Consistently ranking as one of the most liveable cities in the world, Melbourne’s reputation precedes itself – it hardly requires an introduction.
Remnants of its colonial past lingers, high streets feature vintage shops next to the latest gastronomic hotspot and the city plays host to world famous events including the Australian Open in January to the Melbourne Cup in November. Hang out at epic rooftop bars, discover homegrown Australian designers and check out the CBD’s laneways to partake in Melbourne coffee culture.
There is always something happening in Victorian’s capital city and despite its terribly temperamental weather, we won’t be surprised if after your visit, you’ll want to live here too. Our Melbourne travel guide covers some of the unmissable items on the cities itinerary. Mark these spots on your map, strap on your walking shoes and get ready to explore Melbourne.
Top things to do in Melbourne
MELBOURNE THINGS TO DO
Catch a sporting event
Melbourne is arguably Australia’s sporting capital so if you’re a sports nut, be sure to check out what’s playing during your visit. Visiting in the summer? Catch the cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) from September – December or if you can handle the heat, the world renowned Australian Open takes place during the last two weeks of January. During most of the year, you can certainly catch an AFL game but be careful when talking about which team you support – the Victorians take their Aussie Rules VERY seriously.
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria
Australia’s largest, oldest and most visited art museum, the National Gallery of Victoria features a large array of work by Australian and international artists. The museum features a mix of media, stories from the past and contemporary pieces; its diverse range offering something of interest to all that walk its halls. This is a no miss for art buffs and a pretty attractive option for a rainy day as admission is free. Open daily 10.00am – 5.00pm. Special exhibitions attract an admission fee.
Browse the stalls at the Queen Victoria Market
One’s first visit or umpteenth visit to Melbourne would be somewhat incomplete without a visit to the historic Queen Victoria Market. Covering an impressive seven hectares, the Market has been operating for more than 140 years and is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Specialty shops offer unique wares, from clothing to jewellery and custom made gifts. It’d be best to visit on an empty stomach so that you can sample some wonderful delicacies either from the delicatessens or historic cafes. Closed Mondays and Wednesdays. Full trading hours are listed here.
Admire graffiti art down Hosier Lane
Take a stroll down the most colourful laneway in Melbourne’s CBD. Not far from the iconic Flinders Station, the walls of Hosier Lane are covered top to toe with graffiti art. Known for its quality but also political nature, the famous laneway is a sought out landmark and lifted Melbourne’s urban art scene into global view.
Hop on a train from Flinders Station
A cultural icon of Melbourne, it’s likely that you’ll pass by or through Flinders Station at least once should you catch a train to or from Melbourne. The stunning art nouveau building was completed in 1909. “Under the clocks” is a popular reference and meeting point.
TIP: There is a City Loop which runs in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions connecting the city’s key train stations. These train stations are Flinders Street, Southern Cross, Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament. If you need to get to one of these stations, jump on a City Loop train – there is no need to exit and re-enter the train station, and sometimes you don’t even need to switch trains! Just check the board on your platform, ask a conductor or a person who looks like a local.
Take a tram down to St Kilda
If the sea air is what you crave, hop on a tram and trundle down to St Kilda. No. 96 runs from Bourke Street or No. 12 from Collins Street with departures approximately every 10 minutes. Pack a picnic to enjoy under the palms in Catani Gardens, take a stroll along St Kilda Pier and if the weather is fine, a spot of sunbathing on the beach wouldn’t go amiss before grabbing a beer at the local pub (Hotel Esplanade affectionately known as “The Espy”). For more thrills, jump on a rollercoaster at the nearby Luna Park.
WHERE TO EAT - BEST RESTAURANTS & cafes IN MELBOURNE
Best for asian fusion
“Quintessentially Australian with a South-East Asian injection”
A nod to the island continent’s proximity to South East Asia and Australia’s openness to multiculturalism. Located on historic Flinders Lane, Chin Chin delivers bold flavour combinations to famished diners. Caramelised sticky pork or crispy skinned duck will satiate the barbecue lovers whilst the curry menu delivers a number of coconut infused favourites. If you tell the waiters “Feed Me”, you’ll be treated to a banquet of 7 dishes from the menu.
