Whether you’ve been living in Melbourne your whole life, or you’re a recent expat (g’day!), you probably know that the city is chock full of hidden treasures. Famed for its foodie culture (Nutella Donuts? You’re welcome, world), extensive tram network, and intricate, graffiti-filled laneways, the culture capital of Australia is teeming with interesting places to explore. Here are ten secret spots in Melbourne to get you started.
1. Little Flinders
It would be downright un-Melbournian to talk about the city’s treasures without mentioning coffee. Initially bought here by immigrants after the second world war, espresso coffee is a pillar of Melbourne’s identity, yet its secret cafes remain overlooked by explorers in favour of Melbourne’s extensive hidden bar network. One such cafe is Little Flinders. Tucked away in Flinders Lane, Little Flinders offers traditional cafe food alongside beautiful coffee (quite literally, be prepared for some Instagrammable latte art). Be sure to check out the outdoor seating area while you take a break from exploring the best secret spots in Melbourne – a faux-greenery covered balcony overlooking Flinders Lane, perfect for a bit of tranquil people watching while you sip away.
66 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
2. Sofitel Melbourne’s “Loo with a View”
The Sofitel’s public toilets up on the 35th floor are a must see for any curious explorer. Not only is it impossible to resist the opulent bathrooms (hand soap and lotion dispensers?!), but the stunning views from the floor to ceiling windows rival that of the famous Eureka Tower. Take a dizzying glance over the city from above, with Parliament House, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the MCG looking like darling miniatures from that height, and cop a view of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs (on a clear day you can see as far as the Dandenong Ranges!). It’s an intimidating journey up to the luxury hotel’s secret bathroom, but well worth the trip for any sightseer / toilet connoisseur.
25 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
3. No Lights, No Lycra
Now a global movement, No Lights, No Lycra (NLNL) is a dance community that began right here in the city, yet somehow remains one of the best kept secret spots in Melbourne to even the city’s most informed denizens. Hosted in various darkened locations across the city (ever wanted to let loose in a church basement? This is for you), NLNL is a judgement free space for dancers of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, who explain:
There is no light, no lycra, no teacher, no steps to learn, no technique, just free movement. NLNL is a space where you can completely let go, shake out the stresses of the week, and lose yourself in the music and the physicality of your body. NLNL is a daggy, non-pretentious place to completely be yourself.
Various locations, see No Lights, No Lycra Melbourne.
4. Spring Street Cheese Cellar
Did you know that Melbourne is home to Australia’s first cheese cellar? Smack bang in the middle of the boutique Spring Street Grocer you’ll find a spiral staircase that descends into cheese heaven – a subterranean gallery of Australia’s finest cheeses. The basement also houses a small dining space which can be booked out for cheese themed events, and regularly holds cheese workshops and pairing events. The Cheese Cellar may be one of the most delicious secret spots in Melbourne, and is a must see for all amateur cheesemongers and sommeliers.
157 Spring Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
What could be more Melbournian than Easey’s – a grungy, five story burger joint in Collingwood culminating in three decommissioned, graffiti covered train carriages-cum-dining areas perched upon the roof? Come for the unique experience, but make sure to stay for the delicious food (Easey’s is the brainchild of Jimmy “Burgers” Hurlston and local artist Jeremy Gaschk). Not for the faint of heart, Easey’s rooftop seating is always in high demand so be sure to make a reservation first.
6. Lunar Drive-In
The next of our best kept secret spots in Melbourne is located in the city’s south eastern suburbs. Lunar Drive-In in Dandenong recently celebrated it’s 50th birthday and is the largest drive-in theatre in Australia. Despite it’s four screens playing all of Hollywood’s newest releases, the retro Lunar Cafe serving up delicious, buttery popcorn and hot jam donuts, and best of all, super cheap prices (a carload is only $30), this treasure tucked down a long driveway off the always busy South Gippsland Highway remains overlooked in favour of bigger, more expensive change. Take a trip down memory lane and check out a cheap flick at Lunar Drive-In.
115 South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong VIC 3175
Looking for cheap eats in the CBD that everyone can enjoy? Try Crossways. Hidden away in plain sight (take the narrow staircase from Swanston Street up to the first landing), Crossways is a vegan/vegetarian restaurant run by Hare Krishna devotees. Crossways serves delicious, wholesome food in a lively restaurant filled with every kind of Melbournian you can think of (it’s not uncommon to see poor students and rich businessmen sharing a communal table). Come for lunch from 11.30 am and enjoy a generous serve of curry and halava (dessert) for only $8.95 (concession $6.95). And don’t forget to ring the “thank you bell” on your way out.
1/123 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
8. Vau d’ Vile Drag Cabaret Restaurant
Check out something a little different in the next on our list of the greatest secret spots in Melbourne. According to the website, “Vau d’vile is Melbourne’s newest cabaret restaurant combining the art forms of drag, vaudeville and burlesque, but with a difference: all of the girls are boys”. Doors open to this Fitzroy gem at 5.30pm, and for only $79 (Friday and Saturday) you’ll be delighted by a three course meal, two drag shows, and a fabulous night of fun. For a more involved evening, head to Vau d’vile on Wednesday or Thursday evenings for either “Dragoke” or Drag Bingo. And a hot tip: keep an eye out on Groupon for even cheaper night out at Vau d’vile Drag Cabaret. Yas qween!
9. The Break Room
The cleverly titled “Break Room” in Collingwood is literally that – a room in which you break things. According to their website:
Everybody wants to blow off steam in their own way. That’s only natural. Some people go for a drive, others go for a run.
At The Break Room we hit things. With bats.
It’s a little more liberating than the gym.
Make sure to wear jeans and closed toe shoes for your session, and The Break Room will supply the rest (protective gear, a crate of breakables, and a specially designed room for you to take your frustration out on). Treat yourself to a session, or else buy a gift voucher for a friend that needs to blow off a little steam.
10. Bowery to Williamsburg
A slice of the Big Apple down under, Bowery to Williamsburg is an homage to New York City classics in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. The diner serves a variety of NYC’s best foods, from brisket and eggs with a side of lox or maple bacon, southern fried chicken waffles, a classic pastrami on rye or Philly cheese steak, and, of course, the bagels. For the homesick, or for anyone obsessed with one of the greatest cities on earth, Bowery to Williamsburg is a treat to be enjoyed by all.
16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000