Medium- and high-rise towers are slowly transforming every part of inner Melbourne, but South Yarra's skyline has leapt up with particular vigour in the past decade. The block bounded by Yarra Street, Toorak Road and Chapel Street feels almost like an extension of the CBD, with the energy to match.

Elsewhere the wide, leafy streets are lined with historic mansions and terraces, including the publicly owned Como House. These quieter residential areas, such as Domain Road, are some of the most coveted and expensive in Melbourne.

Most of South Yarra’s cafes are concentrated around the new towers. During the week, they’re busy with workers from nearby advertising agencies, creative studios and the big Network 10 building.

On weekends, a similar crowd swaps the business shirts for activewear before taking to brunch. The exercise itself isn’t for everyone, but Faulkner Park and the nearby Tan track are reliably busy with walkers and runners.

Prahran Market – actually located in South Yarra – is another big drawcard in the area. With regular appearances by celebrity chefs and a growing coterie of organic traders, it’s made a name for itself as the upmarket market. This, and Chapel Street’s good mix of apparel stores, such as Gorman and LIFEwithBIRD, keep the area humming all day.

On Friday and Saturday nights, this wholesome routine of exercise, brunch and shopping feels like a distant dream. Traffic is reliably banked solid on Chapel Street with drivers doing “Chap Laps”; packs of revellers roam from bar to bar; and fast-food joints do a roaring trade.

Restaurants

Matilda

Restaurant

A bold, contemporary diner dedicated to cooking with fire and smoke, from the owner-chef of ESP, Estelle Bistro and Saint Crispin.

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Ramblr

Restaurant

Hard to define, but easy to love. That's our take on this creative, kind-of-Asian restaurant from the team at Leonard’s House of Love.

Dainty Sichuan South Yarra

Restaurant

A haven for Melbournian chilli lovers.

Mopho Canteen South Yarra

Restaurant

With an ex-Circa and Mr Wolf chef slinging the same hearty pho, banh mi and salads found at the original Balaclava venue.

Spoonbill

Restaurant

Australian and Mediterranean influences are combined with flair at the Olsen Hotel's in-house restaurant.

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Misschu South Yarra

Restaurant

Hawker-style Vietnamese food delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.

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Cafes

Little Green

Cafe

Enter for vegan cheesymite jaffles and Pina Colada smoothies.

V.

Cafe

A tiny, vegan-friendly spot with bleacher-style seating.

The Final Step

Cafe

A tiny, friendly coffee shop with a charitable streak.

Bayano the Rebel

Cafe

Vegan food and superb coffee from the team at Monk Bodhi Dharma and Admiral Cheng-Ho.

Abacus Bar & Kitchen

Cafe

An all-day eatery worth visiting for the interior alone.

Ned’s Bake

Cafe

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is much more than a bakery.

Bars

Talk to Me

Bar

Rockstar impulses and Sydney hospo sensibility collide at this bar/music venue.

Shadowboxer Bar & Kitchen

Bar

A trio of hospitality lifers is behind this smart wine bar, which is equally good for snacking as a full, sit-down dinner.

Bosozoku

Bar

A Japanese biker-inspired bar with burgers, karaoke, cocktails and an indoor spa.

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Zhou Zhou

Bar

David Zhou’s eponymous Zhou Zhou is a lounge above Oriental Tea House.

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South Press Wine House

Bar

Sink into a leather banquette and choose from 20 wines by the glass.

Leonard’s House of Love

Bar

Casual bar vibes meet professional house party.

Shops

Q le Baker

Shop

French-born baker Quentin Berthonneau has trained at Vue de Monde and Chez Dre, and wants good bread to be as accessible as good coffee in Melbourne.

Alannah Hill

Shop

Alannah Hill - both the lady and the label - embodies all things feminine, romantic and youthful.

Le Louvre

Shop

Stocking some of the best designers and offering superior buying taste, Le Louvre is setting the trend for the moneyed and fabulous of tomorrow.

LuxBite

Shop

Gourmet macarons and cakes in shocking flavours.

Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio

Shop

Where science meets sweetness.

Shakuhachi

Shop

Bold prints, sleek tailoring and a truly feminine aesthetic.