Local Secrets from the City to Fitzroy
A Guide by Saucy Sal, The Mansion Mistress
Ok peoples, rise and shine, it’s time to play! I’m going to share with you my perfect weekend in this gorgeous city of Melbourne!
Before I came to be the Mansion’s Mistress, I spent many a moon slaving away in some of Melbourne’s culinary empires, along the way finding the best bargains, hidden gems and locals-only hideouts!
The first step, get out your smartphones and download an app called EatClub! Now I know all of you have your power points next to your beds, so no excuse for a dodgy battery! This app lets you scan Melbourne hotspots offering cheap lunch and dinner deals! Sometimes up to 50% off the whole bill, yep, including those beers you can’t afford but are going to drink anyway. You can search by cuisine, location and best value, it’s ridiculous and it’s free. It can be a little hit and miss on quality, but I can almost guarantee you’re not as fussy as me!
Although most delectable destinations are walking distance from our high-quality hostel, you should also grab yourself a Myki card. You can pick one of these bad boys up from any 7/11 or the main transport hubs in Melbourne CBD, Flinders Street and Southern Cross Train Stations. You can also top up at tram stops or via the Myki app on your smartphone. Between your fine feet and Melbourne’s fantastic public transport system, the adventure has never been easier.
Breakfast for Backpackers
First up, a Melbourne morning at its finest, breakfast on Degraves Street!
There are tables and chairs squished so close together you’ll be able to smell the cologne of that well-suited businessman in a Skype meeting sitting next to you! Sandwiched in between the towering buildings are wall-to-wall cafés trying to outbid each other with the most delicious offerings, and European style service.
Honestly, I feel like I’m on holiday every time I go there. It’s the main thoroughfare from Flinders Street Station to the heart of the city, excellent for people watching of every demographic. Usually, a busker or two doing magic tricks or jamming on the guitar.
Then stroll up the road to the most bright and concentrated graffiti spot in the CBD.
It wouldn’t be a perfect weekend in Melbourne without checking out the incredible street art of Hosier Lane. Almost always, there are artists painting something new.
It would seem there is an unwritten rule that the pieces of the highest integrity and meaning have the most extended life spans (Banksy is in there somewhere). Tags and less talented pieces only grace the walls for a short time, but every skill level is welcome. Whether it be a political protest, a subliminal message, an Aussie sporting hero or something just plain weird, this is where it happens.
Luckily, The Mansion is located in-between Melbourne CBD and Fitzroy, arguably the two hottest spots for street art.
Parklife for Backpackers
Carlton Gardens, arguably the best park in town, is just up the road from The Mansion.
My favourite thing to do in Melbourne is chill in the beautiful gardens scattered all over the city. Most of the backpacking hostels are tram rides away, so top up your Myki card, pick up your mates, and let’s get the party started!
Swing by the Mansion for essentials, think something to sit on if the grass gets you itchy, sunscreen, frisbee or deck of cards. Don’t forget your forever drink bottle; we don’t believe in single-use plastics at The Mansion. In most parks in Victoria, it’s legal to drink alcohol between 9 am and 9 pm, so keeping to a budget, pick up a six-pack on your way!
There are secret spots under shady trees for covert activities, like canoodling the cute French guy you hid behind your bunk curtain last night, don’t think I didn’t notice!
There are park benches next to ponds with cute ducks and lazy pigeons, garden beds with plants every colour of the rainbow and giant plane trees in rows perfect for leaning.
48 hours in Melbourne
If you only had 48 hours in Melbourne and you’re already on the edge of Fitzroy, head to one of the most iconic rooftop bars in this hipster suburb!
Of course, Fitzroy is walking distance from most backpacking hostels in Melbourne CBD, including ours, but if you’re feeling leisurely, there are heaps of trams that will take you there. Melbourne has one of the best and easiest to navigate public transport systems I’ve seen. Even the maps are colour coded for your viewing pleasure.
Once in Fitzroy, head to Naked for Satan, one of the best cocktail bars going round with $1 pintos most days of the week. Slick wooden bench seating with high ceilings and exposed copper pipes. Sexy and smouldering.
Two stories up you’ll find Naked in the Sky. It looks fancy but it’s also affordable, offering its entire menu of high quality and delicious tapas for $11 Monday to Friday from 12 pm – 3 pm! There are drink specials scattered throughout the week. My favourite is the $6 pints, ideally enjoyed on the balcony that wraps 180° around the rooftop.
You can chase the sun all day with spectacular city views Southside, Collingwood calling to the East and Fitzroy favourites up North. Perch up there in the evening for after-work drinks and a bag of eye candy. You’re more than welcome.
If you’re a big eater and don’t like sharing, Lygon Street is about a 15-minute walk away and is one of the most loved restaurant strips in Melbourne.
