What it is like to visit Melbourne right now.

Melbourne has been through a lot of change and a lot of challenges. This is a bullet point guide to what it is like to visit Melbourne right now. And what has changed.

Melbourne has been through a lot lately. It is the most locked down city in the world having been locked down 6 times for a total of almost 9 months since March 2020. I just spent four days there, and this is what is was like.

I was there last weekend, and whilst the restaurants are still great, the sun was out and the shopping was happening-there is a long way to go. This city is suffering.

Five star hotels are fairly quiet. Visitor numbers seem to be low, and upscale hotel lobbies and bars were generally unpopulated. 

Melbourne is the second largest Australian city.

Disappointingly and despite an official announcement from the state government that galleries could open by late November, most of the art galleries were not open. Melbourne has always led in the arts, and galleries are such a huge drawcard for so many. This needs to change ASAP.

South Yarra in terms of the parks and streets and Botanical hotel and surrounds has a great vibe, and the trendy walking route known locally as “The Tan” is still packed with pretty people on a Saturday morning, and is a great way to connect with nature and fresh air.

Getting around Melbourne is generally problematic. The number of Ubers is at an all time low. From the city, most Ubers were a 12-20 minute wait away – and so many cancelled it was unbelievable. Trams are ok, but due to protests on Saturdays, getting into town on a tram wasn’t possible, plus many roads were blocked during weekdays so again it was hard work getting around . Walking works and is fun in this beautiful urban city.

Restaurants are super hard to get into and almost all have to be booked well in advance with credit card down payments of at least $50 per head. It’s fair but frustrating when two weeks ahead you can’t find a table for two on a Saturday night at 6pm even when you’re happy to pay.

Melbourne laneways
A Melbourne laneway (above)

Korean BBQ Restaurants are a surprising new trend with new Korean restaurants on most main CBD streets with punters queing up outside. 

Many Restaurants have inflated their credit card surcharge to 2%- well hidden in the fine print. Ouch.

Most bars and restaurants don’t have their opening status or changed opening hours updated online which means it can add a whole lot of running around and disappointment to a night out. This is definitely very annoying.

It was frustrating to see on the one hand so many helpful, kind and supportive small business owners and then others making it difficult to hand over money with changed opening hours, strict policies on bookings and not flexible on table locations in restaurants and generally not kind.

y retail

Bourke street mall has a lot of empty retail and many mainstream stores are no longer there even if they are showing on google maps. Again, painful.

High Street Armidale is fantastic in every sense. It is busy, buzzing and a great way to spend half a day. It still offers some of the best high street shopping in the country. Fabulous furniture stores, cafes overflowing with people and fresh food really are the scene. A must-visit. 

Shopping is still happening but the city was very quiet, even on Black Friday and over the weekend. Great if you want stores to yourself, but how long can that last? They need more buyers.

Some of the suburban shopping areas have disintegrated. Bridge Road is finished for now as far as retail goes. Years ago it was a shopping mecca of seconds stories and bargains. These days it’s a ghost town apart from a few great restaurants. Chapel Street is also not good, Lyon street is very low key with not many stores open either.

The coastal hub of Williamstown is also quiet for this time of year in terms of visitor numbers, but there are still some great restaurants and sea views there to enjoy. A day trip here was a highlight of our stay, as was lunch. Fabulous.

For bubble tea officianados, there is still plenty on offer from a pile of brands.

Chinatown is still busy but there are a lot of ‘For Lease’ signs in every second shop and crowds are low. You can still find fab yum cha and great Chinese food here. The Asian supermarkets are also still great.

For bubble tea officianados, there is still plenty on offer from a pile of brands. The CBD still has a lot of bubble tea shops. And there is an abundance of bakeries in the suburbs and in the city.

Cofee shops are still plentiful, but they do seem to close earlier than usual.

There are a lot of homeless on the streets which is heartbreaking. They loiter around Flinders Street Station and the CBD.

So do go, but know things have changed. This is a new world, and we all have to adjust our expectations. I’d go back in a minute, as Melbourne really is fun. I just wont move around as much or keep looking for more. It is what it is – at least for now.

Avatar photo
Renae Leith-Manos

Editor and Founder of Bondi Beauty

Renae Leith-Manos loves fitness, new beauty products, long chats and long flights. She is at her best when traveling the world writing about luxury hotels and Michelin Star restaurants (www.renaesworld.com.au). She has had a colourful media career as a journalist inmagazines and newspapers, in Australia and Asia. She spends her time writing, cooking, consulting to new businesses, running and working out.

1 Comment
  1. Melbourne, oh you mean the country? OR “The Most Liveable City in Australia”? Woau, that went to their heads. My first night in a hotel – called a few restaurants on Menulog – all shut by 9pm. The Manager from Menulog called – but what could she do. A few weeks down the track I made another booking through Menulog to a 24 hour Greek restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD called Stalacites. After 3 hours and no food had arrived I decided to call the restaurant myself but there was no answer and their message reading “if we do not answer it is because we are really busy!” So I reached out to Menulog once more and I was accused of being of being Menulog stalker. Well the food from Stalacites did arrived – THE NEXT NIGHT.

    So let me some this food delivery experience up – after 3 years here – it still takes me 20 mins to order on Menulog as some restaurants are happy to take my order but then after 30 mins I receive a very clear message reading “please order somewhere else’! Oh, just more happy occasion – ordering Middle East Restaurant – after 2 hours I called them and they happily told me that my order was ready – BUT NO DRIVER – BUT PERHAPS I COULD PICK IT UP MYSELF!!

    My advice – When you’re on a good thing – stick to it – SYDNEY – the only real city in Australia – btw that’s a quote!!

    c.c. Shane Landon – Luv ya work Big Boy X

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