Melbourne is a city like no other; the perfect balance of fast-paced bustle and artsy hidden gems with an out-of-this-world food scene and beautiful history all conspire to make this city one of the greats of the Southern Hem.
Close enough to pop over for a weekend trip, the city is full of century-old buildings that have been transformed into modern art galleries, innovative eateries serving up aesthetic and wholesome food, and of course, world-class shopping to break the bank but transform your wardrobe.
You could spend endless days exploring Melbourne, but if you only have the weekend, then we have you covered. Here is your guide to 48 hours in the incredible city of Melbourne.
It’s the roti with Vegemite curry, okay? Sunda has made the year’s most spectacular play for the hearts and minds of Melbourne with a crazy-brave combination of wickedly buttery deconstructed roti and a deeply savoury curry sauce with a Vegemite-umami backbone.
Add the fact that it’s an off-menu secret with only 25 serves available a night for those who know the password (tip: try “do you have any roti with Vegemite curry left?”) and what you have is a bona fide catnip to anyone with a stomach to fill.
48 Hours In Melbourne
If you only have a little bit of time to spend but want to experience the best Melbourne has to offer, we have you covered. From lush parks and gardens to world-class museums and out-of-the-way secret bars, here is an itinerary to make the most of your precious hours.
Eat At Sunda
Don’t make the mistake of thinking Sunda is a one-trick pony. The restaurant stars the talents of chef Khanh Nguyen, a (gasp!) Sydney import, who’s taken the pan-Asian fan of Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese dishes, picked them apart and made them new again with the help of native Australian ingredients. It sounds slightly wrong written down on paper until you hit something like the otak otak, traditionally a grilled fish cake in banana leaf.
Here it’s playing like the smoothest, richest seafood parfait with a curry lilt and topped with pops of finger lime, chilli slivers and picked meat, all the better to smear on rice crackers. Or the crisp, golden-domed perfection of the rendang bun, which is not only a reminder that pretty much every culture has its version of a meat pie, but that Malaysian beef rendang does very well smooshed into a fluffy carb den with a bold swipe of fermented chilli sambal and a refreshing hit of pickled radish on the side.
Nguyen puts Fremantle octopus through a modern centrifuge, the charry cephalopod duking it out with the thumping rich ripeness of bush tomato and lemongrass sambal. And don’t miss his egg noodles in a drenching of XO underscored by pepper berry and mined with a cholesterol-spiking amount of salty chicken crackling.
A great restaurant cannot rest on its menu alone. Sunda has emerged fully-formed with one of the more interesting fit-outs of 2018 (the best descriptor is construction site-chic; the combination of red brick walls and scaffolding giving the impression of dining in a gallery space), and the switched-on team of staff are armed and dangerous with a wine list that swings naturally without being obnoxious about it. Sunda has burst out the blocks demanding our love and receiving it. So pass the funky rosé, and toast to its future.
5.30 pm: You must be hungry by now, and if not, well, it’s time to eat anyway because that’s what we are here to do, right? Head down to Oliver Lane, where the neon red sign reading Lucy Liu is found. The buzzy, Asian restaurant serves up unbelievably good eats with an eclectic atmosphere to match.
The open kitchen gives you a view of the talented chefs whipping up beautiful dishes with punchy flavours and unique combinations. The menu is designed to share what we are all about—more dishes to try.
Their favourites are the salt and pepper chicken ribs with lemon and kewpie mayo, the Peking duck dumplings with Lucy’s hoisin sauce and the wok-fried calamari with Thai basil, red Nam Jim and peanuts. The cocktail list is just as impressive, so be sure to treat yourself to something delicious.
Brunetti Flinders Lane
Brunetti, Lygon Street’s famous pasticceria, is a Melbourne institution – a triple threat café, bar and restaurant where you could pass the whole day, going from meal to meal and then browsing the pastries and cakes in the interim hours.
The biggest flaw of Brunetti’s original City Square location was size. By moving to Flinders Lane in 2017, Brunetti can now accommodate up to 300 people. The space is huge but manages to tick all the design zeitgeist boxes: swanky marble benchtops, timber and brass accessories and some nice greenery thrown in too. It harks back to 1950s and ‘60s Italy, with a dedicated gelato bar, a bunch of whirring coffee machines, a mini paninoteca serving sandwiches and deli meats, and a massive mural of a bustling Italian square by illustrator Filipe Jardim.