If you fancy a drink beforehand, pop down underneath Chin Chin restaurant to GoGo bar. Here you’ll find the little black book of cocktails compiled with seasonal Southeast Asian ingredients. You very well could be tempted to stay for longer than one drink.
Best for vietnamese
Of Australia’s Vietnamese migrants, approximately 36% choose to live in Melbourne. So given this statistic and despite the fact that we haven’t travelled to Vietnam together, we’re biased when we say that Melbourne has some of the best Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam. And when the sidewalk cafe is filled with the sounds of clattering soup spoons and loud, long slurping noises, you’ve probably found a winner.
Phở Thìn’s specialty is phở which comes at a set price of $13.50. Number 1 on the menu (rare beef or tai lan) is highly recommended and you can add a Vietnamese doughnut if you want to dunk the deep fried dough into your broth. Waiters bring out your piping hot bowl and use a metal claw to lift it from the tray to your table. Condiments are on hand if you also wanted to add some pickled cabbage or chili oil.
Best for breakfast, pastries
There are croissants and then there are Lune croissants. Don’t let the steep price for a single croissant deter you. You’ll baulk first and then not care an ounce after you take your first bite. The residents of Fitzroy are bloody lucky (or their waistlines unlucky) to have this black corner brick cafe in their neighbourhood. As you may have gathered, Lune’s entire menu is crafted around the science and art of croissanterie.
As we visited during the festive holiday period, we unfortunately only had the chance to experience the traditional French croissant via Lune’s hatch service (they tasted amazing, we didn’t let a single pastry crumb go to waste). We’ve resolved to keep going back until we’ve tried everything on the menu. If you’re looking for the ultimate pastry dining experience, book yourself in for a session at the Lune Lab. These slots fill up mighty quick so don’t dilly dally if you want in on this ultimate experience.
D.O.C Pizza & Mozzarella Bar
Best for pizzaS
We experienced these three exact things when we dined at D.O.C and it was fabulous. Pizza is one of those things that can be utterly and disastrously destroyed, even when it shouldn’t be, so it’s certainly best to leave it to the professionals. On a warm summer’s evening, we rocked up to the door without a reservation and ushered to a free two-seater. We devoured the Pizza DOC and Pizza Salsiccia with a couple of glasses of light Italian reds. If the restaurants are biased to hiring Italians only, we truly can’t blame them as the waiters’ flair complements the overall dining experience. Sister restaurants are located in Mornington and Southbank. Looking to (attempt to) re-create the gastronomic experience at home? Swing into the delicatessens on site (Carlton and Mornington only) to pick up some key ingredients.
Best for vegetarians
This hip eatery located on the edge of Fitzroy has been dishing out plant-based meals well before “veganism” started trending. Vegie Bar has taken cultural influence from all over the world and curated a menu that will satiate your hunger and possibly make “meat” a distant memory. Curries will make you feel like you’re in India, stir-fries that take your tastebuds to Asia and pizza and pasta that transport you to the streets of Italy.
The rustic exposed brick lays the foundation for comedy festival and music gig posters. Many stylish vegans appear to dine here making Bevan feel like an imposter as he ate his “Better Than A Big Mac” burger on a weekday evening. Customers are asked to wait in the courtyard bar area before being seated. The restaurant is best for pairs or small groups. Open for lunch and dinner.
WHERE TO DRINK - BEST BARS & CAFES IN MELBOURNE
A long-time favourite in Melbourne CBD, call up your mates and book a table at Cookie. This Thai eating house has a stellar reputation for bringing people together to share mouth-watering food in an informal dining setting. Balcony tables are perfect for pairs while larger groups can sit inside and admire the epic wall mural. And don’t even think about skipping the cocktail menu – we guarantee after one of these mixes, you’ll be hooked. Let the drinks flow and continue the party upstairs at the rooftop bar.
