What Are the Best Areas to Stay in Melbourne?
I’ve got this funny little love affair with my hometown of Melbourne. It’s as though nothing can ever compare. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve lived here my whole life, but Melbourne suits me.
The first thing I love about Melbourne is the weather. It’s a whole lot colder down here compared to the north, which makes me feel somewhat superior to the rest of sweaty Australia. The rain that falls half the year makes me feel warm and cosy – especially when I’m indoors under a tin roof. And then there’s the 'coolness' of the city and its people. The dark clothing we Melbournites can’t get enough of. The coffee culture we’ve somehow made our own. The carefree nature of our lazy weekends spent between cafes and bars.
Melbourne’s so damn effortlessly cool.
But often travellers don’t get to really see this side of Melbourne. And that’s because they’re stuck on the wrong side of town.
The Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne
Location | Everything from South Yarra to Kew, around to St Kilda.
Rating | 1/3
Best areas | East Melbourne, Richmond or South Yarra – the closer to the city and public transport the better.
This is the area that most tourists or people moving to Melbourne base themselves. And this, my friends, isn't the cool side of Melbourne. I like to call it, the Sydney-side of Melbourne. It's glam, high-end and a little bit snobby. And let me tell you, this ain’t what Melbourne is about.
Sure, a helluva lot of Melbournian’s live here. But the honest truth is, it's the rich side of town – it always has been. Trust me when I say, this isn't the Melbourne you came to see.
Insiders tip –
A big portion of tourists stay in St Kilda. Sure it's nice being near the beach but there's something you've got to know before you commit to your new digs. We're not like the rest of Australia, we aren't blessed with beautiful ocean at our doorstep. Our 'beaches' are actually one big bay. If you're looking for a beach escape, a Melbourne local will drive outside the city to where the ocean begins – that is, Mornington or Torquay or further along the coast. St Kilda is worth a visit but it's not worth basing yourself there.
Location | South Melbourne & Port Melbourne.
Rating | 1/3
Best areas | South Melbourne, close to the South Melbourne Market.
Technically, Melbourne doesn’t have a south because that's where the bay lies. The south is a beautiful place to wander around for an afternoon to take in beautiful old architecture. But it's going to get hella boring at night. And you deserve better than that.
Location | The CBD yo! Y'know, that teeny grid on the map.
Rating | 2/3
Best areas | The CBD is quite small but the best area is the grid between Elizabeth St, Swanson St, Flinders St and La Trobe St. Or you could stay in Southbank.
The CBD is a grid of streets that joins all the outer suburbs with our train and tram system. So accessing all sides of Melbourne is done through the CBD.
It might sound like a great spot to base yourself, but the honest truth is, you won't get the locals experience. Melbournian's don't live in the CBD, we live in the outer suburbs where the rent is cheaper, the cafes are better, and the community is always out to play.
The Western Suburbs of Melbourne
Location | Everywhere from North Melbourne to Ascot Vale, across Footscray to Williamstown.
Rating | 1/3
Best areas | Footscray for proximity to city + food + bars, Yarraville for village/community charm.
Only five years ago you’d be told to stay away from the west. It was considered 'dangerous', 'drug infested' and 'poor'. Today, you’ve got million dollar houses and plenty of hustle and charm.
I’m a westie born and bred, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in Melbourne, so I might be a little bit biased. But I'm trying to keep my biased out of this article. If you’re looking for a grungy, quieter local experience of Melbourne, then stay inner west. Stay in suburbs like Footscray for a total grungy experience, Yarraville for a warm, community vibe or Williamstown for a city meets the bay and some of the best views of the city skyline vibe (it's like a less hassle, more local kind of St Kilda).
The Northern Suburbs of Melbourne
Location | Everything from Carlton to Brunswick, across to Collingwood.
Rating | 3/3
Best areas | Fitzroy, Brunswick, Collingwood for cafes, boutique shopping and nightlife.
Cue heaven hum.
Now this, without a doubt, is where you want to base yourself while in Melbourne. This is where true Melbourne locals play, live, eat, sleep, party. It’s got it all.
The north, specifically Fitzroy, is the oldest part of Melbourne. But, unlike its eastern sibling, it was poor. The north was originally where factories and its employees lived and worked – my family included. But as Melbourne grew, the north (with its close proximity to the CBD) grew too.
Today you’ll find tree-lined streets dotted with old-style terrace houses. Parks a-plenty. Factories turned thriving cafe’s and bars. You have access to trams on every major street and anything you want within walking distance.
The thing about the north is, it’s absolutely full of that cool Melbourne culture. That’s got great food, great coffee, great boutique and vintage shopping, and a great nightlife. It’s raw, it’s edgy, it’s grungy, hell it’s a little bit dirty – and it’s anything but glam. And that's what the real Melbourne is all about.
Well, that’s my Melbourne at least. A tiny CBD surrounded by a bay and suburbs. But the suburbs are where we play – they’re four areas, all totally different from the next that make up one freaking chill city. But the north, now that's where you stay to get that Melbourne cool you've been searching for.
Have you been to Melbourne before? What area was your favourite?