48 hours in Melbourne for food and wine lovers will never be long enough to eat and drink your way through this tantalising Australian city. Our lip-smacking two-day itinerary will go some way in giving you a taste of Melbourne’s delectable markets, world-class restaurants and world’s headiest café scene.
That’s one reason the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards, previously hosted in New York and London, is being held in Melbourne on 5 April. We’re going to be there and we’re also going to be working our way through as many food and wine events as we can at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which kicks off on 31 March and runs until 9 April.
As thousands of food and wine lovers will be descending upon the city for the two events, we thought it time to share a new 48 hours in Melbourne itinerary, this one aimed firmly at eating and drinking enthusiasts. Of course 48 hours in Melbourne isn’t long enough to appreciate this culinary capital, but it will give you a bite-size taste of what the city has to offer travellers for whom great food and good wine are priorities.
While you can follow our 48 hours in Melbourne itinerary at any time of the week, if it’s a weekend, make sure to click through to the links below to check opening times for markets, cafés and restaurants. We recommend booking all restaurants, most of which can be booked online these days.
Here’s how to spend a delicious 48 hours in Melbourne, grazing, gawking, sipping, dining, and drinking at our pick of Melbourne’s best spots.
48 Hours in Melbourne for Food and Wine Lovers
Check into one of our recommended Melbourne hotels – we’ve reviewed some superb city centre hotels, along with stylish boutique hotels in inner-city neighbourhoods – or settle into a chic, well-equipped serviced apartment with kitchen if you fancy buying wine and nibblies at the markets.
Kick off your 48 hours in Melbourne with a clink of glasses at one of the city’s alfresco rooftop bars. Try one of the classics – think: backyard style, AstroTurf, garden furniture, and milk crates for seats – such as Rooftop Bar or Madame Brussels. Or hit one of the newer design-driven sky bars, such as easygoing, outdoorsy Good Heavens or quirky QT Hotel’s very fashionable The Rooftop.
Melbourne is one of Australia’s most multicultural cities and nowhere is that cultural diversity felt more than in the food scene. (See this guide to where to taste multicultural Australia.) Make your first meal an ‘ethnic’-Australian one. In the city centre, there are few more Melbourne experiences than elegant Flower Drum for classic Cantonese with a twist, the Asian-fusion hawker food at Teage Ezard’s Ginger Boy, or buzzy Chin Chin for modern Thai-Asian (no reservations; put your name on the list then head downstairs for a drink at Go Go). A short tram or taxi ride away, you can savour some of the finest Middle Eastern cuisine this side of Beirut at chef Joseph Abboud’s restaurant Rumi or for something fun try his “inauthentic” Lebanese and Turkish pizza at The Moor’s Head (see previous link)
Wherever you eat, return to the city to The European. This cosy restaurant serving some of Melbourne’s best European-style comfort food is one of our favourites, but for now you’re here to drink. Select your vino from over 800 different labels next door at the wine bar at City Wine Shop or slip upstairs to laidback Siglo where you can sit outside on the terrace overlooking Parliament House (stunningly illuminated at night) or sink into a comfy sofa inside and sip a negroni.
An early Melbourne morning must be spent at a market and there’s no shortage of fantastic markets in and around the city. Melbourne’s markets are some of the world’s best and are also Australia’s oldest and finest. They also offer excellent tours that include tastings and the chance to chat to providores. Hit the historic Queen Victoria Market, dating to 1869, first. If you have time, also drop into South Melbourne Market, established in 1867, and Prahran Market, Australia’s oldest single running market, opened in 1864. We like to grab some oysters (when in season) and a bottle of Victorian bubbles for our ‘welcome home’ brunch, and some Australian cheeses, olives and a baguette for sunset snacks on the balcony. Click through for our guide to the best Melbourne markets.
If you rose early enough for the market, you might be able to squeeze in an insider tour, such as Hidden Secrets’ Lanes and Arcades Tour which leads you along passages, into antique elevators and down into basements to discover spots you wouldn’t stumble across on your own. From street art filled alleys to backstreet bars, it’s undoubtedly your best introduction to the city.
Keeping in theme, head down graffiti-clad Hosier Lane for lunch at a quintessentially Melbourne spot, Frank Camorra’s Spanish tapas bar, MoVida and its neighbour, Next Door, which was opened to handle the constant overflow. Both are open all day from noon and everything’s wonderful, but don’t miss the croquetas (the fillings change, but they’re all good).
Learn about Melbourne’s multicultural history, which has contributed to making the eating so great, at the Immigration Museum. Exhibitions use interactive media, historical documents, personal stories, and mementoes to follow the journeys of refugees and immigrants who made Victoria home. Then visit the Chinese Museum, which explores the country’s Chinese heritage and its influence. Australia’s Chinese were some of the earliest immigrants, most arriving during the Gold Rush years. Every Aussie capital is home to a Chinatown, every suburb and town has a Chinese restaurant or three, and you’ll find a wok in nearly every Australian kitchen. For more info see our guide to Melbourne’s best museums.
