Your Melbourne Weekend Itinerary: Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

Maybe I’m a tad biased, but I reckon Melbourne is the best city in the world. We’ve got it all: beaches, mountains, a beautiful city, amazing food, an awesome art and music scene, and tons of festivals and events to fill your weekends with. You can never be bored in Melbourne—there’s always something to do. Whether you’re taking a vacation or you’re just in desperate need of a staycation, here’s how I would fill a perfect weekend in Melbourne.

Friday Night

Grab dinner at one of Melbourne’s best restaurants

There’s no shortage of dinner spots in Melbourne. If you’re aiming for something on the fancier (read: more expensive) side, Dinner by Heston, Attica, Rockpool Bar & Grill, and Vue de Monde are all safe bets. Want something more casual (ahem, cheaper)? Hit up Mamasita, Vegie Bar (or its sister restaurant, Transformer), Hochi Mama, or 400 Gradi. Since calories don’t count on weekends, satisfy your sweet tooth and grab dessert at N2 Gelato.

Holey Moley

Mini golf isn’t just for kids anymore. Past 5pm, this indoor mini golf joint is only open to 18+. It’s got 2 levels, 2 bars, 18 holes, and private karaoke rooms.

Grab a drink in a hidden bar

Melbourne has a knack for making things more complicated than they need to be, but still way more fun than anywhere else. Boston Sub in Windsor makes a mean roasted veg sandwich. But its real attraction is the bar it’s hiding behind the inconspicuous cool room door.

Hit the sack in an Airstream on a rooftop

The fun doesn’t stop just because you’re going to bed! Hands down one of my favourite places in Melbourne is Notel, a rooftop in the CBD filled with airstream caravans, all decked out with bathrooms, double beds, iPads, and minibars. One caravan even has its own private jacuzzi. A bonus of staying here? Everything in the minibar is free and you get a free round at Holey Moley. Although breakfast costs a little extra, I highly recommend ordering a breakfast box ahead of time. The hotel is positioned on top of Saluministi’s Flinders Lane location; you tell them the time you want your breakfast and they’ll give you the best breakfast (and coffee!) you’ve ever had.

Saturday

But first, coffee

Obviously everywhere in Melbourne does fantastic coffee, so if you decide to wander around and walk into the first café you see, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed by their coffee. However, some people like to have a plan, so I’m gonna give you a list of my favourite places to get coffee in the CBD. You’re welcome. Standing Room is small, but their coffee packs a punch; Rustica does an amazing smashed avo if you want a little breakfast with your coffee; I’m a huge fan of the batch brew at Shortstop (and their doughnuts are to die for—my favourite is the maple walnut & brown butter); Hash Specialty is home to the Insta-famous fairy floss hot chocolate, but it also has fantastic coffee; Trunk is the cutest café/restaurant/coffee shop/bar/beer garden and one of my favourite—if not my favourite—places to eat and get coffee in Melbourne; last but not least, Market Lane is one of the most popular coffee spots in Melbourne (but be warned—their coffee spritz nearly killed me).

Go walkabout

I can sit here and give you a million suggestions of things to do and places to go and attractions to see in Melbourne (and don’t you worry, I will without a doubt still do that), but the one thing I tell everyone who visits Melbourne is that you can’t go wrong just walking around the city, wandering aimlessly and without a plan, exploring on foot. Melbourne’s charm lies in the laneways and hidden coffee shops and street art. You’ll miss a lot of things if your nose is stuck in a map (lol, as if anyone owns an actual map anymore) or you’re on a tour bus. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said to someone, “I would’ve never found this place if I hadn’t just happened to walk past it!”, I could probably pay for Ubers so I wouldn’t have to walk everywhere.

That being said…

Melbourne has so many things to see and do that it can be overwhelming heading out without a plan when you’re spending a day in the city. There’s a bus tour of Melbourne and tons of walking tours, too. But it’s more fun for me if you let me play travel agent and map it out for you.

