To be in the thick of it. That is what it means to be in South Yarra. As one of the best neighbourhoods in Melbourne, South Yarra incurs a significant amount of foot traffic. Residents frequenting their favourite establishments and travellers exploring all that the area has to offer.
Shopping reigns supreme in South Yarra, whether along the famous Chapel Street strip or within the humming lanes of Prahan Market. Either or, South Yarra does not disappoint those with a penchant for retail therapy.
South Yarra also does not disappoint with its offering of places to escape the pace of city life. It’s a place that very much understands the need for balance – concrete hustle comes paired with natural relief.
Whether crowds or calm top the travel plan, here is the list of things to do in South Yarra.
Chapel Street Shopping
Whilst this is not a list designed from best to worst, several things could demand attention first – South Yarra stalwarts that deserve an immediate introduction. Chapel Street is one of those pivotal components of South Yarran life.
Even Australia’s premier retail precinct, Chapel Street, rightfully claims its place within retail heaven. From sought after cult classics like Gorman to high street mainstays like Cotton On, Chapel Street offers one of the most comprehensive shopping experiences in the country.
For those with an eye for fashion, one must walk Chapel Street’s entire length. The diversity, and sheer volume, of what is on offer is sure to accommodate all.
Circle The Como Centre for cosmopolitan boutiques or stroll down the main strip-searching for preloved and vintage threads. Stop for refreshments at any of the numerous bars and eateries that neighbour the colourful storefronts or relax with friends in nearby communal community spaces.
It would be entirely understandable to spend an entire day in and around South Yarra’s Chapel Street. After all, it’s not at the top of this list for nothing.
Prahan Market Browsing
Why not keep the list of South Yarra stalwarts running?
Regardless of its name, the Prahan Market does exist within South Yarra’s borders. Just as Chapel Street is one of Australia’s premier shopping precincts, Prahan Market is the premier food market within the nation too.
Hosting a blend of produce stockers and sellers, delicatessens and eateries, Prahan Market provides a comprehensive experience for its shoppers. Whether gathering ingredients for a dinner party or just out in search of lunch, the market has many options.
What further elevates the market experience beyond its artisan stalls and refined products is the emphasis placed on community – not just of the stallholders themselves, but the community of customers that Prahan attracts. The ethos is very much to promote knowledge and extend help where needed.
For an even more refined experience of the market, you can book tours for roughly $25. Local experts lead tours that shed light on the work of each stall. Coffee tastings and produce tastings are also frequent events on the tours.
The Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens
Whilst life in the concrete jungle can no doubt be fun, there are times when we all need to surround ourselves with the green of nature. There is perhaps no place in South Yarra like the Royal Botanical Gardens for surrounding yourself with the natural world.
With a collection of over 8500 plant species, the gardens offer themselves as a wild oasis amongst a cosmopolitan metropolis. Keep an eye out for the incredible camellia collection that the gardens host. And be sure to venture into Fern Gully for a genuinely immersive escape.
One unique activity that the gardens also offer is the Aboriginal Heritage Walk. This tour guides you through the botanical gardens through the eyes of a member of the Kulin Nation – a union of five aboriginal nations that exist within the Victoria area.
A Summer Moonlight Cinema
If your visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens coincides with the summer months, be sure to book yourselves in for a night at the onsite Moonlight Cinema.
There may be no better way to watch a classic movie than lounging on the Botanical Gardens central lawn with a feast of your food and drink that you’ve bought from home – the BYO policy makes it a wonderfully affordable evening of entertainment.
Browse Art Galleries
Melbourne’s penchant for art should be of little surprise. The city exudes creative energy. So, naturally, with South Yarra being a location drawing significant footfall, various galleries have taken up residence within the neighbourhood boundaries.
Visit Market Gallery – aptly named for its proximity to the Prahan Market – for contemporary fine arts and sculpture work. Station Gallery is another name that calls to art-lovers. Last but not least, South Yarra Art House Gallery earns its place amongst the best galleries in the area.
