St Kilda Pier in Melbourne, Australia
Credit: Kokkai Ng/iStockphoto/Getty Images

These days, Australia's edgiest boutiques, sexiest lounges, and most intimate restaurants can actually be found 500 miles south of Sydney, in Melbourne — and if the land Down Under has anything approximating a European city, then Melbourne is it, with the charm of a small town and the hedonism of a modern metropolis. The city's many neighborhoods are remarkable in their own right, offering distinct attractions and scenes, like the area surrounding the majestic St. Kilda Road. It's the city's tree-and-money-lined main boulevard, where a perfect day or two can be spent exploring
the best Melbourne has to offer. Start with the seven places here, but make sure to leave enough time to aimlessly wander the side streets of St. Kilda to find your own favorite spots.

The Astor Theatre

Though local residents complained to the press that the new movie theater would be built "too close to churches" and that "such a noisy, showy place of entertainment would detract from the dignity and charm" of the area, the Astor Theater first lifted its curtain to a packed house on April 3, 1936. Its Art Deco interior, with a stepped ceiling and steel chevron-patterned friezes, survives as homage to a glamorous bygone era.

Lionel's Kitchen

If the pasta here tastes just like Mama's, that's because the owner, Matt Martino, has his parents at the stoves. The tiny space — with simple bentwood chairs, farm tables, and the daily menu scrawled on a blackboard — is warmed by softly glowing orange lights overhead.

Tolarno Hotel

This St Kilda hotel features a prime location about five minutes walk from the beach as well as brightly colored rooms and public spaces decorated with original artwork by local artists, including former resident Mirka Mora. There are several choices in room categories, including spacious two-bedroom suites with full kitchens. Guests with an aversion to noise would be well advised to avoid the rooms with balconies overlooking Fitzroy Street, which is home to great cafes and bars that keep going well into the wee hours.

Wall Two 80

A tiny hole-in-the-wall, dispenses sandwiches made on toasted Turkish bread, neighborhood gossip, and some of the best coffee in town.

Surround Interiors and White Elephant Arts

These two design shops both deal in pristine 20th-century pieces reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

St. Kilda Beach

Even if you aren't staying in the immediate vicinity, hop on a tram (it's a short ride from Melbourne's Central Business District) and spend an afternoon at one of the city's best beaches, where you'll find a waterside playground, perfect for long walks along the shore, rollerblading, kite and windsurfing. It's a festive atmosphere, and a great way to see how locals spend their weekends.