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Community, culture and character come together in South Melbourne, the little village just minutes from the big city.

As you wander the streets of South Melbourne — from bustling Clarendon Street to the suburban side streets that criss-cross the area — it’s easy to forget that you’re only a few blocks from Melbourne’s city centre. Life ticks along at a different pace around here. It’s calm, it’s gentrified and it’s a beautiful part of the world just minutes from the water.

At the heart of this vibrant suburb is the South Melbourne Market (open Wednesday and Friday to Sunday). The market is an enduring institution that has been part of the local community for 150 years. Here, you can buy superb local produce, feast on freshly shucked oysters and the market’s famous dim sims, and shop for clothing, books, fresh flowers and arts and crafts.

Looking for something extra special for the kids? Nearby is Little Darcy, a boutique with a wide range of clothing, footwear, toys and homewares for newborns through to eight-year-olds.

If you’re looking for a moment of respite, just around the corner and tucked down a cobbled alleyway, you’ll find an all-day menu of French-inspired breakfast and lunch dishes at Chez Dré. This cafe and patisserie also has a selection of home-style cakes, slices and pastries if you’re wanting to indulge your sweet tooth. Enjoy your coffee in the umbrella-shaded courtyard out the back; it’s perfect on a sunny day.

For such a refined and genteel suburb, South Melbourne is home to a surprisingly large number of historic pubs where a pint of Carlton Draught is just as sought-after as a craft beer. The Railway Hotel is just one example, where the beer is cold, the salt and pepper calamari is tender, and the chicken schnitzels take up the full width of your plate. In the summertime, punters line the outside tables and the beer garden resembles a luau. In winter, the dining room fireplace roars, so settle in for an afternoon session and watch the rain teem down outside.

Just a few streets away is Honey Bar, a modern establishment with a stylish marble bar and lounge area. There’s a great selection of beers, wines, ciders and cocktails, and it also offers a menu of traditional pub meals for lunch and dinner.

If your pooch is in tow, one of Melbourne’s best pubs for dogs is the The Palace Hotel. Tucked away on a corner of busy City Road. It’s unpretentious, with burly locals rubbing shoulders with the white-collar lunchtime crowd. They’re drawn by the range of craft beers and affordable wine list (most bottles are between $35-60), and the mouth-watering menu. Classic pub fare is the order of the day, and the Palace’s steaks and burgers really hit the mark. Fish and chips, the Moroccan lamb salad and a killer eggplant parma are other options, but when the wind is blowing a gale and the clouds are hovering overhead it’s hard not to be tempted by the pie of the day. Sink into your chair, strike up a conversation and watch the world go by.

The Palace Hotel
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