From flitting between high-end designer shops to reveling in rooftop bars and recovering at one of the nearby parks with a box of homemade goodness courtesy of a start-up eatery, there are ample pleasures to be had in Melbourne’s Chapel Street precinct.
Melbourne is often compared to European cities and not without reason, it’s one of those diverse and eclectic destinations dotted with quirky cafes, independent boutiques and an ever-changing bar scene. Step away from the beachside tourist draw of St Kilda, head out towards the Yarra Valley and halfway there you’ll find Chapel Street, a longstanding city hotspot. A strong community spirit is tangible here; the businesses that have settled in the area are more of the individual kind.
The Chapel Street precinct is split into 7 sections; Windsor Quarter, Greville Village, South Yarra, Yarra Lane, Prahran, Commercial Road and Chapel St North. Windsor Quarter takes visitors back in time with vintage stores and European inspiration; it’s the best place to find interesting antiques and authentic treasures. Greville Village is a laidback spot with ample street art, photography galleries, record shops and the Grattan Gardens for catching rays. In South Yarra, you’ll find the higher end shopping, with a number of tailors at work, while Yarra Lane is a modern spot with views over the river. Prahran feels a little more city than community, with a historic market edging on Commercial Road and Princes Garden nearby. Up on Chapel Street North is where the most developments are currently taking place, with sleek apartment buildings galore.
Wherever you choose to wander, take note; Melbourne is known for its rather unpredictable weather patterns, so dress for all seasons.
One of Melbourne’s greatest strengths is the shopping here; a huge number of independent boutiques and larger stores stocking lesser-known designers can be found. But it’s not just clothing, you can hunt down pretty much anything you like here, such as various vintage bits and bobs at Chapel Street Bazaar. South Yarra’s Green with Envy is the place to find cutting-edge modern designs with both international and Australian designers stocked, cylk for minimalist pieces, while Bisonte is the best boutique to get kitted out in the finest leathers. Feminine favourite Jolie & Deen is popular for its floaty printed silk dresses and frosted gold jewellery.
This year, the entire precinct hosted Art Town, a month long celebration of the arts, whereby artists took to the streets to work, exhibit and host alfresco sessions. But for something more permanent, there are plenty of galleries new and old to get stuck into. Tusk plays host an eclectic collection of contemporary pieces with a focus on modern art, while RTist is set to reopen in 2016 with a number of specially commissioned projects. And don’t assume the art stops at night; on the contrary there’s late night bar Less than Zero with rustic interiors and a penchant for whiskey, now exhibiting a series of Australian works.
This district is jam packed with perfect spots for destination dining – you can swing by Japanese, Mexican, Polish and Italian eateries without breaking a sweat. For upmarket French fare, there’s A La Bouffe Bistro, or for general Mediterranean there’s Da Noi. For casual family-style Mexican, there’s Fonda, while Japanophiles will love Teppankai. And if a long leisurely meal isn’t your thing, Chapel Street is a big supporter of street food and hosts various dedicated events, such as the Windsor & Co Bloc Party, which tags onto Melbourne’s Food & Wine Festival in March. Not one to miss out on a trend, there are quirkier spots popping up throughout the region to cater to the latest fads – such as Palate, Melbourne’s first Paleo restaurant. For something sweet, stop off at master patissier Adriano Zumbo’s counter, which is chock-a-block with colourful creations including cakes, tarts and pastries, or head for Burch & Purchase, king of crazy ice cream flavours such as violet & honeycomb or gin & tonic.
There’s certainly no shortage of chic spots to prop up the bar here. The Flamingo hits superfoods with a range of health-conscious cocktails, while Zhou Zhou comes over all Oriental with its tea-infused tipples. If you haven’t had your fill of retail therapy, Pawn & Co functions not just as a bar but also as a shop for various weird and wacky trinkets. But in the end, everyone ends up at Electric Ladyland, a lofty New York style space with a reputation for pulling in the late night crowds.
The most luxurious place to stay on Chapel Street is indisputably The Como Melbourne, slick and stylish with just over 100 rooms. For something a little more unusual, though equally fitting for the fleeting businessman, sister Art Series properties The Cullen and The Olsen are unmatched. The budget conscious can splash their savings in the shops and retreat to one of Air bnb’s finest instead.