Chic, sophisticated and always on trend, Melbourne offers visitors a vast amount to see and do.
The scope of the Victorian capital’s cultural and culinary offerings are unsurpassed anywhere else in Australia. Immerse yourself in a thriving live music scene and a packed calendar of festivals and elite sporting events. Shop ’til you drop, party at the city’s plethora of trendy rooftop bars, then revive with the best damn coffee you’re likely to find anywhere on the planet. That’s Melbourne.
Enjoy this Melbourne travel guide.
Need to know
Capital of: Victoria
Base yourself: City, Carlton, South Yarra, South Melbourne
Average hotel price per room/per night: $170 AUD
You can’t go wrong with: Modern Oz, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Turkish, Indian
Best breakfasts: Fitzroy, Collingwood, North Melbourne
Great coffee: Fitzroy, South Melbourne, Yarraville
Top spots for a beverage: City, Docklands, St Kilda
Must-do tours: Inner-city laneways tour, chocolate tour, outlet shopping tour, Great Ocean Road day trip
Best times to visit
Melbourne famously features four seasons in one day, particularly in autumn and spring. The city is at its best from December through to May. In summer, dry sunny days reach the high 20s, with occasional heatwaves pushing temperatures up into the mid to high 30s.
In autumn you’ll enjoy mostly sunny days with temperatures in the high teens to mid 20s, but bring a light jacket for evenings. Winter temperatures drop down into single figures. Brave the chilly days with plenty of layers and a scarf – the must-have Melbourne winter fashion accessory!
Spring is the wettest time of the year, with variable temperatures in the teens. Keep an umbrella handy.
Melbourne tours & experiences
Save on top Melbourne attractions
Consider an Australia Multi-City Flexi Attractions Pass for your visit. You’ll save up to 40% on many of the top attractions and things to do listed in this Melbourne travel guide. Choose from five, seven or ten attraction passes. Passes are valid for three months from the date of issue.
Melbourne isn’t your typical concrete jungle.
The inner city is a maze of laneways and arcades that harbour many of Melbourne’s best kept secrets – including themed bars, fashion incubators, artisanal chocolatiers and hole-in-the-wall cafes. Famous back alleys and byways like Hosier Lane are decorated with some of the most colourful and creative street art in the world. Don’t be afraid to wander. It’s one of the best ways to get to know Melbourne. You can also join a guided walking tour.
There’s plenty more for art lovers to enjoy beyond what you’ll find on alley walls. From the National Gallery of Victoria (where entry to the permanent collection is free of charge) to renowned private facilities like Flinders Lane Gallery and artist collectives such as The Blender Studios, the city’s arts scene is vibrant and diverse. You’d need weeks to really do it justice.
Melbourne hosts an extensive calendar of events and festivals. The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is one of the highlights and takes place in July. Choose from a programme of ground-breaking films from around the world. Quite often a screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the director.
The suburb of Yarraville, located in Melbourne’s inner west (just five train stops from Southern Cross Station), is still abuzz over the visit of Quentin Tarantino to the preview of The Hateful Eight at the historic Sun Theatre. From the art deco surroundings to the house-made choc tops, a movie at the Sun is a memorable Melbourne experience. Pair it with dinner at any of the precinct’s innovative eateries, including the Yarra Lounge and Corner Shop, or an antipasto platter at Barkley Johnson Deli & Wine. The newly refurbished Railway Hotel does a great pre-movie parmie.
Melbourne has an incredible live music scene. While the big stars play the city’s large-scale stadium venues, independent acts rock The Forum Theatre, The Corner and 170 Russell. If you’re into something a bit more alternative, try The Tote, The Old Bar or Northcote Social Club.
For the best of the performing arts, find out what’s on at the Arts Centre, Southbank Theatre (home of the acclaimed Melbourne Theatre Company) and the Malthouse Theatre. Fringe venues like tiny La Mama break all the rules, and the city’s amateur theatre companies like Cloc Musical Theatre mount lavish productions that play to packed houses.
Melburnians love their sport. The city is home to global competitive spectacles such as the Australian Open tennis tournament and the Formula 1 Grand Prix, along with a plethora of local sporting events and competitions, including the Spring Racing Carnival (featuring the Melbourne Cup), Australian Rules Football (AFL), A-League soccer and rugby league. Tours of Melbourne’s top sporting venues like the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) are popular.
Melbourne’s past is on display for all to see through its museums, monuments and spectacular period architecture.
The city was founded in 1835 when colonial grazier John Batman purchased a tract of land by the Yarra River from the local Wurundjeri people. Construction and the population boomed during the Victorian Gold Rush of the 1850s, which also gave rise to many towns and cities throughout central and northern Victoria. To find out more about the city’s early history, visit the fabulous Melbourne Museum, Royal Exhibition Building, Old Melbourne Gaol, and the State Library Victoria. Each of these institutions is packed with informative displays.
There are a variety of ways visitors can tap into local Indigenous heritage. Visit the Koorie Heritage Trust or take an Aboriginal cultural tour. The popular Aboriginal Heritage Walk at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria offers a guided introduction to the history of the gardens, interwoven with that of the traditional owners.
High levels of immigration during the mid-20th century fuelled the city’s growing ethnic diversity (which is reflected today in Melbourne much-lauded culinary scene). Pay a visit to the excellent Immigration Museum in Old Customs House and hear the experiences of migrants from some of the 260 nationalities that now call Melbourne home.
The dining scene in Melbourne is comparable with the best in the world.
