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Attitude city guide: Melbourne, Australia

By Attitude Magazine

Melbourne is Australia’s arts and cultural capital.

Across the calendar year, the city overflows with an endless stream of exciting arts and cultural events. These include the Melbourne International Film Festival, International Comedy Festival, and the iconic Melbourne Queer Film Festival, which has been running for over 25 years.

It also is Australia’s sporting, coffee, and fashion (and just about everything else!) capital: there’s a diverse array of sporting events, including Australian Football (AFL) and world class tennis tournaments, plus designer shopping and incomparable coffee experiences (Melburnians take their coffee VERY seriously).

The vibrant and bustling city also boasts one of Australia’s most exciting LGBT scenes (after silly Sydney, of course) and across the array of hipster queer bars, gay disco nightclubs, and relaxed bear leather pubs, one could argue that earthy Melbourne really has shiny Sydney licked for all things gay.


What to Do

To make the most of Melbourne, you need to soak up the arts and cultural spots across the city. Whether it a stop to one of the city’s many famed bookshops (like Hill of Content and Readings), or a trip to the National Gallery of Victoria to see a Warhol or Picasso, embracing the arts in Melbourne will really enrich your time in the city.

Many of the buildings across the city are heritage-listed landmarks, including the State Library of Victoria, Flinders Street Station, and the Victorian Markets. At the markets, you’ll find fresh produce and cheap leather goods and electronics across the many stalls. These buildings are well worth a look inside, offering a glimpse of Melbourne’s colonial past as well as rich 1930s-1940s art deco architecture.

Let’s not forget the Bourke Street Mall, with its iconic department store fronts and luxurious shopping experiences. There’s also a small section of Collins Street in the city’s east earmarked for those with good credit and an American Express credit card. With Hermes and Louis Vuitton lining the high-end part of town, the boutiques are worth either simply window shopping or venturing inside if you have some spare $100s.

For the more adventurous, trekking through one of Melbourne’s many undiscovered laneways would really give your trip an extra kick. There’s the Royal Arcade (pictured below), with its lavish interior and expensive jewellery stores as well as the laneways around Little Collins Street and Little Bourke Street, all of which offer exciting and hip café space and little brunch spots.

If you’re after some wine and nightlife entertainment, there are a string of exciting and diverse restaurants along the Yarra River in Southbank. The Southbank strip boasts an array of exciting and modern restaurants and bars, but with the casino close-by is more of a tourist hot spot. If you’re looking for a queer and more relaxed vibe, take a tram down to Fitzroy and savour some Asian food on Gertrude Street.

LGBT Melbourne

The main hotspots for all things gay and lively are Fitzroy and South Yarra, just five minutes out of the CBD each way.

Fitzroy is an earthy and artsy inner-city borough that boasts hip and trendy bars and dessert spots, as well as exciting queer bars and clubs. First, there is the notorious (although it is “iconic” to some) Peel. The Peel is a landmark of sorts in Melbourne, having started as a gay bar in the early 1980s. The bar now continues to be a hotspot for trashy pop music, mixed age crowds (from bears and daddies to twinks and twunks), and its infamous, occasional “men only” policy (The Peel has a government exemption to deny women access to the venue). If the Peel is not your thing, around the corner is the Laird hotel, a leather bear bar for the older and more relaxed crowd. The younger hipster (hello cubs and otters), Sircuit Bar is the hottest spot in the area. With its flannel-wearing bearded bartenders, Sircuit Bar offers an incredibly relaxed, inviting, and friendly environment (more on that below). It also hosts the odd drag or comedy show.


South Yarra is the more up-market side of Melbourne and boasts a more yuppie clientele. Big arms, fake tans, and slinky singlets are what sell on the south side – you’ll find many Melbourne gays always stay on ‘their’ side of the river!

The most popular gay night is called Poof Doof and is held every Saturday night in the area. “PD” plays house doof-doof music while offering hunky boys behind the bar to help delight you in your alcoholic pleasures. Close to Poof Doof is the Greyhound, a pub-cum-nightclub on weekends which plays host to a number of exciting drag shows, live dance performances from its “Boylesque” crew, and plays good pop music with a relaxed and friendly crowd (many of the recent drag shows have included alumni from RuPaul’s Drag Race).

Where to eat & drink

If you’re looking for a relaxed, unpretentious and mixed crowd for a cheeky cider or a sip of lager, look no further than Fitzroy.

With its working-class roots being transformed to a gentrified gastronome’s dream, Fitzroy has a lot more for its queer clients. For drinks, first there is the Laird Hotel. The Laird has long been a beacon of beer/bear-ish hope since it first hit the scene in 1980. It boasts an open back bar area for the summertime ale as well as an intimate inside bar/dancefloor/stage, which offers pub trivia nights and leather-esque performances all year round.

Next we have Sircuit, one of hottest and chilliest pads in the area. A round of pool tables, low-hanging lights, and a construction-work theme series of tables and chairs circle Sircuit’s central bar. Sircuit is also home to an upstairs “dark room” for the eager and is a popular stop-off on a Saturday night. Mostly a young hipster otter/bear flannel crowd frequent this spot but with increasingly diverse audiences attending Sircuit’s many drag and performance shows, it can be a mixed bag some nights.

Looking farther afield for food, Chapel Street in South Yarra offers some terrific dining and drinking options for queer travellers. Whether it’s an afternoon delight in the form of a cider, or an intimate dinner for two, there’s a string of terrific restaurants along Chapel as the street snakes further up to a number of well-to-do suburbs along with the varying restaurant offerings.

But if you’re looking for something closer to town, you can’t beat some of the undiscovered laneway strips that Melbourne offers. These include Hardware Lane, which offers a number of loud spruikers providing those perambulating through a list of that night’s specials, and Degraves Street, which is truly the coffee hub of the CBD. Its narrow arcade of small cafes and restaurants remains one of the best brunch spots Melbourne boasts.

Otherwise, Chinatown is worth checking out with the cheap dumplings, relaxed and unassuming Vietnamese pho spots, or eclectic Asian restaurants all adding to exciting trip to just one part of the CBD.

Nathan Smith is a freelance writer based in Melbourne Australia. He tweets at @nathansmithr and maintains a website at