Market Lane Coffee
Yet another reason to descend upon the Prahan Market area – coffee.
Like many Melbourne cafés of note, Market Lane Coffee brings the roasting and sale of its coffee under one roof. And with its show-all aesthetic, Market Lane also places significant emphasis on the coffee education of its customer base. Questions are, if anything, encouraged when ordering and drinking your brew of choice – the onsite baristas find it to be their duty to share their knowledge regarding palettes, profiles, and coffee geography. So, a visit to Market Lane Coffee becomes more than just a caffeine call – but rather an immersive coffee experience.
Chapel Off Chapel
What started its life as a place of worship now exists as a beloved venue for art and entertainment.
Whilst walking down Chapel Street, you will eventually find yourself near Chapel Off Chapel. Initially built in 1858 as an independent church, it has since been through several hands, ultimately resulting in it becoming what it is today – an intimate community venue that hosts the best comedians, musicians, theatre, and more.
Chapel Off Chapel deservedly draws attention from locals and travellers alike with a perpetually exciting list of events scheduled.
Herring Island Sculpture Park
An island in the middle of a city? Exactly.
A weekend-only punt service from Como Landing is the only way to get to this Yarra River island. That, or some rented kayaks or paddleboards.
Those who make the journey over to Herring Island Sculpture Park are rewarded with one of the best places in the city to unwind and relax. The park is a spot for nature and art lovers.
The manufactured island, covered in local flora, is home to several impressive sculptures from domestic and internationally renowned artists. Look out for works by UK-born artist Andy Goldsworthy or from Australian artists John Davis, Julie Collins, Robert James, and Ellen Jose.
Leonard’s House of Love
Laidback indulgence is something that everyone needs from time to time. Leonard’s House of Love are an expert in just that, laidback indulgence.
Expect huge burgers in casual food baskets, generous portions of loaded fries and music till 3 am on the weekends – all within a charming log cabin aesthetic.
Leonard’s reputation precedes itself, has become known as one of the best places in the entire city to get stuck into some ‘hands-on’ food.
Rooftop Drinking at The Emerson
Enjoying a drink whilst overlooking an entire city skyline is something that never gets old. South Yarra’s The Emerson brings this experience together with good food and dancing.
The establishment’s rooftop bar has its dedicated dancefloor, though there is also a downstairs club to immerse yourself in as well.
The Emerson is one of South Yarra’s best spots for an evening of fun.
Hunky Dory Fish & Chips
Chapel Street provides the goods again.
You know you’re enjoying a truly authentic experience when you’re dining at a family run business. That’s Hunky Dory Fish & Chips for you.
What started as a fishing family’s singular restaurant venture quickly became a citywide favourite. The success that the Hunky Dory brand saw has allowed them to open many stores in other neighbourhoods around Melbourne.
Classic fish and chips are on the menu – however, the English-based stalwart joins a variety of other flavours, grills, and dishes that make for an ample dining experience. Hunky Dory’s takes fish and chips dining to the next level.
With South Yarra being such an exciting neighbourhood, there can never be enough places to cool off and wind down. Fawkner Park concludes this list as a spot to stop and admire the city life that surrounds you.
The 101-acre park sits in the west of the South Yarra area. Visitors can either laze on the expansive lawns, spectate sports hosted on the resident playing fields, or even participate in the sporting fun via the various onsite facilities.
South Yarra is a neighbourhood that has struck itself a perfect balance. Places of relaxation border tourist hotspots. Busy shopping malls stand next to laidback eateries.
It’s important not to be intimidated by South Yarra’s reputation as a pedestrian hotspot. Chapel Street is a retail mecca, the Prahan Market is a Melbourne institution brimming with incredible produce and beautiful people, and the Royal Botanical Gardens are a sight to behold.
The spectrum of things on offer in South Yarra is genuinely exceptional. In few cities, you can kayak to an island by day and party on a rooftop by night. South Yarra – the hub, the hotspot – allows for that scenario to become a reality.