Naked For Satan
Captains of Industry
St ALi Coffee Roasters
If you don’t drink coffee than you really shouldn’t bother visiting Melbourne. Okay fine, we’ll let you visit but at least give the liquid gold a try! And a perfect spot to try is St ALi Coffee Roasters. Catch a tram to this trendy warehouse hub and let the baristas look after you. For coffee fans (a.k.a coffee snobs), you’re spoilt for choice with St ALi’s house blend and single origin coffee menu. If you can’t make up your mind, then a coffee flight is a solid choice.
For Bevan, Section 8 is quintessential Melbourne. A bar hidden down a laneway in a repurposed shipping container. A place where you need to know it’s there to be able to find it, and if you do find it, please keep it a secret.
This urban, grungy outdoor bar attracts mostly uni students but also a crowd which Bevan describes as “graphic designers with tattoos”. Its chilled vibe makes it more of a place to hang on a Thursday night or for a long Sunday sesh. If you find yourself lounging here for a few hours, you may even have a go at playing some bar games like giant jenga. But do take care as you may topple more than yourself when you’ve had one too many tipples.
SHOPPING IN MELBOURNE
The Block Arcade
Let your boutique shopping experience be enhanced with a walk through the historic Block Arcade. The beautifully preserved late Victorian era shopping arcade features high elaborate arches and antique lamps that light up the gorgeous mosaic tiled floors. Discover small batch artisan spices at Gewürzhaus, genuine vintage jewellery at French Jewelbox and bespoke brand Haute Horology for the ultimate timepiece. To top it all off, reserve a spot at the popular Hopetoun Tearooms for an afternoon of tea and cakes.
Australia’s oldest surviving arcade, the Royal Arcade was officially opened in May 1870 by Lord Mayor Charles Amess. Having undergone extensive refurbishments from 2002 – 2004, the beauty of the Renaissance revival style in the Royal Arcade can be enjoyed by all who visit. Those looking for custom fine jewellery are in luck, with no less than eight jewellers offering their wares in the arcade. For unique fashion, take a peek inside Australian boutique concept store MARAIS as well as Brotherhood of St Laurence. Make sure to look out for the large carved mythic figures of Gog and Magog who flank the impressive Gaunt’s clock at the southern entry.
This neck of the woods retains a distinct bohemian edge despite the mainstream dining spots and swish bars which have popped up over the years. These days, Brunswick Street is a swell strip for a cheap meal, live music venues and alternative fashion options. If you come by on the weekend, check out Rose St. Artists’ Markets filled with homemade creative wares and a warm community vibe.
The divider between Fitzroy and Collingwood, Smith Street is where you need to come for vintage boutiques, eclectic antiques and brand outlet stores. If you find an outfit to dazzle in when the sun goes down, nab a darkened booth at Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets for a cocktail or two.
Nominate one day in your itinerary, grab your girlfriends or unwilling partner and don’t forget your credit card. Chapel Street is an iconic shopping and entertainment precinct in Melbourne stretching through the trendy suburbs of South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor. Greville Street is where you’ll find boho-chic while the Como Centre is the best spot for your pick of international designers. We’d recommend coffee pit stops at Journeyman and Market Lane Coffee.
Before the eateries and clothes shops took up residence, Bridge Road was filled with hay and corn stores, tinsmiths, factories and surgeries. Today, you can head to Bridge Road for a bargain at one of the outlets or a coffee and cake at a local cafe. If you’re also a history buff, you can complete a self-guided Bridge Road Historical Walk. The route is approximately 2 kilometres and 90 minutes is recommended.
WHERE TO STAY - BEST NEIGHBOURHOODS IN MELBOURNE
If you want it all on your doorstep, then staying in the city is your best option. Melbourne is very walkable, plus there’s the free tram zone, so dining and entertainment options are just a stone’s throw away. Wander Flinders Lane for anything food related. Take breakfast at Cumulus Inc. and for lunch or dinner, consider making a reservation at Coda, Lucy Lui and Movida. If you’re a theatre buff, then you’ll want to stay at the top end of town close to two of Melbourne’s premiere venues, the Princess Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre. For live music fans, check out the gig guides at The Forum, 170 Russell or Festival Hall.
