The next morning, we eagerly jumped out of bed, ready to explore Melbourne further. We bought a public transportation card at the local convenience store and hopped on a tram towards the city. The trams are electric, like San Francisco and run through the middle of most major streets. The tram system is fairly easy to pick up but we confirmed with a local that we were at the right place before getting on. It took us to the center of the CBD where we began a self guided walking tour we downloaded from the internet. This can be a great (bonus free) way to explore a city while learning a lot at your own pace. A nice option to walking around the CBD is the tram, which is free to jump on and off once you are inside the loop of the CBD.
Liz was constantly impressed with the fashionable professionals on their lunch break or between meetings. She kept gawking over the professional women remembering what it was like not to curate an outfit from a backpack. Along the walk, we were informed by our PDF tour guide that Haights Chocolate is a must for chocolate lovers. Liz got a champagne truffle and loved it, and when it comes to chocolate or anything really, what else matters. We picked up a few more truffles as a thank you gift to our temporary housemates for hosting the cookout.
Just before the tour took a turn into China Town we made our own detour for lunch in the Fitzroy neighborhood. This area and came highly recommended by our Swedish housemates. We stopped at a Alimentari cafe for lunch found by using a popular Melbourne app called BreakfastOut. The old victorian home turned cafe had a busy line at the take out counter and was playing Etta James in the background. Liz was sold with that combo!
The lunch was delicious and the vibe in the neighborhood is oozing with character. Fitzroy is a neighborhood that is going through the classic conversion from lower class industrial area to yuppie inner suburb enclave.
During the time of our visit, it was in the sweet spot of having already developed a ton of great bars, restaurants and shops but before the wealthy people move in and price out all of the people that made it great. The graffiti alleyways everywhere you turn are a display of free art adding to the enjoyment.
Next we walked down to a similar neighborhood called Collingwood and explored a vintage furniture store because one of us “could die for” the vintage chaise lounge in the window. If you visit Melbourne, these two neighborhoods should be on your must see list.
The combination of walking and the clock striking 5pm had us parched… for a cocktail. We went searching for a bar through the Carlton area, but didn’t care for the options. Carlton seems to be the place to get Italian food but wasn’t quite a happy hour spot. We picked up our walking tour into Chinatown and noticed we had marked a * star on our google maps called Berlin Bar.
*Traveler Tip – Any time someone gives you a suggestion, open Google maps and save the location. It becomes a star on your map. You never know when you might end up in that area and need an idea of where to go and what to do. This also came extremely handy living in NYC because you are always hearing about a new place but can never remember what it is when you need it!
Following our GPS to the star marked Berlin Bar. We turned down a small street in China Town then down an alley.
At the end of the alley was a door, after poking our heads in we saw a small sign that said follow the green line to Berlin Bar. On the wall going up the stairs was a green line that we chased up to the third floor. The green line took us to a doorbell and a locked door. We pressed the doorbell and someone came to let us in. What was inside might have been the most creative and enjoyable bar concept we have ever been to.
The bar is divided down the middle, East Berlin and West Berlin. While the west side is elegantly decorated, the east side is dark, has a bunk bed, and propaganda videos playing on the wall. In my time in Berlin I fell in love with the east side, so we passed up the fancy chairs under chandeliers and sidled up next to the bunk bed.
The cocktails were equally creative and delicious. I had one that was served in a Japanese soup bowl. We sat there just smiling in a disbelief that we get to just relax and enjoy places like this around the world for five months. Unfortunately the prices were higher than those in the real East Berlin so we decided to move on after one drink. Worth the $20 cocktail hands down!
We continued on to another recommended bar called Sister Bella. This one was even more secluded in the back alleys of Melbourne, which we were learning is the thing here. We turned down one alleyway then onto an even smaller backstreet and saw a small spray painted sign on the wall. After walking past a series of dumpsters, we found the entrance, a flight of stairs and finally the bartender. After hearing our accents he asked, how did you find this place?
Sister Bella feels like you are drinking outside in a salvage yard garden except it’s all indoors.
We ordered a couple “jugs” of beer and chatted about life and other important priorities like dinner. We narrowed down our dinner recommendations and asked the three girls at the next table if they knew either of them. Their faces showed a deep connection to past great meals when we spoke the words “Chin Chin”. Just one look at their reaction and our minds were made up.