The fit-out features two imported additions from the old country: Australia’s first DeManincor induction cooktop and a Marana Forni woodfired pizza oven that hangs suspended from the ceiling. And the menu has been elevated, too. It now includes rich spaghetti carbonara, bolognese gnocchi, Panino sliders and Vitello tonnato for lunch or dinner, with breakfast options of mushroom omelettes, Nutella pancakes and yoghurt with granola. Fancy an after-work tipple? The Campari Bar is Brunetti’s first foray into stand-alone bar service that slings Aperol Spritzes, Italian wines and grappa well into the night.
But the main act has always been sweets. The cakes are decoration as much as comestibles: take your pick of macarons, croissants, fruit tarts, biscotti, cannolis and profiteroles, but don’t forget about the cakes, which span Italian sponge, chocolate mousses, baked cheesecakes and impressive looking profiterole towers.
Drink At Eau De Vie
Eau de Vie was once one of those hidden bars that would take you a good chunk of time to find. Now, it’s one of the worst kept secrets in Melbourne. However, the American prohibition era premise hasn’t changed even though the trend has been left behind. EDV continues to be one of the busiest cocktail bars in town due to its ability to transport you out of the modern-day and into the charms of yesteryear.
But it isn’t just the jazzy soundtrack, private booths and staff clad in waistcoats that are the drawcard. EDV backs it up with some serious drinks and also a bit of flair. Chilling drinks with liquid nitrogen, flaming spirits, and tableside smoking are common practices here, and there is a method to their madness.
A Rob Roy arrives under a glass dome, trapped with wood smoke that does indeed add another alluring dimension to the already complex combination of whisky, rum and vermouth. Martinis are referred to as Noble Experiments, offering up a range of vodkas, gins, bitters, rinses and garnishes as an adult pick ’n’ mix for a truly customisable classic served with liquid nitrogen to sustain the perfect drinking temperature.
Adjourn to the whisky lounge, if you’re more inclined, for a dram. The list is vast and covers many styles, serving as an educational tour and a collection of the greats. There is even the opportunity to purchase your bottle, should you be particularly taken with a whisky, for future consumption whenever you’re on site.
Food is not an afterthought at EDV, with a full kitchen table to support tables requesting multi-coursed feasts. Charcuterie and cheese boards are a given, but the eggplant fries and baked Camembert are crowd favourites. The duck sausage roll sees a rich, fatty update with foie gras in the mix for a touch of luxe. It comes with a truffle-spiked Dijon, but we don’t think it is necessary; it's already delicious enough.
9 am: Let’s be honest, you're in Melbourne for an indulgent weekend, so we may as well kick things off with a delicious start to your Saturday morning. Coffee and croissants are hard to beat, and there's only one spot to go to get the absolute best.
Lune Croissantaire isn’t hard to find; look for the queue of patrons down the street waiting for their turn to get through the doors. To put it simply, these croissants are hands-down life-changing. Created by an engineer turned baker, owner Kate Reid is meticulous about the croissant process and has spent years tweaking her techniques and recipes to get it right. Since it is their speciality, the classic croissant is a must-try.
If you are more of a savoury fan, opt for the Ham & Gruyere—a croissant baked fresh with a filling of shaved ham, Swiss Gruyere and seeded mustard. In addition, there are lemon curd cruffins, black forest cake croissants, and seasonal fruit Danishes ready to be devoured for ultimate decadence.
Get A Croissant At Lune
Run by brother-sister team Kate and Cameron Reid, Lune Croissanterie see lines snaking out of the store nearly every day that they open, and their pastries fly out of the shop by noon most days, but does Lube cut the mustard? In short, yes. Created in a climate-controlled lab, Lune croissants are almost mathematically perfect: crisp and golden with visible layers of delicate pastry.
Having a tightly controlled cubic lab in the centre of their Fitzroy warehouse store for optimum pastry-making doesn't come across as too unusual when you consider that Kate Reid used to be a racing car engineer. Still, it's an amazing sight to behold, especially if you remember the poky little hole-in-the-wall the Lune team started of in Elwood.