North of the CBD is where you’ll find Carlton, home of the Carlton Blues, European eateries and no shortage of watering holes. Lygon Street is where it’s at if you’re looking for a fix of Italian food or Turkish cuisine. You can check out one of the latest arthouse films at Cinema Nova and go for a drink at Carlton Yacht Club (ironically nowhere near a vast body of water nor any yachts). Bonus points for being close to Melbourne Zoo and Queen Victoria Market.
Victorian homesteads clash with modern apartments down at the bayside precinct of St Kilda. St Kilda exudes some backpacker vibes but don’t let this deter you; this part of town is where urban cool meets laidback beach lifestyle. Tram 96 will take you down to St Kilda Pier where you might be lucky enough to spot penguins nesting on the beach. For fun thrills, ride a roller coaster at Luna Park, enjoy some beers at The Epsy (The Esplanade) and catch a show at the Palais Theatre, the largest seated theatre in Australia. You’ll find cool cafes and bars at the end of Acland Street and Jackalope Hotels has brought Random International’s monumental artwork, Rain Room to the Jackalope Pavillion.
Next door to Carlton is the alternative neighbourhood of Fitzroy. Grungy is an apt description for this part of Melbourne which is a revolving door of businesses, pop-ups and fusion cuisines. Brunswick Street is the main thoroughfare with its outlet stores, shady-looking bars and the odd Asian foods supermarket. Head north towards the upper end of Brunswick Street where you’ll find some gems including $5 pizza at Bimbo’s and latin music at The Night Cat.
The east side of Melbourne is a popular neighbourhood with locals and visitors alike. Sports fans will prefer this hood for its proximity to the MCG and Melbourne Park, while the Royal Botanic Gardens (affectionately known as “The Tan”) is a tranquil spot for running or to have a picnic. Victoria Street in Richmond is disputed to have the best Vietnamese food in Melbourne (its competition is Footscray over on the west side) and Bridge Road is the number one destination for shopaholics.
The Travel Quandary recommends…
Deep love for modern interior design oozes from every element in Zagame’s House. The softest pillows adorn the king beds in the House Rooms, Cowshed shower products line the bathroom and you can hook up your playlist via Bluetooth to the retro mini jukebox sitting above the desk. Take breakfast downstairs at 1851 Coffee Kitchen and in the evening, you can pull up a chair at the Lord Lygon Wine Shop and be shown some top Australian grapes. The 97-room boutique hotel is perfectly positioned for exploring Melbourne. Located in historic Carlton, the Queen Victoria Market is nearby and buzzing Fitzroy is only a few blocks over.
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HOW TO GET TO MELBOURNE
If you’re flying into Melbourne, you will land at either Melbourne Airport or Avalon Airport. The primary airport is Melbourne Airport, 23kms from the CBD and is the main international airport. Melbourne Airport has one international terminal, two domestic terminals and one budget domestic terminal.
WHAT TO KNOW
Free Tram Zone/Myki Card
Save your legs when exploring Melbourne’s CBD and hop on a tram to go from one end of town to the other. When inside the CBD, Melbourne’s iconic trams are free for passengers. There’s no need to touch on with your Myki but you will need to touch on if exiting the free tram zone. Trams run up and down almost every major street throughout the city. Myki cards are available to buy from train stations, newsagents or 7-Eleven convenience stores. Cards cost AUD $6.
There are an abundance of laneways in Melbourne so get your walking shoes on and your smartphone charged. From graffiti art to speakeasy bars, a terrific way to see the Victorian capital is to explore the laneways and back alleys because you may just stumble across the next best restaurant before it even registers on Broadsheet or Conde Nast Traveller.
Melbourne is known for having four seasons in a day, so be ready to check “Melbourne weather radar” multiple times a day during your visit. When the forecast reads 40 degrees celsius and sunny, enjoy the warm weather in the morning but be prepared for a cold change and rain to come through in the evening. Pack a raincoat, an umbrella as well as your denim shorts and flip flops – be ready for anything and everything.
Tip: download the BOM Weather app for your visit