imaginary bar from the beginning of the 20th century to life. Apart from the charming design, the bar also offers an Australian drinks menu that contains over 150 spirits distilled in the country. And if you get hungry, you can order a jaffle (toasted sandwich).

If you love classic cocktails, The Everleigh is a perfect choice for a night out in Melbourne. This elegant bar offers a purist approach to the art of making cocktails. The menu changes frequently, but the Bartender’s Choice is a staple. As one would expect, the decor looks as tasteful as the classic cocktail list suggests, with a ‘golden era’ vibe permeating the space. A refined addition to our travel guide to Melbourne.

Stylish and intimate, Above Board Bar has a limited 12-seat capacity, which makes it a perfect option for a fun date night or a laid-back evening with a couple of friends. Bartender and owner Hayden Lambert not only serves expertly made cocktails, but also chats with customers about drinks and the meaning behind some of the menu’s offerings. For an extra entertaining night out, go to Paradise Alley. This lively bar in Collingwood has a diverse menu that includes everything from cocktails and wine to beer and food. There’s also a comfortable seating area with couches, an outdoor space, and a pool room.

Like its name suggests, Bar Americano looks both to the US and Italy for inspiration. This all-standing bar references Italian cafés where customers drink their espressos standing before leaving quickly. Bar Americano also aims to bring back the golden age of the ‘American Bar’ and its range of iconic drinks. The menu features only classics and changes every week.

Step inside Eau-de-Vie and you’ll go back in time to 1920s America. A delightful throwback to the prohibition era, this bar features a hidden Whiskey Room (tucked behind a book case, naturally) and a Bottle Locker system that allows customers to buy and store liquor bottles for their next visit. If you can, try the degustation table: a five-course meal paired with cocktails. Apart from being the right place to go to if you want drink the perfect boilermaker (beer and whiskey), Boilermaker House is also a great choice for a night out with friends. There’s good music, good food, and a list of over 900 whiskeys as well as numerous beer options. Highlight: the Old & Rare whiskey tasting session.

Loved by Locals

Any travel guide to Melbourne should include hidden gems. Nestled away from the CBD, in the bustling area of Footscray, Back Alley Sally’s is a great place off-the-beaten path. Drop by this multi-level re-designed warehouse to get a drink or a bite to eat and enjoy the welcoming atmosphere. The interior is urban and modern, blending recycled decor and industrial accents. Obsessed with pizza? So is the team behind Pizza Pizza Pizza. Order a slice or a whole pie, and you’ll understand why this place is so popular with the locals.

Berlin Bar references the era of the Berlin Wall. So naturally, the bar is divided in two. The West (Capitalist) side features an eclectic decor that blends bright colors and opulent details. By contrast, the East (Communist) side or “The Bunker” has a simple design and includes a portrait of Stalin. The menu includes gins from around the world and German beers as well as the crowd-pleasing option: the cocktail of the week. One of the most beloved bars in Chinatown, Union Electric serves cocktails made with fresh, raw ingredients which are sourced locally. The menu also includes great wine, gin, and beer selections. Catch some sunshine in the outdoor area or head up to the rooftop gin garden.

Coffee

With a wide range of great coffee places to choose from, you can always find a cafe that serves a fantastic cup of joe here. For this travel guide to Melbourne we have picked two. Minimal, modern, and bright, Acoffee looks like the perfect cafe for a Nordic design lover. The coffee is roasted on-site for that extra-fresh touch, with beans also available to buy separately. Other highlights include the free WiF and laptop/smartphone charging points.

Specialty coffee roastery and cafe Market Lane opened its doors to customers in 2009. Since then, it has delighted both locals and tourists with great coffee. The beans are sourced from all over the world and are roasted in small batches to maximize their flavor profile. Since it’s always seasonal, the coffee on offer changes on a regular basis. Market Lane uses specific roasting methods for different types of brewing, meaning that espresso and stovetop beans have a different roast compared to the filter brew method beans.

Culture

Perfect for a day out with the kids, Melbourne Museum has so many fantastic galleries to see that you may not fit them all in one visit. Among the highlights: the Forest Gallery that welcomes visitors into a lush woodland; the Aboriginal Cultural Center which celebrates the people and cultures of Australia; the Melbourne Gallery for insight into this amazing city; and the Touring Hall which provides access to major exhibitions from around the world.

The National Gallery of Victoria International should be at the top of your ‘must-visit’ list. After all, this IS one of the largest and maybe even the most popular art museums in Australia. And it takes a deserved spot in our travel guide to Melbourne. Inside the gorgeous building designed by celebrated architect Roy Grounds Rose visitors discover a stunning space updated by Mario Bellini and Metier 3 in the early 2000s. Masterpieces include Rodin’s first cast of “The Thinker” as well as artworks by Yayoi Kusama, among other 70,000 works of art.

Rose St. Market celebrates the handmade movement with a huge collection of art, jewelry, furniture, and fashion. Designed and handcrafted by 120 local artists and creatives, the products you’ll find here are literally one-of-a-kind. Dedicated to film, digital art and culture,  TV, and video games, the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI) is the most visited moving image museum in the whole world. Set aside a few hours for your visit, as the museum also regularly hosts incredible exhibitions alongside the permanent collection.

Only in Melbourne

No trip to Melbourne would be complete without a visit to St. Kilda Beach. In true Aussie fashion, here you can spend some quality time in the sunny outdoors, whether you prefer swimming, windsurfing, or simply lounging in the sun. A perfect opportunity to unwind, beach holiday-style, a short distance away from the city center.

Here’s another must-visit place in our handy travel guide to Melbourne. Opened in 1878, Queen Victoria Market has become a local institution. More than a Melbourne landmark, this is the largest open-air market in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Entry is free if you want to browse through quality products, but you can also buy a ticket to a guide tour to learn more about this iconic market’s history. Here you can find artisanal cheeses, cured meats, seafood, and local veggies and fruit, among many other delicious products. If souvenirs are more of your thing, you can pick up some gems, from jewelry to collectibles and decorative pieces.

Shops

Launched in 2002 by twin brothers Brian and Vincent Wu, Incu filled a gap in the local apparel shop industry. 16 years and 12 shops later, it’s clear that the decision to offer highly curated products in a laid-back atmosphere was more than inspired. Incu works with around 100 Australian and international brands to bring only the coolest designs to Melbourne. At this shop you can find high-quality jeans and apparel as well as stylish accessories such as sunglasses and jewelry.

Since it’s focused on pleasing minimalism lovers, Swensk is a great choice for a stopover on your Melbourne shopping trip. And a great addition to our travel guide to Melbourne. The shop values slow fashion, simplicity, and function, stocking brands accordingly. Although minimalist, the apparel and accessories you’ll find here have a distinctive personality. They are also versatile and easily adaptable to the fast-paced lifestyles and changing needs of design-focused urban dwellers.

Assembly Label aims to translate the relaxed Australian lifestyle into minimalist and well-made products. Favoring simplicity and refinement over intricate detailing, the brand makes purposeful apparel essentials for both urban and coastal living. High-quality materials, minimal design, and understated colors define the Assembly Label line.

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