Come early if you want to capture a twice-baked almond croissant or the lemon curd cruffins, piped to the gills with a tart curd and sprinkled with citrus sugar. If you're not an early riser, good news, Lune's coffee service is so efficient and perfectly timed it's almost scary. One of the baristas takes coffee orders from the queue to the pastry service counter, and by the time you pick a croissant or cruffin and have it served to you warm from the oven, your coffee will be ready for you from the coffee country.
There is a way to skip the queue. Book a spot at the Lune Lab experience and pre-pay online for a three-course pastry feast with unlimited coffee. You'll be privy to two off-menu pastries, as well as Lune usual croissants.
Visit The Abbotsford Convent
Once known as the Convent of the Good Shepherd, the Convent provided refuge for vulnerable women, children and orphans. Nowadays, the convent building and formal gardens play host to events and festivals, workshops and classes, music and theatre performances, and in summer, outdoor cinema.
As for the gardens, at the convent's peak, its inhabitants were fed by extensive vegetable plots, orchards and farming grounds. Situated on an attractive bend of the Yarra, the rambling old site features beautiful, eerie buildings, rolling lawns, secluded courtyards and a painstakingly restored formal garden dating from around 1902. It’s also free, open late, serves beer, and if you want to get your hands dirty, you can join the Convent’s dedicated team of gardening volunteers.
Check Out Street Art
Melbourne is a city known for its street art. So many of our inner-city streets and laneways are adorned with murals – some locations (looking at your Hosier Lane) have even become tourist destinations in their own right because of street art.
But if you're not a local, it can sometimes be tricky to find Melbourne's best street art locations. This is why we've rounded up the top hotspots that any self-respecting Instagrammer should be snapping; we've even included the exact location to make finding the artworks that much easier. So lace up your comfy shoes and hit the pavement to discover Melbourne's best street art.
Come From Away
7 pm: Theatre buffs will know what we mean when we tell you that Come from Away is a must-see when visiting Melbourne. The Broadway musical tells the incredible true-life story of how a small town in Newfoundland welcomed the world in the face of tragedy. Immediately following the horror of 9/11, the US air space completely shut down, and 4000 planes flying into the country were redirected—including 38 that had to land in the quiet town of Gander.
Six thousand seven hundred scared and confused passengers from all over the world arrived, and trust us when we say that the Gander locals will restore your faith in humanity and touch your hearts with the kindness they extended to the stranded passengers. So prepare to laugh at the somewhat ridiculous Newfoundlander ways and be touched by the real-life miracles in a time of such terror—this is a show that will move even the most cynical audience member.
5 pm: Once you’ve checked into your hotel, venture out onto the streets for your first taste of Melbourne’s incredible culinary world. Right in the heart of the city, you’ll find Bomba, a Spanish Tapas style restaurant—head up the elevator to find the private and cosy rooftop decked out with greenery and high tables where you can enjoy a quirky cocktail from the menu.
When you're ready to eat, the knowledgeable staff will help you choose from extensive options of fresh and punchy dishes. We recommend going all out and ordering the paella, and it will blow you away.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about Section 8 is that it’s still here. It is Melbourne’s longest-ever pop-up bar, first surfacing in 2006 with low overheads in a Chinatown car park, and then just never leaving. There’s not a clean line in the place, with graffiti and stickers covering almost every surface.
White waistcoated waiters are nowhere to be seen, replaced with funky tattooed types who are very happy to walk you through the ever-changing beer list, shake a cocktail or dole out generous pours of wine. Section 8 is an outdoor drinking space, but the smells of nearby Chinatown eateries and smoke (from cigarettes and, sometimes, other things) mean you won’t be mistaking it for a brasserie en Plein air. It’s as Melbourne as it gets, and we’re happy to report that means pure rock’n’roll.
The bar is in a converted shipping container (as are the toilets, so enter at your own risk), and of course, it’s down an alley. Anything goes here, with a basketball hoop out the front available if you’re inspired to give it a go (ask George, the bar’s super-friendly bouncer, for the ball) and taps available for DIY water.