When we arrived at Chin Chin, which serves Asian Fusion, there was a line out the door, keep in mind this is a Tuesday at 8:30 pm. They don’t take reservations but if you put your name in, they will text you when your table is ready. We put our name down and waited for an hour at another alley bar around the corner until our table was ready.
The dishes are served family style and are packed with their own unique flavor. We recommend going with 4-6 people so you can get your hands on as many dishes as possible. We could only split the kingfish sashimi (their most famous dish), the butter chicken curry and roasted duck before filling up. You can’t go wrong, we raved over each bite we took and apparently forgot to take photos in between inhales. The atmosphere is very hip and artsy and summed up the cool, casual perfection that we’ve come to love about Melbourne.
After making a quick breakfast at the house, we went to another nearby park to do some yoga. After our workout and shower, we walked to the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens are nice and worth checking out if you have the time.
They lead you right to the Yarra where bikers and runners are striding along. We lost track of time walking along the Yarra river so we dropped into the CBD for a quick bite of lunch instead of proper sit down. I had arranged another football meeting, this time with Nathan Chapman. He is the Aussie responsible for sending all of the Australian punters to the US, several of which have played in the NFL. We watched some guys kick and just got to know each other better. Liz grabbed a design magazine and started reading up on Australian Interior Design. Productive afternoon!
From there we took an Uber back up to Fitzroy to check out two bars we had heard great things about. First up was The Black Pearl, apparently rated one of the best in the world by someone. The decor had the look of a bar set in 1950s Jamaica, but the bartenders all had tattoos under their rolled up button down shirts and bow ties to remind you that you were still in Australia (or Williamsburg). The cocktails were impressive but too expensive for us to try more than one each. The drink list was a binder of baseball cards with each drink on it’s own card with ingredients listed like stats on the back.
We walked a couple blocks to the next notable Fitzroy bar called Naked for Satan known for its creative cocktails and rooftop hotspot showing off the Melbourne skyline. Downstairs, they offer creative tapas for one dollar a piece. We got six and split them to hold us over until dinner.
We jumped into an Uber to meet up with Chris and Elize again who invited us to a comedy show in Brunswick. His sister’s friend was performing and the tickets were free! When we walked through the curtain we realized that the show was a bit more amateur than we had expected. There were about 15 total people in the audience, so we were a little nervous for what we were in for. Liz and I both love stand up and have seen the greats like Bill Burr, Joe Rogan, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, Amy Schumer and on and on. To our surprise, the comedian came through, he had a great personality with some good jokes and stories. It’s tough being up there for 30 minutes!
There was a short break before the next comedian so encouraged by the first performance, we decided to stick around for another 30 minute set. It was brutal. We just sat there and took a barrage of long setups without punch lines. It began with killing his children and ended with a PSA on mental health and the an audience of tortured faces. When the painful 30 minutes was over, Chris and Elize dropped us off at I Love Pho for late night Vietnamese. We said our goodbyes, but with our upcoming move to Australia I know it won’t be long until we see each other again.
We had a few bucket list items left for our last day in Melbourne. The first item was to experience one of Melbourne’s much talked about brunches. We chose Top Paddock after multiple recommendations and it did not disappoint. Everything on the menu looked fantastic, but I finally settled on the steak sandwich, which was the best I had ever had. Liz barely eats steak and she raved about it! Liz had a chorizo, veggie, bean, egg thing that was also special. She also learned that ordering an iced coffee meant ice cream in her coffee and we all know that was a welcomed addition.
We strolled along Chapel street for hours through the South Yarra neighborhood all the way to Prahran before stopping for a smoothie and a coffee. We took an Uber back to our airbnb to pick up our bags and head to our last stop before the airport.
Wednesday night is when the Queen Victoria Market opens up nearly 100 food stalls after 5 PM. Seemingly every cuisine in the world is at your fingertips.
We had a Greek salad, Chinese bao, Vietnamese bahn mi, Jamaican jerk chicken and a German pretzel that was filled with Nutella and rolled in vanilla and almonds.
Overall, Melbourne is a big city with an incredible culture. It’s filled with fun and trendy neighborhoods and a world class food and bar scene. While the weather might not match other Australian cities it’s better than anywhere I have every lived. I have been to and lived in lots of amazing places, but Melbourne is at the top of the list for us. We can’t wait to return.