Start North. Soak in the street art and funky vibes in Fitzroy. Visit a thrift shop (don’t worry, it’s cool to do that now). Find a rooftop bar (Naked for Satan will never disappoint), grab a coffee, and check out the incredible views of the city. After that, make your way down to the Carlton area. Take a peek inside Melbourne Museum. Walk around Melbourne Uni (I guess it’s actually pretty beautiful when you don’t associate it with assignments and all-nighters and stress). Take a lap around the Royal Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens. Head down just a liiiiittle bit farther and you’ll get to the Queen Vic Markets (hot tip—the markets are best viewed on Wednesday night during the Summer or Winter Night Markets).

A little further South and now you’re in the CBD. The CBD is full of street art (check out Hosier Lane if that kinda thing sounds good to you), live music (walk down the street and come across about a million buskers), and amazing food. Grab a burger and a drink on the rooftop of Curtin House (this place also becomes an outdoor cinema in the summer!) or hit up Easey’s if eating your lunch in a refurbished train carriage sounds cool to you. Don’t forget to hit the token touristy spots like Federation Square (ACMI in Fed Square is worth a visit if you like film and digital media), Town Hall, State Library, and the clocks at Flinders Street Station.

Keep walking down and you’ll reach the Southbank area. This is an awesome part of Melbourne because it’s home to the NGV, Southgate, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Have a picnic in the Gardens or catch a movie at the Moonlight Cinema if you’re in Melbourne in Summer. If you’re in this area at night, you can’t not lose a little bit of money at Crown, the southern hemisphere’s largest casino—there are some amazing restaurants and even shopping in the complex, too.

Now you might wanna catch a tram down St. Kilda road all the way to the Esplanade. Walk along the beach, go for a ride at Luna Park, and grab dinner. Some of my favourite restaurants are in St. Kilda: Trippy Taco, Sparrow’s Philly Cheesesteaks, Rococo, and Little Blue. After dinner, take a stroll down the pier at sunset and watch the fairy penguins emerge from the rocks and dive in the water when it gets dark.

Sunday

Rise and shine, it’s day trip time!

You know what’s fun? Road trips. You know what’s even more fun? Road trips in a Kombi van to some of the most beautiful spots in Victoria/Australia/the world. Tour company Hike and Seek runs day trips out of Melbourne to tons of different places: Mornington Peninsula (including the hot springs), Phillip Island, Great Otway National Park, Wilson’s Prom, the 12 Apostles/Port Campbell, Mt. Buller, and the Grampians. The folks at Hike and Seek provide you with transportation (the Kombi, duh), a guided tour (usually including hiking, so dress accordingly), coffee, and vegan snacks.

If hiking and vegan food isn’t exactly your kinda party, maybe you’re better suited to a wine tour in the Yarra Valley. There are tons of different tours to choose from since Yarra Valley has no shortage of vineyards. Yarra Valley is only about an hour-long drive from the CBD and most tours include transport to and from the CBD and between wineries. Most tours range from $100-$200 per person.

Don’t drink? Or maybe you just don’t like to spend over $7 on wine? That’s cool too, Victoria has tons of spots that are perfect for day trips. Catch the V-Line to Bendigo, rent a car and coast down the Great Ocean Road, hike the Dandenong Ranges, or make your way to Healesville to check out the animal sanctuary where you can feed a kangaroo or cuddle a koala.

Melbourne is my favourite place in the world and no matter how far I travel, I’ll always call it my home. Here’s hoping you love it even half as much as I do.

Advertisements

Where to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry in Florence

During my month in Florence, I found myself eating out at least once a day, everyday. I know, I know, it’s totally unhealthy and it sucked my money up. But what can I say—I just really, really love Italian food.

So here’s a list of my favourite spots for a nosh in Florence; strap in for a long post!