Every suburb offers something different. Enjoy traditional Italian cuisine on Lygon Street in Carlton, or all-you-can-eat Greek in Collingwood. Give your holiday budget a break with great value Vietnamese on Victoria Street in Abbotsford, or Turkish fare on Sydney Road in Brunswick. Double up with dinner and karaoke in Chinatown or head to Footscray for tastes of Africa. In trendy Fitzroy, Modern Oz is the go. The shabby chic Panama Dining Room is super popular with the hipster crowd. Book early.
The sky’s the limit for fine dining. You’ll find some of the city’s top eateries at the top of its tallest buildings, including Vue de monde on the 55th floor of the soaring Rialto building. Crown Melbourne offers a directory of premium dining options, including Long Chim, Nobu, Rockpool Bar & Grill and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
Melbourne’s comprehensive tram network is an integral part of city life. All trams within the city grid are free, however, it’s well worth splurging on a lunch or dinner on The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. Enjoy an excellent meal as you ride the tracks across the city, comfortably ensconced in a charming old world setting.
Latte lovers, you have certainly come to the right place. Melbourne is renowned for the best coffee in the world – and while the latest craze of ‘deconstructed coffee’ may leave some visitors slightly perplexed, the truth is it’s hard to get a bad brew in this town. Join a cafe walking tour of the inner city and discover some of the most innovative options.
Melbourne’s bar scene is also the toast of the town. Stalwart Cookie, the medical-inspired mayhem of The Croft Institute, the garden party whimsy of Madame Brussels or the Parisian par excellence of the rooftop Siglo Bar are just some of the must-visits.
Whether you’re seeking designer labels or hand-made arts and crafts, Melbourne offers a huge array of retail options.
You’ll find luxury labels lining the ‘Paris’ end of Collins Street (at the top of the CBD), and big name brands in and around the Bourke Street Mall and Lonsdale Street at Emporium, Melbourne’s GPO and Melbourne Central.
Chapel Street in Windsor, Prahran and South Yarra is also renowned for its retail credentials. Take the old style W-class tram for a spin along the full length of this popular strip, which morphs from shabby chic at the Windsor end, to just plain chic in South Yarra.
Fashionistas flock to ‘fashion capital’ Chadstone in the eastern suburbs for the convenience of having just about every label under the sun under one very large roof (this is the largest shopping centre in Australia).
Head for Bridge Road in Richmond or funky Smith Street in Collingwood for outlet shopping options. Serious bargain hunters should consider booking a spot on the city’s famous ‘Bargains and Bubbles’ Outlet Shopping Tour.
Melbourne would be in with a serious shot at taking out the title of market capital of Oz. Top options include the perennial Queen Victoria Market, South Melbourne Market and Prahran Market for fresh food, the Arts Centre Sunday Market for arts and crafts, and the Camberwell Sunday Market for pre-loved fashions and bric-a-brac.
There’s no shortage of ways to relax and rejuvenate in Melbourne.
If you like to find your inner peace through exercise, Melbourne’s bike share scheme operates across the city. There are around 135km of on and off-road bike paths. Helmets are mandatory and they’re available from various retail outlets and vending machines for $5.
In terms of not doing too much at all, the popular bayside suburb of St Kilda is a good spot to do it. Stroll along the historic St Kilda Pier, pack a picnic and head for the foreshore or the St Kilda Botanical Gardens, and take time out to pose for a pic in front of the giant grinning mouth to Luna Park. Skip the touristy cafes here and make your way up Carlisle Street to Balaclava for more inventive options, including Wall Two 80. It’s a leisurely 15-minute walk.
Review: Beyond Rest Melbourne
For those living in (or visiting) the big smoke, there’s nothing quite like a float to release tension and stimulate a Zen state of being.
Brothers and self-proclaimed ‘float evangelists’ Nick and Ben Dunin have opened Beyond Rest float centres in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, after being inspired by a daily floater who seemed to be living a life of ‘super consciousness’. Making floating mainstream rapidly became the goal.
Visiting the Melbourne studio in Prahran, I decide on a one-hour float. Possible benefits include improvements in work performance, awareness, emotional response and creativity, along with an increased sense of wellbeing.
I’m slightly nervous of possible claustrophobia while lying naked in a white pod with no distractions but a blue light and one’s own heartbeat for a whole hour, but I needn’t have worried. The time passes all too quickly, and I wish I could float for longer. I feel like a water baby on a space station.
‘The world is waking up to the mind and body benefits of floating’, the Beyond Rest team say. The 500kg of Epsom salts in the water induces a sense of zero gravity, while the water and the pod itself cancel out any external sound – apart from the optional Solfeggio tones that play for the full 60 minutes.
After a quick shower and blow-dry I head off to the chill-out zone to drink some tea, before diving back into the choppy seas of city living. I bob along with ease for the rest of the day.
26 Regent St, Prahran VIC 3181
Reviewer: Ruby Boukabou
If you have a day or two to venture out of the city, several of Victoria’s most spectacular natural landscapes are within easy reach. Take a day trip down the lush Mornington Peninsula (home to the fabulous Peninsula Hot Springs). Keep heading southeast to Phillip Island – where the famous little penguins perform their nightly parade up the beach after fishing in Bass Strait.
Do you have any tips to add to our Melbourne travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.
Additional images: Bigstock/Photodune
About the writer
Chris Bright is a freelance writer based in Melbourne with a passion for travel, food, music and film. He’s travelled to South-East Asia, India, Japan, parts of Europe and most of North America – the most memorable of which was hiring a 7-foot RV and driving from Miami to LA with a bunch of close mates. Chris is willing to try anything once, whether it’s leaping from great heights or eating things that don’t look the least bit appetising. When it comes to travel, he loves nothing more than meeting new people and sharing a laugh over their local drink of choice.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. Adam loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hoi An.
You might be interested in