The stylish Aussie city of Melbourne is home to Flinders Quarter—hidden laneways in the midst of a renaissance. Here, 10 addresses worth a look-see.
1. The Platform Artists Group takes underground art to another level: The pink-tiled contemporary-art gallery is located in a subway station beneath the Degraves Street underpass. Site-specific sculptures, photographs, and paintings are displayed in the nooks and crannies of the art deco–style station, originally built for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. platform.org.au.
2. At the Little Cupcakes bakery, pastry chef Jamie Min specializes in small snacks: a couple bites' worth of mini buttercream-frosted cupcakes. Popular flavors include passion fruit, coconut, lemon, and Belgian dark chocolate, which pairs nicely with a "babychino." But try to get there before the nearby high school lets out, or you'll miss out. 7 Degraves St., 011-61/3-9077-0413, littlecupcakes.com.au, from $2.50.
3. Karen Rieschieck named her Alice Euphemia boutique after a respected seamstress in Melbourne. To stock her offbeat clothing and accessories shop, Rieschieck regularly makes the rounds at fashion schools across Australia and New Zealand to scout up-and-coming talent. One of her latest finds is Jade Sarita Arnott, a crafter of whimsical quilted dresses and coats. 37 Swanston St., 011-61/3-9650-4300, aliceeuphemia.com.
4. Brother-and-sister design team Alex and Georgie Cleary opened their new Alphaville boutique in the former library of St. Paul's Cathedral in 2006, making it one of the first shops to take up residence on a Melbourne laneway. They replaced the bookshelves with racks of Alex's T-shirt dresses and men's tees that Georgie silk-screens with images of pop-culture icons such as River Phoenix. 201 Flinders Ln., 011-61/3-9663-3002, alpha60.com.au.
5. The main branch of The Australian College of Hair Design and Beauty offers facials, massages, body wraps, and manicures at sinfully affordable prices—a one-hour massage is $34. Care to splurge? You can get a facial, foot treatment, hot-stone massage, and body exfoliation package for $190. 234 Flinders Ln., 011-61/3-9654-7130, achdb.com.au.
6. The glass-and-slate Hotel Causeway is steps from the Howey Place Arcade, Melbourne's boutique shopping area. The hotel's rooms have dark-burgundy furnishings and bathrooms with deep soaker tubs; the glassed-in penthouse gym has panoramic views of the city. 275 Little Collins St., 011-61/3-9660-8888, hotelcauseway.com.au, from $157.
7. The hotel happens to be around the corner from the best breakfast and brunch spot in town, Pushka. The five-table café makes a killer espresso, along with "crazy toast" (Vegemite and avocado) and co-owner Tim Dunn's wildly popular "eggs & soldiers," soft-boiled eggs served with toast sticks. Pushka also has the tiniest art gallery in Melbourne—a one-foot-tall glass display case that features a different artist each month. 20 Presgrave Pl., breakfast from $5.
8. On any given night, groups of Asian exchange students, young hipster couples, and grandparents with their grandkids squeeze into the communal tables at Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant. The family-run eatery earned its cult following thanks to its belly-filling dumplings made with pork, beef, or seasonal vegetables—and served by the 6, 12, or 20 count. 25 Tattersalls Ln., 011-61/3-9663-8555, from $5.50.
9. You'll have to maneuver through a maze of winding alleys to get to The Croft Institute. The three-story bar was once a psychiatric hospital, which explains why the place is outfitted with beakers, test tubes, and old-fashioned gurneys. The drinks menu is just as quirky, including a "Death in the Afternoon" cocktail laced with absinthe. On the weekends, DJs spin everything from drum and bass to hip-hop in the bar's top-floor gymnasium. 21 Croft Alley, 011-61/3-9671-4399, thecroftinstitute.com.au, drinks from $7.
10. At Von Haus, a shabby-chic wine bar that opened this year, nearly every wine on the list is available by the glass, including boutique pours from Tasmania, New Zealand, and Hungary. Von Haus also has small-plate nibbles such as house-cured salmon and trout, homemade pâté, and a creamy walnut-and-honey tart that's sold by the inch. 1A Crossley St., 011-61/3-9662-2756, wine from $5.
Budget Travel Real Deals
- From $994
- From $909
- From $449
- From $849
- From $179
- From $1,285
- From $1,155
- From $1,075
- From $728