Simbiosi

Ah, Simbiosi. The promised land. This was easily the best pasta I had in Florence (read: the best pasta I’ve had anywhere). We stumbled upon it accidentally on via de Ginori; it consists of a pizza restaurant and a separate pasta restaurant. It’s all-organic, features tons of vegan and vegetarian options, and is relatively cheap (around €8 per plate).

I recommend: spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino con crema di broccoli, and berry cheesecake for dessert.

I Buongustai

osteria-il-buongustai.jpg

If you’re missing home-cooked meals while you’re abroad, this is the place to go. The pasta tastes just like someone’s Nonna made it, and do not even get me started on the desserts. Having had tiramisu at almost every restaurant I visited, I can confidently say that I Buongustai has the best tiramisu in Firenze—you get a giant slab for only €5 and you will never again be able to eat tiramisu anywhere else. I almost wish I’d never tried it, because it has officially ruined my taste for any other dessert; the ricotta cheesecake is just as amazing. My mouth is watering just thinking about this place.

I recommend: penne con broccoli and tiramisu for dessert.

Trattoria Za Za

Something we learned while in Florence is that trattorias usually have cheaper—and, honestly, often even better—food than ristorantes. I don’t know if it was because it was the first time during the month that I had had truffle pasta, or if it really was just that good, but this place blew my mind. They bring cheesy bread to the table before the meal, and from that moment on I was sold; the staff were also super nice about accommodating nine annoying tourists who didn’t have a booking on a Saturday night (lol). The only criticism I have: the wall lined with creepy dolls. Why? What’s the purpose of that? Are they there to stare at me while I consume twice my body weight in carbs? Is it a weight loss tactic? Otherwise, this place is well worth a visit.

I recommend: truffle tagliatelle.

Il Vivandiere

photo3jpg.jpg

Okay, so Europeans eat dinner late. Really late. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a grandma at heart, but I tend to eat dinner around 6pm. Is that normal? Anyway, most restaurants in Italy don’t start serving dinner until 7 or 7:30pm; most people don’t eat until around 8pm. The first night we were there, it was 6pm and we were already starving. So a few quick clicks on TripAdvisor and we were out the door and headed to (what seemed like) the only restaurant in Italy that starts serving dinner at 6pm. We weren’t disappointed. All the dishes are fairly small, so we ended up splitting them family-style. The only thing that sucked was the slow service; other than that, everything we ate was incredible. Plus—if you’re a fan of lemon-flavoured desserts, the lemon tiramisu was a home run with everyone who tried it.

I recommend: spinach and ricotta dumplings, roast potatoes, and baked cauliflower cheese.

Gusta Pizza

I’m pretty sure this one is on every single existing list of the best Florence restaurants, and for good reason! Everyone who’d been to Florence before me told me that I would be cheating myself if I didn’t go here. Once I finally made my way to Gusta, I was kicking myself for not going weeks earlier. This is the greatest pizza I’ve ever eaten. Ever. I would go back to Florence in a heartbeat just for Gusta. There are only seven things on the menu—all pizza, apart from drinks—and they’re all €8 or less.

I recommend: margherita pizza.

Shake Café

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I’m a huge fan of carbs. HUGE. Literally their number one fan. But when you’re eating straight carbs for every meal (croissants for breakfast because duh), your body tends to start hating you for it. So in search of some fruits and veggies, we wound up at Shake Café. They have a giant menu chock full of salads and wraps and sandwiches and shakes. After consuming my weight in pizza and/or pasta every night, this cute little café was like a slice of health food heaven. Plus, it was very reminiscent of a Melbourne café; it was like a touch of home.

I recommend: the black bean salad and a raw cacao shake with almond milk.

Universo Vegano

2 words: vegan heaven. There’s nothing I hate more than when restaurants overthink vegetarian/vegan food. Stick to the basics! Universo Vegano is full of plain and simple, classic [vegan] meals, as well as some not-so-traditional stuff (zoodles, anyone?). Their portions are huge and the food not once disappointed us.

I recommend: chocolate croissant and a rice milk cappuccino with cinnamon and a dash of agave syrup.