But this is a bar, and you are not here for the water. There are a few beers on tap and a lot more in bottles and tinnies, with craft brews and sours rotating through the inventory. Most drinkers are here for the beer, though there is a decent selection of liquor behind the bar and a list of a dozen or so seasonal cocktails. Wine is available in sparkling, white, rose, red and goon, telling how seriously this bar takes wine.
That is not to say that bartenders can’t make a delicious cocktail here. The Straw-Back Tom, made with Poor Tom strawberry gin, Chamberyzette strawberry vermouth, lemon, rose lemonade, black pepper and plenty of fresh strawberries, is surprisingly well balanced, with the sweetness of the strawberries enlivened by the acidity of the lemon and slight peppery bite. It’s as refreshing as a dip in a cold pool on a hot day, a fruit-forward cocktail that doesn’t stray into syrupy, Slushie territory.
The Machine Gun Megan (Casamigos Reposado tequila, Vida mezcal, spiced syrup, lemon and fresh nutmeg) tastes like the love child of eggnog and a Margarita and it’s delicious.
The drinks are only part of what makes Section 8 Melbourne's go-to alleyway party bar. Music is king here, with an always interesting rotation of tunes playing during the day and some of Melbourne’s best DJs hosting epic parties until 1 am. Dance parties are frequent – and they are always, always free. So we’re pretty glad this pop-up decided to stick around.
Naked For Satan
1 pm: Fitzroy is full of delicious spots to eat and especially good for any plant-based peeps as the vegan options are through the roof. For a cheap and cheerful option, head to Naked For Satan, where you will find killer views and unreal drink and food specials.
The rooftop bar and eatery are decked out with colourful chairs and red brick features; the whole set-up screams Fitzroy. The fried cheese and walnut croquettes are out of this world, and the popcorn chicken is a sure win.
2.30: Make your way back to the city and to your hotel to pack up your bags and squeeze all of your new treasures in (good luck zipping up). Sadly it is time to head to the airport, but the short flight home is nothing to dread and let's be honest—we all know you'll be back very soon.
Supper Inn Chinese Restaurant
It’s been a while. Maybe 35 years. Maybe 36. Maybe more. The exact figure is lost to the mists of time. When it comes to putting a date on Supper Inn, let’s say it threw open its doors around the time when Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister, which means it’s reached the restaurant year equivalent of the Qing dynasty.
There’s something to be said for constancy in the restaurant world. These days they arrive in a flash of social media glory and disappear almost as quickly, but Supper Inn will broach little in the way of social media. It doesn’t go in for such newfangled things, and anyway, the décor and lighting aren't exactly social media-friendly. Instead, it built its reputation the old-fashioned way with just plain straight-up excellent Cantonese food with a 2.30 am closing time that means it’s a magnet for the city’s hospo crowd looking for a post-work feed that won’t break the bank.
The menu is long. As in really, really long, but anyone who’s been a couple of times will know which dishes to beeline for. Congee with chicken, flecked with ginger. The Pacific oysters in an aromatic soy-stock lake. A whole steamed flounder and sizzling chilli quail. The hotpot with pork and oil-soaked, garlicky eggplant with salted fish used like seasoning, and the roasted suckling pig with the sweetest meat and skin like chewy, salty toffee.
That it’s all delivered with service that ranges from smiley to hostage situation, in surroundings that fondly channel the days when timber panelling was de rigueur – well, that makes it even more memorable and deserving of its Celestial Avenue address. Thanks for all the good times, Supper Inn. Don’t ever change.
FAQs About 48 Hours In Melbourne
If your 48 hours in Melbourne happen to be during the week, make sure to grab a bite at the night market that happens every Wednesday. And since Mandarin is the city’s second language, you might feel the Asian vibe in each stall offering colourful and delicious meals. Then, catch the 96 tram to St. Kilda’s beach.
Melbourne's iconic tram network is the largest globally and covers a large part of the CBD, inner and middle suburbs. In addition, a free City Circle tram runs around the perimeter of the CBD and Docklands area using heritage brown "W-class" trams, providing a great introduction to the city.
Staying in Melbourne's Central Business District is a good idea if you only have 48 hours in the city. The central location will make it easy to maximize your time as you shop the city's crafty markets, eat at its best restaurants, and explore its artsy lanes. Plus, you can ride the tram for free within the city limits.