Think old-school Italians with slick moustaches and first-generation Vietnamese and Chinese families cooking up the goods. Make sure you check EatClub too, this is bargain central.
Shopping for Backpackers
For those shoppers and trinket collectors, the largest and oldest market in the Southern Hemisphere is a free tram ride away!
You can head to Queen Victoria Markets while I take a nap in my air-conditioned room! The fruit and veg section is cheap as chips if you didn’t join us for tapas. Seven hectares of stuff to sift through is a dream for some, but I’d prefer to do laps of our double spiral staircase, thank you.
Nightlife for Backpackers
Now, you’re all on holiday so I’d suggest a little chill time before nighttime antics.
Perhaps a sneak peek at the book you’ve been carrying around? Have a snuggle in your comfy bed, it’s a perfect time for the afternoon light to be streaming through your dorm window. If you’re not good at relaxing, head to our beer garden for a cold beverage.
For a cheap dinner, you can’t go past ChinaTown. A must for any stay in Melbourne.
Shanghai Dumplings will have you squeezed onto a plastic bench seat listening to K-pop or Oriental originals, it’s a surprise every time. Your table will be so crowded with food you won’t remember what you ordered, and you can eat your fill for $10 each.
Then roll to Section 8, a graffiti-covered bar built inside a shipping container with seats made from packing pallets.
DJs spin most evenings and they serve longnecks for the budget drinker. Cyclone fencing and laneway on one side and a seven-story building on the other.
If you look up, you can see another great watering hole, The Rooftop Bar. Slightly more expensive but a fantastic view of the Melbourne skyline. Always got good tunes pumping great for catching this arvo sun-rays.
You might even catch a glimpse of one of the most prominent graffiti murals in the CBD, but no spoilers here.
Cheap Drinks for Backpackers
Get out your swipe cards and put your valuables in your lockers, it’s happy hour BABY!
Opposite the State Library on the third floor of Melbourne Central, you’ll find the European Bier Cafe. Honestly, I don’t know how they make any money because everything is almost always half price. $1 bubbles, cheap tap beer and cocktail jugs for $15, they’re asking for trouble — beautiful views from the smoker’s balcony of Swanston Street and long communal tables inside.
For those on less of a budget, head a couple of blocks down to Workshop on Elizabeth street. You’ll find a free exhibition space for upcoming and established artists to showcase their work. Always something eclectic and quirky on display and great tunes most evenings. The atrium is like a second-story garden, and the jugs are reasonably priced.
Places to boogie
The night is still young, and you’re looking for a place to boogie?
If you’ve made it back to the city with us, we have a few cheeky options depending on your style of throw down! If you’re old school at heart, Club Retro will take you back in time with its tunes and light-up dance floor.
Do you like live music on a budget? The Lounge bar boasts anything from African nights to cheesy cover bands and is usually free entry.
Have a spare $20 and want to dance until the wee hours? Head to Brown Alley where international DJs take over three different dance floors.
If you’re still in Fitzroy, head to The Night Cat in Johnston Street for open mic nights, hip hop sessions, album launches or a ten-piece salsa band. It’s a lucky dip! Entry is usually around $10, and the line can be long. But well worth it if you don’t mind waiting. Plenty of kebab shops around for a refuel, too!
Fancy some flair? Pop across to Smith Street where you will find the LGBTQI institution that is Yah Yah’s! The sweatiest, most fluoro-clad gay bar open to anyone. There’s always a drag queen or two slaying the stage and the bartenders are barely dressed. Some of the best and most flamboyant dance moves Melbourne has to offer and open until the sun comes up.
Finally, for rock and roll fans, get yourself down to Cherry Bar. Unquestionably the best rock bar on earth. There’s a good chance you’ll rub shoulders with anyone from Axel Rose to Lady Gaga if they’ve been doing a show in town. But better than that is the 24-hour licence and live music every night of the week!
If you’re more of a Sober Sal than a Saucy Sal, the National Gallery of Victoria is always amazing. But I get in trouble for being too loud. Federation Square and Southbank are great for people watching and street performers, and there is the library, but I’ve never been.
Melbourne for Backpackers
And there we have my Saucy Sal secrets, your guide to a perfect stay in Melbourne.
Those are my hot tips on Melbourne for backpackers. It’s taken me many a wild night and early morning to provide you all with my CBD secrets. I hope you find them as exhilarating as I do! Look up, look around, and remember to say hello to strangers. My travels have shown and continue to remind me that they’re just friends waiting to happen. Locals always know the best secrets, so don’t be shy. Put on your adventure boots, and let us enjoy this gorgeous city. Is everybody ready?
Saucy Sal, signing out.
See you at The Mansion Melbourne 😉