Take a tram to St Kilda to savour sublime sunsets over Port Phillip Bay from St Kilda Pier or from a bar with bay views. The waterfront Stokehouse restaurant is a beloved Melbourne institution with two bars. On sand-level there’s Pontoon or upstairs there’s a terrace at their Stoke Bar (both open from noon until late). Another option is the elevated lounge at Captain Baxter, located within the St Kilda Sea Baths complex on the foreshore. From Friday to Sunday you’ll need to arrive at both well before sunset to snag a comfy sofa or stool overlooking the sea. If you fancy a sunset picnic, you can pick up some take-away fish and chips from Paper Fish on the St Kilda Boardwalk and head down to the sand (only open 4pm to sunset Mon-Thur, but noon-sunset Fri-Sun).
Skip the pre-dinner drinks as you’ll be lingering over a seemingly never-ending ‘dego’ – that’s Aussie for ‘tasting menu’, as in ‘degustation’ – at Melbourne’s finest restaurant, Ben Shewry’s Attica. You’ll need to book well ahead to savour this creative contemporary Australasian cuisine (Shewry was originally from New Zealand) that is currently Australasia’s #1 restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 list at #33. Expect plenty of native Australia fauna and flora on the menu, from wallaby and emu to wattle-seed and bunya bunya nuts, and a wonderful story behind every dish, from cheeky and whimsical to poignant and nostalgic. Shewry is a thinking chef – his presentation at the 2012 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival we attended was a clever cross between visual storytelling, academic lecture and performance art.
Alternatively, try one of these other outstanding restaurants serving up modern and contemporary Australian cuisine, from Neil Perry’s glam take on a steakhouse Rockpool Bar and Grill to Cutler & Co. one of Melbourne’s most inventive restaurants, by Andrew McConnell. At Rockpool Bar and Grill, order an intensely-flavoured rib-eye, dry aged for 49 days, from Tasmania’s Cape Grim, and at Cutler & Co. where the menu changes more frequently (the degustation menu changes daily), follow the advice of their knowledgeable team.
Melbourne is the world’s coffee capital, so kick-start the day with a heavy dose of caffeine and an introduction to the city’s history of coffee and today’s café scene in this Melbourne Café Culture Walk.
Not a coffee drinker? Consider meandering the Masala Trail, which explores Melbourne’s Little India at multicultural Dandenong. There’s a sister-stroll in the city if you don’t want to stray too far; both need to be booked ahead.
If you opted for coffee over curry, take a tram to Melbourne’s Little Saigon on Victoria Street, Richmond, where you can sip a Vietnamese iced coffee and slurp a bowl of phố. After, work up an appetite with a wander around the neighbourhood, home to an abundance of affordable, no-frills Asian eateries, supermarkets and bakeries, and gift stores selling everything from embroidered Chinese slippers to colourful Vietnamese lanterns. Alternatively, take a tram or taxi down to Elwood where you enjoy more refined but equally authentic Vietnamese cuisine at Geoff Lindsay’s Dandelion.
You’ve had your fill of savoury and spicy so it’s time for something sweet and another quintessentially Melbourne experience, afternoon tea at the Hotel Windsor. The grand old Windsor Hotel has been serving a traditional afternoon tea continuously since 1883, and it’s as popular as ever, making bookings essential. Expect cucumber sandwiches, scones and jam and cream like nanna used to make, and a perfect pot of tea. The set only includes one glass of bubbles so we recommend you order a bottle.
Keep things (relatively) old-fashioned and simple for your final feed and head to a neighbourhood watering for classic pub grub or a counter meal, both of which have undergone a renaissance in the last decade. Melbourne’s pub fare has come an epic distance since its $7 chicken parma special days, so while you could tuck into a just-from-the-oven baked meat pie, succulent roast lamb or crispy scotch eggs at somewhere like the Middle Park, you could also devour modern takes on French bistro fare at the Coppersmith or savour succulent rotisserie chickens at Andrew McConnell’s The Builders Arms. We’re told a newer breed of pub dining rooms are dishing up plates as pretty as some of Melbourne’s top restaurants and The Lincoln and Highline at The Railway are high on our agendas this trip. Look out for a post here soon on Melbourne’s best gastro-pubs.
For more Melbourne recommendations, see wine expert Matt Skinner’s tips on wine, bars and food in Melbourne; bar owner (Smalls) and former Chin Chin front of house Jess Ho’s guide to eating and drinking in Melbourne; and cafe and food enthusiast Kenneth Meow’s local knowledge interview.
We’re landing in Melbourne on 31 March and will be sharing our experiences at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Click on the links to share our experiences with us. If you’re a Melbourne local we welcome your tips.
Have you been to Melbourne or do you live in the city? Do feel free to share your most delicious tips for spending 48 hours in Melbourne.